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|Volume 2, Week 18
|Brilliant! Amid turgid World Cup
Football fever, the Springboks are quietly preparing for the start of the
international season – when last was your local newspaper’s back page
devoid of any news, reviews or photos of the national team preparing for
battle in the week before a test? Skande! Hopefully Die
Volksblad will buck the trend but then, soccer has never been big in
Bloemfontein, capital of the Orange Free State!
Rudolf Straeuli announced his first team to play the valiant men from the valleys and in doing so has created 5 new Springboks with the promise of 4 more on the bench. The inexperience is testament to the vast amount of injuries and “pounds exodus” of the top players in the country but analogous to choosing a girlfriend, experience is a wonderful bonus but you will always wonder how she got it! Rudolf is starting out with his own men and like the magnefique French class of 2002 he hopes to conquer the hearts and minds of difficult to please supporters.
The Springbok team contains a fine combination of brawn and skill to play a multi dimensional pattern. The 8-9-10 axis as usual is instrumental when utilizing first phase ball, Bob Skinstad is a so-called “game breaker”, Johannes Conradie has the conventional skills every international scrumhalf should have and Andre Pretorius the sublime flair of a sevens exponent. These three key players may yet herald a bright new dawn for SA rugby, as arguably this combination has been the Achilles heel of the Springbok team over the last three years.
Rudolf Straeuli’s game plan is certainly to produce enough first phase ball for the exciting backs to launch attacks out wide, the inclusion of Britz as a fetcher emphasizes speed to the break down, fast recycling and more of the same. However there is a fear amongst certain quarters that the Springbok forwards will be run ragged with this plan, a la Natal Sharks in the second half and nullify the effect of exciting open play specialists like Russel and Jacobs. For these men, Skinstad and van Niekerk included to shine a lot depend on a workmanlike forward performance to gain the ascendancy and to secure at least 50% of the possession.
The Kiwis take on the Italians and coach Mitchell has surprised with his first selection, it is by no means the strongest available but the effect of the Super 12 final might have negated his original selection thoughts. Italy under All Black legend, John Kirwan should not pose too much of a threat and Mitchell can afford to rest key players like Mauger, Jack and McCaw for the real rugby to come - a luxury not afforded to Rudolf Straeuli.
On a sad note, Hansie Cronje ex-South African cricket captain was killed in a flying accident. The man was a brilliant sportsman and leader of men; in his article today Tom Marcellus pays tribute.
The weekend promises to be full of excitement with a host of international sporting events, the World Cup Soccer (with South Africa present - finally one over the Ausies and Kiwis!) French Open tennis and international rugby, phew!
|Visit www.rugbyforum.co.za for statistics, all the quotes and an archive of previous issues
|Wessel Johannes, RiP by Tom Marcellus
story goes that, back in 1987, Jackie McGlew was sitting under the
jacarandas overlooking Goldstones field at his old school, Maritzburg
College, as the First XI waged war against a visiting team from
Bloemfontein. Skippering the Maritzburg team was one JN Rhodes, who, over
his almost 5 years at the school, had covered himself in glory at pretty
much every sporting pursuit that he cared to undertake, whether it was as
a record-breaking opening batsman, the finest schoolboy hockey player to
don his shin-pads in anger, the Open long-jump and 300m hurdles champion,
or as an occasional tennis player of great skill and cunning.
As the youthful local skipper strode out to open the College batting, Head Prefect and seemingly lord of all he surveyed, it was asked of McGlew whether he thought that this young prodigy might one day lead South Africa. "No", replied the ex-Bok skipper, much to the surprise of his home-town audience, "because that fellow over there will beat him to it", he said as he nodded in the direction of the opposing captain fielding in the covers. It goes without saying that the opposing XI was Grey College, and its skipper was WJ Cronje, universally known as Hansie.
This being a rugby publication, it may seem puzzling to some readers that I feel compelled to write about Cronje, despite the fact that he gained his fame, and, sadly, subsequent infamy, in the cricketing whites of the Proteas, far from the hurly-burly of the loose ruck and maul. What some of you may not know, however, is that Hansie was, before he finally nailed his sporting colours to the cricketing mast in his early twenties, a rugby player of some renown.
A person of outstanding innate leadership ability, I was not surprised to learn recently that Cronje skippered almost every schoolboy team he played for, including the unbeaten Grey First XV of 1987, which was a precursor to the glorious Bok-laden Grey team of the following year. My informed sources tell me that Hansie played eighthman much in the loose, Bob Skinstad style, no doubt inspired by the deeds of that other Old Grey no 8, Morne du Plessis. Luckily Grey could afford a rangy eighthman, as his "fetcher" was none other than the indomitable and impressively hirsute Ruben Kruger. In fact, Cronje's Grey XV won all of its games, including over a bloodied but unbowed Hoerskool Senekal side that contained Toks van der Linde in the final of the Administrator's Cup, and a last-gasp 13-12 win over Rhodes' schoolmates at the St Stithians festival.
Throughout this long but victorious season, Cronje maintained the gritty but noble and gracious bearing that he was to display years later when at his peak, as captain of South Africa and surely the most admired cricket captain in the world. The Head Prefect of his school, an extravagantly talented sportsman, the young heir of a noble Bloemfontein family, but at the same time God-fearing and blessed with charm and modesty, Hansie then and up until his fall from grace seemed to represent all that was good, noble and strong in the world. If only it could be left at that.
Sadly, any comment like this one on Hansie's short life will forever contain mention of the match-fixing scandal and his leading role in that entire debacle. In the same way that "Shoeless Joe" Jackson will always be remembered for his part in the great World Series "fix" of 1919, and not for his sublime batting average, Hansie's legacy as South Africa's greatest cricket captain will forever be tarnished by his involvement in those grubby dealings with backstreet bookies and their ilk. This is certainly no time to be offensively honest, as an English newspaperman might be, but a man has to be judged by the sum total of his deeds.
It is not, however, the intention of this humble part-time correspondent to provide readers with his roughly-hewn views on the effect of Hansie's fall on the psyche of the average white South African, or his position in our pantheon of sports stars. Certainly, there were many times while Cronje was skipper of the Proteas, invariably after he had given a TV interview after yet another one-day triumph, that my mother (a rabid cricket fan) and I debated whether there could possibly be a more admirable living ambassador for young Afrikanerdom, of a white South African, in fact any of South African, alive. We both always agreed that there could not.
It would be nice to be able to keep that memory.
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|Seeing is Believing by Desmond Organ
|Another round of preparation is complete and another barrage
of media coverage awaits the latest Springbok team. Failure to deliver on
Saturday will see the supporters engaging in another round of
Anything short of a convincing victory over Wales will fuel the irate and unsympathetic fans and there is no shortage of them. Whether this is fair on the players is irrelevant, fact is that South Africa has a wealth of talent that should be capable of producing results on the field of play.
The preparation for the test series against Wales has been in stark contrast to anything we have seen in the last several years. Limited fanfare and honest commitment to the challenges at hand have been the order of the day. Rather than expecting an overwhelming victory, South Africans should be looking for a consistent display that clearly indicates that there is a concrete plan for the future.
Several seasons ago, England embarked on a tour to the Southern Hemisphere with anything but an established outfit. They were hammered on the field of play against the Wallabies, yet the talent that was unearthed in that series has come to the fore in recent years and clearly produced the results for all to marvel at.
South Africans must also bear in mind that there are several key players who are recovering from injury and their premature introduction on the international scene could prove disastrous. Focusing on the tactical expertise and the ability to execute under pressure should be the focus of this test series. The establishment of a solid platform is far more important than the actual scores that will be recorded.
The most demanding area for the Springbok establishment will be the way in which they retain control of possession through several phases and their ability to break down opposing defensive patterns. Entering into a series with new players in critical positions is always a tall order. The Dunedin debacle is fresh in my mind when I consider the gamble that Rudolf Straeuli has made. On that day the Springboks fielded an inexperienced half back combination and they paid dearly for it.
One can hardly expect the same outcome against Wales; nonetheless the half back combination will have to deliver a solid performance if there is to be a positive result. Passion and commitment have not been lacking amidst the inconsistency of the last few years, but this alone will not ensure success.
The Welsh have their own concerns about the deterioration of the game in their own country and it is indeed ironic that two former greats of the game will be looking to this test series as an indicator of their resurrection. The team that loses on Saturday will face an uphill battle going forward. South Africa stands to lose far more than their opponents. They are at home and should start the game with a psychological ten point advantage. The forwards will no doubt hold their own, so it is up to the backs to produce the points.
On Saturday we should all remember that life is precious and can be taken away from us at any time. My thoughts will be with the Cronje family when the two teams take the field of play.
|A-Z for the weekend clash by Murray Crowe
|Andre Snyman - that this legend doesn’t suffer an
injury and has an absolute blinder and proves that after Pieter Muller and
Danie Gerber he’s been one of our best centres since our return from
Bob Skinstad - is he match fit?. Hopefully he lasts the 80 minutes.
Controlled rugby - that we play controlled disciplined rugby and that we actually witness a game plan on Saturday.
Discipline - hopefully our forwards won’t concede silly penalties.
Entertainment - that we have a thoroughly entertaining game and that the Welsh don’t use spoiling tactics to nullify our exceptionally gifted backline.
Final whistle - a South African victory.
Game Plan - Take them on in the tight five and allow the glamour boys (backline) to do some serious damage (8 tries).
Hiding - That we give Wales a damn good hiding.
Intelligence - That Willie Meyer doesn’t collapse the springbok scrum when Wales have a 5 metre scrum on our goal line.
Jekyll and Hyde – that the Boks don’t produce a performance containing the sublime and the ridiculous.
Kicker - That Andre Pretorius gets 80% of his kicks over.
Loubscher - that he has an awesome game and reaffirms that there is life after the blond rinse ’Percy Montgommery’
Matfield - that he fulfills the undoubted potential he is blessed with.
Note - that the rest of the world wake up that South African Rugby is alive.
Option Taking - That we don’t go for a drop goal on test debut Mr Andre Pretorius when you have a 5 man overlap on your right hand side!
Penalties - That we concede fewer than our customary 9 per game!..
Quality - That the quality of our rugby is remembered and not the number of tries we will score.
Russell - That he produces some magical moments in the second half.
Support - that we don’t have our number 8 in the back line when we have a maul 5 metres from the Welsh try line!
Tackles - how many will Skinstad, Conradie and Pretorius miss?
Unit - That the Boks combine as a unit on Saturday.
Versatility - Brent Russell, Ollie Le Roux and Adrian Jacobs - we have depth in numbers.
Willie Meyer - not dropping the ball in a test match
X-factor.-That all fifteen of our guys produce it on Saturday.
Yippee - Jubilation as we hear the final whistle and reflect on the mauling of the Welsh.
|Upcoming International Fixtures
|The All Blacks second-rowers are huge men. They're both over
one meter tall ... hang on, that would make them
Rico Gear. What a great-sounding name. He sounds like a drug dealer from Brazil. Murray Mexted
The medicine to be used to make South Africa a world power again may taste bitter but will eventually bring about a healthy structure. Rian Oberholzer
|Since it is the Football World Cup, a few quotes from the footballers
|'I'd like to play for an Italian club, like
Barcelona.' Mark Draper
'I always used to put my right boot on first, and then obviously my right sock.' Barry Venison
'I'd rather play in front of a full house than an empty crowd.' Johnny Giles
'Winning doesn't really matter as long as you win.' Vinny Jones
Interviewer: 'Would it be fair to describe you as a volatile player?'
David Beckham: 'Well, I can play in the centre, on the right and occasionally on the left side.'
|Letters to the Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Congratulations on another great rugby forum issue. Your commentary continues to be the most balanced of any of the sites I have visited.
I was most impressed with your Super 12 form 15. Although there were 8 Australians to only 6 Kiwis I couldn't really argue with any of your selections. Owen Finnegan was a bit iffy over Reuben Thorne but then so was Richie McCaw over Corne Krige. Food for thought that only one South African made it although Corne and Johannes Conradie were close.
What really caught my attention was the letters about Bob Skinstad. My friends and I are ambivalent over him. Being in NZ we never see your Currie Cup or Vodacom games and hence have only seen him perform on the international stage. The reason we are ambivalent is he rarely seems to live up to his hype, that is disappointing as a pure spectacle but acceptable as we are All Black supporters.
In this vein our view of the most over-hyped or over-rated players who have consistently failed to front up are:
Gaffie du Toit
Our pet name for Townsend is Gregor the Butcher because every game we have seen him in (admittedly due to the coverage here it is only against Six Nations or Tri-Nations teams) he has done more harm than good for his team by butchering rare try-scoring opportunities. It demonstrates the woeful lack of talent in Scottish rugby that he is consistently selected.
Austin Healey. We wouldn't even have noticed the guy if it wasn't for all the press he receives. He rarely makes it on the field for internationals and when he does he has never done anything, why is he always selected?
Gaffie du Toit. The ultimate choker, demonstrates moderate talent and can be relied on to fold like wet cardboard under pressure. Why does his name always come up when talking of Springbok selections? Percy is four times the player this guy is and still gets a hard time.
Bob Skinstad. Seems to go well behind a dominant forward back but fairly innocuous when going backward. Recently prone to throwing "Hail Mary" passes at international level. An adequate player but hardly a Superman. We didn't know him from Adam in 1998, which was supposedly his glory year.
Anton Oliver, great player in the loose, average scrummager, dreadful line out exponent. Hooking stakes in NZ have been rock bottom to allow this guy to be All Black hooker , let alone captain. Has the communication skills of my 3rd XV high school captain. We fail to see how his line-out abilities can still be so bad after four years in the All Black jersey.
Any you would like to add to the list?
I read with interest the Rugby Forum Week 17. I fully agree with James Sleigh regarding the selection of Bob Skinstad.
In answering him you referred to somebody that wrote in a SA Rugby forum but then again the same can be said about Andre Vos, Gary Teichman. Remember the way these Springbok captains was treated? Where was the respect then? You may say ok but things has changed! Well then I say yes so did the game too and Bob do not fit in this game any more. Nee wat Bob was 'n groot fout.
There is no doubt in my mind that Bob is out of touch and I have no problem in saying his selection was a huge mistake. I will still support the Springboks with him in the team but at least Sowerby would have done much much better. He is a go forward loosie, not afraid of physical contact, gets over the advantage line - cannot be said about our Bobby! He is always hanging around in the backline. What for?
Go the Boks go. Time to kick some serious AB and Wallaby arses. Then England!!
(Man from AB land)
I want to express myself in English, and will make spelling and language mistakes. Just to be kind to our friends from other countries.
I want to talk about the Springbok trials and selection. I don't agree with the selection of Bobby and the reasons given. He is injured and must wait his turn. Don't give me that grab that he is the captain and must be treated like that. That is why he must stand back and give other players the chance they deserve because they played Super 12 and proved themselves worthy.
Straeuli said only fit and players in form will be selected. What message is he sending out with this? Take your bags and go to England. Yes, they complain about a exodus, but don't give the players any confidence in the system.
He is the 3rd couch now who favours Bob above others for what he was and not is . The players get 'gatvol' and us the spectators. We don't want a glamour boy as the captain. A man like Corne or Mark Andrews will do it.
When he, Bob is fit, he can be selected and play. Please give us something to become positive again and proud about. This Bob is wrong and have us negative about our team, coaches and system.
NO MORE FAVOURS FOR BOB !
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