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|Volume 3, Week 6
|Brilliant! Oh what a week it has been, en emotional roller coaster of epic proportions! The Bulls surprised friend and foe by pulling off a fantastic victory against the Hurricanes overseas, the Sharks beat the Fumblies in Durban to get their campaign back on track and Messrs Duckworth and Lewis (whoever the hell they are!) intervened to help New Zealand reached the Super Sixes in the Cricket World Cup! It just shows the kind of repercussions a Bulls victory in New Zealand bring about!!
The Super 12 weekend began with quite a nasty surprise when Troy Flavell lost his mind after just 5 minutes and stomped Chiefs hooker, Greg Smith on the head, opening a nasty and bloody wound for all to see. Needless to say the All Black will not be taking part in this competition anymore. The modern game has left any kind of “sorting out” obsolete and it seems like many of the current players simply cannot understand this. Hefty fines and bans are not instilling the fear of God so what is the solution to this problem? Players are selected by coaches and employed by unions, basically they are assets in a business, and the most effective way to curb indiscipline is to punish the owners of the asset. Once the employers see hard earned cash flowing out of the coffers due to the stupidity of an individual, the result should be easy economics.
A very early Saturday morning reminiscent of the ’81 tour to New Zealand proved a bit of a disappointment as a mean-looking Highlanders team thrashed the Stormers at the House of Pain. One always got the impression that with the two powerful wings, working in tandem a try was merely a shrug of their powerful hips or a slight acceleration away. The Kiwi’s have some fine runners out wide and if they were only eligible for the All Blacks opposing sides would have more than their hands full. The Stormers had a few chances but as often happened in the past, they were butchered. Losing in Dunedin is no disgrace, few teams walk away with a win and with the Highlanders in rampant form visitors will only experience “pain” this year. The Stormers need to regroup and capitalize on the Bulls' good efforts against the Hurricanes by taking their opportunities.
The mighty Bulls! Wow, this humble scribe cannot confess to ever shouting his lungs out for the men in blue from Pretoria but the 2003 vintage and their performance on Saturday changed all that. Rudi Joubert’s men face their biggest test of the season this weekend in New Zealand’s southern most city against the Highlanders and to them a bit of advice - tackle, tackle and tackle!
The poor Cats, they seem to have no claws and after two matches and two losses on the trot, coach Tim Lane will feel the heat. Hopefully like a cat on a hot tin roof the exciting players to his disposal will pull the proverbial from their backside and land on their feet. The Fumblies will never perform as bad again as they were against the Sharks and the advice to the Cats - scrum, scrum and scrum!
Last but not least, the Sharks who were lucky to face a Brumbies side totally devoid of handling, it was their worst performance in the many years this quality side has been playing Super 12 rugby. The Sharks to their credit got stuck in and finished them off unlike the Reds the previous week and maybe this was exactly the kind of confidence booster Kevin Putt needed. The Sharks supporters can now go back to Kings Park or ABSA, whatever, and cheer their team as they will need all the support they can muster against a Waratah side who is due for a good game after two iffish performances. Advice to the Sharks – focus, focus and focus!
The weekend promises some great rugby and with the Six Nations back there are some salivating matches to look forward too. France travel to Dublin and at the beautiful Landsdowne Road the Irish will be a formidable challenge and this armchair supporter fancies a bit of a surprise with the Paddies sneaking a win.
Advance to the weekend! Go and enjoy the game live at the park!
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|Glory to the Blou hordes by Tom Marcellus
|This week, as I pondered about the vagaries of the weather and fantasised idly about tracking down Messrs Duckworth and Lewis and then gently applying a blunt potato peeler to their nether regions, I couldn't help but chuckle at the sudden re-emergence of those much-maligned fellows from the nation's capital, namely Rudi Joubert and his Blue Bulls.
Now I have never been much of a fan of Joost and his muscled, mustachioed hordes, and the Currie Cup finals of my youth invariably had me supporting the blue 'n white hoops of "Prooovince", rather than Naas & Co, but I just had to cheer out loud on Saturday morning, as they swept to victory against the hapless Hurricanes. The Bulls may well be the reigning Currie Cup champs, but the rather melancholic conclusion reached by many rugby scribes in these parts was that they would struggle in this year's Super 12, as they have done with disturbing monotony in the past.
But not so far, and, spearheaded by some peerless kicking by Louis Koen and rampaging work by their mean-eyed pack, they have swept aside those other under-achievers, the Cats and the 'Canes, in grand style. A closet Stormers fan I might have once been, during my misspent youth, but I simply had to admire the determination, in adversity, of Joost van der Westhuizen and his bullocks, whose apparent lack of big-match experience and high-profile players was more than matched by good old fashioned guts and bloody-mindedness.
It's still early days, and one would not want to put the "Mocca" (as those infidel Aussies would say) on the Bulls by trumping up their chances, but such was the mongrel spirit shown by the Bulls on Saturday that I will from now on be casting the odd hopeful, approving glance in their direction. Grizzled old-timers like Thys Lourens and Burger Geldenhuys must have grinned into their morning polisie koffies on Saturday, as, time and time again, the snorting Bulls careered into their opponents.
As the final hooter went and the long-awaited victory was finally clinched, the joy, relief and pride in the faces of Joost and his team was all too evident. Blou had prevailed, and, with the job complete, and as the camera lens panned across the dejected crowd, all that there was left for me to do was to shout out those timeless words, "Who's your Daddy, you Kiwi bast*rds?!"
The last few years have been agonising ones for me, as well as for all other SA rugby fans. Just as well it doesn't show, eh?
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|Fat Tuesday by Desmond Organ
|Thank goodness for the Bulls without whom this calendar event would have been a disappointing one for those of us housed in the land of the over eager. The cricket world cup is another reason to be thankful to be far away from the mourning of the thousands upon thousands of expectant fans in South Africa. Yet I was celebrating the success of the Bulls with intent to abstain from one of my habits in the hope that this will lead to repeat performances in the coming weeks.
The surprise on the faces of several of my expatriate friends when I told them the outcome was another good opportunity to conceal the fact that there is still a lot that has got to improve in the South African game. I watched in disillusion as the so-called best South African team capitulated in the face of some hard and very good interpretations of the obstruction and offside rules. Then there was the performance of the Sharks, which was only shadowed by the overseas location of the Bulls win. Let’s hope the Cats will come to the Mardi Gras party and dispatch the Brumbies in similar fashion.
A week is a long time in the game of rugby and we could be facing the prospect of four defeats this coming weekend. I sincerely hope that the Highlanders will be prevented from exercising the kind of intimidation that they did a week ago. Of all the games that were played at the weekend this was the one that concerned me the most. Not only did the Stormers have a territorial and possession advantage at the half, they looked the better team. The second half was not quite the same story and like the Brumbies they were unable to overcome a massive deficit.
Rugby in South Africa has always been blessed with the presence of effective forwards and backs even if they rise to levels of perfection at different times. The criticism that has come from the four corners of the world about the boring, ineffective and skill deficient nature of our game had many wondering what the future held. The drubbing at Twickenham was a real reason for concern and yet there is still a great deal to be happy about. Firstly the prospect of a team comprised of an excessive number of players from any one region might be avoided.
It appears as if the structures put in place by SA Rugby might just be starting to pay dividends. The best players in South Africa are now playing at the highest level and the co-operation between the coaches in allowing fringe players to be released to other regions is encouraging. We are however at risk of sending an inexperienced team to the World Cup or perhaps even sending an outdated one. The performance of players like Corne Krige and Robbie Fleck were quite simply appalling. Fleck was praised just a week ago only to spend the next game missing tackle after tackle and getting involved in several minor off the ball incidents.
The announcement by our current captain as to his intentions at the end of the year might be a good reason to send him on his way at an earlier time. Whilst many overseas players respect the physical nature of his game and his tenacious never say die attitude, I do not believe that he has the right leadership capabilities for the big games. The last thing we need is a rugby equivalent of a dressing room divided on the issue of leadership past and present.
The forward performances of the Bulls are as good a platform as any from which to build a better-equipped and more competitive national side. It might not be as spectacular as the one that played a year ago but it might just provide us with some much needed national pride and a solid base from which to develop a truly world class team.
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|The Super 12 continues to surprise and entertain by Vinesh Naicker
|Chiefs (27) vs.Blues (30)
I fully expected the Chiefs to get annihilated in this game. Auckland had beaten Waikato quite comprehensively in
the NPC final at the end of last year and the Blues had demolished the Waratahs last week. In addition the Chiefs had been pretty woeful in their game against the Highlanders as well.
The game started off pretty much as expected until Troy Flavell had his moment of madness. Last week AJ Venter earned his nomination for the coveted “Van Zyl award for thuggery on a rugby field”, this week Flavell put his hand up and announced that he is the front runner. Last week I was going to suggest that no All Black would be stupid enough to headbutt a national team mate in a local game, especially in a World Cup year. Luckily I didn’t because Troy Flavell would have proved me wrong, I have little doubt that if it had been Mehrtens or Umaga under his foot Flavell would still not have restrained himself. It was good to see him red carded and for the judiciary to penalise him with a 3 month suspension, which will put a major dent in his World Cup ambitions. That sort of behaviour is not going to win a world championship for any team.
The fact that the Blues won the match despite only having 14 men for 75 minutes tells us something about Flavells net worth. Now I’m good at math but this is a pretty simple algebraic calculation
Equation 1: 14 players Flavell = 1 win
Equation 2: 14 players = 1 win
Deduct equation 2 from equation 1; and the result is
Flavell = 0
In other words he’s not worth much.
That may be a bit harsh, the Blues were expected to romp home and with only 7 players in the forward pack they had to work hard to beat the Chiefs by 3 points in the end. The Chiefs were also guilty of sitting back and thinking the game won after 20 minutes. They lacked urgency and didn’t play intelligently to capitalise on their advantage in the set pieces.
The Blues tried to avoid set pieces and succeeded in maintaining great continuity through the efforts of Mealamu and Braid in particular. Rupeni Caucaunibuca once again demonstrated his class with two tries. He was up against Roger Randle, who knowing he was hopelessly outclassed spent most of the night in an off-side position in a vain attempt to shut him down. Paddy O’Brian's wry comment “Are you sure he’s played for Fiji?” sums up how valuable Caucaunibuca is in his current form.
A well deserved win in the end and the Blues are definitely looking like semi-final material. The Chiefs I fear are destined to be “cellar-dweller” material yet again.
Highlanders (41) vs.Stormers (17)
The Stormers had a great win last week and tend to be the South African side which travels the best. Having said that the Highlanders are always tough to beat at Carisbrook, they like to maintain the reputation of the House of Pain down there.
Once again the Fijian wingers stood out with both Tuilevu and Rambeni scoring two tries apiece. Tuilevu’s work rate was massive especially considering he spent 10 minutes in the sin bin for a professional foul.
Hurricanes (34) vs. Bulls (46)
Despite last weeks win over the Cats I think most people expected the Hurricanes to beat the Bulls. I mean, the sure bet for the last few years in the Super 12 has been that the Bulls will lose all their away games.
For them to travel out to New Zealand and win their first up game is phenomenal. The game was won with old fashioned English type 10 man rugby, and Louis Koen was once again the perfect flyhalf for this sort of game. His place kicking was nearly flawless and his tactical kicks carved out huge yards of territory, his forwards must have been rapt.
I’ve probably said it before but I’m going to say it again the Bulls game plan is what the Super 12 needs. It’s fine to want to play multi-phase flowing rugby and score lost of tries, but if you can’t beat an old fashioned no frills grafting forward pack them then you may as well put away your rugby boots and put on a tutu because this game isn’t for you.
On a different note, I was rather saddened to see how much time has caught up with Christian Cullen. His inability to outrun Jaco Van der Westhuyzen to the try line is another indication that the man who was once the best fullback in the world will struggle to make the World Cup squad. Having seen how young and inept the Hurricanes tight five is, I suspect that by the time the forwards obtain enough parity with other teams their current world class back-line will have aged beyond usefulness, and so the Hurricanes will still be unable to win a Super 12.
Crusaders (34) vs. Reds (6)
The Crusaders shifted up a gear from last week (I suspect they’re in second now) and the Reds reaffirmed my belief that Australians are truly baffled when that wet stuff falls from the sky. The Reds are going to struggle without Kefu for the next month and I suspect if it rains in Hamilton next week they are going to face a torrid test from the Chiefs who will be smarting from the game that got away.
The match of the round is going to have to be the top of the table clash between the Blues and the Crusaders. I suspect the Crusaders may have to flick it into overdrive to beat the Blues.
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|Super 12 Log & Weekly XV
RF Super 12 XV:
15 Matt Rogers (Waratahs), 14 Aisea Tuilevu (Highlanders), 13 Tana Umaga (Hurricanes), 12 Paul Steinmetz (Highlanders), 11 Rupeni Caucaunibuca (Blues), 10 Louis Koen (Bulls), 9 Byron Kelleher (Highlanders), 8 Pedrie Wannenberg (Bulls), 7 Daniel Braid (Blues), 6 Rich McCaw (Crusaders), 5 Victor Matfield (Bulls), 4 Ali Williams (Blues), 3 Kees Meeuws (Blues), 2 Anton Oliver (Highlanders), 1 Tony Woodcock (Blues)
|F*&^%$# Duckworth/Lewis system!!! South African cricket supporters
The players do have a responsibility to check with the doctors that what they are taking is not going to get them into trouble. Brian van Zyl
You couldn't find a better note to finish on than playing - and winning - a World Cup on home soil. What could possibly be left after that? Toutai Kefu on his move to Japan after the RWC
We'll take the win, thank you! Bulls captain Joost van der Westhuizen
Such decisions can only be based on insensibility, arrogance and incompetence. People don't realise that this is important on a worldwide level. It shows a fatal lack of culture. Unfortunately in Italy the important decisions are often entrusted to the wrong people. Matteo Mazzantini on RAI3 television network's decision to broadcast the England/Italy match at midnight
|Super 12 Fixtures
(Previous year's score in brackets)
|Letters to the Editor
It was a good weekend for SA rugby I think. The two old powerhouse of SA rugby is back. We all know that when the Bulls and Stormers (or Ntvl & WP) is strong then SA rugby is strong.
Being a Bull supporter. I am very glad that we started off well this year. There is stil a lot of work to be done, but it looks better than last year. I wish them all the best for the season.
One thing that came out of this weekends games, is the fact that we do not have the power up front that we always use to have. SA rugby was always known for their physical and strong pack of forwards. Yes, we do have players (individuals) that has got flair and agility, but we lack the power. We need guys like Os & Ollie - in form - to make the difference.
Another good thing is that all of a sudden we have got a whole legion of midfield players. We have a few players that can attack the advantage line and cross it. It is however going to be a good test to see what our teams do against Australia's & New Zealand's teams.
Good luck to all our teams for the week end ahead.
OK! I bow my head in shame for disbelieving the Bulls could win one let alone a second and away from home, and also because I laughed at the Sharks being renamed Gums. Of course any other parties who secretly held similar views should bow their heads too.
First thing I did after Saturday's Sharks game against the Brumbies was to leap into my car and head for Salisbury Island, as I didn't want to miss watching the Sharks walk across the Bay! Some said the Sharks play was a miracle but I thought the miracle was how poorly the Brumbies played in the first half. Even John Allen, poor speaker that he is and biased towards his old team, couldn't keep the wonder from his voice at the Brumbies shocking handling.
Moving on to the Bulls and their demonstration of good old 'Skop 'n Donder' rugby. Louis Koen had the Hurricanes continually turning back towards their pots like dogs failing to catch passing cars. Its not a great spectacle to watch but seeing a South African team winning on an Antipodean shore certainly fills one with enormous satisfaction.
Thinking of how the Bulls played and reminiscing on days of Bok glory jolted the memory to times of seeing the sublime and silky skills of Carel Du Plessis and Danie Gerber being displayed. Have we forgotten that they played in the same team as Naas? Is 'Skop 'n Donder' not real South African style rugby?
We were always successful when our packs dominated the opposition by sapping the speed and spring from the legs of their forwards before letting our skilled backs loose against their thin line of defenders. Why haven't we returned to that basic plan? It would sure beat the crap out of current 'game plans' we've seen that had our Bok side fruiting around in some parody of the Australian game.
PS. I have long admired the skills of Skinstad but his and Van Niekerk's defence for the Cats is appalling. Bobbie also stood watching after standing up from a failed tackle as the ball was fed through for the Warratahs to go on and score, instead to trying to get back and make amends. No wonder the Cats look as leaderless as the white opposition in Zimbabwe!
Wel, die tongvis is 'n wonderlike ding. Hy word, soos enige ander vis, gebore met 'n oog aan weerskante van sy kop. Maar binne die eerste weke nadat hy uitgebroei het, migreer een oog van die een kant van die kop na die ander kant. Dit stel hom in staat om op sy sykant plat op die bodem van die oseaan na kos te soek.
Maar verlede Saterdag het ek iets nog wonderliker gesien. Ek het in die ABSA stadion in Durban gesien hoe Paul Honiss albei sy oë migreer vanaf sy agterent na sy voorkop.
Miskien het ons Suid-Afrikaners se klaagliedere van verlede jaar oor die Australasiese skeidsregters nie op dowe ore geval nie. Of het daai tękkel van die toeskouer op die bysiende Ierse skeidsregter verlede jaar in die einste stadion tog 'n paar skeidsregter-oë laat oopgaan...?
COLIN VAN RENSBURG