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|Volume 2, Week 23
|Brilliant! And also
great to be back after a much needed break from the rigors of rugby
writing! Readers may think it foolish to take a break in mid thro of the
test season but need I remind you the benefits of sufficient rest and a
“structured season”! Luckily all liver tests proved negative since the
creatine supplements (to boost finger speed) was administered in small
enough dosages! Thanks Uli!
The Tri-Nations, a relatively unsuccessful tournament for South Africa kicked off in the cold and wet of a typical New Zealand winter’s evening in Christchurch. The result is recent history and once again there is some yummy humble pie to be ate for predicting an Ausie victory (see previous issue). Mr Mehrtens et al was superb in utilising conditions to play the correct game plan and so secure what has become a rare victory over the Australians. Although the victory was a similar try less score as the AB’s opening match of last season at Newlands it will boost the confidence of coach and team considerably not to mention a nation “tired” of losing to their neighbours.
The forthcoming attraction on Saturday is of course the greatest rivalry in test rugby, the Springboks vs the All Blacks but if some scribes are to believe – no longer THE game in world rugby – for those about to choke in their Castle Lagers or Brandewyn & Cokes, wait! There is a point to this theory, South Africa’s own mediocre contribution to the rivalry in an era where few can remember let alone have seen the great test matches of fore make this quite a valid debate. No doubt many a reader will have seen the ’81 test matches but before? How many can recall what a Colin Meads or a Frik Du Preez looked like in their hey day? Or, even now, the isolated victories over the past decade?
The Springboks, class of 2002 has some answering to do and Rudolf Straeuli’s attitude is a fresh breeze, the return to basic values, the TEAM above all else – simple things we as non-professional rugby players and supporters expect, no, demand from our heroes! The Springboks may be defeated come Saturday morning but they need to put back the fear of God into the All Black players and supporters also, make us their supporters believe there is enough passion and commitment that is worth supporting, to the hilt. Strong words? Damn right it is because people like oom Frik and Pinetree Meads made it the greatest rivalry there is!
Saturday morning cometh the hour, enjoy the match, next week there will be a full report on how the Springboks fared in New Zealand – a prediction? Springboks by less than 10!
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|"War it is" by Tom Marcellus
|"When your country plays New Zealand, consider yourselves at
With these words, oom Boy Louw stirred the Boks on to victory in the famous white-wash series of 1949. In those 4 hard-fought games, Kiwi hopes of an elusive away win were ground into the brittle highveld soil, no doubt courtesy of yet another teeth-jarring tackle from that psychotic no 8, the great Hennie Muller (aka "Die Windhond").
Given Straeuli's unashamedly old-fashioned ideas on what playing for the Green 'n Gold is all about and the importance of the Bok ethos of old, not to mention the nostalgic view that test matches between SA and New Zealand are the one true test of South African manhood (a view that is shared by many of his countrymen, including this humble arm-chair correspondent), he is no doubt using similar words to fire-up his squad, as they prepare to face the pride of New Zealand in 2 days time.
And let's face it, the Bok coach knows a bit about the fierce pride with which these wooly men from the Land of the Long White Cloud don their black jerseys and take up their cudgels against their old enemy, having been on the losing end against them in the only series (in 1994) in New Zealand since readmission. Mud, grime, guts, passion. Colin Meads' words uttered shortly before the All Blacks' long awaited away series win against the Boks in 1996 epitomise the begrudging respect (on a good day!) between these two old foes: "It's about revenge", he mumbled, as the All Blacks ground their way to that famous victory.
The fact that the test on Saturday is to be played at the same venue that witnessed the Boks' only two victories in enemy territory since 1965 will not have been lost on the coach, although a waterlogged Wellington pitch will put an end to any aspirations Straeuli may have harboured that his fleet-footed backs will be able to chuck the ball about with gleeful abandon. Nay, this will be a gritty forward battle, settled by the grizzled geezers in the engine room of the scrum. Only once the battle for supremacy in the murky underworld of the scrums, rucks and mauls has been won, will the victor be able to consider adopting a more creative policy out wide, methinks.
As they ponder the oncoming battle, and think back to their own trials of strength in bygone days, old timers like Du Preez and Meads, Pelser and Lochore will no doubt afford themselves a chuckle of remembrance as they also consider the (no doubt) nefarious deeds that they committed in the name of The Cause in those not-so-innocent pre-TV days. In the old days, a pitch that hosted a Boks/All Blacks test match, rather than being merry witness to carefree afternoon fun, invariably ended up looking like a frontline casualty tent after an ill-timed bayonet charge. Fire and brimstone, with a bit of skullduggery tossed in for good measure. And let's not even start talking about Kevin Skinner.
The All Blacks certainly displayed plenty of the grit of yore in their victory over the World Champions on the weekend, as the Wallabies, who seemed more eager to spread the ball, found themselves up against an impenetrable black wall at each foray. As always, stout hearts will be required if the Boks are to prevail against XV wild-eyed New Zealanders, and Bok fans will hope that Straeuli will, courtesy of a few koppestamp sessions in Brisbane, have ironed out many of the defensive blapses that allowed the Samoans such free passage 2 weeks ago.
With their coach's words of war, not to mention those of oom Boy and (for good measure) Meads, ringing in their ears, let's hope that the Boks go forth and conquer!
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|Entertainment vs Results by Desmond Organ
|Anybody watching Saturday's battle between the All Blacks
and the Wallabies can be forgiven for thinking that it was an epic. Fact
is that it was basically an old fashioned forward struggle, both sides
focused on making as few mistakes as possible and kicking away possession
for territorial advantage.
That the weather was not favourable is not the real issue, neither is the fact that television rights saw the game played at night in a wet, cold uncompromising environment. At the end of the day the side that was better prepared to mange the conditions won the game. The statistics will show that the Wallabies won two thirds of the loose ball, poached between seven and eleven of the opposition line outs and wheeled the scrum at ease on several occasions. What Australia did was play the wrong game plan. This is controversial but true, wet weather calls for a cohesive and tightly managed forward game with tactical kicking and sound defence around the fringes.
What sticks in my mind is the sight of the Australian loose forwards barging up the middle, in isolation and without players on their shoulder. Merthens tactical kicking was accurate precisely because of the quality of the possession that he received. Larkham on the other hand was constantly under pressure and often found himself in the uncompromising position of having hungry All Black loose forwards breathing down his neck. Eddie Jones could well have watched the All Blacks undo the Springboks in similar fashion a year ago. I wonder if he bothered to watch the game again before this match.
It is a long time since I saw players of the caliber of Kefu and Finnigan looking apprehensive. Tackle the All Blacks did, in a manner that reminds me of the hard nosed approach that made them such a force in the 70’s. A good friend remarked that what the All Blacks did was return to the strengths of the past. The loose trio was particularly impressive, without being intimidated they controlled the quality of the opposition half backs play. Gregan and Larkham were simply not given the freedom that they are accustomed to.
Several commentators down under have highlighted something that I pointed out several issues ago. You cannot merely put the best fifteen individual players on the field of play; you have to play the right combinations. Australia is blessed with a wealth of talent in the backs, why Jones chooses to play people out of position is a mystery to me. Forget the victories over France; this was not the same team that won the Six Nations championship. Long trips to Argentina and a coach intent on experimentation before the World Cup nullify the importance of these pre-season victories.
Matt Burke is not an outside centre of international quality, Mortlock is better equipped to a midfield role and Herbert is not the play maker required in the no 12 jersey. Latham was exposed because he was not able to rely on the combinations that served him so well in the Super 12 competition.
As we look forward to the next encounter, we can expect the All Blacks to build on their current performance. South Africa would have suffered a greater misery in the same conditions with their current set of loose forwards. Any romantic ideas of backline creativity would probably have been removed by the conditions. I also do not see players like van Niekerk and Skinstad going head-to-head with McCaw and Thorne.
If there is to be a more entertaining match this week the weather will have to play along. Dry conditions and a disciplined forward performance from South Africa could result in an entertaining game, otherwise we could well re live the Dunedin debacle.
|Skinstad has been seen as the Anna Kournikova of rugby:
talented, nice to look at, but never quite fulfiling the potential that so
obviously sits with him. Kevin
It would be good for them to stick to the tactics of the game and show a little less bias towards Australia. David Campese on Australian commentators
The bottom line is that although losing to South Africa would cause New Zealanders some pain, especially in a home match, far greater pain would be felt losing to Australia and their other big rivals, England. Lynn McConnell
We are again playing for a team and for South Africa and it is no longer about individuals. Willie Meyer
|South Africa vs New Zealand Statistics
|All Matches Summary
|Matches in Wellington
|Letters to the Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ah, if its rugby we all have opinions. Here are my thoughts on Straeuli's selections:
Werner Greef: Is he another Heunis in the making? Great speed, good vision and defence plus he's fearless under the high ball, which the All Blacks used to kill off Gysie.
Stefan Terblanche: Too good to have been a spectator the last two years!
Marius Joubert: Seems to miss tackles if he can't run at the oppo. Still a good pairing with Barry though.
De Wet Barry: Solid, but where's the distributive flair?
Adrian Jacobs: Nice touches, but may find the Tri-Nations a step too far defensively.
Dean Hall: Re-programmed to look for work. Improving but needs to learn the skills like James did from Cabous.
Breyton Paulse: Needs to be used to get his rhythm back. Classy player.
Andre Pretorius: Class act.
Brent Russell: Like Paulse; the speed they have is irreplaceable. His vision and determination make him big enough. A class act too.
Bolla Conradie: Causes the threes to move sideways, which will find Pretorius under massive Tri-Nations pressure. Lacks the control, vision and defensive security made provided by 'slower' Davidson. Hopefully the belief in him will provide dividends.
Neil De Kock: Solid player with deft pass and blindside break.
Bob Skinstad: Lacks grunt and big defence, but despite the knockers, has incredible vision to exploit opportunities and is a class player.
Joe Van Niekerk : All the necessary assets. Class act.
Corne Krige: A man's man who the team will shed blood for. Another class act.
Hendro Scholtz: Exposure will tell.
AJ Venter: Great dresser but 'n vuil uil' player! Was as useless as two left legs in the warm-ups, is a red card in waiting. A miracle selection.
Jannes Labuschagne: A typically honest Bok lock which we haven't had in a long while. A potential Chris Jack?
Victor Matfield: Sure he poaches the odd ball and catches some kick-offs, but he'd rather play centre as his tight and tight-loose work is very poor. The prop who plays in front of him better be prepared for the powder puff push! How could he replace Hottie Louw?
Willie Meyer: Cagey campaigner. Solid performer.
Faan Rautenbach: Shows good promise and has handled the front rows he'll meet with aplomb before.
James Dalton: No sh*t will be taken up front, and the response to any will not be a sneak reply but an in the face reply!
Delarey du Preez: Touch and go between him and Coetzee who looked the better thrower.
Ollie Le Roux: Reliable performer but needs to up the consistency of his work rate.
Lawrence Sephaka: Starting to show good form. His determination will see him succeed.
The team looks good enough to win the Tri-Nations, despite the catalogue of injuries, and will surprise the Antipodeans as the combinations aren't those they've played against before. The weak point for me is at lock. Jannes and the front row need way better partners than AJ or Matfield. Hottie Louw looked the part last Saturday and Quentin Davids has more tight phase attributes than either Matfield or AJ.
In building a great tight five you first have to select your hooker, he advises on the props and they in turn advise on the locks. Only then do you check on their loose play abilities and lineout/kick-off timing before finally selecting them.
Ek het met groot opgewondenheid op die aankondiging van die springbokspan teen Samoa gewag. En ek moet sÍ Rudolph het glad nie `n sleg span aan mekaar geslaan nie al het hy so baie beserings en spelers wat `n breuk nodig het op die stadium. Dit is net jammer dat ou Bob nog daar is en dat Shaun Sowerby nie `n kans in die begin 15 gekry het nie ek is net bly dat A.J. uit is want hy het deesdae soos `n dirigent agter die losskrum gelyk inplaas daarvan om self iets te doen.
Die ander persoon wat sy plekverloor het teen `n beter speler is mees defenitief Paulse dit het deesdae gelyk of hy tot sy spoed verloor het. Ek is bly dat ouens soos Ollie `n breuk kry ek is self `n stut en na `n paar games is `n mens maar goed seer. Verder is dit goed dat Victor terug is hy is `n goeie slot hy het net sy basics vergeet op `n stadium ek wou hom en Hottie nog altyd saam gesien het.
Wel hierdie span vir saterdag behoort darem `n meer opwindende game as laas saterdag te voorsien ,want dit het maar broekskeur gegaan eintlik. En dan laastens wil ek net hartlik geluk sÍ aan die onder 21 span julle weet hoe om iemand se hart vinniger te laat klop manne.
Rudolph Strauli se groep van 24 gaan sukkel om NZ te klop sonder brekers soos Joost van der Westuizen, Shaun Sowerby, Hottie Louw, Albert van den Bergh, Daan Human en Cobus Visagie.
Joost is nog nie wedstryd fiks nie, maar Neil de Cock sit in dieselfde bootjie. Joost se ervaring sou goud werd gewees het vir die Bokke,al sit hy op die bank. Sowerby moet die Bok agsteman wees met Skinstad en Van Niekerk die flanke. Scholtz toon groot belofte, maar is nog nie in dieselfde klas as Krige,Van Niekerk, Skinstad, AJ Venter of Sowerby nie. Labuschagne is nie 'n internasionale slot nie. Sy gebrek aan lengte gaan die Bokke duur te staan kom in die lynstane. Albert van den Bergh en Hottie Louw sou veel beter keuses gewees het. Die keuse van Willie Meyer en Lawrence Sephaka bo Cobus Visagie en Daan Human laat ook veel te wense oor. Maar nogtans, sterkte Bokke, hopelik kan julle diesefde glorie as die o/21-Bokkies behaal!
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