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|Volume 3, Week 4
|Brilliant! Finally, it is Super
12 time! The year’s most anticipated rugby competition kicks off this
coming Friday. Hopefully all you readers followed suit by replenishing
food and beverage stocks, hiring a garden and pool cleaning service and
spending just that extra time with friends and family because over the
next 13 weeks there is only one place to be; in front of the TV shouting,
cheering and crying! Oh ja, talking of crying, there’s also the World Cup
cricket… so make sure you have extra batteries for the remote!
RF promised a review and a prediction last week of the competition however in hindsight it is not a good idea to pontificate and write all kinds of drivel on how this team could pan out and that team should perform without watching any games, especially the Antipodean sides. The proof, as almost always, is in the pudding and after the first round everyone will have a fair idea of how their favourite teams will go in this year, the 8th of the competition. So begging your forgiveness but next week there will be no holding back!
The local sides are a slightly different matter as recent results and history has shown what supporters can expect from their teams. In a competition dominated by the New Zealanders the time has come and with apologies to Midnight Oil and Peter Garrett for South African rugby sides to “pay the rent and pay their share”! The local “derbies” (swearword meaning an SA side will win) are always hard and uncompromising affairs and for this observer it will constitute THE test if our players are capable of conforming to the discipline so vital in the modern game.
The Six Nations sprang its first surprise but then judging from our man at the match Giampaolo, certain Welshman half expected a drubbing, auguri Italia! The other matches resulted pretty much as expected, Ireland will be a big contender in the competition and may prove the spanner in the carefully oiled Anglo French works. England again emphasized their home advantage by beating France with the expected narrow margin compliments of the unerringly Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking. This young man is the England kingpin and coach Woodward will be wrapping layers of cotton around his match winner to guarantee him fit and available come October.
SA Rugby has acquired the services of Rob Kempson for the next few months, by agreeing terms with Ulster, Kempson’s current employer. What it means is the world class prop will be available for an SA team in the Super 12, and so comply to the rules set out for Springbok selection. This bold move should be applauded, if the players in SA are not good enough, sorry, country first – even if that means buying the best back from the UK. It will also give the local prima donnas a kick up the proverbial to clean up their act and perform with a certain work ethic expected from professional sportsmen.
A lot of your letters express doubt in our player’s abilities and the state of the rugby. It is important, however difficult, to retain belief; Abbe Pire wrote the following, “What matters today is not the difference between those who believe and those who do not believe, but the difference between those who care and those who don't.”
Enjoy the weekend matches and support the teams live at the park!
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|And away we go! by Tom Marcellus
|Yep, it's that time of the year again, when, after much
fighting talk by their coaches, our Super 12 teams finally don their
knuckle-dusters and body armour and get down to the serious business of
mixing it up with the enemy on the battlefields of NZ, Aus and our own
Afrika Borwa. It might still be mid-summer, filled with blazing
skies and sweaty nights, but put away those bats and pads, bury those
swimming trunks, and gird your loins for rugger action!
I don't know about you good folk, but, as I contemplate the looming onslaught that is the Super 12, I have to admit that this native is decidedly restless. The thing is that, with the, sadly, now almost hollow "Bring it home" words of Polly & Co still ringing in my ears, and after the disappointments of recent seasons, my youthful naivete has finally worn off, and I am no longer impressed by mere words of bravado. The old beer-induced bar-room cry of "Hold me back, I'm a tiger when I'm loose" just doesn't cut the mustard anymore.
I certainly had these rather melancholic sentiments in mind when on Tuesday night I listened to Sharks supremo Kevin Putt, as he assured a partisan crowd of Natal Midlands yokels that, despite the pitiful performances of his team in England recently, fans would find his side rejuvenated come Friday night's re-match against the Stormers.
Here we go again, I thought to myself, as Putty spluttered his way through his address, and I sighed and reached for the remote. More predictable pre-season hot air about pride for the jersey and the joys of home town support – but can they back it up with famous try-scoring deeds out on the park, me wonders?
But I like to think that, despite the odd glitch, I am not a pig-headed, unreasonable fan. Hell (it must be said), what a thankless job these fellows in the track pants have, when initial expectations are high but reality dishes out a rash of bad luck, under-performing players, blind reffs and crummy results. I can only but imagine the underlying feelings of anxiety suffered by players and their coaches – whatever your views on what they earn – when, with the score mounting, they realise that it's all going pear-shaped and they will have to face baying fans and a wrathful press in the morning.
On that note, I happened to be grumbling down the blower yesterday to my guv'nor about the lamentable position that our cricketers now suddenly find themselves in. His rather harsh (hopefully tongue-in-cheek) retort went along the lines that we live in a third-world country and should brace ourselves for third-rate results. Well, bugg*r me with a fish fork if I accept that view, but lurking within my old man's rather pitiless stance lies the obvious, but often ignored, truth that (with due apologies to the Big Easy) we cannot all be winners all of the time.
Yes, me hearties, that includes us too – and our Proteas and even our beloved het Springbokken. We all know that God is a Seth Effrican, but He doesn't want to give the game away.
As we are forced to contemplate the ignominy of a possible first round exit for Polly & Co, I have begun my count-down to, happily, the premature end of the cricket season. It's a mug's game, a wretched, ignoble past-time (I tell myself, with dubious conviction).
For the next day or so, the possibilities of the oval game seem endless, and I can again dream of vicarious success for my team on distant fields. We're gonna trample those Kiwis into the Carisbrook mud, and stick our gnarled fingers in 'Strayan eyes – glory beckons for me and my manne.
Afterall Putty said so, and he wouldn't be wrong, would he?
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|Colour Blind by Desmond Organ
Bless the day that sport in the world is free of the issue of colour and a
person is able to take the field of play and be acknowledged based on
ability alone. Sounds like a bit of a pluralist pipe dream, if you take
away the colour issue there is bound to be some other means of
differentiating on the basis of opportunity or class. It is a concurrent
theme in the world that surrounds us, from the halls of the Security
Council of the United Nations to the playing fields of the rugby world;
this issue seems to be at the center of proceedings.
The truth of the matter is that there is a degree of prejudice in every person, coming to terms with this and identifying that it is and continues to be a problem will be at the center of many debates. One of the positive things about South Africa is that as a result of the demographics of the nation and the unique challenges that we faced at the end of Apartheid, there is no doubt that we are dealing with it. I felt a deep sense of pride when Madiba had the vision to speak out against the events at the UN. Several commentators accused him of playing the “race card’, strange then that people of a so-called darker pigmentation chose to define it as a case of being off base.
It is with this thought in mind that I turned my mind to the unfolding series of events at the Cricket World Cup, what a surprise that we should have post-colonial mud slinging between administrators, politicians and players. This might seem like a purely cricket related issue but it is not. Rugby in South Africa has the reputation of being a game based on racial prejudice that has been forced down the road of transformation in order to survive. Herein lies the real celebration of being South African, something that seems to surpass us as we look at the results of the last few years. The question to ask of all South Africans is what is more important to us, winning or being a team that represents the aspirations of the nation however idealistic that may seem.
Sitting at Twickenham last year I was faced with the most haunting of scenarios, a defeat by a margin of 50 points to a country that for years represented for me the bastion of domination and differentiation. The small gesture of a peppermint treat from a media coordinator at the end of the second half could have been a taunt, but I truly believe that it was meant in good faith. The chap was truly appreciative of the fact that the game had been played at all. This is something that the English cricketers, however noble their cause, might have forsaken with their decision not to play. A bold statement was made and that is enough for this scribe.
The events that have unfolded around this crisis are even more disturbing, “racial jaunts” and counter accusations in a game that is played by millions of people of all types and sizes. The administrators have decided in some instance to join the fray, if the reports of the media are to be taken on face value alone. Herein lies an additional challenge for the sporting world; if the players are to be held accountable for their action then the same should apply to the administrators.
It is not acceptable to rant and rave about the injustices of the past if the behaviour that is forthcoming in public circumstances is just as reprehensible. Racist taunts and threats of sanctions of some form or other are simply missing the point. The excessive number of politically insensitive moralists in the world is one of the reasons that people who have been oppressed manage in an oppressive manner.
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|The Underdog French by Vinesh Naicker
was unable to see the 6 Nation games in the weekend. Sky TV has the rights
in NZ and I didn’t think it was worth a $900 investment to upgrade my
subscription to allow me to watch the 6 Nations. However I read about the
results and was pretty pleased. I was hoping that the Italians and the
English would win.
The Italians really needed a win to boost the game in their country and the Welsh needed another kick in the teeth to remind them that they still haven’t done anything to get their game in order and train some decent players.
Under normal circumstances I would have preferred the French to beat the English but I think it will make for a much better World Cup if the French lose the 6 Nations to the English. I figure if the French had won against the English and then gone on to win the 6 Nations, possibly even with a Grand Slam then they would have been going into the World Cup as favourites. Now I don’t know about you but I have never seen a French team that was much good when they were the favourites, they always seem to play at their most sublime when they are underdogs. They have been the team that has been the most memorable for me in the World Cups.
In 1987, the match between France and Australia was the most exciting game of rugby I have ever seen. The Australians were dead certain that they would be in the final against the All Blacks and their form to that point had been good. But when they met France in the semi-final it was a clash of two styles. Australia dominated possession and marched the French up the field to score the inevitable try. The French retaliated with scintillating back play to move the ball out wide with pace and score. Time and again the Australians marched them back only for the French to respond with their fantastic back play. France won that match, they went on to play the All Blacks, who dominated them with their methodical rugby and won the final. But more than any other, France was the team that showed that the results in the World Cup were not a foregone conclusion and that there was scope for teams to tear up the form book.
Samoa did the same in the 1991 World Cup, beyond all expectations making it to the quarter finals and in the process becoming the darlings of the tournament.
Then came the 1995 World Cup, although the destruction of England by Jonah is most people's lasting memory, for me the French played a gallant role as well. Their form in the tournament was good, although not spectacular but once again with their talented backline they were expected to be able to outplay a committed but plodding South African back line. The gods intervened though and it poured with rain, the field looked to be covered in ankle deep water and there was a real possibility that anybody caught at the bottom of a ruck could drown. Against any other team or in any other country, the game would have been called off due to the conditions, but it would have been politically incorrect to do so then, as it would have meant South Africa being out of the tournament. So in conditions which negated all their advantages France were forced to face off against the might of the Springboks. Now everybody knows that a Springbok team takes a lot of beating, they just refuse to give up (last November being the obvious exception) and the Bok team of ’95 was the most lion-hearted I have seen. Yet the French matched them, the game was only narrowly won by the Boks and the final result was in doubt right to the end. I can honestly say that on a dry track, I believe, the French, with the heart they showed in that game, would have won. That game to me was every bit as exciting as the final.
As they had done against the Wallabies in 1987 once again did the French to the All Blacks in 1999. The All Blacks had arrogantly assumed, as they had also done in 1991 that they had some sort of divine right to play in the final. After beating a once again disappointing England team in pool play, the All Blacks, along with most of the world expected to cruise into the final against the Wallabies or the Boks. France had other ideas, and in the semi-final they totally outplayed a clueless All Black team to once again tear up the form books. Alas they had no gas left in their tanks to face a clinical Australia and went down heavily in the final.
That is why I believe that losing the 6 Nations to England will be good for the French, and for the World Cup. A French team, that is no longer the favourite, and that is still hurting from the loss to England, should light up the 2003 tournament.
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|'Opener' is a Wrong Word for the Welshmen by Giampaolo Tassinari
The day had to come, earlier or later. Italy had never
beaten Wales in the previous eight outings whereas a couple of times the
Welshmen had many troubles to escape with the victory. This time Italy had
only one word: risk. They could not afford to play the infamous waiting
match sitting down and look at what the opponents would do. Costly
mistakes and indiscipline already affected Italy plays in the past with
the appalling results known to the four corners of the globe. This time
Italy knew that the Welshmen were weakened by many injuries and perhaps in
the forwards they did not have that much strength.
|So, how do I think our (SA) teams will go in the Super 12?
Well I'm 'swartgallig'. Very 'swartgallig'. Dan
Retief after describing the word's meaning as - Sour. Down. Filled with
bile. The opposite of positive.
It is good to know that my performances were being monitored in South Africa. Each week I have gone out and given my best for Ulster. I had not given the World Cup much thought, given the regulation in place in South Africa regarding foreign-based players representing the Springboks. Rob Kempson on being "acquired" by SA Rugby for the RWC.
Look, one always regrets it afterwards when your aggression boiled over, but rugby is a physical game that depends on intimidation. You always have to push the frontiers. The only difference this year will be that I will try not to cross the boundaries. Controlled aggression will be my motto this year. Corne Krige
There is much to work on this week, and we must maintain our humility. John Kirwan after a historical triumph for Italy.
$#@&*^%?!!! French supporters at Twickenham!
There may still be unanswered questions about England's ability to secure big victories on their travels but at home they are virtually unbeatable. Paul Ackford
These are the best 32 players in Wales, like it or not. We have to come together after this. Nobody is going to give us a chance against England. Steve Hansen
(Previous year's score in brackets)
|Letters to the Editor
Back to Basics
I think it is high time professional rugby players had to have IQ tests before they are offered contracts and a higher IQ should be viewed as more important than talent. I say this because SA rugby is going down the tubes because the international game is changing as I write and a glaring lack of intelligence in our SA players.
How many times do we hear our coaches saying "we have to go back to basics". How thick are they that after only 4 weeks off (they always complain that they don't have enough time to recover) they can't remember the basics or the rules. Can you imagine if ordinary people like you and me had to go on training courses after being on leave for a month! Pilots have to be tested but they don't have to learn the basics again. How many times do the same players give away penalties for going over the ball, picking it up when they shouldn't, late tackles, tackling without arms, or kick the ball away when everyone knows that you can only score tries when you have the ball.
The coaches also need to be tested. They always blame the players but what about their "dumbness".
The wings are normally the fastest guys in the team - why? So they can run round their opposition. Our coaches say no bring the ball back so our big forwards don't have to run all the way across the field, but rather only 10 metres to the break down! Who are normally the slowest guys in the team? The front row and locks! Again our coaches insist we bring the ball back to the forwards where the slow guys can get there.
Do you see where I am going with this. Rugby is a simple game. Its hard and tough but it is simple so why do we in SA try and make it so hard. Thanks for RF it always makes for great reading.
I really endorse your Putt 'blah, blah, blah.' he really is pressing the putty! If for one brief moment I could have seen a glimmer of individual inspiration from either the Sharks or the Stormers during their games at The Stoop I'd hold some hope for the international year ahead. Honestly both teams looked like they were spreading what the field needs for springtime!
You ask for RSA team predictions for the Super 12:
12th - Bulls as usual.
11th - Sharks
10th - Cats
7th - Stormers.
New Zealand teams will make up three of the semi-final places.
Turning to on field discipline for dirty play, surely the quickest way in which to get the players to understand the gravity of their actions would be for the coach and Union to treat them with meaningful disciplinary action. I suggest the following:
Dirty play penalty = two weeks back playing Club rugby to prove his ability to play clean.
Dirty Play Yellow Card = one month back playing Club rugby to prove his ability to play clean.
Dirty Play Red Card = three months back playing Club rugby to prove his ability to play clean.
The assumption is that all contract payments would be suspended until the player returned to full Union use, so the miscreant would have to exist on savings/club game payments until his return to contract heaven. Any dirty play penalties earned at Club level would have the player's contract suspended for the season. Sure it may make him a target for opposition Club players, but that will test his resolve to clean up his act or suffer accordingly, and falls into the 'tough sh*t' repercussion category of life! The above automatic punishments would also take the disciplinary matter away from coach and Union hands where they would be tempted to dilute a punishment to retain a 'class' player.
For Edward Coetzee to open up his season with a stiff arm tackle (first 10 minutes against Harlequins) is unacceptable and proves that nothing has been learned since last season. Butch James needs to undergo lengthy hypnotherapy to undo his muscle memory and reprogramme his tackling technique. Then Hottie Louw for the Stormers also proved his misunderstanding of the difference between physical aggression and dirty play.
I have just recently joined the Springbok supporters club. I am a very big Stormers and Western Province fan. I think they are wasting Gaffie du Toit in their team, as Chris Rossouw is our regular flyhalf and Werner Greeff the regular fullback. Why didn’t they rather invest in a player like Trevor Halstead or even Andre Snyman? I would like to hear your views on this.
Johann van Wyngaardt
Hi Johann, the thinking behind Gaffie Du Toit's move was more a story of adding depth to the squad, he is an "all-rounder" who can play any position in the backline bar scrumhalf and he is known to kick a few goals. I also think that after the loss of Percy, Smal and the WP/Stormers faithful need a new pair of shoulders to blame for any mishaps! :-) Ed.
Tydens die groot ramptoer verlede jaar na Frankryk en die eilandjie, het ek begin dink aan die groot held genaamd Brett Russel. Op die toer het Dolfie nie kans gesien om hom naby die groot voorspelers te laat speel nie en hom iewers, ver na agter weggesteek, vleuel, waar ons weet die Bokke in die laaste tyd bitter selde die bal kry. Dit het goed gewerk, totdat hy die bal gekry het. Russel is te lig vir 'n internasionale rugbyspeler. Sy direkte oponente verdwerg hom totaal. Dan ken hy nie van reguit hardloop nie, dis altyd met snaakse kronkels en draaie en skielik is hy vas, word omgedop en van die bal beroof.
Dieselfde het gebeur op The Stoop die ander dag toe die Sharks teen 'Quins gespeel het. Russel kon nie hond haaraf maak nie. Toe Butch op nommer 10 oorneem het daar skielik vloei in die agterlyn gekom en die Sharks het die oorhand begn kry. Ek vermoed die Natalse Rugby Unie is reeds spyt hulle het so baie geld betaal vir iemand wat hulle vanjaar nog lang trane gaan laat huil. Selfs teen die Stormers was Russel nie 'n faktor nie.
Ek was saam met die hele SA be-indruk tydens verlede jaar se proewe, toe hy teen die einde van die wedstryd sy verskyning op die veld maak en gate deur 'n klomp moeë verdedigers gehardloop het. Mislei tot in die duisendste mag! Die dag toe hy sy eerste toets drie druk het ek ook gedink dis wonderlik!
Maar toe hy beseer raak en Werner neem op 15 oor, begin dinge lol. Waar moet Russel speel? Nommer 10? Nommer 11 of 14 of 15? (Ek glo nie hy het 'n skopvoet vir 'n heelagter nie.) Ek dink hy moet die 15-man kode los en hom toespits op Sewes. Daar is hektare spasie waarin hy kan kronkel en draai na hartelus. Ek het verlede jaar van Gauteng af gery om Sewes in George te gaan kyk en besef Russel is uitgeknip vir daardie spel. Rats, glibberig, blitsig en klein genoeg om deur enige gaping te glip. Teen 15 verdedigers is daar net nie sulke gapings nie. Daar is altyd iemand op dekverdediging. As hy dalk nog deur die eerste lyn kan kom, sal die dekverdediger hom beslis slag. Die keer wat hy deur die Ozzies geglip het, is reeds so bestudeer deur die teenstanders, dat hy dit in 100 jaar nie weer sal regkry nie. Dit het die Franse en die Engelse ons reeds gewys.
Dis ook nie 'n skande om te spesialiseer in die Sewes-kode nie. Kyk maar na daardie sogenaamde "Koning van Sewes" Serevi van Fidji en Rush van NZ. Hulle het die 15-man kode gelos en net op die Sewes gekonsentreer. Ja, hulle word soms gekies in 'n 15-span maar net Rush beteken dan werklik iets. Serevi hou glad nie daarvan nie. Hulle toer na die noorde verlede jaar het dit gewys.
Miskien het ek nou 'n kat in die duiwehok gegooi maar ek is bevrees, as Russel deel moet uitmaak van ons WB-2003 span is ons in die moeilikheid.
Wat stel ek voor? Enige van Hall, Paulse (Moontlik ook 'n bietjie lig) Terblanche, Slap-chips, Pitout, of miskien Juries. Daar kan ook nog ander wees. Hulle moet net in hul gereelde posisies gekies word. Tans praat ons van vleuel.
Ek dag ek sê maar net.
Kys de Wet.