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Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 29
Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 29
(The week that was, a South African perspective)
28 Aug 2002
[SARF]
Rugby Forum is a weekly newsletter produced by rugbyforum.co.za, it is reposted here with their permission.
Be sure to check out the full Rugby Forum archive at www.rugbyforum.co.za

 
Volume 2, Week 29 Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant!       After weeks of high tension and almost Civil War the Tri-Nations bade us farewell. A fond adieu it was and the 2002 edition will be remembered for many things, rugby included! The local competitions have already kicked off in all earnest and it is full steam ahead with the Currie Cup, kinda just the way Sir Donald’s trophy arrived in South Africa.

The tradition of the Currie Cup is an old and distinguished one and for a good history of the origins there are few better articles than Brian Forsyth’s “The Currie Cup - How it Started and Developed” in Volume 1, Week 27 available on the RF website’s archive section. The original idea of creating a strong domestic competition to enhance our national aspirations was then and is now a very important objective. The current teams are all under a considerable amount of pressure to perform well enough to be included in a revised strength vs strength format in 2003.

Already a team like the Lions, for long one of the mainstay’s of SA rugby and with an excellent record is under threat of a formula designed to determine participation in the Top 6. The results of 2000, 2001 & 2002 will be taken into account. 2000 & 2001 count for 15% each, and 2002 counts 70% emphasizing the importance of a good finish in this year’s competition. There will certainly be a few disappointed people at the end of the year (to put it mildly) should their teams not qualify because as any supporter of the Banana Boys (Natal Sharks before the BIG money and the marketing) will testify it is a deep abyss to get out from.

The Springboks’ return to competition, although a few are resting, raised the standards immediately and a team like Western Province played some sublime rugby in wet weather to dispose of their cousins from Boland. Neil De Kock played another magnificent match and Breyten Paulse is making flick flaks and we all know what that means! The Cape outfit will be difficult to beat this year as they have depth aplenty and Springboks both current and old sitting on the bench.

The team of the Nineties and WP’s biggest rivals are the Sharks, they easily beat the Leopards in Durban and the return of big names like Andrews, Smit and James was a welcome sight. Kevin Putt may not have the same amount of depth as Gert Smal but he is doing some positive things with the squad. The traditional strength in the forwards remains but the backline is full of running and their counter attacking ability will make a WP/Sharks match a rugby lovers’ delight.

Another team on the rise is the Blue Bulls, for long the undisputed heavyweight champions the last 3 years were some of their worst in history. One swallow however does not make a summer, just a good time and they need to consistently produce the kind of performances that helped them beat the Lions. Guided by Joost, the most capped Springbok there is plenty of youth and experience to create some kind of an upset this year. The Lions were not destroyed by any means but it seem there is something vital amiss as they have a plethora of stars in the team. Coach Frans Ludeke is having a torrid year and it looks likely that his name will be added to a few other coaches consigned to the scrapheap.

The coming weekend there is a few interesting matches, notably the Sharks against the Bulls in an important clash to establish supremacy in Section Y and the Lions vs the Pumas in a survival game. Enjoy the “break” from international rugby but go out and support your local teams at the park.

Lucas

lucas@rugbyforum.co.za


Visit www.rugbyforum.co.za for statistics, all the quotes and an archive of previous issues

Vat jou Goed en Trek by Desmond Organ
English speakers will understand my choice of title by the end of this article. Afrikaans speakers will be well aware of the hidden innuendos.

Considering the temporary euphoria of a positive test match result it is not surprising that within a week we have the reality of “South Africanism” raising its head. The media announcement that the South African U21 captain is being lured by overseas offers is concerning to say the least. Nobody can deny a professional sports person the right to ply their trade in any location of choice; it is disturbing that we have to deal with it so regularly. 

A troubled past and a somewhat uncertain future are hallmarks of this wonderful land. There are literally hundreds of thousands of us that are professionally active in various parts of the world. Some by good fortune and others through years of struggle and hard work. Anybody doubting the challenges of pursuing a career abroad need only read the expatriate column in the Natal Witness to hear of the challenges, frustrations and rewards. 

When a sportsperson of ability chooses to continue their career abroad there is public scrutiny and more often than not public outrage. There are thousands of people waiting for the opportunity to represent their country at the highest level; scores of disadvantaged individuals may never have the honour simply because of the situation that they were born into. 

Our return to international rugby has been littered with controversy around contracts, political interventions and administrative glitches. Nobody can deny the ground breaking work of Louis Luyt and company, however controversial, in preventing the disappearance of scores of talented players after the 1995 World Cup. I wonder how many people have read the book or listened to the stories surrounding these events. 

Our Captain and hero of the day was a leading figure in the battle between the Packer and Murdock media camps, rumour has it that there were significant financial rewards for this role. There is also a fair element of skullduggery that went on at the same time. It was not the first episode of South Africans playing cards under the table and it is not the last. 

For years men like Gary Player were ambassadors for this country, financial rewards aside they were true South Africans. Naas Botha tried his hand at Grid Iron, that it “failed” was a benefit for the game at the Provincial level. My point is that it is a privilege and an honour to represent your country and not a right of financial reward alone. There have been great strides made in securing the rights of players in the professional era. Contracts and lawyers are now an integral part of the game at all levels. 

Those contracted players post the 1995 World Cup were extremely well taken care of. Not only did they enjoy financial rewards and the right to represent their country, they also had no performance clauses. A number of them were anything but collectively successful during their tenure. Our record post 1995 and prior to the Gary Teichmann era saw home series losses to the Lions and the All Blacks. There was still an outrage when the then captain was relieved of his duties, but considering his role in the 1995 negotiations he probably deserved it. 
I am by no means ignoring the challenges of playing at the highest level and securing a future in the face of injuries and intransigent Unions, but let’s face it; it is an honour to represent your country. The events prior to the semi final between the Stormers and Otago at Newlands were a real low point in the game. Holding a Union to ransom is not the most honourable way of doing business. Losing the game was a blessing because it may just have curbed even further overzealous demands. One of the people at the forefront on this occasion has also packed his bags to pursue a career overseas with great success. That he had already completed several years at a high level in South African rugby deserves some recognition.

Players on the fringe who have little or no chance to represent their Provinces on a regular basis and have limited International opportunities cannot be blamed for being lured by the Dollar or the Pound, especially those in the twilight of their careers. The problem is that there are players who have been given unique opportunities to represent and lead their country at the U 21 level only to then turn their backs on South Africa. 

Whether it is right or wrong is the subject of an endless debate because nobody can be denied the right to choose. The manner is which you do it and the negotiating strategy that you employ says a lot about who you are. It also illustrates the level of pride that you have for the country that has given you opportunities that others dream of. 

Join the OFFICIAL SPRINGBOK SUPPORTERS CLUB by contacting 021-438- 8185 during office hours or mail info@springboksupporters.co.za and take advantage of special offers, members discounts and great competitions and prizes!!


Tri-Nations 2002 Review
The Tri-Nations has come and gone and over the last few weeks supporters and spectators were treated to some of the best rugby of the year. New Zealand was crowned champions yet they lost the Bledisloe Cup, South Africa were wooden spoonists (again) yet they captured the Mandela Shield. The competition provided endless drama and one incident sparked an international debate, warranted or not. A few important points are worth mentioning; the rugby was of lofty standards, interest increased and valuable lessons were learnt. The competition at a glance:

The Competition Format

The format is a simple one yet South Africa is at a slight disadvantage regarding traveling and settling in Australasia for a fortnight while contemplating victory over two of the best teams in the world. Coaches and players are well aware of the difficulties however it remains the Springboks biggest challenge to win on New Zealand and Australian soil. The Wallabies seem to struggle in SA for some unfathomable reason, the crowds are anti and the altitude high but there is the same mental block as the Springboks down under. The Kiwis have the edge over the Springboks the last few years, home or away so the simple answer must be a psychological barrier. It is good though that a team can be confident of winning against anybody on home turf, which is what attracts spectators to the matches.

The Referees

As with the Super 12, the officials were severely criticized but the difference was an act of outrage from a disgruntled spectator on a referee in Durban. The standard of the refereeing was not at its best this year, even the normally reliable Andre Watson, made a grave error in denying the Wallabies a try in Sydney. A lot has been said and written of the incident involving Dave McHugh the result being a lot of pressure on systems and procedures which ultimately will be the better for the game.

The Teams

New Zealand was well-deserved winners of the honour and their back to basics philosophy combined with a healthy dose of Cantabrians accustomed to triumph created a winning formula. Coach, John Mitchell’s record is impressive and his succession planning of older stars seem in place. The forwards are dynamic and young with the likes of Chris Jack and Richie McCaw inspiring “old hands” like Robertson, Somerville and Thorne with their play. The backline was a mixture of youth and grizzled experience. Andrew Mehrtens displayed his match winning abilities in the rain and Aaron Mauger proved equally adept at playing the pivot in Durban. There are great players like Lomu and Cullen outside of the starting XV and this bodes well for the men in black.

Australia, retained the Bledisloe Cup and almost pipped the Springboks in Johannesburg but the overwhelming thought is that too many brilliant players are used out of position. Eddie Jones needs to select the best players in their own position and build a squad to win the RWC. This is not an epigraph on the tombstone, quite contrary; it is amazing how a team can continue their winning ways with so many players out of position. George Smith needs assistance and the backline must find an inside centre, Matt Rogers is touted as the answer but his forte may ultimately be at fullback or flyhalf. Dropping Larkham is close to doing dirty deeds with Dolly, thought of... but unlikely to happen. Australia is hampered by depth but somehow they have managed in the past and will continue to produce high-quality players, the onus is on Eddie Jones to select them.

South Africa produced the most exciting rugby seen by a Springbok side in years, the tries were plentiful but the defence was weak. There are many positives from the season and Rudolf Straeuli surprised friend and foe with his selections and playing patterns. A masterstroke was the trials in the beginning of the international season and this aided the big man in establishing a core of young players capable of being the best in their position in the world. The truth is a great team needs a few stars to create that extra something special that win world cups. The emergence of Greeff, Pretorius, Sephaka, van Niekerk, Joubert and Russell will no doubt be a significant factor in next year’s RWC.

The Players

A few players consolidated their standings as world class but very exciting was the appearance of great young talent, players performing magnificently in their first year of the competition. It must be said that in your first season there is a bigger element of surprise and teams are unaware of new player’s abilities, sustaining the momentum in the following years is the true test of ability. Regardless, the team below is the Rugby Forum combination should there be a North vs South match next week.

 

 

RF Tri-Nations Team 2002

RF Tri-Nations Team 2001

1. Dave Hewett (NZ)
2. Jeremy Paul (Aus)
3. Greg Somerville (NZ)
4. Chris Jack (NZ)
5. Jannes Labuschagne (SA)
6. Richie McCaw (NZ)
7. Joe van Niekerk (SA)
8. Scott Robertson (NZ)
9. George Gregan (Captain) (Aus)
10. Andrew Mehrtens (NZ)
11. Stirling Mortlock (Aus)
12. Aaron Mauger (NZ)
13. Marius Joubert (SA)
14. Doug Howlett (NZ)
15. Werner Greeff (SA)
16. James Dalton (SA)
17. Lawrence Sephaka (SA)
18. Nathan Sharpe (Aus)
19. George Smith (Aus)
20. Neil De Kock (SA)
21. Stephen Larkham (Aus)
22. Tana Umaga (NZ)
1. Robbie Kempson (SA)
2. Lukas van Biljon (SA)
3. Cobus Visagie (SA)
4. Victor Matfield (SA)
5. John Eales (captain) (Aus)
6. Owen Finnegan (Aus)
7. George Smith (Aus)
8. Bob Skinstad (SA)
9. George Gregan (Aus)
10. Stephen Larkham (Aus)
11. Jonah Lomu (NZ)
12. Pita Alatini (NZ)
13. Tana Umaga (NZ)
14. Jeff Wilson (NZ)
15. Matthew Burke (Aus)
16. Michael Foley (Aus)
17. Greg Somerville (NZ)
18. Troy Flavell (NZ)
19. Toutai Kefu (Aus)
20. Byron Kelleher (NZ)
21. Andrew Walker (Aus)
22. Daniel Herbert (Aus)

Join the SARUGBY news and discussion group for the fastest sarugby news and the most intense debates around the South African game. Send a blank email to sarugby-subscribe@yahoogroups.com


Back to basics by Vinesh Naicker
This weeks NPC rugby was all about back to basics. It’s been good to see that the message has filtered down from John Mitchell that he wants to see players doing the basics properly first, then adding the flair on top. The results from this week have shown that good old-fashioned forward slog gets the results.

The first game of the weekend was Auckland vs. Northland

Auckland learned a few lessons from last week. There were three big differences from last week. Lee Stensness at outside half instead of James Arlidge, Stensness’ experience helped to settle down the normally twitchy Auckland side. Xavier Rush from No 8 actually ran at gaps rather than people and so made some decent yardage for once. He’s definitely not a traditional tackle busting No 8 he’s more the “wannabe a back” kind, like Bobby Skinstad or Scott Robertson, but without their class. Thirdly, Carlos Spencer was at fullback. The local press is all gushy about his contribution and are prematurely talking about him being the All Black fullback but really all it meant was he didn’t play any “headless chook” rugby during the 80 minutes.

Northland have two of the fastest wingers in the competition, both Fijian imports naturally, and their game suffered as they seemed to rely on them to do something brilliant to win the game (as happened last year). The forwards didn’t do the hard graft they normally do and missed some first up tackles. As a result they lost to Auckland 16-34.

Wellington vs. Southland.

Once again Wellington is the Jekyll and Hyde act of the competition, with their fans and coach not knowing from day to day how their team will play. Wellington spanked the Canterbury benchwarmers last week, but this week against a committed Southland who were playing at home they fell apart.

The conditions were very wet but Wellington did themselves no favours with very poor handling. Southland forwards put in the hard yards and it yielded dividends. To me the highlight of the game was the start of the second half. The Southland No 7, Ben Hurring had been taking note of the way that Wellington passed the ball to their No 8 to take up after accepting the kick off. When Wellington kicked off the second half he took off at full pace, the Wellington halfback caught the kick and threw a leisurely pass to the No 8, Hurring steaming along at full pace intercepted the pass and dotted down while Wellington looked on in stunned amazement. Although Wellington staged a late comeback that was the defining moment of the game, and they were toast.

Waikato played a steady game against an out of sorts North Harbour again consistency paid off and with their win Waikato go to the top of the table.

Canterbury played their benchwarmers again against a BOP (Bay of Plenty - Ed) team which is expected to come last this year. However BOP have demonstrated a bit of spine this year they’ve managed to quietly beef up their team with Glen Jackson, Nick Collins and Grant McQuoid enhancing their back line. Apparently Greg Rawlinson one of their locks is from Durban but that’s all I know about him.

BOP came out with a hiss and a roar for about 5 minutes but Canterbury dominated after that. A brainless no look pass straight into the hands of his opposite from the Canterbury No 10 gifted BOP 7 points. This seemed to fire them up and BOP took it to Canterbury for the next forty odd minutes going into the half time break ahead. . Glen Jackson controlled play well with some good tactical kicking and the line out was solid with Weedon and Rawlinson doing a good job. Unfortunately, the BOP halfback has a pass as slow as Justin Marshall, he made some poor decisions and BOP were unable to sustain their impetus to the last minute and went down. They do get two bonus points from the game for four tries and finishing within 7 points. So they are on equal last with Southland at four points each.

In another shock result Otago, who were pre-season favourites to play the final against Canterbury, lost to Taranaki in a close one. Otago were outmuscled in the forwards by a more committed team. Taranaki have been the giant killers of the competition so far dealing to two of the five Super 12 franchise holders. They come up against Waikato next week in what should be the game of the round.

The second division kicked off this week to and there’s probably a bit of interest in Nelson Bays. Their coach for the season is Balie Swart, a name some of you may be vaguely familiar with. Apparently a protégé of Laurie Mains, Swart has settled down in Nelson Bays. He has imported two players Daniel Muller (prop) and Gareth Peters (hooker) from Johannesburg to bolster the squad. Nelson Bays were semi-finalists in Division 2 last year losing to East Coast. Their win-loss-draw record was 5-2-1. Their first game was against Mid-Canterbury, a team they beat 49-10 last year, and who were last years wooden spooners.

In heavy rain and wind the Nelson team came through with the win as expected. Tight controlled forward play allowed Nelson Bays to lead at half time 15-0 After half time they went on to earn 5 points for the win and four tries. Final score 30-12. Swart commended his team for playing “a patient game.”

Quotes
I don't think I'm a cheat, but this has undoubtedly tarnished my reputation and that is disappointing. I'd hope people would evaluate me over my career and not just label me for one incident.       Neil Back

As Jonah's manager I am saying he will have his wish, If he wants to play, he will play. It will be a real spectacle and how often do you get a chance to play in a match like this?        Phil Kingsley-Jones on Jonah Lomu's involvement with the end of year North vs South match.

My hope is the public will realise if the idiocy continues they may soon be sitting behind barbed wire and high fences.       Jonathan Kaplan

With defensive lines as tight as they are now, you cannot always break them with brute force, you need speed and agility to unlock them.     Chris Hickey

I wouldn't say South Africa are a dirty team but they are physical and confrontational.     Justin Marshall 

It's not about Bob Skinstad or Corné Krige, it's about the Springboks.    Corné Krige

They were the worst conditions I've ever experienced. When the sleet started to fall, I looked at Kef [Toutai Kefu] and he looked almost white.       Chris Latham on the Christchurch Bledisloe Cup match. 

DON'T FORGET: The September issue of SA Rugby magazine (with James Dalton on the cover) is on sale now. 
To subscribe to SA Rugby phone 021-418-0141 or e-mail monarchc@mweb.co.za


Currie Cup Results
Date Home For Against Away Venue
24/08/2002 Cheetahs 57 15 Griquas Vodacom Park
24/08/2002 Griffons 23 32 Bulldogs Northwest Stadium
24/08/2002 Natal Sharks 52 10 Leopards The Absa Stadium
24/08/2002 Eagles 32 27 Elephants Outeniqua Park
24/08/2002 Lions 20 33 Blue Bulls Ellis Park
23/08/2002 Western Province 41 13 Cavaliers Newlands

Letters to the Editor (letters@rugbyforum.co.za)
G'day Ed (Lucas),

As the end of another season comes to pass, myself and mutual friends would like to congratulate you and your fellow writers Mark, Des and Tom. We read with interest on a weekly basis your informative analysis and 'interpretation' of the rugby week that was and also the lively debate it encourages. The occasional jibe and well humoured poke at the 'Aussie' team is noted with a 'wry' grin and gives us an insight to the S.A psyche. Believe me, not everyone (in Australia) thinks George Gregan will ever fill Ealesy's shoes nor could we keep winning matches with last minute conversions! 

However, with regard to Mr Chris vd Westhuizen and his uneducated, non factual and racist comments from Volume 2, Week 28. The whole world is not against you or your beloved Springboks. Putting things into perspective - rugby is a GAME, it is about mateship and the spirit of 'battle', it crosses all boundaries of race and religion. Some of the best rugby experiences (both on and especially off the field) I have had, have been with boks, kiwis, and even an occasional 'english devil'. Try to remember why the ball is the shape it is and and why there is nothing better than debating the game over a carton of beer! 'Chris' - we look forward to YOUR enthralling column next year!!

Regards

Duncan Whan
Dubbo, NSW, Australia
 
Thanks for the kind words Whaney, I agree wholeheartedly, rugby is a great game. I don't think all supporters realise that its a way of making friendships that endure time and spans continents or is it only the fortunate people who've played the game that can boast of these experiences? 

Lucas

Dear Lucas

I read with more than a passing interest the comments of Mr Chris v d Westhuizen. Although I certainly do not agree with his sentiments, what I do think is that every reader should be entitled to air his views and opinions.

His brash and uncouth manner of attacking you personally is a sad indictment on him, and to attack him in similar style is not becoming of a man of your style. I think a cleverly worded letter of wisdom, written not in a moment of anger, would have put him in his place, rather than him now being able to say you are also a slugger. Brains will always outwit brawn.

Your RF is growing in stature, and you must expect ( and welcome I believe ) differing criticism from a wider spectrum of people with varying opinions, bias and backgrounds. I think comments such as his, and cool calculated answers from you is a rather interesting side helping to a very palatable menu of valued and interesting commentary on past and future events.

Stay cool
Pierre
 
Thanks Pierre, more than valid comment, I did write my response immediately after receipt of his letter yet thought it would be ambiguous not to place my response at the time in RF a week later. Your words of wisdom is noted and I will not make the same mistake again.

Lucas 

Hi Ed

I hope you don't wait for Chris van der Westhuizen to hit unsubscribe - delete his address now ! I really enjoy getting Rugby Forum and reading all the different opinions but his is just drivel - spoils a good read. Let him go and read something in his mother tongue - he might even learn something.

Regards
Lorraine

Hallo Lucas

After the last 2 games I cannot see what the people have got against Bobbie Skinstad as a Springbok player. He deserves his place in the Bok team and always delivers 100%. He has gotten rid of the tendency to give off penalties at the rucks and creates opportunities for other players like van Niekerk to play off him. He is not allowed to shine like he did in his earlier career, by the opposition who keeps a close watch on him. Because the opposition concentrate on him, it creates gaps for players who run off him. Big Joe had an almost clear run on Saturday because Bob brought 3 players down with him. If Bob played for the Lions, Bulls or the Cheatah's, maybe he would have been liked up-country. Maybe it is because he is articulate, good-looking, have the image to be a bit of a glamour boy that he isn't liked by many Gautengers. Maybe it is because he was selected by Nick Mallett for the last Word Cup! Remember he did not pick himself! Maybe it is because he isn't Afrikaans.

Whatever the reason, it is clear to me that they are not judging him as a player but on other considerations.

Marius Stegmann

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Let us know what you think!

Good to see some NPC coverage in RF, the greatest provincial comp in the world deserves more international attention!

One point though, Glen Jackson played for BOP last season too...

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