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Brilliant! Wrong, Merde! A schoolboyish Springbok team in which was vested so much hope let their supporters down with one of the worst Springbok performances since readmission. To achieve that kind of accolade is an accomplishment in itself cause South Africa’s dished up some terrible slop in the last decade. To paraphrase little Oliver, “please sir, may we have no more!?”
The dreaded match kicked off at an unholy hour for rugby and in their
Federation the French must have a disciple of the late Doc Craven. Huh, I
hear you say? Well, Doc (bless his soul) always made things as difficult as
possible for the visiting team re schedule, time of play and all the
peripheries knowing well that an unsettled team cannot concentrate on the
task ahead. Now I hear the Springboks stayed in a fancy golf resort,
practiced late at night and in secret so there was hardly any excuse or was
there? As Otto Manfranchenchenson in A Fish Called Wanda exclaimed,
Where to know? Can the Springboks turn this tour around by beating the
Scots, suddenly a tough game, and England at Twickenham? The Scots should
not be a threat otherwise South Africa has truly sank into a steep abyss of
mediocrity. England, well… after watching them almost lose to a plucky young
All Black side I confidently predicted a Springbok victory, the only problem
was the time of the statement – approximately 18:30 BM* in the evening! The
Springboks have not won there in three years and based on both sides’
performances, history is bound to repeat itself. Positive thinking may
assist Mr De Bono but hell supporters need more than a few bent teaspoons to
regain the faith and a huge amount of pressure is on the shoulders of the
charges taking on Scotland.
Australia was well beaten by a game Irish side and with conditions wet and
cold the Irish eyes were smiling. It was probably the biggest upset of the
weekend and it threw a huge spanner in the wheel of those thinking the
Southern hemisphere is ruling the roost. For one, this humble writer needs
to rethink the strength of his convictions regarding the strength of the
Northern Hemisphere. It is very good news for the IRB in their quest for
making rugby a global game. Rugby may finally have six or seven teams good
enough to beat each other on any given day. A good team should always win on
its home ground and only great teams win away.
The All Blacks almost beat the English at Twickenham and a lot of it was due
to their steely resolve and pride. Face it their forwards were completely
outclassed by a brilliant English pack and were it not for wonderful running
from the backs, exploiting every little chance, they would have been
hammered. England may have broken an important voodoo with this win,
something that might make Mitchell regret taking his choice of second
stringers on tour. Somehow I do not think so.
I write this column, three hours before my flight to London and the next RF
will be a text version from an internet café giving you the readers a first
hand account of the game at Murrayfield and Twickenham. If you want to
respond or correspond with me, feel free to mail me at the following
address, firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be sure to publish your opinions.
Also due to a technical error I was unable to include any quotes or letters
in this week’s issue.
Enjoy the games!
* BM = Before Marseilles
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"The silver lining that throbbed" by Tom Marcellus
Despite the thorough beatings that she used to dish out to me when I was still a young 'un – remember, this was some time before I developed into the strapping, swashbuckling flyhalf of the under 15F's – I have always had a soft spot for my big sister. In my defence, I must admit that she was never an especially delicate little creature, and even as a girl, when she tried her hand at ballet, she resembled a hulking stevedore, stuffed into a mammoth panty-hose, rather than a budding Margot Fonteyn, with her Wednesday legs and pigeon chest.
Such cultural distractions aside, I must confess that my avowed devotion for
the old gal was sorely tested last week, when I was reminded in no uncertain
fashion by my sister that her wedding was to take place this past Saturday,
and that my important duties on the night would prevent altogether (it was
stressed, with a surly stamp by the bride-to-be of her powerful thighs) my
catching even the occasional glimpse of the Boks' expected slaughter of the
Caught between a rock and a hard place – between my filial duties and my
patriotic ones – I spent the next few days deep in thought, with my
conscience under siege. Soon the day was upon me, but still no solution
offered itself to this beleaguered pilgrim of the oval game.
Immediately after the ceremony itself, as happy laughter mingled with the
mellow tunes of a string quartet, plucking away nearby, I found myself
huddled with a posse of similarly distraught gents, conspiring over the
occasional, stray polisiekoffie. While our girlfriends gossiped mindlessly,
champagne flutes in hand – "Didn't she look fabulous, Daaaahling" – we
exchanged furtive glances and hurried, whispered words. It was three hours
to kick-off, and our backs were up against it.
Perhaps it was the disagreeable weather or our ever-vigilant girlfriends, or
even the murderous liquids that we were guzzling at an impressive rate, but,
despite our best efforts to conjure up a cunning plan, we found ourselves
foiled. Thus, my co-conspirators and I eventually conceded defeat and
reconciled ourselves to a Saturday sans the usual pleasures of rucks, mauls,
eye-gougings and garryowens. B*ggerit! was our shared sentiment.
Fortunately, salvation was close at hand, and my girlfriend managed to ease
my pain by cuddling my head tenderly in her heaving bosom. As my gaze wafted
over the soothing undulations of her D-cup, my thoughts of Corné and his
merry band, battling away on distant fields for the glory of het
Springbokken, faded away, and the night, rather inevitably, soon began to
degenerate into a delicious combination of fiery cocktails, blaring music
and slurred banter.
Noble reader, you can surely imagine the consternation that arose on the
dance-floor as pumpkin hour approached, when a swaying reveler somehow
managed to read out an SMS through blurred eyesight confirming that the Boks
had suffered their worst-ever drubbing at the hands of the dastardly Gauls.
Anguished shrieks were soon drowned out by calls for urgent liquids, as, in
our misery, we resorted to that tried 'n tested coping mechanism, pursued
since the heady days of the Roman Empire – the worship of Bacchus.
Amphora followed amphora, and it was good.
As the full extent of the Boks' embarrassment revealed itself in the 'papers
on the following morning, I had to afford myself an ironic chuckle, as I
thought of all our fruitless efforts of the previous afternoon. We had been
spared a gruesome sight, and although my head pounded and even the odd
Marlboro-inspired wheeze caused me to grimace, it was a small price to pay.
And so to Murrayfield, the scene of Muller & Co's epic 44-0 triumph of 1951,
when Scotland, of course, "were lucky to get nil". What chance another
Massacre this weekend?
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Any Given Saturday by Desmond Organ
Saturday’s test matches involving the big three from the Southern Hemisphere was a combination of pride, passion, weather and utopia. Pardon the pun, but the idea that the Northern hemisphere was lagging behind has now well and truly been laid to rest. The one real surprise was the ease with which the French disposed of the “pubescent” South Africans. Not that Irelands win was not surprising, but factor in the weather and you could not have received favourable adds from a punter. New Zealand was the pride and passion of the day and never allowed the number of newcomers to unsettle their resolve.
Fortunately I did not begin to write this piece on the announcement of the
Springbok team late last week. I was already somewhat perturbed by the
initial choices, a combination of players with little experience and others
who have hardly played a full season of rugby. Combine this with the
absurdity of the criteria that Straeuli put forward at the beginning of the
tour and you will get my drift. I remember clearly that fitness, reputation
and form were all part of the well-worded mind massaging that we were given.
All I have to do is look at the center pairing initially chosen and I
shudder. No previous international experience combined with reputation and
hardly two complete games in the entire Currie Cup season. If Mitchell and
Straeuli had something in common before Saturday, it is well and truly gone
No wonder that Boela Vermaak of Rapport has accused “Roelfie” of starting to
speak Greek. In my mind it is more a case of inexperience starting to come
to the fore. Mitchell had several years as an assistant in England before
his current tenure; we in South Africa appear to believe that the word
“puberty” has no reason to be in the Oxford English dictionary. I for one am
starting to think of a new song to sum up the situation. Another performance
similar to the one against France and we will all be singing: “ Roelfie Slim
berg wil klim in die wye wereld in.” I listened to the excuses and mind
massaging during the Tri Nations and I remember week after week in which
kick off’s, speed to the point of break down and the inept lineout
performances were ignored. Well the “ thick set lady” is now getting ready
for a world tour.
On the positive side we can point to the results in the other two games and
hope that any given Saturday means that the Springboks still have some
chance to restore pride. Australia appears to be more likely of bringing a
change in fortune to the hopes of the Southern Hemisphere. Straeuli's
cynicism about how France should have put at least 50 points up against a
team hit by injuries like the Boks were could come back to haunt him. I will
certainly be the first to acknowledge that there has been a miraculous
turnaround should it not occur. Boela Vermaak urged the rocket scientists at
SARFU to rid themselves of the Aussie influence at the end of the Viljoen
era. At the rate at which things are going we could be looking at high
school candidates for positions in the three quarters. Playing people out of
position against world-class opposition is madness.
What really irks me the most is all the furor around contracts at the end of
the Currie Cup season, well maybe we should have waited for the first
performance of the “pubescent lady” signs before we paid for the tickets. A
year ago I was fortunate enough to travel to Twickenham to watch the game
against England. A great experience marred by the manner in which we played
on the day. Last night I thought about canceling the tickets and hotel
reservations for the next two games simply because it may not be value for
money. As a die hard I will make the trip, refusing to lose sight of the
fact that it could always be different on any given Saturday.Join the
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Is there such a thing as a good loss? by Vinesh Naicker As expected NZ went down to England during the weekend. The most surprising thing about it was that the AB’s almost won.
The stage was set and the game scripted but England and the All Blacks
almost muffed their lines. England declared their intentions with the
selection of their team. The replacement of Neil Back with Lewis Moody
confirmed that England were intent on keeping the ball with the forwards and
would play a no-nonsense kicking game only giving the ball to their backs
when they had to.
NZ by picking young mobile players in their pack, indicated that they had
given up any intention of contesting set piece ball and were prepared to
live off the scraps. As has been apparent since 1997, when the failed
experiment began, the fact is that you are unlikely to win a game with only
30% possession. How many times have we heard the mantra “It all starts with
the forwards.” Having conceded the forward battle NZ were always going to
struggle. Yet the expectation was that they would provide spirited
opposition due to the amount of young blood in the team.
Yet despite being destroyed in the set pieces NZ almost won.
The points of note in the game were.
1. Andrew Hore consistently found his jumpers Ali Williams and Keith
Robinson until late in the second half, when Brad Mika replaced Robinson.
Mikas inability to jump meant that the ball inevitably went to Williams and
allowed England to contest possession, leading to Grewcock intercepting the
last NZ throw into the line out on the England 5 metre line. Hores success
in finding his jumpers at international level after only having worked with
them for a week serves to highlight Anton Oliver and Mark Hammetts
deficiencies after four years as the top string hookers.
2. Marty Holah was the standout forward in the game. His tenacity and energy
in pursuing the ball kept NZ in the game.
3. Randell and Broomhall played well when they were subbed on 60 minutes
into the game.
4. Referee Jonathan Kaplan. Overall his performance wasn’t something that
would have had Van Zyl waddling onto the field but two things stand out.
Firstly, he penalised NZ several times for going off their feet, including
Blair once for going to one knee and not releasing immediately, yet he
constantly allowed Englands forwards to lie on the ball and play it back
with their hands, fifty-fifty calls perhaps but the final penalty count
favoured England. Secondly, with 10 minutes to play and the All Blacks 31-28
down and 5m in front of the English goal posts he awarded the scrum to
England. Now with McDonnell having driven the ball forward into the tackle
and the ball clearly visible on the All Black side this decision was
bordering on criminal.
5. Ben Blair. It was a huge call by Mitchell to start Spencer because it
meant that he was forced to choose Blair as a goal kicker. Spencer may be in
better form than Mehrtens at the moment but no one could argue that a
Spencer-Blair combination is superior to a Mehrtens-Cullen combination.
Blair seems to have a huge heart but alas his physical stature is not the
same. The game against England highlighted his defensive inadequacies and
also that he is unable to step or swerve at high speed, which is almost a
prerequisite for an international fullback. He seemed to play to the limit
of his abilities this weekend but I suspect that even an out of form Cullen
would have added an extra dimension in attack and on defence.
6. The English crowd seemed quite puzzled when NZ chose to kick the ball out
for a line out, early in the game, instead of kicking for goal. I suspect
that Nick Malletts comments about the lack of intelligence of Springbok
supporters would have been better directed at the English. They also cheered
when England chose to kick a penalty instead of going for a try and yet
booed when NZ made the same decision some minutes later. Boorish behaviour
from rugby crowds seems to be on the increase in the last few years.
7. Jonah Lomu. I’ve got to admit I’m a fan of the big guy. I’m a bigger
supporter of Lomu than I am of the All Blacks. Basically, whenever he has
been asked to deliver the goods he has. In the last two world cups Jonah has
fronted up when, and that’s something no other All Black can say. Once again
Jonah demonstrated that given the ball in a one-on-one situation or even
two-on-one situation he will score 4 times out of 5. I think it was Matt
Burke who once said that nothing gladdens an Australian heart so much as
seeing Jonah out on the wing not being used. On this occasion NZ gave Jonah
the ball and although space was limited he scored two tries and made at
least one other bollocking run. It’s good to see Jonah doing what he does
8. NZ muffed several chances to score through inexperience and bad handling.
For example Andrew Mehrtens had a shocking first 15 minutes when he came on.
One dropped ball from Mehrtens allowed England to score a try immediately.
England by contrast scored from almost every opportunity they had, and yet
NZ still almost won.
Although it is always disappointing when an All Black team loses, to have
expected this team to win would have been blindly optimistic. Based on what
I have heard about how the Tri-Colors dealt to the Springboks I fully expect
the NZ team to lose again. Hopefully the pride in the black jersey will
allow the team to be competitive and to run the French close, a loss will
not be the end of the world. Losing to Wales, however, is not an option.
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Carnage in Marseilles by Mark Foster
The Springboks were dealt their heaviest ever defeat against France by a determined team-effort from Galthie and his Gaelic warriors. The Springboks were never in this match and from the word go a penalty against Corne Krige signalled the way this day would go.
The French scrum renowned as the best pack of forwards in the game today,
displayed just why they carry this tag. The poor Springboks were
out-muscled, out-jumped and ultimately probably out-thumped in all the set
phases. Make no mistake this was not suppose to be a weak Springbok team,
form players made up the numbers but inexperience counted against them.
At the back the Springboks were pitiable, they received ball on the back
foot admittedly but the amount of unforced errors were pathetic. Spilled
passes, not finding touch and direct touch finders did not help any cause.
The defence was not bad and it was only French flair that accounted for two
brilliant tries, one from a magnificent counter attack when the Springboks
looked set to score and another from a well judged grubber into empty space.
The Springbok forward opted not to compete on any of the opposition lineout
throws and Vic Matfield’s absence was sorely felt. The French jumpers devoid
of any pressure bar an attempt to maul them cleverly used all the time to
provide quick ball to their splendid backs and with Betsen, Harinordoquy and
Magne roaming the Springboks played right into their hands. It was a
tactical nightmare and one have to question the game plan employed and why
there was no backup.
The Springboks displayed an old tendency one thought was erased in the Tri
Nations to leave the ball carrier for the vultures, the French back row
punished the isolated player and Mr Rolland had very little option but to
dish out a penalty. Of those there was plenty but they were mostly deserved
and the only complaint against the Irishman/Frenchman was the sending off of
Bakkies Botha who was way to busy adapting to the pace of the match to play
dirty at all.
This was a well-deserved victory for the Frogs and with Gelez again proving
the thorn in the Springboks side they look a very strong team to beat.
The Springbok players at a glance:
1. Lawrence Sephaka – 4 The young prop received a decent lesson in
scrumming from Pieter De Villiers and the French right shoulder was never
under pressure, this will certainly contribute to his learning process.
Hopefully his injury was not tour threatening.
2. James Dalton – 4 The “elder” statesman was shaky in the lineouts,
normally his strength and this cost the Springboks vital possession. As part
of a front row that got drilled he never had the time to show any of his
3. Willie Meyer – 4 The big guy was under tremendous pressure and hardly
had time to carry the ball or do any of the kind of runs we saw in the
Currie Cup. A tour ending injury signifies the beating they received, a very
tough day at the office.
4. Bakkies Botha – 4 The debutant had a bit of a problem in the lineouts,
mostly French player’s hands all over his ball and the pace of the match
looked a bit quick for the inexperienced player. His sending off was
undeserved but it cost his team a hammering in the scrum, injuries to both
props and the ungainly sight of a disintegrating Springbok scrum.
5. Jannes Labuschagne – 6 The big man tried his heart out and did a
tremendous amount of work in covering, stemming the French mauls and once
providing a good run up the middle for some forward momentum. A bit alone in
6. Corne Krige – 5.5 The captain was involved in the murky depths but
hardly played his usual influential match. With the French support
magnificent and their clearing of the fetchers phenomenal he was one against
many. The tactics were probably advocated by the coaching staff however as
captain he might have influenced the team’s strategy when they saw the
French was not mauling from lineouts but carrying wide.
7. A.J. Venter – 5 The hard man of SA rugby found there are plenty of hard
Frenchies doing duty in the national team and although he defended very well
it seems he was a bit slow to the point of breakdown to assist in turnovers.
His future is lock but he may be too short to compete and struggle to keep.
8. Joe van Niekerk – 6.5 Probably the best Springbok forward and one of
the few in the team to have played a satisfactory match. However like his
much criticized predecessor Bob, he found the going tough behind a
retreating pack. His defence was excellent and he covered the ground like a
natural eightman. His try was the result of good support and well deserved.
9. Neil De Kock – 6.5 Another one of the shining lights and his experience
at WP behind a losing pack helped tremendously. He was one of the few
players to put any pressure on the French kickers and this almost resulted
in a try. His service to Pretorius was good under the circumstances and his
10. Andre Pretorius – 5 The young pivot was under tremendous pressure and
never really received the ball on the front foot. His kicking game was not
good, too many balls were out on the full or not into touch. The French
defence was also very shallow and he played the correct tactic of Garryowens
but there was not enough pressure from his teammates. Missed one kick at
goal but had very few opportunities for points.
11. Brent Russell – 4 Brent was done a disservice by selecting him at
wing, his space was closed up and his natural abilities stifled. Too many
uncharacteristic handling errors made this a nightmare test for the young
man. He is not to be written off though and will bounce back in predictable
12. Adrian Jacobs – 5.5 He defended well and with precious few
opportunities on attack managed to shift the ball with his tremendously
13. Jean De Villiers - Was injured after 5 minutes after a good cover
14. Breyten Paulse – 6 Hardly had any ball but looked for work and
defended well, he almost scored after a clever grubber from De Kock but was
beaten by the French cover. Did very well in the Springbok try to release to
15. Werner Greeff – 6 A strange day for Ellis Park’s hero, his kicking
direction was shocking yet he found some enormous touch finders. His defence
as always was strong and the few runs he had he was dangerous. A pity the
Springboks could not get enough ball on the front foot to let him attack the
Marius Joubert – 6.5 The late replacement on the bench and early
replacement in the game played very well and with the limited ball always
looked dangerous and beat his man to create space. He tackled very well
although a few were late but no high tackles as he has been criticized for
in the past. A good outing for a class player, he deserves to start.
Lukas van Biljon He was bought on as a prop during uncontested scrums and
thank goodness for this law or the Springboks would have suffered more
injuries. Tried a few bollocking runs but it hardly helped in a match where
Green had no momentum.
Wessel Roux He made his appearance after Willie Meyer’s departure and
looked solid enough however shortly after there was no contest so he did not
get enough opportunity to test himself against the best. Lucky him!
Pedrie Wannenburg Did not see enough to comment.
Marco Wentzel Did not see enough to comment.
Butch James Did not see much of him apart from a ferocious cleaning out of
the man over the ball for which he was penalised, if only the Springbok
forwards took a leaf from the young Shark with his aggression, the game
would have been different.
Bolla Conradie Did not see enough to comment.
Match rating – 4 This was a poor Springbok effort and they know it, Enough
Referee rating – 6.5 Generally Mr Rolland played very well, as said the
Botha incident was a mistake but he kept control of a match that given the
circumstances could have erupted in a brawl.
Springbok Man of the Match: Joe van Niekerk