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|Volume 3, Week 14|
yet another short working week in South Africa I sometime wonder why we
are worried about our rugby if we enjoy more time off from work than any
other country out there? The April holidays create more havoc than
Caucaunibuca’s trademark runs but hey who is complaining?|
The Super 12 has almost run its course yet it was not too late for one of the major upsets in the competition’s history when the Bulls beat the Crusaders. The best-ranked team and multiple winners were beaten in excruciating fashion by a last second Louis Koen drop goal. The ex-Province/Cats player once again underlined the value of an accurate boot in a closely fought contest. The fact remain if you score more tries than the opposition you should win the match but in a World Cup final or semi-final it is usually the kicking aces that prove the difference as tries are rarer than a Bin Laden sighting.
The big question begs to be asked, is Louis Koen the answer to South Africa’s flyhalf question? Firstly, who is competing for the position? There is Andre Pretorius the incumbent, Butch James his predecessor, Werner Greeff a very good but injury prone makeshift, Brent Russell in charge during the memorable victory over Australia at Ellis Park, Chris Rossouw who sparkles for WP or the young Currie Cup general, Derick Hougaard. The mere fact that there are seven names either indicates desperation or a surplus of talent.
The flyhalf in this humble critic’s opinion is the most important player on the field and you select the fellow who can win you the match finish and klaar. Christie did it successfully in 1995, Mallett was almost there in 1999, and in another World Cup year it is vital that the no 10 is a match winner. Louis Koen should on current form play a part in winning “Bill” but whoever the few wise men select in a few weeks time must be the one that starts against England in Perth, injuries permitting. A team consisting of the best available NOW must be selected, shaped and allowed to settle.
The coming weekend is week 11 and penultimate round of the Super 12 and the clever guys have worked out that 7 teams can “mathematically” play in the semi-finals. One is a dead cert, namely the Blues and deservedly so. Of the seven the Highlanders and the Bulls seem to have the “easier” matches however this time of the year the only easy matches are against the Cats! From a SA point of view it will be one of the turnarounds of the century should Rudi’s Bulls slip through however if they continue their hard work there should be ample reward with green-and-gold jerseys.
Next week RF will celebrate its 100th issue, a phenomenal achievement if we can say so ourselves and we hope to provide yet another excellent edition for you, our readers. By the way, letters this week could not be published due to a “technical” error however if you send me a note it will be in next week!
Have a good one!
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|I no speak with forked tongue in cheek by Tom Marcellus|
|I have no doubt that rugger is the chosen past-time of the
gods, as they gaze on down from a-high, tut-tut over the squalid doings of
us mere mortals, and contemplate the inevitable drudgery of infinity.
After all, any self-respecting Zeus or Mars would rather be dead than be
seen mucking around in public with a round ball, like a grubby little
But I must confess that I'm not entirely sure that I'm entitled to pass comment on the goings on up on The Place of Eternal Rest, since I'm still an atheist (thank God). But, if the word of those lucky few souls who have died, only to be turned back from the Pearly Gates, is to be believed, then it is fairly common for the angels to bunk their celestial duties every now 'n then, and to toss the old leather ball about, especially when things get a bit slow out there on cloud 9. But for Doubting Delilahs, every one of the Boks' flowing backline movements, entrancing shimmies or heavenly unloads, close to the goal-line is surely proof that there is a God and He loves us.
But, sadly, it has to be said that, over the last few seasons, there has been bitterly little indication that the sporting gods up in the great big Loftus in the sky have had much interest in our beloved het Springbokken. Losses have cropped up thick and fast – and not just for the wearers of the Green 'n Gold, but also for our cricketers and other sportsmen, which has merely added to the torment endured by us long suffering patriots from Afrika-Borwa (as confirmed in the recent spate of passionate letters to RF's editor).
All of a sudden the fifty-fifty matches starting going against our manne: against Steve Waugh and his mates at Lord's in 1998, against those jammy Wallabies at the World Cup in 1999, and then again 2 months ago, when the collective anguish that we once again had to endure seemed to confirm that the gods – like a gaggle of embittered ex-girlfriends – were indeed conspiring against us. (Of course, there was the alternative reason, ie that our heroes simply had feet of clay, but that was not even worth contemplating).
Admittedly, we did have the odd lucky victory against our main rivals, like when we snuck home against the Wallabies at Ellis Park last year (courtesy of Werner Greef, whose self-confidence would have made even Bennie Osler beam with joy). Or (dare I even suggest it) during the 1995 World Cup, when the Boks, showing tremendous valour, triumphed over a manifestly more talented XV.
Bearing this tale of woe in mind, I had to afford myself a half-contented little smirk when I watched Louis Koen (bless the little fella!) kick his last-gasp drop-goal in the dying seconds of the Bulls v Crusaders match. And this only a week after the plucky win of the Under 19's over those moustachioed brutes from Kiwiland, and to be followed 2 hours later by the Stormers' 1-point win over the Chiefs. Hell, I thought I had died and gone to ….. er, well you know the rest.
Perhaps our tortured and tormented past is now behind us, I wondered, hopefully? Perhaps those fickle rugby gods have rekindled their support for the Boks? Hmmmph.
Of course, it is highly irresponsible to indulge oneself in such fanciful ruminations for too long – winning, we are told, is all about on-field, muscled endeavour – but, kind reader, indulge a grizzled, long-suffering supporter for a moment. I suspect I'm not alone.
And, until reality dawns, it's onward to glory! As ever.
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|Cat-astrophe by Desmond Organ|
|If odds for rugby could be articulated to the youngest of
dealers in Las Vegas then there is a pretty good chance that the Cats
would be a worthwhile proposition. At the beginning of the season you
would have got at least 50 to 1 for a win in the Super 12 and maybe even
better than that. A betting man would tell you that it was a great
opportunity to make money.|
With the balance of the side having completed in the competition a year ago and some more than adequate acquisitions you had to assume that it could be another year of semi-final hopes. Not that that matters as the wise one would say. The inevitable propaganda brigade from the mountain has ensured that plentiful excuses have been forthcoming. From the Springbok coach, who clearly has to show solidarity with an assistant that he did not choose, to several journalists looking for long-term careers in mediocrity the excuses were plentiful.
Perhaps there is an element of truth in the fact that the Cats are blessed with a coach who was allowed to leave the Wallaby organization without too much fuss. Perhaps we should even thank our wonderful friend “ Harry Potter” for leading us into fantasia with such gusto. Not surprising then that the Waratahs have such an appalling defensive record under the watchful gaze of another prodigy of the years of “enlightment”. Then again there is the issue of captaincy and the blessings could not have been more forthcoming. How surprising that the Stormers allowed Skinstad to leave without too much fuss.
The presence of Krige in the Stormers team and the need to identify the right captain for the World Cup might just have been the reason for the move. I personally am becoming a little suspicious about the long-term strategy planning of the national brains trust, even more concerned at the so-called mastery of the coach who has on several occasions been accredited with having a subtle ability to create the impression that he is a masterful visionary. Perhaps it was the writer suffering from one of those occasional attacks of patriotic fever.
If I were a betting man I would be talking to the dealers about the odds on Bobby Skinstad being Captain. If they were naïve enough not to do research they would tell me that I had about 5 to 2 odds, especially after the comments of the national coach. Before that I might have got 10 to 1. Putting aside any thought that Straueli might also have caught the mysterious virus that afflicts decision making in the shadow of the mountain, I would be into a great chance of a great payout. Not only does it seem that he will be the Captain, but that he will be accredited with the no 8 position as well.
The outlook for the Springboks is pitiful as far as the backline is concerned. Worse still we have the talents of the gifted Lane to look forward too. The propaganda machine cannot hide the truth of the matter and that is the fact that several of the forwards at the Cats have quite a lot of international and Super 12 experience. If Rudolf Straueli knew that they were thin in that regard why not do something about it at the so-called bosberaad held on a weekly basis. The Sharks seem to be getting it right and so do the Bulls. Is it not a surprise that these coaches are new at the game or maybe the mysterious illness takes longer to display its symptoms?
Perhaps with the use of some hindsight one should look to the success of the Springboks under Teichmann and the Cats under Laurie Mains. The common denominator equals leadership, ability and perhaps even competency. The reality of the matter is that as gifted a player as he might be Skinstad’s leadership has to be questioned and so do the coaching abilities of the man in charge. One simple thought might be to get rid of the cancer at its source before it infects the national team.
Rocket Scientists of the Week:
Tarot Card Reader: - Rudolf Straeuli
Come Back Kid: - Kevin Putt
The Never Ending Story: - Gaffie Du Toit
How not to become a millionaire: - Bet on the Cats to beat the Blues
Sports Agents nightmare: - Employing Tim Lane as a talent scout.
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|Super 12 Log & Weekly XV|
RF Super 12 XV:
15 Willie Walker (Highlanders), 14 Doug Howlett (Blues), 13 André Snyman (Sharks), 12 Matt Giteau (Brumbies), 11 Pieter Rossouw (Stormers), 10 Carlos Spencer (Blues), 9 Justin Marshall (Crusaders), 8 Taine Randell (Highlanders), 7 Richie McCaw (Crusaders), 6 George Smith (Brumbies), 5 Ali Williams (Blues), 4 Bakkies Botha (Bulls), 3 Richard Bands (Bulls), 2 Gary Botha (Sharks), 1 Carl Hoeft (Highlanders)
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|I like rugby because it is fun. When you play rugby you
exercise your body by running and tackling. I like tackling because it
enables you to get wet and muddy. I also like the thrill of scoring. When
the crowd is cheering and screaming you on, it makes me want to try
harder. After the game I enjoy the hot dog and sweets which make me feel a
whole lot better inside. Under 11 player
Miles Feeney on why he likes rugby.|
That is a marketing ploy and it doesn't mean much to the players. George Gregan on the "House of Pain"
He had a brilliant mind and a great love for rugby. He will be sorely missed by the rugby world, but especially here in Wales. WRU chairman Glanmor Griffiths on IRB Chairman Vernon Pugh's death
In New Zealand we are notorious for living in the past. It's not the past we're dealing with, it's what we see now. What happened last year is irrelevant, the game has moved on. John Mitchell
He was telling everyone what to do out there, but he must have been fresh himself because he was standing out in the backs all the time. I've got a lot of respect for his talent. Right now, it's as if he's just waiting around for the World Cup to start, which is pretty unprofessional. Toutai Kefu on Bob Skinstad
Bob has been below his best and he maybe does need to concentrate more on his own game. The tour has been very frustrating and disappointing for Bob. He has been trying very hard to inspire the guys but maybe he should focus more on himself. Tim Lane
The pitch at Twickenham is done to my specifications. Clive Woodward
(Previous year's score in brackets)
7 teams can still mathematically make the semis eh? Here's hoping that by the end of the weekend that only 4 can, and they are all stacked with Kiwi boys!!
(Although it could have just been on the Reload button doing some serious ego padding!)