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Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 43
Rugby Forum - Vol 2, Week 43
(The week that was, a South African perspective)
06 Dec 2002
[SARF]
Rugby Forum is a weekly newsletter produced by rugbyforum.co.za, it is reposted here with their permission.
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Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant!     The Southern Hemisphere is at rest and unlike Rip van Winkle there is a solemn expectation that the three “powerhouses” of the rugby world will wake up and smell the Pastis, Bitter Ale and Guinness not to mention a good old shot of Highland whiskey. 

Firstly my apologies for sounding so dispirited in last week’s edition however here at Rugby Forum we try our damnest to provide honest and objective feelings around rugby. Those of you who was not as dispirited and down as yours truly either “knows” something or your title is Springbok Communications Manager. I was at Twickenham, travelling very far like many others and the experience was not a great one! Anyway, bygones.

The Northern Hemisphere proved once and for all that rugby is a relative simple game, for one it is played by humans, humans err and that create first phases like scrums. The lack of decent scrummagers in the SH were accentuated by the strong men from France, Scotland and England who made sure that all scrum ball was received in reverse gear. Who cares if there are Joe van Niekerks, George Smiths or Richie McCaws in the back row, if they are back-pedalling the chances are good they wont be reaching the breakdown first. The same will apply on dry fields so lets not kid ourselves that this is wet weather play or tactics.

Also, a competing line out exponent to disrupt opposition ball is an absolute must and this was a severe lesson to the Springboks and All Blacks in particular. Not competing on opposition lineout ball is akin to signing your death warrant and this was hopefully the last time ever we see a line of “midgets” standing side by side waiting for the drive and for the record be driven away.

The SH backs I believe have more class and potency than their NH counterparts however without the ball their skills, speed and moves are nullified. Dry weather will make a difference but if players like O’Driscoll, Traille, Cohen and Robinson can cope on the muddy surfaces of Europe, beware in 10 months time!

The 2003 season is shaping up to be the mother of all rugby seasons, most countries especially France and England has come to grips with professionalism and these two teams especially have stable teams with experienced coaches. The relative newcomers in Mitchell, Straeuli and Jones need to take a step up and not become the first trio responsible for the World Cup disappearing to the NH.

This is the second last edition of RF 2002, next week we will close the season with a review of the year that was.

Best wishes 

Lucas

lucas@rugbyforum.co.za


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

A View from the German Front by Tom Marcellus
Rudolf Straeuli always inspired confidence. I'm not sure if it was the steely gaze or the cauliflower ears, but the World seemed a safer place with Big Rudi on the prowl, and I, like many Bok fans, was filled with optimism when he was appointed coach at the beginning of the year.

After last year's trials and tribulations, brought on by the dastardly Tinted One (he of leather jacket infamy) with his mumbled references to "the process" and "go-forward", the Prussian resolve, not to mention smoldering malevolence, exuded by Big Rudi seemed exactly what our rugby needed. He scowled at journo hacks, remained unimpressed with the mink 'n manure set parading their skills in the Super 12, and simply oozed the Old World hard-headedness of coaches such as Oubaas Markőtter and Danie Craven. And Kitch Christie was no shrinking violet either.

But that was then. They say that a week is a long time in politics, and it seems apparent that the same is true in sport. And to make matters worse for Big Rudi, while many of his cards came crashing down in the week's aftermath of the French defeat, his agony was to continue for yet another week or so, with those ghastly drubbings at the hands of Scotland and those inf-idels at Twickers.

Within the space of a mere 15 days, his young Bok side, so brimful with confidence after its promising and occasionally brilliant displays in the Tri-Nations, had been reduced to a broken, maligned, snarling, seemingly talentless squad that seemed intent on only going through the motions before catching the first 'plane home.

Given the pre-tour optimism of the squad, with all the hot air about pride, past glories and the jersey, (but which was shared by us all) it's difficult to say what went wrong. And not having being much of a player, I offer my comments with due modesty.

Injuries were an obvious problem, especially in the front-row and to influential figures like Matfield in the engine-room and Joubert in the middle. Bereft of men of steel up front, a towering lock to secure own ball at the lineouts, and a playmaking centre, the side struggled, floundered, and then sank, almost without a trace.

The selection policy was occasionally dubious, but my own view was that there were only a handful of players who lost out – unlike in the days of the Blonde Bombshell, when whole swathes of players were discarded willy-nilly in the weekly selection merry-go-round.

A lack of experience was unquestionably a glaring problem, and it cannot be disputed that the absence of experienced banana-fingered old campaigners in the Bok pack like Andrews, Venter and Vos was a telling blow. A related aspect, of course, is that of captaincy, and in this regard it has to be said that Krige, lionhearted and Rocky Balboa-like as he may often be, talked a good talk, but failed to inspire his troops with the necessary resolve out on the park. And, G*d, it hurts me to say it.

France were expected to be fairly easy pickings – a quick tussle before the expected slaughter of the hapless Scots, and then the Big Game against the Poms. Try as he did, Straeuli seems to have been incapable of ensuring that his young charges focussed, hard, on the first game against les Bleus, secured a crucial opening win, and then built on that performance for the remaining 2 games. Lacking in concentration and application, they lost their line-out ball, spilt a few passes, let slip the odd tackle, and, Wham!, suddenly it was too late. Without its grizzled old hands, the side panicked, lost confidence, and soon found itself deep in a shell from which it could not extract itself.

By this stage last year I was spitting mad and only too happy to hurl abuse at the luckless Mr Viljoen, whose inept selections, surly demeanour, failures, and all too apparent self-made millions made him an easy target. But this time 'round things don't seem quite so easy. Sure injuries and dubious reffing played their parts in the Boks' downfall, but then that didn't stop the All Blacks from performing creditably, and they were far worse off in that department than Straeuli's Boks.

Is it time to panic? Should Herr Straeuli be given the boot? I think not. He made mistakes, yes, but he seems to have been badly let down by many of his players – and who knows what would have happened at Twickers, with the Boks looking juiced up and competitive, had Labuschagne not made his fateful charge.

But then maybe I'm just too much of a bluff old optimist who still believes in Father Xmas and the Tooth Fairy.

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Quo Vadis? by Desmond Organ
So much of what is happening in South African Rugby at the moment reminds me of the exploits of Christopher Columbus. One of the most renowned mariners of all time that obtained the support and sponsorship of a foreign royal in order to pursue furthers travels. What was heralded as an initial success soon turned to failure only to ultimately lead to the opening up of the New World and Western civilisation.

Rudolf Straeuli currently finds himself in a similar situation, he has embarked on a course with the apparently unrelenting support of the rugby administration and ministers and other role players in the South African mix. The supporters are also apparently getting so used to the euphoria of minimal success that they are hardly as vociferous as they were a year ago.

What is clearly in the balance at the moment is the degree to which people have either given up on the prospects of short-term success in the hope that it will lead us to some greater glory in the future. There is clearly a shift in the make up of the common South Africa supporter. One is quite happy to experience the yearly thrill of entertainment from a band of performers from the homeland. Reminds me of the Ipi Tombi euphoria of the 80’s. Then there are the supporters back in South Africa that are dealing with a whole range of socio-economic and political issues that they are not quite as obsessed as they used to be. 

Several foreign critics have happily jumped on the bandwagon of condemnation and are utilising the current state of affairs to further their own interests. Let’s be honest with ourselves, rugby is a professional sport and the other competitors will do everything they can to further their own interests over the success of others. If there is any hope in the future then it has to be that our rugby team has embarked on a course of transformation that is going to make it truly representative of the diverse population groups in South Africa and this might be the ultimate prize.

That is all good and well, but if rugby as a game is to continue to claim itself as a world game, then I would like to see a strong representation form the African continent. That assumes that South Africa will continue as a dominant and competitive force in World Rugby. We as South Africans might just have to temper our demands to reflect the reality of the land that we support. Success on the rugby field might not be the most important thing that we want to achieve. We might want South Africa to be a stable and viable operating model for the rest of Africa.

Now that I have got all that soft and fluffy stuff off my chest let’s look at the real dilemma facing Straeuli as he embarks on what might be his second and final voyage of discovery. If anything the most important thing that has to happen is that you must learn from your mistakes. In that sense we have to make sure that we continue to develop the areas that have led to our dropping to fifth in the world.

Top of the list is the continued development of the skills that we appear to be deficient in and decision making on the field is top of the list in this regard. Anybody watching England could be duped into believing that they are suddenly the greatest readers of the game. I would say that they have talent combined with experience and that is what makes them so good. South Africa has an abundance of talent at schoolboy level and a way must be found to nurture this development. 

England has used a combination of their youth development and club structure and a professional group of former world-renowned players to nurture their players. They have also learned from the leaders in professional sport, anybody recall the trip to the Denver Broncos undertaken by the current mentors of the team?

Straeuli also has to define what he is going to do to develop consistency in selection. A group of combinations must be settled upon and new talent introduced in a piecemeal fashion to ensure that there is a balance of youth and experience. The continued experimentation should be at an end now and a more settled team must be the outcome. 

So as this second voyage begins, let’s hope that there is not a complete repeat of the previous approach and while I am at it, get rid of those over active personalities and tackle problems that beset the current group.

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 Top ten things I’d like to see next year by Vinesh Naicker
1.    All Black forward pack that can achieve parity of possession with any other forward pack in the world.
2.    An All Black hooker who can throw into a line out accurately.
3.    An All Black captain who is a world class player in his position.
4.    A Springbok centre who can tackle hard but legally.
5.    Springbok supporters who don’t blame the referee every time their team loses.
6.    An England team that can contemplate winning a game without having to rely on the boot of the best kicker in the world.
7.    A Samoan team that can exceed the promise of 1991.
8.    An internationally competitive Welsh team.
9.    A Wallaby team which actually plays players in their proper positions.
10.  The re-instatement of rugby tours instead of one off tests. 

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Quotes
Straeuli played in a World Cup team that nearly conceded the title for having a player sent off, surely he doesn't want to have history repeat itself?      Gavin Rich

I've had a good innings and while I'm sad it ended this way (Currie Cup runners-up and a record loss to France) I have no regrets about my career.     Willie Meyer

South Africa were a disgrace, Corne Krige as captain targeted the entire England team. It was all rather Jurassic.     Stuart Barnes

There is a lack of international coaches because the authorities insist on the appointment of SA-born coaches at provincial level. As a result there is not the cross-pollination of ideas that takes place in Britain.    Nick Mallett

If you'd played in that Test, you would know we were giving as good as we were getting.       Corne Krige

Fijian full-back, Waisele Serevi thinks "tackle" is something you take fishing with you.     Jonathan Davies 

Mark (Andrews) is a very impressive individual and there was so much demand for his services however, he chose to come here because he feels there is a massive potential and he can make a big impression.     Rob Andrew

The English especially showed us how a pack should work together as a unit. Most European countries became stronger physically.     CJ Van der Linde

I would love to play for the Boks again, but I have been out of rugby for two years, and am taking a conservative approach at the moment.      Os Du Randt

Other referees seemed to take ages to come to grips with the milieu of senior competitive rugby, but I was at home immediately - not much good, but at home.     Wayne Erickson

Then the world went mad. From the commencement of the professional era we saw a yearly cycle of over-balance and subsequent correction as referees were bashed (almost) senseless trying to get the balance between flow and structure right.     Wayne Erickson

MARK ANDREWS AND JAMES SMALL SPEAK OUT: Read our exclusive interviews with the two former Springboks in the December issue of SA Rugby magazine, on sale now.

Letters to the Editor
Lucas,

Great piece of journalism!!!!!! 

The first player to concede a penalty loses R10,000 of his match fee. The second player R20,000, etc. This would get the attention of these undisciplined thugs that wear the Bok jersey these days. If you're sin-binned you lose your match fee. If you're sin-binned more than twice in one season you're out for the rest of the season. If you're sent off, you may never wear the Bok jersey again. 

Robbie Fleck should never have been chosen. I sit here in the US, thousands of miles from the action and I sent AndrewL this e-mail before the match: "I'm not interested in how many tries Fleck scores, unless you also tell me how many penalties he concedes." How come it's so obvious to us that Fleck is a thug who plays the man and not the ball and the selectors are blind to this?

I'm totally against any quota system but these Boks have destroyed our proud reputation and honour. So, draft players of color into the team in large numbers - so what if we lose? We lose anyway, but now we'll be proud of the our players. Our rugby players have lost the right to demand that players be selected on merit. Those selected on merit have disgraced us - away with them!

Our soccer players did not win the World Cup but they came out of the competition with honor and dignity. Their sportsmanship, ball skills and competitiveness that lacked malice brought us pride and respect from others. Winning is not everything.

Kind regards,

Albert Meyer
Dallas, TX

Dear Ed,

It seems everyone believes the refs are biased against us, but the question they should be asking is why? We pride ourselves on 'physical' rugby but should Jannes Labuschagne's tackle be described as physical or AJ Venter's tackle on Robinson? Similarly was Fleck being physical or dirty?

The simple issue is that South African rugby players are always in the midst of controversy regarding dirty play. Why is that? Is it coincidence or just the result of actually being dirty players? Yes, we have all enthused over the dark deeds, left and right hooks delivered by the Piston Van Wyks, Guys Pitzers and Moaner Van Heerdens and those before them of the past which created the foundation for dirty play being called physical.

How often do we see a Currie Cup game where a fair tackle is acknowledged with an elbow to the face or hand pushing off the neck of the tackler by the tackled player and call it physical rugby and rejoice in its physicality?
Its not physical, its dirty and our Refs allow it to be practised! Knocking an opponent into next week while he has the ball is physical. Rucking over an opponent stupid enough to smother the ball is physical. Stamping on an opponents head or body when he is nowhere near the ball is dirty.

The only way we'll ever receive credit in the eyes of referees anywhere is when SARFU takes the matter up with local referees and instructs them to red card any dirty play. A couple of bannings, with their accompanying loss of income, will have the players realising that the game by definition and in practise is supposed to be played fairly and physically, not nefariously. If you want an example of discipline on the field look at the English side's reaction to Labuschagne's shoulder charge on Wilkinson. Did they all rush in punching out at any and everyone like the Boks would do? No, they left the Ref to do his job and, if we're really honest, the red card was totally earned by our team as a whole!

I'm a total enthusiast of physical play, but abhor the dirty stuff. Unfortunately the Boks will have to suffer for their heritage for a long while forward even though they may start playing within the rules now.

Storm Ferguson

Lucas, 

Its sad to to see you so down in the dumps even with good reason. I would like to hear your solutions in a point by point format. I think you need to keep in mind that even though the tour was a disaster Our Rugby at best has not been in the top 4 since the 17 game win team was dismantled and Probably because we thought this will never end. 

The era of coaches being changed at will, players not being able to play to the rules or not willing to obey rules (a reflection of our society?) a team or squad that changes so fast so often, a Currie Champ team that wins playing a very bland game, a tour squad that could have been mistaken as an A side (with respect to the A side) the moving on of some really great players to a better pay day or straight giving up of the game are you more surprised or just heart sore that the chickens have started to roost . 

I find it hard to believe that we will get any where in the RWC or win a tri Nations for a long time and then only if someone like Kitch steps up to the plate ,oops !!! there goes another coach. The Kings are dead long live the Kings

George Fanning

Hi Ed

Well, the year is on its last legs and all that remains of the 2002 rugby season is the annual Planet Earth vs. Planet Andromedus match. As the sole selector for Planet Earth I present my team as follows:

15 Werner Greeff (SA)
14 Doug Howlett (NZ)
13 Marius Joubert (SA)
12 Brian O'Driscoll (Ire)
11 Pieter Rossouw (SA)
10 Jonny Wilkinson (Eng)
9 Augustin Pichot (Arg)
8 Joe van Niekerk (SA)
7 Olivier Magne (Fr)
6 Richie McCaw (NZ)
5 Chris Jack (NZ)
4 Martin Johnson (Eng, c)
3 Pieter de Villiers (Fr)
2 Keith Wood (Ire)
1 Jean-Jacques Crenca (Fr)

16 Federico Mendez (Arg)
17 Patricio Noriega (Aus)
18 Scott Murray (Scot)
19 Victor Costello (Ire)
20 Fabien Galthie (Fr)
21 Brent Russell (SA)
22 Tana Umaga (NZ)

COLIN VAN RENSBURG

Hi Ed

The best performing international team for 2003 has to be the All Blacks, through consistent good performances and despite having a mostly young and inexperienced side for their year end tour. 

The worse performing team has to go to the Springboks. As put by Piet Uys, the former Northern Transvaal and Springbok scrumhalf: "We've been living in a fool's paradise ever since the Boks lost three Tri-Nation games and then sparked in the last five minutes to narrowly beat the Wallabies at Ellis Park, a game the Boks nearly threw away. We get excited about a Currie Cup we're we look good when we play ourselves, but it is a different ball game in the international arena. Just looking at our Super 12 and Tri-Nations results, it's obvious that we're just not competitive enough on the world stage."

The woes of Springbok rugby can be traced back to just after the record equalling 17 games on the trot winning streak. The axing of the skipper in favour of one Bobby Skinstad and the consistent changing of coaches have all added to the woes. The problems in the SA game are bigger and wider than the SARFU leadership wish to recognise or are they so naive not to see them at all. At times the symptom of the problem is addressed however the problem itself is not addressed. The most unfortunate thing is that most of the problems are self-inflicted. In a nutshell SARFU and Springbok rugby should forget about the World Cup in 2003 and begin by recognising and solving the problems first and then start a fresh and go back to basics with the World Cup in 2007 as their primary objective.

A bit of tongue in cheek humour to end of the Southern Hemisphere rugby season. 

It is said that SARFU may be advertising in the off season to fill 22 Springbok positions for the 2003 international rugby season, including the World Cup. The recruitment ad could read something like this:

Experience
No rugby playing experience necessary. Applicants however must have gained some experience from playing a sport or game which involves a ball of any size or shape.

Skills Profile
Applicants must portray the following "basic" skills:
Hand-Eye Co-ordination
1. Be able to catch a ball from a distance of at least one metre, with or without gloves.
2. Be able to run with a ball for at least five metres without dropping it.
3. Be able to throw a ball backwards.
4. Be able to catch a ball without fumbling it, whilst in a slow jog.
5. Be able to throw a ball at least 3 metres.
6. Be able to throw a ball above waist height and below head height.
Brain-Eye Co-ordination
1. Be able to recognise that those wearing the same colour team outfit as you, are your team mates and that you are to play together as a team and not run around like a bunch of 15 or less headless chickens.
2. Be able to recognise that those not wearing the same colour team outfit as you, are not your team mates and that they are the opposition who are not to be bitten, punched, elbowed, shoulder-charged, tackled without arms or without the ball. 
3. Seeing and believing that having 14 of your team mates and yourself on the field is better than having 13 or less of your team mates on the field including yourself. It is also no good watching 14 of your team mates whilst you sit on the touchline eating oranges or not watching at all whilst you are taking an early shower.
NB. All other skill requirements will be taught at special Springbok training camps.

Education and Basic Understanding Requirements
1. Be able to read as each successful applicant will be given a rule book to fully understand.
2. Be able to communicate with team mates both on and off the field and understand what is meant by the phrases "game plan" and "change in game plan".
3. Have a clear understanding between the words "aggressiveness" and "competitiveness".
4. To understand that to lose with dignity is far better than been heavily humiliated in defeat.
5. Understanding that only losers make excuses and use escape goats. 
6. Able to understand that "laag vat is mooi vat" and that head high tackles are not part of the game.
7. Know what is meant by the word "discipline".
8. Have an IQ less than 40 so that candidates do not confuse the hell out of the SARFU leadership.

To apply for one of the 22 positions you must not have the aim of using the position as a platform to launch your glamour boy image or modelling career.

There are two ways for individuals to make an application which is based on the governments so called non-racial Telkom Share Offer:
The General Application
-all South Africans can apply.
The Khulisa Application
-this is only for Historically Disadvantaged Individuals (HDI's) who are SA citizens who where previously disadvantaged by unfair discrimination on the basis of race and could not vote before the April 1994 elections. These applicants will be given preference and will receive additional rewards above those of the General Application. In addition these successful candidates will have the exclusive privilege of the Minister of Sport & Recreation watching them perform as he will ignore those pale face candidates as they mean nothing to him.

Enjoy the festive season.

Regards
Schultzy
PS. Thanks to Vinesh for the updates from the land with the long white cloud.

HI Lucas,

Net jammer ek het nie my opinie gelug voor dit alles gebeur het nie. Ek het met my vriende gepraat en vir hulle my onrustigheid met samestelling van die span uitgespeek toe die name bekend geword het. 

Ek lees daar is opinies dat dit nie die beste span is nie of dat dit 'n derde xv-tal is wat gespeel het. Onthou net dat toe die span gekies was, het almal geglo dit is ons eerste span omdat die "Curry cup champions" of die spelers wat op vorm is en die semi-finale gehaal het gekies is. As ons net 'n bietjie verder terug dink sal ons sien dat dič spelers almal lelik gefaal het in die super 12, dat dič spelers in spanne was wat amper nie die top agt en die top ses van volgende jaar sou haal nie. Maar hulle het so teen die einde van moeilike wedstryde 'n strafskop of twee gekry en dan het hulle gewen. Nou is die vraag, het ons skeidsregters nie ons benadeel deur dit te doen nie? Arnold Geerdts het na die wedstryd teen Skotland opgemerk dat "these players are supposed to represent the cream of South African rugby, what went wrong" 

Wat is ook die groot baklei dat spelers wat nie op eie bodem speel nie meer vir hulle land mag speel nie? As ons kyk in ander sport kodes,WAT OOK PROFESIONEEL IS, dan speel hulle in die buiteland en word gekies om hul land te verteenwoordig. Die internasionale seisoen blyk dan juis te wees dat alle spelers beskikbaar is wanneer toetse gespeel word.

" 'nTong in die kies een" kan ons dalk vir ene Mnr van Zyl by sekere van ons "domestic" wedstryde kry net om uit te wys waar skeidsregters nie hul werkies reg doen nie?

Groete,
Gordon v.Wyk

Geagte Redakteur.

Die jaar se rugby was met gemengde gevoelens waardeer en geniet. Die Super12 raak nou vir my regtig afgesaag en eentonig en doen nie net SA rugby maar ook Australie en Nieu Seeland se rugby groot skade aan. Die afgelope toer van die onderskeie lande is 'n sprekende voorbeeld daarvan. Ek het ook die uitlatings gemaak dat die manne betaal word, maar 'n mens se liggaam kan net soveel vat en nie meer nie. Die Drie Nasies kan in dieselfde asem ook afgeskaf word, vir dieselfde redes. Ek sal nie wil sien dat Rudolf afgedank word nie. Die man het die regte goed gedoen die afgelope kort tydjie wat hy aan bewind is. Ek wil ook nie sy pos beklee vir al die geld in die wereld nie. Ek sal ook nie al my "beste" spelers saamvat op 'n najaarsuitstappie nie. Met die wereldbeker toernooi 11 maande weg sal ek nie kanse vat met "senior" en sleutelspelers nie. Die jong manne het met drif en passie gespeel en haal ek my hoed vir hulle af. Die Bleekbene het nou wel met sestien manne (skeidsregter) inkluis teen 14 manne gewen, en gun ek hulle die genot. Hulle moet net onthou die groot rugby wag op hulle. Oor die agbare mister van Sport het ek my genoeg uitgelaat. Ek dink sy dae is in elk geval getel want hy raak nou regtig 'n verleentheid vir ons sportmanne en vroue en vir die land as geheel. Hy moet hom maar reghou vir 'n "demotion" want dit kan nie so aangaan nie. Ek hoop regtig die regering kry darem iemand met waardigheid en kennis van sport in sy plek.

Aan die "Jumping Bucks" rus lekker uit. Aan Roelfie, moenie worrie nie, ding kan nie swakker nie.

Groete
Chris Erasmus

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Ah finally one that's up to date! Sheesh and to think Jules had all those Rugby Forums just sitting in his inbox for the last month or so....
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