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Rugby Forum - Vol 3, Week 3
Rugby Forum - Vol 3, Week 3
(The week that was, a South African perspective)
17 Feb 2003
[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 http://www.rugbyforum.co.za/

Volume 3, Week 3 Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant! Living in a country that is currently hosting one of the world’s 5 biggest sporting events, the World Cup Cricket, it is surprisingly easy to concentrate on the more important job at hand – rugby! In fact the cricket is producing very much similar news than the game we love so much; the Proteas (SA National Cricket Team) lost their first match in dramatic style. An Australian tested positive for some banned drug apparently designed to take the piss from him (did not think he needed a drug for that to happen!) there are “probes” into player’s passive political resistance and “yellow cards” for “beaming” a batsman. Usual run of the mill stuff!

The time for decent rugby is nigh with the opening matches of the Six Nations this coming weekend. Decent being the appropriate word after watching the Stormers and Sharks match but more on that later. The obvious vital clash is between France and England at Twickenham, being one of the lucky few to attend this fixture in the past, the best way to describe it is; a rugby war. The two teams are meeting for the 73rd time in this competition and significantly the English have only lost once at home in the last decade, 1997, incidentally the very game this humble writer observed.

It is (as it was then) an impossible task to remain neutral for this humdinger so here goes. England with their bastionesque record at home start as favourites, the French will run them close but unfortunately not close enough - England to win by a 5-10 point margin.

Two local Super 12 franchises, the Sharks and Stormers met in a historical match at the Stoop in London before a sell out crowd. The match was set up as an extraordinary PR exercise and of course some vital practice before the start of the competition next Friday. Judging from the responses of the many fans making the trek out to Twickenham, the PR was good but the game as one reader so eloquently wrote, toilet! From 12,000 miles away, that just about summed up the match for me! The Stormers look adequate and there seem to be a plan going forward, the same cannot be said of the Sharks, they are in serious trouble!

Kevin Putt in his coach report on the excellent Sharks rugby site had a lot to say on how little should be read into his charges exploits and how different the team will be next week bla bla bla but based on last week's evidence he will need far more than two weeks to prepare his team for a game of rugby never mind Super 12 clashes against the best in the Southern Hemisphere. After next week it is too late, with matches every weekend there is very little or no time to teach players the basics. Even the pathetic little referee saw fit to admonish the Sharks for “bad mauling technique” when they lost the ball on one occasion. Kevin is enlisting the coaching skills of old players, maybe he should rather convince them to come out of retirement! Phew, had to let off that bit of steam…

The season is upon us and for the next few months we will be rejoicing, crying and swearing at the exploits of our teams in the Super 12, regardless of the outcome there will be some unbelievable rugby on display. That is after all the reason we watch it!

Next week is “nuts in a vice" time with a Super 12 preview and prediction; feel free to mail me your predictions for this year’s showpiece.

Ciao
Lucas

lucas@rugbyforum.co.za


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

The Grandest Okes by Tom Marcellus
On Tuesday night I had the unexpected pleasure of listening to an interview on "Boots & All" with Philip Nel's widow, who, despite the passing of many years, is still delightfully spry and full of zip. The clip on the show was in honour of the centenary of the Maritzburg Collegians Rugby Club, whose colours were donned in anger by her husband during his long and distinguished career as a towering lock forward.

Being a simple fellow who hails from that neck of the woods, I had a special interest in listening to Mrs Nel's words, as she described in her impressively cultured tones the rigours that her husband was required to endure during his long return trips by horseback from his farm in Greytown to Maritzburg. Nel, one must remember, was the strapping man-of-the-soil who was summoned from semi-retirement on his farm (much like Boy Morkel 16 years before) to lead the Boks to glory over the All Blacks in '37, in doing so ensuring his own piece of rugger immortality as skipper of "The Greatest Springboks".

Besides the fact that at various stages during my misspent adolescence I had had passing schoolboy crushes on each of his numerous granddaughters, I can boast another, albeit highly tenuous, link to this famous Bok captain. You see, my decidedly crazed forebear, CR "Bull" Marcellus, had had the honour of captaining the youthful Nel in the school's 1st XV when the young Greytown farm-boy was till a fledgling standard niner, new to the mysterious oval game.

But Nel was evidently a quick learner, and a year later, by which time he had succeeded the imperious Bull as school captain, he took his first steps towards rugby immortality when he was selected for the Natal (senior) team while still at school.

While Nel speedily went about attaining rugby Nirvana, Bull went farming, to which noble past-time he brought the robust enthusiasm that he had displayed on the rugby fields of his youth. But he was a colourful character to say the least, and was known to disrupt grand balls by bursting into the town hall on his horse, brandishing a revolver and a bottle of rum (as tight as a nun's proverbial, naturally) and occasionally to threaten the town's hard-pressed mayor with a thorough flogging with his buggy-whip.

It is one of the old chestnuts of SA rugby that the Boks' recent stutterings can to a degree be attributed to the gradual decline in the presence of farm boys, those Platteland boykies whose rugged upbringings added to their natural toughness and who provided a well of gritty talent from which the Springboks selectors gratefully drew for generations. Of course it is not for me, a mere city dweller, to harp away on the subject – afterall, I wouldn't know the difference between a gatepost and a gumboot (although I have been known to caress the occasional udder with considerable dexterity), but that does not mean that the point is without merit.

Fortunately, we South Africans are not alone in pondering this subject, and our wooly neighbours in New Zealand often also seem to lament the penchant of modern rugby players to cast aside their rural upbringings and to head off for the bright lights of the Big Smoke. One crazed Kiwi writer even went so far a year a 2 ago as to attribute the sudden decline (at the time) in the All Blacks' success to the sudden emergence of NZ players with mamby pamby names like Troy, Shane and Danny, rather than the Colins, Keiths and Kels of days gone by. Maybe that's as tad extreme, but the ultimate "Colin", Meads himself, was also never shy to cry out for more red meat, more mongrel etc.

In this age of pink boots, rock-star hairstyles and sunbeds-on-demand, the grunt and tenacity of those savage old geezers seems positively archaic. Afterall, how many players would cycle from Pietersburg to Pretoria on a Friday night after class, play the big game on Saturday afternoon, and then immediately cycle all the way home, so as to not desecrate the Lord's Sabbath?

Take a bow, Paul Roos.

Roos and Nel, not to mention my own crazed forebear, all displayed in different measures those traditional qualities that we city folk recognise so often in farm boys. We need more like them.

For the record, both Paul Roos and Philip Nel lived to ripe old ages. Not so Bull Marcellus, who died aged 49 of a well known liver ailment.

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!!


Dilbert on Doping by Desmond Organ
The revelations of drugs and narcotics that have been used by two leading sportsman in the last week leads me to believe that Dilbert would have a tough time defining what doping is. On the one had it might be arguable that taking medication is one step below the blatant taking of drugs. What then do you make of sanctioned medication and masking agents that are potentially used on a fairly regular basis? Is it okay if you are an Australian rugby player but unacceptable if you are anybody else.

As far as the IRB is concerned it has a clear policy on the doping issue. They have a long list of prohibited substances, some of which are acceptable if the sporting body that prescribes it has clearly prescribed it in good faith. This is exactly what the decision of last year relating to Ben Tune tells us. Maybe there is a need for a more substantive policy on the use of banned substances. Cobus Visagie was removed from the game for a period of two years. His legal team did a fine job in unraveling several technical details that enabled him to return to the game. This may be exactly what prompted the IRB decision regarding Tune.

The De Villiers issue is slightly more complex. It rides on the back of solid statements from the French coach that no player that has taken any form of “entertainment” or narcotic drugs would be allowed to continue playing for the national side. A few losses and a battle to find a suitable replacement in the critical tight head position may lead to a change of heart. This lack of clarity and the ever-growing legal issues associated with the game leaves the average fan unsure as to what is acceptable and what is not.

Several years ago I was sitting in a locker room waiting to play in a friendly match. One of the more charismatic members of the team was offering, “cough mixture” to help people make it through the game. Thank god I declined. A friend of mine who took the stuff assuming that it was merely a potent version of a caffeine rich beverage spent the next 18 hours running around like a possessed madman. He made it through the game all right and spent the last 20 minutes playing on a cracked bone in his lower leg.

I have heard of enough “miraculous” recoveries through a combination of oxygen gadgets and special medication to believe that there is obviously a fair amount of rapid recoveries that are not necessarily above the law. The laws are there to be interpreted and as long as a person works within those frameworks then it is deemed acceptable.

The IRB has in the past been pretty clear on issues like national representation, the Devine issue created some additional controversy that may allow somebody like Kennedy Tsimba to play for South Africa. Well I guess if it is good for the goose then it is good for the gander. I personally do not expect any new statements on the doping issue in the next month or so. The professional nature of the game and the risk that is assumed by the individual players that are not in the upper ranks makes it more likely that individual players who are not as gifted will continue to use whatever legal means they can to return to the field of play as soon as possible.

Dilbert unfortunately is still battling to understand the difference between cough mixture and drugs.

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


A Brief History Since Isolation by Lucas Scheepers
More than a decade has passed since South Africa’s readmission to international rugby. In 1992, on a sunny winter’s day the Springboks came close to beating the old nemesis, the All Blacks of New Zealand. A great deal of change occurred during the most turbulent period in the history of the game, the most profound being professionalism. In essence a revolution took place in the way the game is perceived, played and administered.

Rugby is regarded as one of the ultimate team challenges yet individual brilliance can sway a match in one’s favour. Down the years a plethora of stars graced the game with phenomenal skill and the crowds accorded hero worship to the greatest players of the day. Names like Colin Meads, Willie John McBride, Frik Du Preez, Gareth Edwards and many more became household names through their exploits on and sometimes off the field. An indication of the popularity of Frik Du Preez, South Africa’s player of the 20th Century, in his hey day was the delivery of fan mail to his home simply addressed as, ‘Oom Frik, Blou Bulle, Pretoria’. They played for the love of the game and international camaraderie.

Today, players are expensive commodities with sponsorship deals and salaries worth millions. The first superstar of the post isolation period was an aging blonde genius and one of Dr Danie Craven’s four greatest players of all time, Naas Botha. A teenage prodigy in the seventies, a match winning general in the eighties the current day television pundit was the first “professional” in South African rugby. He played rugby all year round and sometimes only a day elapsed between matches in South Africa and jetting to Italy for a club fixture. At the time other superstars in world rugby like David Campese and John Kirwan followed similar schedules and with their fame and skills earned a great deal of money.

The Springboks struggled to come to terms with the massive changes in the way the world game was played and a few unsuccessful years in 1993 and 1994 only emphasized the damage of the isolation years. There were a lot of talented players but the provincial inanities, a recurring theme in Springbok rugby, precluded success on the field. Few players in this time matched the fame and notoriety of James Small, the winger epitomized commitment to the cause and he was simply a legend in his own time. On and off field excursions made him the pin up of South African rugby and for the first time a player truly exploited his commercial value.

Fast-forward to 1995, South Africa’s victory over the All Blacks in a nail-biting finale at Ellis Park changed the face of the game forever. The Springboks were magnificently prepared for the competition by coach Kitch Christie and great teamwork ultimately won them the William Webb Ellis trophy. A few players emerged from the dust of the last “amateur” event to dominate the world stage. Jonah Lomu became the biggest name and most recognized player in the world, for South Africa, Francois Pienaar extended his role of Springbok captain to that of rugby statesman. The big, blonde flanker captained the Springboks in each and every test he played in. A product of an Afrikaans working class family his rise to prominence in the world game was nothing short of spectacular. He was also instrumental in negotiating a deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation that turned rugby into a fully-fledged professional game.

The News Corporation millions meant that players were now “official” employees of their various unions. The South African World Cup squad benefited enormously from the SANZAR deal and though it culminated in tension with other players it helped everyone in the country to earn a decent living from the game.

The new era of professional rugby did not do the Springboks any favours and the euphoria of the previous year evaporated quickly as the core of the world cup squad disintegrated. The 1996-year was one of the worst in a long Springbok history. The All Blacks managed to win their first series victory on South African soil and things did not go much better off the field. Pienaar was dropped as captain and replaced by Gary Teichman, an unassuming Natalian and coach Andre Markgraaff, unwittingly, opened a brand new avenue for South African rugby players in the professional era, exodus to Britain.

Pienaar was not the first Springbok to play his rugby in Britain, quite a few established stars played in Italy, France and England but his high profile attracted huge attention and the rumoured money involved raised more than a few eyebrows. South African rugby’s deal with the paymasters was skillfully negotiated in US dollars by controversial president, Louis Luyt. The failing rand therefore benefited the money coffers of SARFU, players by no means financial gurus but with cunning agents recognized the enormous potential of plying your trade in the UK. Pienaar, again pioneered the way for other players to benefit from the instability of South African rugby at the time.

More turmoil was to follow, coaches were chopped and changed and in 1997 after a loss against the touring British Lions and a second dismal Tri-Nations, South African rugby was in crisis. There were few stars; younger players found it difficult to establish themselves in an unsettled team, James Small and Joost van der Westhuizen cornered the commercial market with their good looks and marketability. The appointment of Nick Mallett at a tough time in South African rugby was the catalyst to a change in fortune. A record 17 test victories in a row established Mallett as the second most successful coach in history. The Springboks won the 1998 Tri-Nations in emphatic style, suddenly the young players were veterans and new stars had emerged, Johan (Rassie) Erasmus, Percy Montgommery, Andre Snyman were added to the established Chester Williams, Mark Andrews and Os Du Randts. And there was Bob Skinstad.

The 1999 World Cup in Britain and France was an anti climax for a country use to seeing their team win. Mallett ousted his captain, Teichman in favour of one of the most talented players of 1998, Bob Skinstad. In his early twenties Skinstad redefined the role of an impact player and his popularity off the field was huge. “Bobby-mania” was everywhere; his marketability was phenomenal and with brilliant play in the Super 12 cemented his credentials as THE player in South Africa. A car accident ruined his build up to the world cup and although selected was not at his previous imperious best. A phenomenal Australian side, professionally prepared by Rod MacQueen swiped all opposition away including the Springboks in extra time to beat France in a dour final.

A lot of criticism was leveled at Mallett for his sacking of Teichman and selection of an unfit Skinstad and his popularity waned dramatically to be finally replaced at the end of the 2000 Tri-Nations by Harry Viljoen after criticizing his employer for the high test ticket prices. Viljoen, a highly successful businessman was seen as the savior of Springbok rugby, innovative ideas and consulting talk about vision, processes and the introduction of business units appealed to a lot of people who were now coming to terms with rugby as a business in the professional era.

Unfortunately, the hard work on the structures did little to improve results on the field and 2001 was yet another dismal year for Springbok rugby. A shared series against a young French team, only one victory in the Tri Nations and the replacement of captain Andre Vos with Bob Skinstad placed tremendous pressure on Viljoen. The end of year tour was labeled disastrous and in the final match of a long season the Springboks struggled against the Eagles of United States. Viljoen became the first Springbok coach to throw in the towel on own accord and after an extensive interviewing process, Rudolf Straeuli was appointed coach for 2002.

Meanwhile SARFU had split up with the creation of SA Rugby (Pty) Ltd to deal with all issues around the professional game. The help of a consulting firm, Accenture was acquired to investigate the running of the game and the resulting report has instigated the arduous task of centralizing the Springbok brand, rationalization of competition structures and employment contracts. In other words doing what all other business does to remain competitive and profitable. Even supporting the Springboks has taken on a new dimension with an organisation like the Springbok Supporters Club providing professional value added service to all members.

The 2002 season saw the emergence of a very talented and exciting young Springbok team where gifted new players emerged. Names like Brent Russell, Andre Pretorius, Bolla Conradie, Marius Joubert, Lawrence Sephaka and Joe van Niekerk produced some excellent performances during the Tri-Nations even though winning only one match. The season was of course marred by the Piet van Zyl incident in Durban. Despite a below par record in the competition, supporters were steeped in optimism and record crowds attended the Currie Cup series and the popular thought was that South African rugby had turned the corner. The end of year tour to Europe was in short disastrous and the Springboks suffered record defeats in all three their matches. An alarming tag also emerged; South African teams lacked restraint and are more intent on playing the man rather than the ball.

Again there is a crossroad in this much-maligned sport and the year 2003, a World Cup year will determine the success of the previous four. Another revolution is needed to propel the professional players from being labeled and paid as such to disciplined individuals who obey and produce according to a certain code of work ethic and performance. Without that kind of commitment South African rugby will remain in dire straits far longer than necessary.

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Six Nations with sight on the RWC by Giampaolo Tassinari

There is really a lot of curiosity in the European rugby arena to see whether England will snatch the Grand Slam or not in the forthcoming 2003 Royal Bank of Scotland 6 Nations. The main question in circulation is: will Woodward’s men deliver? In the last four seasons this awful thought has been tantalising Clive Woordward’s nights, and “late nights” are spent to think and study the reasons for why such an oiled machine is still having cracks. Time to deliver, time to deliver, time to win something and not to get first without the rubber and the glory.

Last year matters went even worse with England deservedly beaten at Stade de France by a far better side led by a warrior like Serge Betsen who became Johnny Wilkinson’s nightmare. Only Jason Robinson’s flash kept alive the Poms but the match in the final quarter was well lost and gone with England unable to put an adequate pressure on the Frenchmen.

What really threatens England in my opinion must be searched inside their manager, Clive Woodward. He is a decent man fully aware of the chances that his men are having in these years. But he is a perfectionist, the kind of man who is never happy with the work done, one that calls up the players in the national team by sending them an email message instead of a telegram or a phone call. My good friend Frank Keating usually refers to him as “will ‘o the wisp” and says Woodward never tells anything in a press conference. Only the same words paying attention not to blame the opponents for something wrong they did against his immaculate team.

Should England overcome its inner fears and frustrations and play without so much pressure often caused by themselves, I think they could become really World Beaters whereas at the moment New Zealand and Australia can have the upper hand despite the Wallabies’ bad tour of last Autumn. England defeated all three SANZAR’s powerful sides last November (actually my poor Springboks were trounced, alas), showed its power but the Rugby World Cup is still ahead, it’s another thing and the present Six Nations will tell us more.

The Six Nations as a dress rehearsal for the next RWC? It is likely to be so. Let’s look at the recent statement of its guru Bernard Laporte. Only the two away matches should see the best men available to take the field. Snub is the word that Laporte does not like to hear but actually it’s the real word. Complacency is a bad way to live in professional sport and soon it could affect the Tricolors deeds if its management does not change the policy of fielding a second string XV for the Paris matches.

And what is happening in Italy for the forthcoming tournament? Italy has been losing the last fourteen matches out of the fifteen played, a never ending frustration that also cost the job (and the money) to Kiwi coach Brad Johnstone who was sacked last April after a spell of two and a half years in which he made many enemies. John Kirwan’s morale needs a very strong boost and Wales could mean really the best opponent at the moment to break the losing trend. Moreover Kirwan is striving to put together a solid group to build the nucleus for this year’s Rugby World Cup where the Azzurri would like to erase the controversial opinion that many people made in 1999 when a non-existent side was humiliated in all its three outings resulting in the nineteenth place out of twenty countries involved.

Italy is in the Six Nations for only the fourth straight year but these two words, “Six Nations”, are becoming familiar enough to a lot of people not interested in rugby, too. The recurrent question they ask is: “When will the Italians win another match?” Good question dear all. Taking a lot of risks and growing in stamina and tackling even “the flies and the mosquitos” might help to beat the Welshmen who have a casualties’ list longer than the Volga River but who also have many talented youngsters to replace the missing actors. If Hansen can close the team’s wounds and line up a competitive and “one for all and all for one” XV, then the matters will be brighter for him. Surely all the chaos produced in the Principality for the professional format of next season’s new provinces has been causing a lot of bitterness and havoc in the lower and middle ranks of the Welsh rugby.

Finally Ireland and Scotland. The Emerald jersey’s can field a new player…a certain BOD better known as Brian O’Driscoll. Unpredictable as ever, shrewd and lethal, BOD is now the captain in Wood’s absence. Reggie Corrigan has replaced Peter “The Claw” Clohessy in the front row and O’Sullivan’s army is ready to take on the Scotsmen. A No-Name squad with no prima donnas but fifteen very disciplined men who listen to McGeechan’s orders. Humble and silent the Scotsmen still have some deficiencies but woe betide the side who does not take seriously the Thistle. They might slip at once on the banana’s skin left on the soil by Townsend & Co.

My prediction for the tournament: 1. France or England, 3. Ireland, 4. Scotland, 5. Wales and 6. Italy with another Wooden Spoon in the bag. Or am I wrong dear Mr Kirwan?


Quotes
He was an idiot, that cannot be overlooked - but it can be understood. We do not have to bury him because he slipped up. Although, of course, we will wait for the disciplinary procedures to run their course. Jo Maso, French team manager.

The supporters shouldn’t be disenchanted, they should be concerned. The truth of it is though there were no log points on offer, there was no bonus point for scoring tries and hence “Let’s run the ball”. Don’t judge the team and coach on the training field. It would be more appropriate to do so after the first Super 12 game. Kevin Putt after a shocking Sharks performance against the Stormers at the Stoop in London.

John’s philosophy was if you got pushed a metre back, then start a fight. At least it detracts from the fact that you were beaten in the scrum. Kevin Putt on calling in John Allan to help with the Sharks woes in the primary phases.

I drank a lot of beers in several pubs. I was sick as never before. Maybe I was trapped... Pieter De Villiers on being tested positive for ecstacy and cocaine.

He's a lovely person, as a player and a bloke, he is a star. Jason Leonard, centurion in waiting on Pieter De Villiers

We have decided not to retain De Villiers against England as a precaution for both the player and the French team, because it would not be good for such a problem to interfere with our preparation for the game. Bernard Lapasset, president of the French Rugby Union Federation

It's not smart mentioning the Canterbury Crusaders around NSW headquarters, as the Waratah hierarchy immediately start twitching and turning a sickly colour. Greg Growden

The commentator's Holding, the third umpire's Willey. Mike Haysman, imitating the famous Brian Johnstone quote during the opening match of the CWC '03.

IT'S GETTING HOT IN HERE! SA Rugby magazine's body-paint/Super 12 edition is
on sale now. For a taste of what to expect, go to www.promo.sarugby.com


Letters to the Editor
Hi Ed,

Open letter to Butch James

Dear Butch

I found myself on the way home from Twickenham station last night feeling utterly depressed and annoyed. No, annoyed is not strong enough a word. Thoroughly pissed off is more like it. Last night was supposed to be enjoyable, I got 9 mates together and got us all tickets on the half way line. I left work early and we all met at gate 3 at the Stoop. We got in a few beers and found our seats. What an atmosphere, such excitement, come to think of it, the last time I felt that way was taking my seat at Murrayfield (gulp).

My days of watching rugby started when I was taken to my first B league game at Kings Park at about 10 years of age. I played throughout my schooling days, never to a level that would have achieved greatness, but like all the other sports I played, I played it with all the heart I could muster. I continued watching it every weekend if I could and tried never to miss a home Natal game. I've watched people play on that pitch (and I'm sure you have too) that were as hard as nails. Wahl Bartman in particular springs to mind as being a player who, I'm sure, could get into the minds of his opponents because of his ability, strength, skill and because he was so damn hard. I'm starting to waffle but I think you see where I am going.

I always wanted to be a great player and have the chance to run onto a field as a professional. I wanted to have the fans cheering me as I went over for a try, scored a goal, served an ace. There is no denying it, Butch, you have what others only dream of. How much longer do you think you will have that opportunity? I'm sorry to say that if I were picking the team you wouldn't be in it! You got your chance, more than once, and you proved yourself as a good player, but you piss me off every time I watch you play.

I might be stating the obvious here, but on the off chance - the slightest possibility - that nobody has ever told you this: Butch, high tackles are illegal and might get you sent off the field. This might cause people to get angry with you and stop you from playing the game you love. Shoulder charges can carry the same consequence, as do late tackles, kicking your opponent and tripping. Clear? Also, you can only score a try if you have the ball in your possession. Kicking the ball to your opponents results in the ball being in their position and hence you can't score a try. If they decide to ground the ball in the in goal area, its not like American Football, you don't get a point!

I'm afraid you've lost a fan. I thought I was a "die hard" and sadly I feel like I've let myself down, but I don't want to be cheering you as you high tackle somebody into a hospital bed. That's not the spirit that I learned at King's Park (or whatever you want to call it now). That's not the way it's meant to be!

Yours sincerely
Charles Knight

Lucas

Once again a great forum, which has been created more interesting with the inclusions of other writers from around the world, especially of interest was the article from Wales plus the quotes some of which leaves me crying with laughter, excellent. A whole lot of negative and one or two positive regarding my Super 12 team the Sharks, after watching the game against the Quins something became very clear our defense is looking very slow indeed and reading what was wrote about the commentator of the game no matter how bad he might be one thing he did get right which Kevin Putt nor Rudolf Straeuli is Butch James ability to tackle correctly ( I predict him number one candidate this year from South Africa for the most sin bins). While watching the match I was imagining seen Wayne Erickson, Stuart Dickerson and Paddy O'Brien already penciling in Butch's name in their book ( with big grins on their mugs) before the Super 12 has even started. Decision making by the scrumhalves is the kind made at schoolboy level and soft tries, shocking. The positives Trevor Halstead is back so hopefully that will slow the soft tries down plus the Sharks come from far behind to win.

One last thing before every Super 12 tournament begins we South African supporters hear of the amount of injuries each of our teams have, I believe in the premier league football if some of those coaches made use of the rugby's excuses they would be able to save their jobs and not get the boot. Please can I get a few suggestions for the coming months, as I enjoy watching, football (Man Utd), rugby (Sharks), cricket (dolphins SA), golf and I am married besides another dish and television how will I be able to watch all my sports at once?

Cheers
Wayne

Dear Ed,

While there is no doubt that Warren Britz was a monumental loss to the Sharks, interestingly enough, his new side (Newcastle Falcons) opted against playing him last weekend. The other thing is his replacement(s) at the Sharks. Perhaps his experience cannot be replaced, but in Luke Watson (SA U19 - 2002) and Roland Bernard (SA U21 World Championship winning side in 2002) the Sharks have gained two fantastic players. Luke Watson has also tested tops in fitness with the Sharks amongst the forwards, and has a long career ahead of him. Don't write off the Sharks just yet!"

Mike - Sharks Fan

Hallo Lucas,

Op die stadium wonder 'n mens wat is die verskil tussen 'n Springbok en 'n Bosbok in die SA'kaanse sport? Al wat ek aan kan dink is dat 'n mens as sport ondersteuner baie trots kan wees op die Springbok, maar soos wat dit deesdae gaan is hulle maar net 'n spul bosbokke, deurmekaar en rigtingloos. So "passionate" as wat ek is oor die Springbokke en Proteas hier in die buiteland, het ek GEEN hoop soos in GEEN vir die kommende Super 12 en RWC 2003 nie. My rede is eenvoudig - deurmekaar en rigtingloos!

Ek het na die sewes gekyk en my siening van rigtinloss en deurmekaar is net daar bevestig. Dis asof ons manne net nie die denk vermoee of planmaak het nie. Ons ploeter net voort soos 'n trop skape - jy weet wanneer die een soontoe neek dan volg die res.

Soos jy tereg se........the best way to double your money is by folding it in half and putting it back in your pocket! Ek hoop ek word verkeerd bewys regtig ek hoop so, maar ai dis moeilik! ek sal hard probeer om pos. te bly!

Groetnis,
Bokbef*k in NZ.
FRANS

Beste Red.

Dit was maar 'n eentonige paar maande wat verloop het. Gelukkig kon ek darem my bloeddruk en emosies 'n bietjie in toom hou. Al opwinding wat daar was, was die geskenke oopmaak van Kersfees en dit is vir my as sensitiewe kyker reeds genoeg. Om die Loftus sage aan te spreek wil ek net my beskeie mening uitspreek en noem dat dit 'n oorwinning vir die man in die straat was. Die manne met die "suites" vergeet wie die pawiljoene Saterdae moet volmaak. Ek dink hier aan Kings Park wat 'n tyd gelede ook ewe skielik ABSA park geword het. Ek verdwaal elke keer as ek wil gaan rugby kyk in Durban om ABSA park te kry. Ek het 12 jaar gelede in Pretoria kom woon, nou ewe skielik bly ek nie meer in Pretoria nie maar in Tswane. Niemand het my gevra of ek wil trek nie maar ek het intussen want ek woon skielik in 'n ander dorp. Die Sharks wedstryd het ook maar met stampe en stote gepaarde gegaan. As hulle so sou voortgaan die res van die jaar sien ek maar swarigheid vir my span. Ek hoop net die Dapper Muis met behulp van oom Pieringoog doen die jaar die ding. Neef Roelfie se vuurdoop is ook nog voor die deur. Ons het nou maar aanvaar en berus by verlede jaar se slagting, maar ek wil nie weer in my lewe so 'n dag belewe soos teen die bleekbene nie. Ek het selfs my Ingelse vrou so vir 'n week lank nie mee gepraat nie. Ek het ook op 'n whisky boikot gegaan na die loesing teen die Skotte. Ek noem dit ook weereens, die manne speel te veel. Ek sou die Super 12 afgeskaf het, want dit doen ons rugby meer skade as goed.

Groetenis.
Chris Erasmus

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I must say it's a long time since we Kiwis can say we have had the wood on the South Africans in cricket and rugby! Oh what a lovely feeling! :)
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