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Rugby Forum - Vol 3, Week 2
Rugby Forum - Vol 3, Week 2
(The week that was, a South African perspective)
Rugby Forum is a weekly newsletter produced by rugbyforum.co.za, it is reposted here with their permission.
Be sure to check out the full Rugby Forum archive at http://www.rugbyforum.co.za/

Volume 3, Week 2 Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant!      In fear of sounding like one of those Modern Talking “classics” – same tune different words, rugby never seizes to amaze, pleasure or pain me! As a matter of fact there are few things on this here earth that elicits more emotion than the goings on of the oval ball game. Well, except maybe the latest Kylie Minogue fashion collection!

The latest and fresh off the press news is that of world-class prop Pieter De Villiers, testing positive for the use of “recreational drugs” cocaine and ecstacy! Now, we all know the boytjie is from the Boland and that Paris is a big worldly city with loads of vices, could it have been a mistake? You know what I mean the same kind of mistake Joe McDonnell had with the asthma inhaler and Ben Tune with the probenacid? Whatever, it will be EASILY explained and if necessary a mandatory 3 months ban will be served. There is a small glitch, Jo Maso, French team manager has made it clear that any substance abuse will result in a permanent ban from the national side. It will be a sad loss to the French RWC prospects, wait…maybe Rudolf Straeuli can attract the ex-Japie and a la Devine include him in the Springbok line up, voila!

Talking about the Frogs, it was heartening to hear a young member of the national team speak out for a change and not utter the usual verbal diarrhoea fed by over zealous “PR” men behind the scenes. The “characters” are fast disappearing from the game and proper quotes are hard to find, players are coaxed into certain responses all very PC of course. It is good to see some “niggle” back in the interviews and as anyone who has attended a Six (Five) Nations match between France and England will testify, that is one of the ultimate “niggle” games! 

Two of the SA teams are currently in the UK playing against some of the local premiership sides as part of their Super 12 warm up. The Sharks and Stormers both won their first matches although in contrasting style. Obviously not much should be read into the results and performances but this humble observer is of the opinion that you play the way you train and that there is a certain standard to be maintained in any game, practice against the “seconds” or matches against the best opposition. Rugby is about rhythm, confidence and momentum; all three together create a good performance, good performances are followed by great ones. 

A quick thank you to everybody sending their good wishes, there were many one line mails wishing us here at RF good luck for the season, I have omitted them from the usual letters section. This year we would like to engage more reader’s response and one way of doing so is selecting a weekly RF Super 12 team compiled by the contributors. Feel free to criticise and send your own teams and it will be collated as a reader’s team to compare against our own. 

All the best for the week and visit the RF website!



Visit http://www.rugbyforum.co.za/ for statistics, all the quotes and an archive of previous issues

Early Jitters Tom Marcellus
I must admit that I am a bit of a fan of languid games like golf and test cricket. They are manned by dapper young fellows – "chaps" – who amble about, invariably immaculately attired, donning sober jerseys, Nordic features and neatly-combed hair, and addressing each other in mumbled, suitably polite tones.

OK, OK, so I missed the recent England/Australia test series, with its gnarled fast bowlers and coarse wickies, but I think you get the picture.

But on Tuesday night, as I watched my first rugger match of the season, Harlequins of London versus the Sharks, it again dawned on me why, although the merry tonk! of leather on willow is all jolly hockey-sticks when one is nibbling on cream scones around the village green, it just doesn't stir up the emotions like the ol' oval game, with its grinding forward battles and flowing backline moves.

Not that the rugby match in question was quite in the same league as the epic Bok/All Black confrontations (or wars, as oom Boy Louw would have roared) of yesteryear, but it had enough dash 'n mash to keep this jittery arm-chair correspondent entertained until midnight. In fact (and before I have a one-eyed demon called Martin Pelser bashing down my door and threatening me with bodily injury), it was nothing at all like those mighty clashes of yore. But, even with the start of the cricket World Cup now but hours away, there were enough touches of skill, speed and strength in those 80 minutes for my slumbering enthusiasm for the winter game to be rekindled.

It really only took a few seconds. A ruck developed shortly after kick-off and the Sharks pack, with exquisite precision and brimful with passion, barged into their opponents as one, rolled them over, and secured possession. The ball was flung from scrummy to flyhalf, with a skip to outside centre, and then on to the winger, who dashed forward, was tackled, and then laid the ball back for his loosies, who were already foraging at his shoulder. It was sublime stuff, right out of the coaching manual. Hoo-hah! I exclaimed with a Pacino-esque growl to no-one in particular, as I slurped on my cuppa soup and contemplated a fifty pointer.

We'll show these pasty-faced Londoners, I smirked, the drubbing of 6 weeks ago still festering.

Of course it was not to be. The Sharks went badly off the boil immediately after this fleeting display of controlled rucking, and battled to control a very plucky Quins side that was not impressed with these sweaty colonial types. To be fair, the Poms belied their recent poor run of form, running imaginatively and tackling, if not like madmen, then certainly like men who regularly partook of hallucinogenic drugs (with apologies to our man in Paris).

But the size and skill of the Sharks outfit could not be denied forever, despite the best efforts of a generous referee (who I liked) and some bleating commentators (who I didn't). When André Snyman brushed off the Quins' midfield defence with a savage hand-off in the 58th minute, burst through, and set up Stefan Terblanche's try, there was only going to be one winner. With the Sharks pack finally re-discovering the rumbling form that it had collectively showed at kick-off and had so delighted this bleary-eyed fan, and with James and Halstead showing some of the touches that made them such a lethal combination as young bucks, the SA side managed to wrack up a decidedly flattering scoreline in the last 25 minutes.

It was a splutter and a stutter against a makeshift XV, and mighty teams from the wooly lands across the seas lie in wait for the Sharks and their fellow countrymen. Who knows what lies in store for them and us over the next few months – the tales of woe and defeat of last year, or perhaps the re-generating of our rugby strength?

But those concerns are for another day, methinks, and for now let me enjoy the re-discovered, simple pleasures of the ruck, scrum, dash and score.

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Rewind the Clock by Desmond Organ
E Pluribus Unum, that is something that Rudolf Straeuli should seriously consider as he wines and dines himself across the country in preparation for the World Cup. Gone is the time when creative inexperience ruled the day, gone is the time when an over supply of testosterone forced the opposition to flee in awe. Perhaps we have the early indications that the coach did not really initially understand what Kitch Christie did when he put together the winning combination that ultimately captured the great prize.

I was enlightened to read that Andre Venter has potentially been lured out of retirement and that people like the impenetrable Os Du Randt might just get one more chance. I think that the hallmark of success is realising that even if you have the right ingredients; you do not always have the right experience in preparation. I am not prematurely predicting a rapid rise in South Africa’s rugby fortunes, what I am saying is that enough blunders have been made to render the brand the laughing stock of international rugby. It also does not help when previous bearers of prestigious positions leave the fold squealing like stuck pigs because they think that it is the only way to redemption.

There are several indicators that the central decision makers may have made some ground in bringing a more unified approach to the preparation of the national team. A year ago the co-operation of all the regional teams in the Super 12 was a haphazard set of meetings that hardly served the national interest. The emergence of the Renegades helped identify the potential that was overlooked without dealing with the gaping lack of continuous skill building that is required at this level. At least we now have referees attached to each of the teams and a short and long-term strategy to deal with player discipline and adherence to the basic laws of the game.

The top players in the country will get the chance to develop at the Super 12 level. The glaring disparities between Currie Cup and International rugby were clarified on the fields of Murrayfield and Twickenham. The decision to “lease” players to other regions does help a great deal, although I am not sure that the “illegitimate children” of the Cats region are the best example of regional breeding schemes. The Stormers might also feel a little hurt by the Pat Barnard issue, but remember it is the good of the game in South Africa and the value of the national brand that must come first. Just as many of my expatriate colleagues have often said time and again, you have to think of the bigger picture, winning is not everything when every person does not have an equal opportunity.

The centralization of the medical coordination of national hopefuls has taken longer than a child takes to learn how to tie his shoelaces, quite bizarre when you consider the yearly predictions and scientific strategies of Professor Tim Noakes and company. Now at least one doctor is in charge and has involvement at all levels of the game, why did it take so long. Week in and week out I have been reading that the lack of fundamental skills is the major problem in South Africa. This is true except that nobody has been looking at the best way to remedy it.

It has taken several years for the administrators of the game to realise that the reason for failure just might be that the coaches are not sufficiently skilled as professionals and many of them are rushed into inappropriate positions without the necessary experience. The list of sacked coaches is almost as alarming as the number of players that have been used. Even the most vocal of all South Africa’s recent coaches did not necessarily have the finest set of motivational skills. Perhaps that is why he spends so much time pointing fingers at the administrators instead of accepting that he did a great job, then lost his way and finally sent our rugby in a downward spiral out of which it has yet to recover.

The good news is that there appears to finally be some rational thinking going into decision making in South African rugby and hopefully I and many others who stand firm behind the Boks will have a little more to celebrate come years end. 

Join the SARUGBY news and discussion group for the fastest sarugby news and the most intense debates around the South African game. Send a blank email to sarugby-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Scrums, anyone? by Vinesh Naicker
It seems that every year the referees receive new instructions from the IRB on how to referee and which laws to emphasise and be extra vigilant about that year.

Historically there has always been a belief that there is a difference in interpretation between the northern and southern hemispheres, and I for one must admit that I feel the difference is more than anecdotal. The basic difference seems to be that northern hemisphere (NH) referees like to referee to the letter of the law, while the southern hemisphere (SH) referees tend to referee so as to allow the game to flow more. The result is a tendency for SH referees to play more and longer advantage than their NH counterparts.

This has given rise to accusations of SH rugby and especially Super 12 rugby being more like basketball than traditional rugby. There is some truth to that. In the interests of promoting the spectacle of rugby we in the SH have tried to promote a faster more free-flowing game. This has not come without cost.

Although enjoying the number of tries scored in the various matches I for one have lamented the loss of the scrum. For a number of years now the scrum has been regarded in the SH as primarily a means to restart the game. Gone are the days when front row forwards would spend scrum after scrum attempting to break their opponents, both physically and psychologically, until the last 20 or 30 minutes of the game when they could enjoy the fruits of their labour by driving the opposition scrum off the ball.

Ask yourself when was the last time you saw a push-over try?

I have fond memories of legendary All Black number 8’s like Wayne Shelford and Zinzan Brooke scoring the majority of their tries at provincial and international level by dotting down after their pack had marched the opposition back.

Nowadays it’s all about holding the scrum steady until the half back or number 8 can run off the back. The team that tries to get a shove on now is invariably penalised, a tight head is almost impossible.

This has meant a de-emphasis in scrumming power and a move by coaches and selectors to more mobile front rowers, who no longer have scrumming ability at the top of their C.V. The early indications of the impact of this were when we saw Wallaby forward packs competing with their All Black or Springbok counterparts. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have no front row experience, but you’ll have a great deal of trouble convincing me that there has been a great Wallaby pack (in regards to the scrum) in the last 15 years. The Wallabies have always played with a weak scrumming pack and so their results against their Tri-Nations partners have been markedly better since the moves away from scrum dominance.

The woeful inadequacies of our scrums were highlighted in the November internationals. The All Blacks now regard obtaining parity in the scrums as a god-send and even the once mighty Springboks were shown to be technically deficient. In contrast the NH teams have always realised the importance of the scrum to the game.

With every country having tightened up their defences to league like levels the realisation is only starting to emerge that try-scoring breaks no longer emerge in second or third phase. They are probably still there at tenth phase, but no one is capable of retaining the ball for that long any more. Instead the most opportunities arise at first phase when defences are one on one and planned moves can be run.

Now line-outs are a good source of ball, but gaining possession there suffers from two problems. Firstly, all the opposition forwards are ready for you, they are not all bound up with their heads down and butts in the air. Secondly, you can only move the ball one way, as there is effectively no blindside, if you cut back inside, hello, there are those opposition forwards again, and so you are forced to go to ground and recycle the ball again. A set scrum offers the best opportunity for penetration and a scrum going forward lends even more impetus.

Therefore it was with mixed feelings that I read an article the other day on what the emphasis is going to be for the referees in this years Super 12. Scrums. Strict policing of the scrums, the shove, the binding, the putting of the ball in straight by the halfback, the whole shebang. There is a huge potential there to either bring back into prominence one of the unique features of rugby union or to further destroy it. Let’s hope that referees, players and coaches all see the benefits of putting the grunt back into scrums.

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Reds of rage, better.....Scarlets by Giampaolo Tassinari

Welsh rugby surely is having many troubles at the moment but among all these problems every year there is a club that is able to play at its best inspired by old values and its wonderful people around. I am writing about Llanelli RFC of course. 

The atmosphere at the glorious Stradey Park is something everyone should taste at least once in his life. You just breathe rugby, rugby and also passion and pride. Don’t forget Llanelli is the place where in 1972 the All Blacks went down 3-9 deservedly, the day the pubs ran dry in Llanelli. Still nowadays that great deed is honoured as one of the most important victories in the club’s history. 

Llanelli has also a very proud record in the Welsh Cup with many victories and a lasting presence in the semifinals or finals. It is really impossible to imagine the Welsh Cup without The Scarlets among the likely protagonists. This year the team has not missed the chance to shine in the Heineken Cup so winning its Pool and getting a home quarter-final chance against the dangerous French side of U.S.A. Perpignan coached by the renowned Olivier Saisset. Should Llanelli overcome the French threat they will be away in the semi-final either at Leinster’s Donnybrook or Biarritz’s Stade de Aguiléra. 

But are The Scarlets so worried about the semi-final draw? Surely not. They are worried instead for the spoiling rugby politics of Dave Moffett at the helm of the executive power at WRU headquarters. As we know Moffett has convinced the WRU not to field the Wales “A” selection for the 2003 Six Nations competitions. By doing that many eyebrows were raised and not only those of that team’s coach, Mike Ruddock who normally makes a living with Ebbw Vale RFC. Even England’s guru Clive Woodward talked about that strange decision due to “financial troubles”. As if to avoid financial losses, breaking traditions and popular passions was the right solution. 

Of course Moffett has gone beyond this. Worse in fact was still to come. He would like to have only four provincial sides (?!) to give professional status so gathering the best Welsh players instead of keeping eleven clubs in the Welsh League. And to have a draft system to locate the emerging players in the same position on the field in different provincial sides so to have more chances to start as titulars. Llanelli and its supporters didn’t stay sitting and decided to fight against those decisions. 

In a while 4,000 signatures of friends and supporters of The Scarlets were gathered under the name of “Save our Scarlets”. Llanelli has asked to stand alone and not to merger with Swansea or anyone else in the restructuring of the professional rugby in Wales. We must remember that at the moment Llanelli RFC’s president is former Wales’ centre Ray Gravell. A tough and solid three-quarter in his playing days and a tough and solid administrator nowadays. 

Llanelli’s hopes have already crashed against WRU’s decisions. Who is right? Difficult to say. Both actors have their rights and their good reasons. However after more than a hundred and thirty years of tradition in the Principality it seems very difficult to change the direction of that rugby. People there has been living with hot matches i.e. between Cardiff and Newport, or featuring Swansea v Llanelli and so on. Now they are asked to give up all their backgrounds and to suddenly love squads named West Wales, Central Wales…..what? Are you joking Mr Moffett? 

Okay you have a budget and you should try to cut whichever does not bring money. But you cannot shoot at the heart of the Welshmen. It’s too much, unbearable. Moffett thinks to introduce the same structure as in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia so forgetting that in those countries the huge distances between the great rugby centres has imposed that choice whereas in Wales the towns are close enough to create passion and genuine challenges. And as Llanelli RFC’s administrators have just confirmed their decision to stand alone and the need for a 5-provincial side system the WRU has accused The Scarlets still to have a debit of £ 2.3 millions. But Moffett’s accusation is not true. Our “Dear Dave” once again has talked rubbish. 

Welsh rugby has had twelve fabulous years between 1968 and 1980 when they were crowned as the best team of that period winning many Grand Slams in the then Five Nations tournament with lots of Triple Crowns etc. The eras then go and also their best players and after the 4th place in the 1987 inaugural RWC Down Under, Wales hasn’t achieved much more up to now. Hence the frenetic research of the reasons for such a jinx at international level. Cuttings matches and selections don’t help to build a new way for the future of Welsh rugby. 

Look at Llanelli RFC’s pride and we shall understand better and better the character and the do-or-die policy to give to all Welsh rugby. 

Please, dear Dave don’t go to any of the Welsh pubs for a while. In this wrong period dominated by criminal words like globalisation and clonation you could meet someone who is still thinking on his own way and with his own brain. 

The Russians, bless them, haven't got 75 roubles to rub together. They overcome major difficulties just to play the game and then suffer the harshest disciplinary treatment in the sport's history. Trying to pay the fine will destroy rugby in Russia.      Brendan Gallagher on Russia's expulsion from RWC 

I'm aware of talk over Robbie (Kempson) and me and I have spoken to one or two agents to try and glean more information. I'm no spring chicken and my future plans should also make financial sense.     Ex-Springbok Brent Moyle on being scouted for the RWC

Dixie (Stormers hooker Pieter Dixon) has already told me not to try and go down the blindside as he will smash me, my response to that was simple. He has to catch me first!      Bob Skinstad on playing against his old team, the Stormers.

It's up to the Super 12 coaches how they play their players. There's no compulsion to follow my suggestions, I'm not going to be a hypocrite.      Eddie Jones referring to his refusal in playing Larkham at no 10 pre 1999 RWC

The only memories I have of England and the English are unpleasant ones.      Imanol Harinordoquy

They are chauvinistic and arrogant, they look down on everybody.     Imanol Harinordoquy on England

The only rule was never to retaliate when the ref could see.     Brian "Pitbull" Moore on France

Time and again I heard the sweet sound of booing in Paris. This was a sure sign that all was well.    Brian "Pitbull" Moore

Find out how SARFU controls the rugby media in the bumper January/February issue of SA Rugby Magazine, on sale now. For more info visit www.sarugby.com

Letters to the Editor
Hi Ed

Welcome back from the annual hibernation and waistline thickening. May this New Year realise the results we so optimistically believed would be ours prior to the Northern Hemisphere tour last year.

Sadly my optimism has been replaced by pessimism for the year ahead due to the deafening silence from SARFU. Surely a tour that realised the worst results ever, with the most record scores against us, should have had SARFU offering the rugby public an explanation? Are Oberholtzer the Obdurate and Nkununu the Unknown the right people for the job of directing our most passion eliciting sport? Perhaps as amateurs in a professional era they should step down and be replaced by more suitable management who recognise the need to communicate with their business' supporters?

I do have one fervent wish this year and that is not to hear one Super 12, Provincial or National coach utter the words 'developing or building towards.' The coaches and the players are incredibly well remunerated individuals paid to provide the sport's supporters with entertainment. Its entertaining when you win, its depressing when you lose! I don't give a hoot (polite hey?) who coaches the team as long as they understand their task is to win with a minimum 85% success rate and a World Cup semi-final spot only being acceptable.

Turning to the Super 12 build-up, I and a number of colleagues are wondering why its necessary for the Sharks to travel to the UK to play warm up games against some club and then the Stormers? Surely that spend would be better aimed at staging warm up games in the under privileged communities to assist in the sport's development for example?

Oh, and a prediction. Having lost the speed and experience of Warren Britz and not having had it replaced, great success in the Super 12 for the Sharks is as probable as receiving open and honest communication from SARFU!

Storm Ferguson


Nice to have you guys back. Hope your festive season was a good one.

Quick note on Giampaolo's story. Firstly, hearty congratulations that have included Italy in your e-publication. I'll venture to say you've done better than any other SA or UK publication I've seen. The point I wanted to raise......I quote ".....first ever foreigner to play in the history of Azzurri, many people thought he was speaking about Gert Peens. .... Instead the player considered was another New Zealander, Matt Phillips".

Just of the top of my head, excluding players with Italian ancestry (Argentinian Dominquez, Pez & others, South African Cuttita brothers, Kiwi Aaron Persico and Ozzie Mark Giacheri) I can think of one other foreigner who did duty for Italy (even in 6N) before Mark Phillips or Gert Peens - Durban's very own Wim Visser - first capped in '99.

In elk geval, dankie vir julle werk, sien uit na ure se leesgenot.

Groete uit die sneeu
Ryan Spencer

Hi Ryan, yes you are quite correct, there were other "foreigners" before Gert, as for claiming Wim Visser as "Durban's very own" the people from Maritzburg will have quite a lot to say about that!

Dear Lucas,

Please wont you give us a final log prediction for the super 12. I am very negative about SA rugby at the moment I don't believe we are willing to learn from our mistakes and I think it will take nothing short of 5 years of consistent coaching and selection and a serious amount of intelligent input to turn us around . I would almost be willing to put money down that we wont be in the top 4 and we will have at least 2 teams in the bottom 4, negative ?. Give me 5 good reasons why I should think otherwise . 


Hi George, I'll be posting my predictions in a week or two, before the start of the comp. As for putting your money on no SA side in the Top 4... the best way to double your money is by folding it in half and putting it back in your pocket! We need to support our teams and maybe the positive vibes will rub off on the players who in turn will perform. Well maybe!

Meneer Lucas

'n Vinnige vraag aan jou nuwe Italiaanse korrespondent: Hy maak die bewering dat Matt Phillips die eerste "foreigner" was om vir Italië te speel. Wat was Wilhemus Visser dan? En Diego Dominguez? Ek sal graag wil weet hoekom hulle nie as "foreigners" kwalifiseer nie.

Mag die Bokke ons hierdie jaar trots, buitensporig bly en dronk van geluk maak.

Andre Duvenhage

Geagte Redakteur

Goed om te sien julle is terug en gereed vir n nuwe en hoopvol meer positiewe jaar.

Graag wil ek vra vir n super 12 program. Hier in Ierland hoor ons niks en my versoek aan Boots en All is Bokkerol. 

Wil graag uitvind op watter kanale hulle dit in Europa sal wys, want kyk wil ek. Ek glo n paar nuwe spelers
sal die lig sien. 

Hopenlik sal ons spelers met trots sien ,en nie 'gemaakte helde' soos voorheen nie. Bedoelende spelers wat Bokke genoem word en raak voor hulle regtig gereed is en onnodige vernedering moet verduur.

Kies tog spelers wat fiks is en ervaring het.Hopenlik kan Rudi vir Mallet wys dat Afrikaanse afrigters meer van tegniek weet as wat hy van kan droom. Kan nie glo dat hy wat so n 'god' was, homself die reg toelaat om sulke twak kwyt te raak nie.

Verder dink ek die super 12 is n kompetisie wat al is dit hoe opwindend, her oorweeg moet word. Te veel spelers word beseer en te min tyd word gelaat vir afrigters om hul spanne ordentlik te brei vir die seisoen- Vodacom en Curriebeker.

Miskien moet na n stelsel soos die Europese klub kampioenskappe gekyk word waar die wedstryde oor n lang tydperk gespeel word.

Verder wens ek ons afrigters en spelers alle voorspoed toe vir n nuwe jaar. Geniet dit en weet ek en ander is met julle, maar gaan beslis kritiek lewer.

Tjaart Coetzee

Dag Tjaart, reen dit daar? Ek verwys jou graag na die RF webblad, daar is 'n skakel na die Super 12 program vir 2003.

Let us know what you think!

Hmm, a bit of a Kylie fan eh Lucas? It's a shame we can't get more Kylie into the Super12. She could be just the answer for the Reds at half-back, although she hasn't played League she is at least Australian...
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