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|Volume 3, Week 7|
|Brilliant! After a wonderful weekend of Super 12 and Six Nations action the rugby season is well and truly underway. For certain teams and coaches the end of their respective competitions cannot approach fast enough and a few of them will be as redundant as the United Nations Security Council! |
The Stormers in the weekend’s opening match was poor, after the expectations of the past few weeks they do not look like a top 4 side. Their defence was shocking with Robbie Fleck being beaten on the outside for a try the third time this season. As for Gaffie Du Toit, ag shame! When will coaches learn? It was certainly Kevin Putt’s best (only?) coaching decision of the season to sell the man to the Stormers - Gert Smal must own a fleet of Alfa Romeos! Positives were the performance of Quentin Davids and Lean van Dyk at fullback. The Hurricanes once again displayed lethal attacking prowess and Umaga, Cullen and Nonu will hurt a few more defences this year.
Well done again Bulls, Laurie mains may have never felt any real concern for a defeat but the faces of the Higlander players said it all. John Daniels’ fumbles were laughable and cost his team an unlikely win and at least 1 bonus point. The youngsters are pulling their weight, Pedrie Wannenburg was awesome and the loose trio are combining magnificently. For the Highlanders, Taine Randell is in sublime form and Tuilevu and Steinmetz class performers. Again these guys don’t mess about when try scoring opportunities arise. Oh to be an All Black backline coach – no need to do anything, just let the talent available play!
Well done Cats, the Brumbies may be a shadow of the brilliant team of the past few years but a morale boosting victory was necessary. The forwards played much better and Big Joe was… well, big! The outside backs possess phenomenal talent but somehow they need to combine better and utilise scoring opportunities – the swearword for SA sides at the moment. Oh yes, Bobo, forget laying eggs mate, had Pretorius missed your goal kick because of the angle the match would have been lost! Brumbies, don’t worry guys the “Republic” is behind you and the “bruised” Stormers await at Bruce, a far happier hunting ground.
The Chiefs may not have the flashiest of players but they always perform with courage and heart. The Reds are poor this year and from an SA perspective it is wonderful to see one of the Australian sides struggle in this fashion – the SA monopoly on the 12th spot may finally come to an end!
What a match! The Blues and Crusaders clash was a thoroughly entertaining display; games like this inspire love for the game. The performance of Carlos is noted and if he can maintain this level, jeeeesh they will be difficult to beat. On a day like this he has it all. A player worth watching over and over again for his superb running skill is the Caucaunibuca-fella, a lot has been written about the Fijian and the best of all? His ineligibility for the All Blacks! Sorry Crusaders, as good a team as they are, they look a bit vulnerable in the backline depth department. The pack is brilliant but it was a good wake-up call, as for the missing maestro - Mehrtens is the Crusaders.
The Sharks, well last week was an exception and they were back to their poor form of late. The forwards are not performing and ill discipline is not helping. At the back, Snyman is playing brilliant rugby and his angled running with James’ offloads will flummox any defence – he is big strong and fast and he’s recovered his try-scoring feats, which is great news! The Waratahs have done wonderfully well to collect two victories in SA, they have sorted out their lineout woes and with the Matt²'s doing their thing they are definite contenders for the semi-finals. They need to maintain focus and the acid mental test will be the Crusaders.
The Poms are on track; as is the Irish for a Grand Slam and the championship decider seem to be their clash in Dublin in a fortnight. England thumped a game Italy but very little should be read into their tame second half performance. They are a very well coached side but their problem in the last few Six Nations was their psyche in away games. It may just prove to be Ireland’s year for history. France has strangely gone off the boil and it shows once again the amount of experience and calming influence, Galthie brings to the team. The coach, Laporte’s been very critical of his charges and in true Gaelic fashioned lambasted the players in the local L’Equippe newspaper, hopefully they respond in proper fashion.
The coming weekend will provide a few interesting match ups, the Brumbies and Stormers are in exactly the same boat in terms of the log table and this match will be the “season-turnaround” encounter for the winning team. An interesting read every week is Kevin Putt’s comments on the Sharks website and every week this reader/supporter is coming to the same conclusion - “slim vang sy baas!” or roughly translated “too clever for his own good”. Prove us wrong Mr Putt!
The Bulls have a good opportunity to beat what will be jetlagged Waratahs. They need to work on their finishing – the forwards are magnificent, the backs must focus on the tryline! The Cats are hosting the Highlanders and this game is make or break for the South African side (isn’t every match?) and in Laurie Mains they have a visitor with history, both good and bad at Ellis Park.
Take care and support your team live at the park!
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|Don’t Cry for Me South Africa by Desmond Organ|
|One can hardly imagine one of either Mark Andrews or Laurie Mains as a sequel to Maradona, but I can think of several scripts that might just be quite pleasing. Not that we are not pleased by the resurgence of the Bulls and saddened by the dying throws of a “ Perfect Storm”. It just appears that there is a failure to maximize the opportunities at the disposal of the South African coaches.|
The Sharks may well be thanking the gods that the Brumbies handling was so atrocious two weeks ago. Perhaps the absence of a win might have the management focusing on what is really wrong with a team that resembles the Brumbies of old as far as available talent is concerned. I am not the first to highlight the fact that there are only one or two stalwarts missing from the forwards and yet there is little to be enthusiastic about.
The Sharks are currently blessed with talent in the backs, the likes of which would have any other coach relishing the chance to coach them. Snyman is back to his best and Halstead, James, Davidson and company are chomping at the bit. It is almost saddening to think that Russell is thrown into the Shark tank when all the nets have been put in place by the opposing team. The forwards are a shadow of the teams of previous years and the emergence of John Allan at such a late stage in the season’s preparation is simply outrageous.
Now that retarded cat that stalks the highveld is quite another story, two three-quarters coaches in the staff and the forwards are a shadow of their predecessors. Now the think tank in Cape Town, Johannesburg or Bloemfontein is not quite sure what to make of the performances. All I know is that two seasons ago it was a tiger on the prowl not a domestic cat looking for a platter of milk.
The major obstacle for the Sharks and the Cats is the absence of a definitive forwards strategy. The basics are all going horribly wrong. The lineouts are a shambles, support at the point of breakdown non-existent and the scrummaging reminiscent of a game of rugby league. The performances of the Bulls shows what a good scrummaging and forwards strategy can bring to the game. It might not be that attractive, but it gives the three quarters a platform from which to operate.
What is promising is the thought that the selectors might do us all a favour and select the right forwards and backs without selecting the majority of players from the most successful team. That and the right combination of coaches might just do the trick. There is of course the ever-present fear that we no longer possess the combination of skills, preparation and professional coaching required in the modern game.
What is needed now is a return to the basics and the selection of coaching staff based on requirements and a proven track record. The potential demise of the South African rugby team along the lines of our cricket brothers is simply not something that I can easily get my arms around let alone explain to my friends from the shores of Australia and New Zealand.
Rocket Scientists of the week:
I love the White House – Kevin Putt after learning that there are other management teams spreading meaningless propaganda to their supporters.
Abdicate now before it is too late – Gaffie's fairy godmother
I am still looking for new excuses – Gert Smal's entry into his diary
If I can design a new strip for the Cats I will be kept as the forwards coach – Bobby’s new marketing campaign
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|The week that the Crusaders suffered the Blues by Vinesh Naicker|
|Hurricanes (33) vs. Stormers (18)|
I expected this to be a game that the Stormers would scrape in with. They have demonstrated a competitive forward pack in the past and their back line has usually been the best of the South African teams. After the Hurricane pack was munched by the Bulls last week I expected them to struggle again. However the Stormers pack were strangely quiet and the Hurricanes tight five were able to hold their own against their counterparts. The Hurricane loose forwards outplayed the Stormers comprehensively and the Stormers backline without the Rossouw brothers was distinctly lacking.
Jonah was pretty quiet on the wing and although Cullen got two tries to become the first player to score 50 Super 12 tries he is definitely not the player he was of old. The new star on the rise seems to be Nonu and Tana Umaga was shifted in to inside centre to accommodate him.
Highlanders (29) vs. Bulls (22)
The weakness in the Bulls game plan was exposed by the Highlanders in this game. If the opposition can match the Bulls in the forward exchange then the weakness in the Bulls backs can be exploited. The Highlanders who have a pretty good backline made the most of it in the first half. Paul Steinmetz who used to perform well for the Hurricanes has continued to blossom since moving down to Otago, his counterpart Alatini who made the switch from Otago to Wellington which forced Steinmetz to move, has dropped out of All Black contention and is showing some pretty spotty form at the moment. Must be something in the Wellington climate that turns good players bad.
To their credit, the Bulls came back strongly in the second half. Their forwards are definitely a lot fitter than in days gone past and you can probably count on them to win a few more games in the competition. I would guess only the Blues, Crusaders and Brumbies might be able to achieve forward parity with them.
Cats (34) vs. Brumbies (32)
Although the Cats won this game at the deat,h they would only have themselves to blame if they lost it. The outside backs looked like they had only been introduced in the changing rooms five minutes before the game because they butchered about four try scoring opportunities by selfishly holding on to the ball.
Pretorius had a mixed game and for someone who is the incumbent Springbok flyhalf he doesn’t seem to be growing in confidence as much as you would hope. Having said that a couple of wins could do wonders for his confidence.
Chiefs (43) vs, Reds (27)
The game between two of the cellar dwellers. The Chiefs were coming back from a game they should have won against the Blues last week and I guess the Reds were just pleased to be playing on a dry ground for once.
Still the error rate from both teams was quite high and detracted somewhat from the spectacle. The highlights of the game were Wendell Sailors two tries which still weren’t enough to win the game for his team and the play from Chiefs winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, who had a busy game all night on attack and defence.
Blues (39) vs. Crusaders (5)
This was the game of the round, the two great Super12 sides battling it out. The Crusaders went into the match with 15 wins in a row only 1 away from the Blues record of 16. I’m pretty sure that everyone was picking a close game, no one could have expected the actual result we got. If someone had suggested to me last weekend that England playing the Crusaders at Twickenham would beat them by 39-5 I would probably have laughed in their face.
The Blues first try was again down to the incredible acceleration of Caucaunibuca. Spencer made the break and Howlett backed up well but when Caucaunibuca got the ball he hit the nitrous button and beat both Vunibaka and Leon McDonald to score in the corner. If you remember that last week Vunibaka in a straight sprint ran around Ben Tune then you get an idea of the phenomenal top end acceleration of this guy.
Last year when Auckland beat Canterbury in the NPC semi-final the Cantabrians trotted out all the excuses of tired and jaded players, there can be no such excuses this time. Andrew Mehrtens was out with an injury and Daniel Carter and Aaron Mauger were shown up by his absence. The entire Blues team played well and Carlos Spencer had a fantastic game at first five. In NZ, Spencer is deemed to be a flawed genius, in that he can play some shocking games as well as brilliant ones, and this more than anything has kept him from locking up the All Black number 10 jersey since 1996. Other players such as Gaffie du Toit and Gregor Townsend are often put in the same category of flawed genius as Spencer, frankly this is an insult to Spencer. Players like du Toit and Townsend are “flat track bullies” they can look really good against weak opposition but fold like wet cardboard against the good sides. Spencer on the other hand has played sublimely against the best in the world. NZ would not have won the 1996 series against the Springboks if Mehrtens had been in the number 10 jersey. Spencers main weakness lies in his tendency to get a bit arrogant at times and start playing flashy rugby. If he can control this tendency he is the best running flyhalf in the world. Having said that he also needs an inside centre partner and a backline which can anticipate him, Sam Tuitupou has been great in this regard.
Spencer's little goose-step while still 50 plus metres out, after intercepting a Canterbury pass to score the Blues fourth try summed up the game on a night when just about everything went right for the Blues. The Crusaders will be hurting now, and when these two teams meet again in the semis or the finals I think we are in for a battle royale. The Crusaders now have a point to prove if they want their All Black jerseys back.
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|Die or triumph at Baile Atha Cliath (Dublin) by Giampaolo Tassinari|
|Neither to field a third different captain in the first three Six Nations 2003 outings was of much help and ominous for the depleted Welsh XV that once again could not match its opponents last Saturday. The Scotsmen were the better side seen at Murrayfield. Perhaps the Thistle’s men are thinking about Jim Telfer stepping down at the end of the year as Director of Coaching so they thought to give him some happy moments instead of the strong headaches he had after the first two matches. |
Finally the kicking duties were given to the good Chris Paterson, one of the most underrated Scottish players of the last fifty years. Paterson calmly slotted down fifteen points and scored himself a try so to put his men out of reach and the tries in injury time scored by Welshmen Mark Taylor and Rhys Williams were meaningless and only good for the avid statisticians. The match had already been lost in the first half and the Red Dragons were so unhappy that they weren’t able to put much pressure on the Scotland defence when centre McLaren was sin-binned in the final quarter.
Paterson history is very curious and bitter. When he was a schoolboy his idol was a youngster whose name was Gregor Townsend. Both played in the maroon’s jerseys of the great Gala RFC and when Townsend sailed towards other shores, Paterson took over the pivot’s duties. All people thought he was going to become the new No.10 in the National Team but he was put behind all people in the fullback position and then to the wing where his credentials were of course diminished. In the meantime he was one of the shock non-selections for the 2001 Lions tour to Australia. Still nowadays even the sharp and shrewd Ian McGeechan does not give Paterson the outside-half job. The reasons? Unknown. So the years pass and the dream has not become true for Paterson and his proud family of rugby enthusiasts and former players.
Simon Taylor played the match of his life and was a central figure in orchestrating the Scottish pack who stopped all Welsh threats. And the most obvious quotes of all got after the final match: In fact Steve Hansen said:”I remain calm”. He is not a stupid for if he quits he loses the money. He is just waiting for his dismissal that it is likely to come if Wales ends 0-5 and Wooden Spoonists in this year’s 6 Nations.
France travelled to Dublin in a strange situation: the Frenchmen knew they were better than Ireland but did not know how to win. Bad weather conditions in Dublin have been always helping Ireland in the last….120 years that is when the International Championship began. A hard-fought battle at the end saw Ireland to triumph thanks to a David Humphreys’ last effort penalty goal. France had trailed 3-12 after the resumption but the interval proved a key factor for the Tricolors that were able to draw the match before the final lethal kick of Humphreys.
Despite O’Sullivan humble quotes in the last two weeks, Ireland this season is a very difficult opponent to meet. It is likely they beat also Wales on March 22 and if so the final clash at Lansdowne Road could see both enemies fighting to death to get the Grand Slam. Ireland have done it only once, in 1948 in the Jack Kyle’s era, but two years ago they spoiled England’s dreams of glory defeating Woodward’s men 20-14. Surely if England plays as bad as seen last Sunday against Italy, they will struggle a lot to have the upper hand. It is curious that the computers’ No.1 team in the world suddenly has appeared so weak and unable to play correctly against Italy.
The Azzurri were scared to play in front of such a massive crowd and it took no less than 21 minutes to understand that something had to be done. From here onwards the Twickenham’s afternoon was painted of Light Blue, in Italian: Azzurro. The try came thanks to a collective effort that sent Mirco Bergamasco over. Another couple of nearly-tries went away by a nose but the group seems to react positively in the new Kirwan’s era. Next step for Italy is France. The Frenchmen will come to Rome very embarrassed for they know they are underachievers in this 2003 Six Nations. Perhaps Laporte could try some experiments and new blood could be put in the match. All factors that could weak the visitors so to level the strengths in the match.
In the Six Nations B another devastating afternoon happened in Lisbon where Portugal defeated the Czech Republic by 43-10 thanks to 24 points of Gonçalo Malheiro. Three victories out of three outings. Not bad for the “Lobos” (translated in Wolves). Georgia won a very difficult match in Krasnodar against Russia: 23-17. The Lelos still have the edge against their Russian counterparts and as always mercurial young centre Makho Urjukashvili played a key role in the match. Georgia could be the revelation of next RWC. French coach Saurel is very hot and with his Latin temperament he mixes well with so many temperamental Georgian rugby players.
Finally Romania won in Madrid against Spain. The winter is still hard in Romania but all his National team players are playing abroad so they are completely fit and this was exactly shown last Sunday. Now two weeks of rest and round four of the 6 Nations. Meanwhile South Korea will host Tonga for the RWC repechages.
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|Super 12 Log & Weekly XV|
RF Super 12 XV:
15 Matt Rogers (Waratahs), 14 Aisea Tuilevu (Highlanders), 13 Andre Snyman (Sharks), 12 Paul Steinmetz (Highlanders), 11 Rupeni Caucaunibuca (Blues), 10 Carlos Spencer (Blues), 9 Chris Whitaker (Waratahs), 8 Pedrie Wannenberg (Bulls), 7 Daniel Braid (Blues), 6 Richie Collins (Hurricanes), 5 Ali Williams (Blues), 4 Quentin Davids (Stormers), 3 Richard Bands (Bulls), 2 Kevin Mealamu (Blues), 1 David Briggs (Chiefs)
|If someone calls me a black **** I'll call him a white **** back. But that's in the heat of the moment and that's where it ends. Wendell Sailor in his new autobiography "Crossing Over"|
The players are doing everything with a lot of passion and they now know what it is all about and good it feels to be part of a winning team. Bulls team manager Wynie Strydom
I told the players it is respect for one another that stops them making mistakes, however when you watch the match it is clear there is no respect. I pull the shirt, I put in an elbow, I do this, I do that and baff there's a penalty. Bernard Laporte lamenting after France's defeat against Ireland
Penalties are not as a result of the referee's application but due to the players' application of discipline and respect for the game and it's laws in playing a game. The more they infringe, the more their team will suffer. André Watson, international referee
Joke of the week:
The family of Auckland Blues Rugby supporters head out shopping one Saturday before Christmas. While in a sport shop, the son picks up a Crusaders rugby jersey and says to his sister, "I've decided I'm going to be a Crusaders supporter and I'd like this jersey for Christmas!"
The sister is outraged at this, promptly whacks him round the head and says, "Go talk to your mother." Off goes the little lad, with Crusaders jersey in hand and finds his mother. "Mum", "Yes, son ?", "I've decided I'm going to be a Crusaders supporter and I'd like this jersey for Christmas."
The mother is outraged at this, promptly whacks him round the head and says, "Go talk to your father." Off he goes with the Crusaders jersey in hand and finds his father. "Dad." "Yes, son?" "I've decided I'm going to be a Crusaders supporter and I would like this jersey for Christmas."
The father is outraged at this, promptly whacks his son round the head and says, "No son of mine is ever going to be seen in THAT!" About half an hour later, they are all back in the car heading home. The father turns to the son and says, "Son, I hope you've learned an important lesson today?" The son turns to his father and says, "Yes, Father, I have". Father says "Good son, and what is it?"
The son replies "I've only been a Crusaders supporter for an hour and already I hate you Auckland bastards!!!"
|Super 12 Fixtures|
(Previous year's score in brackets)
|Letters to the Editor|
It seems that somebody has already beaten me to the punch in one Colin van Rensburg, after watching almost all the Super 12 matches especially where SA participated, it became a little clear to me. I disagree a little with Colin, I do not believe our whining last year had any influence on the refs blowing this year. I truly believe that the change is due to an event called the World Cup. If a SA side does not make the semi - finals nor win games in the Tri - Nations it will not because of poor referring but themselves entirely. The likes of Dickenson, O'Brian, Walsh and Marshall to name a few, will be out to impress the selectors and hope to be the one to officiate the World Cup final if their country is not playing.
Especially after watching Saturdays matches of the Bulls and the Sharks, in the last two or so years it was unthinkable for the refs to give penalties in points scoring positions never mind 50/50 calls been called fair. The Brumbies have been playing the same game excluding the fumble week in and week out, this year they are been blow for their infringements.
SA teams this is the year to grab the opportunity, immunity for the Kiwis and Aussies has left the park this year until the completion of the World Cup. In case I am wrong will Mr.. Piet van Zyl of Potchefstroom please meet me at the main entrance to the Shark tank. I have a seat reserved for him in the front row next to the grass arena where access to the field is easily available.
The alternative solution is that the World Cup is been held in Australia and New Zealand, so these refs/ambassadors are trying to send out a false message to the rest of the World playing rugby nations that this World Cup will be reffed and played by the Aussies and Kiwis in the most fairest conditions that has never before happened in any World Cup.
Another good one
It seems as if I have to swallow my words. I spoke last week about the lack of power in our front rows, & the Bulls prove me wrong. Oeps! Sorry.
It was however another great Bulls weekend. They suprised everybody. It just goes to show. If you do the basics right, everything else will come right. They looked the best composed side of all our teams. The link between forwards & back was always there. This was one of the better games thus far this year.
Good luck to all our teams for this weekend's games. Let's try to make it 4 out of 4!!
For a while now I have been stating how much of a Blues fan I am. Can you imagine the smile on my face. Their backs at this stage are potentially unstoppable and definately dangerous. The game against the Crusaders showcased this. Also is helluva good to see three New Zealand teams at the top of the table, if you are a New Zealand supporter.
My favourite quote of this week would have to be Hugh Blades "The Cats have won, How stupid are we?" I am not sure I should answer that question for fear of being lynched.
Well done to the Cats for their victory over a suspect looking Brumbies team. Sharks your back line looks goodish with Andre Snyman returning to his best form. Should he hit top he is sure to be a headache to us in both the Tri Nations and also World Cup.
The Bulls seem to be the only South African team playing with pride at the moment, as they don't really have the best team from SA but are playing the best rugby. Just beware though South African teams of playing rugby from the shoulders down and not using too much savvy, you built your reputation as one of the great world teams like this but fell behind sorely once the rest of the world moved on. Maybe now a balance can be struck between the two.
Thanks RF for a great mag and to all RF readers enjoy the rest of the Super 12. PS will be interested to see how many readers blame Stevie Walsh Junior for the Sharks loss on Saturday.
My hart gaan uit vir Naas, dat hy week na week so moet sit deur die pyn en leiding van ons spanne se onbeholpenheid. Ek kan nie verstaan dat daat vir ons gesê word dat dit maklik vir die toeskouers is om van die kantlyn af te sit en kyk en dan te beter weet hoe om die gapings raak te sien nie.
Die afrigters sit tog ook in die paviljoen, hoekom kan hulle nie 'n boodskap uitkry na die spelers en sê hulle moet net die bal 'n paar keer oor die koppe van die aanstormende teenstanders skop om hulle dieper te laat staan of 'n bietjie te laat wag voordat hulle opstorm nie.
En hoekom is dit dan so maklik vir ons teenstanders om gapings te kry en drieë na wille keer te gaan drup nadat ons spanne vyf tot ses fases probeer het om deur te breek.
Gee raad asb????
GeePee (Gordon v. Wyk)