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|Volume 3, Week 38|
|Brilliant! And how loud did you shout for the Samoan team last Sunday? The men best known in South Africa for breaking legendary fullback Andre Joubert’s hand in the 1995 quarter finals entertained the world of rugby with a sparkling display against the ‘might’ of England. But before we get too carried away, the Springboks will be facing rugby’s equivalent of the Kamikazes (with respect to Japanese readers) this weekend and like Cardigan at Balaclava it is best to know thy enemy beforehand or face the consequences.|
A quick squiz at Google led me to the CIA’s website and here, obviously monitored by a myriad of cloak and dagger surveillance software, Samoa was listed as an island in the South Pacific Ocean, ‘about one-half of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand’. Idyllic territory if you ask me…but I digress. The population is a mere 178,173 (July 2003 est.) and it was formerly known as Western Samoa – a fact that prompted Welsh great Gerald Davies to remark a few years ago, ‘We've lost seven of our last eight matches. Only team that we've beaten was Western Samoa. Good job we didn't play the whole of Samoa.’ Well… the Springboks will be playing the ‘whole of Samoa’ this weekend!
An article in one of the daily newspapers this week really summed up the difference in fortunes between the wealthy nations and the rest. If readers have seen the Klipdrift advertisement on SA television where two guys deliver three bottles of brandy to the mayor, station and post master and reluctantly resist all temptation to partake in a ‘knertsie’ or drink with the first recipient (post master) as they are on ‘duty’, and then stop off at the second recipient (station master) who is the same person (again denying a drink) then set off to the mayor who also happens to be the same person – one can understand how this ‘minnow’ rugby nation’s affairs work. Samoa’s media spokesman Trevor Miller denied that the coach contacted Trevor Leota, their brilliant hooker who was unavailable for the RWC due to financial implications, he remarked, ‘I should know, because I am also the CEO of Samoan rugby.’ Talk about multi tasking and imagine our man Rian having to stoop so ‘low’?
Where the Samoans are all about flair, passion and love of the game their upcoming opponents look like they were facing an execution squad and they certainly played that way last weekend. The Springboks were poor against the Georgians and let us not even waste valuable space analyzing or remarking on a game most of the players would be ashamed to admit they were part of. There were some shining lights; Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha, Hougaard and Big Joe displayed some commitment and willingness to earn the lavish match fees bestowed upon them for each World Cup match.
Who will win this vital encounter? An interesting question, this armchair critic is of the opinion that if Samoa faced the Springboks last week, British Airways would have chucked a few business class passengers off their return flight this coming Sunday evening. The gargantuan effort against an arguably full England test line up must have taken a lot out of the players, mentally but more physically. They will still hurt the Boks and for this opinion I was chastised, to ‘have faith, if you lose faith, you lose everything’ which is all good and well but readers will bear with my pain of being present at three out of four of the Springboks lowest ebbs in history, all in the last 12 months! Faith is difficult to restore once it has been shattered on countless occasions. Objective opinion - the Springboks to win a very close match after the Samoans petrol run out in the final twenty minutes i.e. a repeat of the England game and with the same world and stadium support for the Samoans.
The final weekend of the group stages have one other group decider, Fiji against Scotland and somehow after Saturday’s inept Scottish performance the Fijians will back themselves for an historic win over Scotland. Australia, after an embarrassing Namibian showing should be too strong for Ireland even though the Paddies will be geared up for this game. They need Brian O’Driscoll to produce 80 minutes of brilliant rugby in conjunction with his magnificent captain Keith Wood as he was sadly under par against Argentina. Ronan O’Ghara must also start ahead of Humphries who struggled to dominate in the varsity fashion that made him famous.
Enjoy the weekend’s offerings and don't forget the Currie Cup final between the Sharks and the Bulls on Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld. Sharks to win another thriller a la 1990. Next week the knock out stages and hopefully a revisit of the 1995 final.
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|Sneaky Samoans by Desmond Organ|
|“They asked us questions that we haven’t been asked for a long time. Everyone except England would have loved to see us beaten today.” – Martin Johnson: England vs Samoa RWC 2003.|
A week earlier following the victory against Georgia, Samoan coach John Boe was full of weepy eyed praise for the heroics of his Samoan charges. Many of those present were whisked away into a land of fantasy rugby or more simply a characterization of David versus Goliath. What was to follow against England surprised many and left a few bewildered English supporters wondering what was happening at World Cup 2003.
A peek back into the record books will tell you that this Samoan team whilst having had less preparation than their more fancied opponents are not that wet behind the ears. Combine this with the pre-World Cup tour to South Africa and the ever growing talents of assistant coach Michael Jones and you will realise that they are in fact a well drilled and experienced team. The magical touches that Boe produced at the press conference were quite uncharacteristic of what I have experienced in several visits to such events. He was quick to point out that the players were a very likeable bunch who were united in everything Samoan and who relished the opportunity to visit children in need whilst on tour and who prepared for each match in a uniquely Samoan fashion.
The English may not have expected such a formidable opening five minutes but then again who else had predicted it. Jason Little in his role as analyst for the Fox Television network predicted a thrashing and was humble in his promises to personally apologise to the Samoan team after the game. Other analysts who had not predicted such a simple victory were also taken aback by the performance. Having watched the game that the Samoans played against the Springboks in July 2002 and being familiar with the team selection for that match I was not that surprised by the result. In fact 12 of the 22 starters against England played in the match against South Africa 14 months earlier. Add to that the return to the team of a player as experienced as Brian Lima and the coaching ability of Michael Jones and you have a fairly experienced team who has the ability to produce such a performance.
Are we to assume that Boe is in fact a master administrator who has quietly prepared for the World Cup in a manner that was not flamboyant but very efficient? The fact that Samoa played so well against England does not mean that they would not have dome the same thing had they played South Africa first. The draw for the World Cup ensured that England would be the team that faced the “under prepared” Samoans. The Springbok management must be thanking their lucky stars that the English were on the receiving end of the Samoan’s flair.
South Africa now has the benefit of a longer rest period, especially their first fifteen who will not have played since the match against England two weeks ago. The Springbok coach has claimed a minor victory in his argument that South Africa showed the way for Samoa to engage the English. I would rather give credit to the abilities of the Samoan coaching establishment; not just for their tactical analysis but also for the way in which they handled the media and the broader public expectation in the lead up to the match. What a pity that the Springboks do not possess men of similar ability when it comes to addressing the media. It would be wonderful if the image of the Springboks was as rosy as that of their opponents come this Saturday.
I am convinced that their will be a huge support base for the Islanders when they take on South Africa. It will not just be the English that are in town, but also the locals who will embrace their cause. One of the outstanding characteristics of this World Cup has been the support for the underdogs and this will surely be the case on Saturday this week.
Perhaps the Springboks should take some time to win over local support and to argue that they are in fact also underdogs at this World Cup. Unfortunately the mass of poor publicity that has accompanied them will ensure that it is the Samoans who will be embracing the support of a large majority of the spectators.
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|Samoa shines brightly by Vinesh Naicker|
|It was a week where Georgia gave it their all in a game against the Springboks, only to find they had nothing left in the tank for their game against Uruguay. Georgia looked absolutely inept against Uruguay, they could not string together four passes without passing the ball forward. Georgia will leave the tournament having lost all their games and with a lot of people questioning the value they provided to the World Cup. In contrast, Uruguay did a lap of honour after their victory, as pleased as if they had won their own little World Cup.|
Elsewhere, the Australians thrashed the Namibians racking up 22 tries, which aside from being some sort of world record, is more tries than they have even scored in unopposed training.
The Scots went down to France without firing a shot, they along with Ireland and Wales have been the major disappointments of the tournament so far. The Italians can be excused somewhat, as they had a brutal schedule, with all their games played in a short space of time. As was the case with Georgia, they really didn’t much chance of beating Wales, after being brutalised by the All Blacks, and then having two very physical encounters with Tonga and Canada. If they had been able to meet Wales first up they might have had a chance. It is unbelievable to think that, before the business end of the tournament has even started, the Italians have made their cameo appearance and already gone back to Italy.
Scotland looked absolutely clueless against France; they have a couple of good forwards but really seem to lack anything in the backs. The fact that Gregor Townsend, Scotland’s version of Gaffie du Toit, is regarded as a key component in their team, shows how limited their playing resources are. Australia should have no problem with them in the quarter final.
Ireland struggled to put away an Argentinean side that in many respects was its’ own worst enemy. We can only hope that Ireland have been keeping their powder dry in hopes of ambushing Australia, and thereby facing Scotland instead of France in the quarter finals.
Speaking of keeping their powder dry, in many ways Samoa would have been better served to keep their powder dry as well. England despite talking about respecting the opposition etc. before the game really didn’t take Samoa seriously. I’m sure the Springboks would have been the same, now they stand forewarned and have no excuses for losing. However, I suspect it is not part of the Samoan psyche to hold anything back they just enjoy the game so much that they give it their all every time they get on the park. The bigger the opposition the more they give it.
Samoa played fantastic running rugby in the first 20 minutes, the continuity, passing and backing up was as good as anything else that I have seen this year. To put it into context they did it against an English team who have one of, if not the best, defences in the tournament.
Jonathan Kaplan had a very good game as referee. The one criticism I have of him, and it had a relatively major impact on the shape of the game, is in regards to the team warning he gave Samoa. In the first 20 minutes or so Johnson and Back were penalised approximately three times each for infringing at the ruck and preventing the Samoans getting quick ball. Yet with England on the attack, Samoa infringed about four times and Kaplan, calling out the Samoan captain, issued a team warning that the next infringement would incur a yellow card. Johnson must have been chortling on the inside. The effect of that team warning was to break the Samoans back in defence. Let’s face it, if you stand to lose a player, and hence probably the game, at your next penalty you’re going to be a bit tentative in defence from that point on. With the pressure relieved, England was able to gain their composure and go on and win the game.
It may be my anti-English bias coming out, but in my view, Kaplan should have issued England with a team warning, or at least both Johnson and Back with individual warnings, before warning the Samoans. What he did just seemed to smack of “big boy bias”. Paddy O’Brian tends to do the same thing, and in my view so did Honiss, against the Argentineans, in the opening game of the World Cup
I’m not going to go on about how lying all over the ball, putting hands in the ruck and persistently infringing at the breakdown is a key part of England's game. Numerous people have commented on it already and NZ, South Africa and Australia have all been accused of doing it in the past. The referees and officials are aware of it, but are reluctant to punish it, probably due to the view that it would ruin the game as a spectacle.
It occurred to me, that if Kaplan had binned Johnson or Back early in the game, it would have shown that he meant business but would also have given ample time, i.e. 60 minutes or so, for England to have 15 men on the field and defeat Samoa legally. I suspect that if he had binned one of them England would still have won, but the game would have been a lot tighter in the end.
It is interesting to note that Samoa lost to England by 13 points while South Africa lost by 19 points. In theory it should make for a great game between the two teams. However, the more likely outcome is that Samoa, who lack the resources of the Springboks, will not be able to recover sufficiently by then to contest a full 80 minutes. Samoa will play gallantly for the first 60 minutes or so, but if the Boks play a tight game, and Koen and vd Westhuyzen do not kick the ball away spuriously, the Boks should be able to grind out a victory in the last 20 minutes.
Samoa has done their best to light up this tournament, but the gap between the haves and the have nots seems too large for even their big hearts to conquer. There is a saying that the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long and it seems likely that the Samoans light at this tournament is about to be extinguished by the Springboks.
|They (IRB officials) need to show courage over England’s extra-man scandal and strip the Poms of their points. Toutai Kefu|
The Sharks have better players than the Bulls, but they are the worst-coached side in the competition. Chris Grobler, coach of the Pumas
I'll have no hesitation in picking Derick for any team. He will surpass Jonny Wilkinson as the world's best flyhalf. He's very special. Heyneke Meyer
At half time I was thinking of going to Eddie Jones box and asking him if he had any ideas. Dave Waterston
My performances are based on the collective game. It’s thanks to the other members that I play well. Frederic Michalak
I want to be remembered as the second All Black captain to win the World Cup. Reuben Thorne
SA rugby is just about completely at the mercy of the government. It is merely a matter of time before they
take total charge of the game. Louis Luyt in his new autobiography, "Walking Proud"
Samoa really are an example to all of us. You had one team that had spent 350-million preparing to be here and the other nothing - yet Samoa showed what you can do with heart. Rudolf Straeuli
The England game was probably the biggest any of our boys have been involved in but this one against South Africa is even bigger, the biggest game in their lives. Michael Jones
I AM sorry to have to say so - I'm not really - but last weekend's games have highlighted the dreadful standards of rugby in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and, to a certain extent, England. David Campese
I could easily replicate in cricket what I've done in rugby, or football, or any sport. Clive Woodward
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|Letters to the Editor|
To watch one of the top rugby playing nations absolutely humiliate and destroy one of the mino-nations, does nothing for the game and in particular when it is in the Rugby World Cup. It actually does more harm than good when the aim is to try and promote the game worldwide and makes a bit of a farce of the tournament (the same can be said for the Cricket World Cup). The only thing that is achieved, is to highlight the huge void between the "Big 5" (the 5th place a struggle between Argentina and South Africa) and can be compared to South Africa with the huge differences between the rich and the poor or to a boxing match involving Lennox Lewis and Baby Jake. Where a David versus Goliath scenario plays out as the end result, this occurs very seldom, does little for the game and one must remember even the best have off days.
A World Cup tournament should be based on strength versus strength only, with each team playing each other twice and the top two teams playing in a final, like the Currie Cup format. The interest in all the games will be far greater and will be held throughout the tournament. Most games will get many more bums on seats and television audiences will be far greater, thus boosting coffers. For the mino-nations they still could be involved in the world cup tournament but playing each other for example, for the best immerging rugby nation. The entire tournament could still be completed over the same period of time. If teams have to play two matches in a week then so be it, seen that each team has a 30 man squad. In this way each player is sure to play more than one game. I would rather spend my time watching a game between two emerging nations of similar strength, than one of a powerhouse nation against an already grossly defeated nation, before they even take the field.
Dankie vir die interesante en lekker leestof wat ek hier in Auckland van jou ontvang. Wat betref die Bokke, ai man, al wat ek kan se is dat ek biae moeg is! moeg van kla, skeidsregters en kantmanne aanvat, die hele boksomdaais maak my net baie moeg. Ek kan nie glo dat skeidsregters foute kan maak wat die Bokke beslis van 'n oorwining beroof het. Selfs Kefu no 8 van Aussie reken ook so. Daar is dan 3 ouens om die verloop van sake dop te hou? Ek gee op my vreind op. Die Springbokke betaal nou vir wat in die verlede gebeur het. Daaraan twyfel ek nie meer nie. die skeidsregters wys dit oor en oor.
Op 'n meer positiewe noot kan die Bokke beslis die AB oorwin en hieraan twyfel ek ook glad nie inteendeel ek glo dit met my hele hart. My redes daarvoor is dat die AB's nog nie 'n taai wedstryd gehad het nie behalwe die een teen Tonga sal hul ergste wees en indien die Bokke kan speel soos hulle teen Engeland gespeel het, gaan die AB's vroeg huistoe kom en sal dit nou vir my die RWC die moeite werd maak omdat die AB's alreeds glo hulle het die RWC gewen? Ek kan die ouens mos glad nie voor my oe verdra nie en indien ek iemand kon doodkyk was hulle al lankal bokveld toe sonder twyfel. Gepraat van passie - dis soos ek oor hulle voel. Gun hulle toetentaal NIKS nie, nooit nie never!!
Ek glo dat ou Louis 'n ruskansie moet kry en bring Hougaart nou in met Joost, nie met De Kock nie met Joost. hou de Kock vir die 2de helfte wanneet dinge goed lyk.
BOKBFK in Auckland.
Frans v an der Westhuizen.
Ons almal het een of ander tyd baie goeie rede om gal te braak en dinge kwyt te raak wat ons soms agterna laat dink dat ons liewers moes bek toegehou het, en die suurgatgeit verwerk het. Die afgelope tyd het dit net te dikwels gebeur met die tipe vertonings van ons Bokspanne, om nie eens te praat van die spesie wat hulself as skeidsregters en lynregters ag nie. Elke dag is sekerlik 'n nuwe begin en kom ons vergewe maar wat verby is en ondersteun ons ou spannetjie, wat ek in my diepste wese glo, weer bo sal uitkom, en Saterdag is dalk net die begin van iets groots.