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Rugby Forum - Vol 3, Week 10
Rugby Forum - Vol 3, Week 10
(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 10 Rugby Forum

Editors Note

Brilliant! The first quarter of the year 2003 is done with and a sparkling Six Nations ended on a high but predictable note. In the southern hemisphere the Super 12 is only halfway there and the only thing predictable about this great competition is that the Kiwi’s will dominate the play-offs but then what is new?

Firstly, congratulations must go to a sterling effort from England in the Grand Slam deciding match against the Irish. This excellent match was played at a furious pace and the discipline and professionalism of the whites were impressive. Even more impressive was the performance of Jonny Wilkinson. A lot has been written about this young lad however he does not rest on his laurels or reputation, this armchair analyst counted at least 11 tackles coming from the diminutive flyhalf, add to that his phenomenal drop kicking feats with both feet and the massive punts downfield and one can clearly see why he is rated as one of if not the best player in the world.

A quick look at the recent fortunes of England, it is interesting to note that before professionalism they were reasonably ordinary apart from the great years in the early nineties when Will Carling skippered a very muscular pack with a brilliant kicking flyhalf and strong all-round talent. The 1995 RWC was a hurdle too far for most of those players and the rise to prominence of one Jonah Lomu was cause to their humiliation. With the advent of big money after 1995 there was a huge influx of foreign players and coaches who were attracted by the strength of the pound to add to their retirement packages. It is not Einstein stuff to work out that this cross-pollination of skills and work ethic improved their game tremendously. The foreigners dominated the local competitions but come the 1999 RWC the England international game was not yet up to standard although vastly improved.

Post 1999, England’s rapid ascendancy to the top of the pile and lets not kid ourselves that is where they are, came about by the restriction of foreign players to two per club and the excellent and professional structures instituted at every club. Youth academies were funded to create a platform for young players to perform on a higher level and in most cases a lot of experienced top internationals were contracted to coach the youngsters. England is soon to adopt an even more stringent foreign player criteria, only one per team however with the clubs producing brilliant home grown talent and the innovative methods of the foreign coaches the sounds of “Sweet Chariot” will be heard more often than not.

The Super 12 is at the halfway mark of the competition and so far the stand out performers are the New Zealand teams in particular the Blues. The Kiwis unequivocally dominate the log after round 6 and with the upcoming weekend clashes will probably remain to do so. Where are the South African sides in this picture? To be honest? Nowhere. In an all too familiar scenario the SA teams are propping up the bottom with one or two teams in the running for a mid table slot. There has been vast improvement from the teams and as the Springbok coach would like to believe in the discipline as well, so why are they losing matches? The answer may be; collective team effort. The 4 teams has rarely produced an 80 minute team effort, in those matches where the local teams were victorious 8/22 or 36% the coaches and or captains remarked on the team effort all be it for 40 minutes or so, the most notable were the overseas victories of the Bulls and the Stormers. How do you inspire/extract/coach a team effort? The solution is Einstein stuff and obviously the key to victory.

The upcoming attractions are salivating to say the least with the traditional North vs. South clashes, both in NZ and in SA. The Blues are better than previously believed and Caucaunibuca is one of the best " running with a ball in hand" players this humble observer has ever seen, his tries in the wet of Eden Park were majestic. The Stormers travel to Loftus and the age-old rivalry will continue on even footing after the derailment of the Bulls in the last few years. The other matches are sure to provide an upset or two, the Reds are resurgent and the Waratah’s need to turn their season around after such a good start but… the Crusaders await!

Enjoy a great weekend of rugby!




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

Lessons from "HQ" by Tom Marcellus
As irksome as it is, I have to doff my fedora in admiration to Clive Woodward – not only for the muscular, occasionally dashing, way in which his merry men have finally wrested the European crown from Les Bleus, but for his dogged determination when, a few years ago, he appeared to be floundering in high seas, destined to join the shrimps, lobsters and other scum-suckers at Davey Jones' locker.

Remember, this was the man whose stint as coach of the Lillywhites pretty much kicked off with a 76-bagel drubbing at the hands of the Wallabies, in that disastrous 1998 summer tour to Australasia and our own Afrika Borwa (not that we were complaining). [Sigh]

But, showing some of the mongrel that made him a fine British Lions three-quarter in his day, Woodward stuck to his guns and, more importantly, the powers-that-be – Will Zamalek's infamous "57 old f*rts" – showed unusual foresight and stuck with him.

Even so, success for the beleaguered Woody initially came in fits 'n starts. His side often faltered at the last hurdle (like when that "Human Pocket-Battleship", Scott Gibbs ghosted through the all-white defence to score in the last seconds of the Championship-deciding match in 1999), and by the time the 4th World Cup hove into view in 1999, he had racked up the impressively unspectacular record of 11 wins, 2 draws and 10 defeats as coach. Still, the old geezers (I'm a more charitable fellow) stuck with their man – even after his team had been dispatched in the quarter-finals of the global showpiece by the original ma se mooiste, one J de Beer.

And just look at how our boy has blossomed! Six years on since he assumed the role of di capo di tutti capi of English rugby, he is now one of the most respected coaches in world rugger – and that despite his irksome penchant (well, in the eyes of this armchair correspondent, at least) for skulking behind a baseball cap and for leaping up 'n down like an overjoyed fairy god-mother every time England lurches towards the try-line. Hell, I have to ask myself, grimacing, what would a despot of the old school like Oubaas Markõtter have made of such public displays of emotion? I'm sure that each would have evoked a suitably gnarled response, emitted from behind that luxurious, flavour-saver moustache.

According to my archives-sniffing informants, Woodward's record as coach now reads a very respectable played 58, won 42, lost 14, drawn 2, with a phenomenal 31 wins coming from the 35 games since De Beer's epic solo effort in 1999. But amongst all these lies, d*amned lies and statistics, the one that I like the most is that England have now notched up a World record 21 consecutive wins at "Headquarters" – that's Twickers to you and me – which is a phenomenal record, especially when one considers England's traditionally poor showings when beyond a short spit from South London.

As I think of the motley crowds that attend even Bok matches at some of our back-water venues – and the Free State Stadium is a particular favourite of mine – I can't help but think that, as we try to rekindle our rugby pride, our rugby administrators ought to heed the lesson of Woody and his pipe-smoking tea-guzzling chums from Old Blighty. It goes without saying that visiting teams must, at all times, be made to sweat for every point that they score against our manne. So, when foreign hordes come a-visiting, to hell with Eskom Park (or whatever it's called), Boet Erasmus and that vapid sun-baked athletic track in Bloemfontein – the sacred turf of Ellis Park is what it's about! And I'll throw you with a naartjie if you disagree.

But I digress, and, as I wipe away the saliva and engage in vigorous deep-breathing exercises, make a note in your diaries for Saturday, 14 June 2003. England versus the All Blacks at the "Cake-Tin" in Wellington.

Now that's what I call deep in enemy territory and a long way from HQ, old boy.

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Come on England by Desmond Organ
The execution was precise, the planning accurate and the coaches celebration somewhat juvenile. Nonetheless England are deserved Six Nations, Triple Crown and Grand Slam champions. Not many would have expected such a clear margin of victory but the ability of this current team to drive the advantage home is unique from an English perspective. Ireland on the other hand deserved more rewards for their efforts but were quite frankly not much better than a week before.

Now that the dust has settled and the statisticians have computed their numbers the status quo has been maintained as far as rankings are concerned. Ireland have surely made ground on the hapless South Africans of last November and a good showing in the run up to the World Cup could see them unseat the once mighty Springboks. That being said you can never underestimate the ability of a Springbok team under pressure and the results against Scotland will be a good barometer.

What really surprised me was the ease with which England changed the nature of their game plan to suit their opposition. The ploy to introduce Cohen in the flyhalf channel was quite brilliant. Nobody has run that directly at Humphreys all season and it worked. The formation of the wedge in the forwards illustrated the dominance of an ageing English pack and I think that this was the critical differentiator. The Irish went into the rucks in an upright position; their loose forwards were great on attack and pitifully slow in defence. The dominance was driven home with an exhibition in goal kicking that was last seen in Paris during the last World Cup.

Ireland survived on scraps of possession and relied heavily on the individual brilliance of O Driscoll, his ability to create an overlap with the most scintillating of passes is poetic in its execution. The ball arrives at the same time as the support player and he is able to take the ball at speed. If that receiver is as good as his opposing tackler he is through, simply because it is harder to read the mind of your opponent if he is advancing at such pace. It is indeed a great pity that the Irish have not got a few more men of this caliber because they would be quite devastating if they did.

Several years ago I was told by a rugby enthusiast of great esteem that you are only as good as your last result and it is with this is mind that one can look forward to the confrontation between England and South Africa at the end of the year. On current form it should be a hiding as several overzealous fans have informed me. Quite simply one of my fraternal rugby brothers uttered the following. “ They will beat you by at least 30 points.” I intend to hold him to his word and should it occur congratulate him on his astute reading of the game and hopefully banish the remaining pieces of blind patriotic fervor that remain lodged in my mind.

If South Africa is to have a competitive chance they will have to establish forward dominance or if that is not possible competitive exchanges in the tight five. That could free up the loose forwards who quite frankly are more than a yard or two faster than their English counterparts. Not that England is going to play the same back three against a Southern Hemisphere team. If the South Africans can sustain possession through more than a couple of phases, something that has been sorely missing from most of the Super 12 teams, then they have the potential.

England are not going to fall into the same trap that they did in Paris in 1999 and it will take considerable planning to break down the defensive patterns that are being put in place by Woodward and company. It will also take some unique performances from individual players of ability. One thinks of players like Marius Joubert and Joe van Niekerk. The flyhalf channel will be crucial and who knows what is in the mind of Straueli as he contemplates several methods to limit the destructive capability of the worlds best player. One can only hope that the over exuberant behaviour from the likes of Greenwood and company are an indication that arrogance has set in because in that the South Africans might have an area to exploit. The other potential weakness in their game has been clinically resolved. The gamble of not playing a specialist inside center is unlikely to be repeated. Tindel was my player of the match aside from Wilkinson. His burst through the middle of the Irish defence was executed to perfection.

England have the pace the creativity and the forward strength to beat any team in the world. My thoughts are that it is in the back three that they can be exposed, but if and only if you have superior scrummaging, lineout and general forward play. South Africa must also develop an ability to change the flow of the game at short notice; decision-making will be crucial as will the ability to keep a calm head under pressure.

Consistency of execution comes from teams that have years of playing experience at the highest level, overcoming this is South Africa’s greatest challenge, find a way to do it Mr. Straeuli and you will achieve what many view as the impossible.

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Kiwis sitting pretty at the moment by Vinesh Naicker
This weekend ended with the unusual situation of four NZ teams rounding out the top four.

Blues 41 vs. Brumbies 15
I expected this to be an interesting game. The Blues have been hot all season and last week they gave the Reds a thrashing putting over 60 points on them, which was the worst loss the Reds had suffered in Super 12 to date. Up to last week the Brumbies hadn’t looked like the formidable structured team of old, but when they gave the Bulls a 60 point beating as well it looked like there was definitely going to be a big clash when the two teams met this week.

The game was played in rainy conditions at the newly resurfaced Eden Park, and although it had been raining most of the day the new drainage system meant that there was not much water lying on the ground itself.
The game started off pretty evenly with the Brumbies actually managing to play wet weather rugby unlike the other Aussie teams. The sending off of the number 8 Fava really put a spanner in the works for the Brumbies, while he was off the Blues scored 14 points. The sending off was for throwing three punches but the video evidence indicated that no real punches had been thrown and that it was in fact just a bit of handbag slapping between the two number 8’s.

The Brumbies never really recovered from that, as they tried to play a bit of catch up football and the Blues buried them. One of the prime culprits was once again Caucaunibuca. He scored two tries and his handling in the wet weather was superb.

Highlanders 16 vs. Crusaders 17
This was the thinly disguised traditional South Island darby between Otago and Canterbury. As expected the game was close but the Crusaders won. Otago has always tended to choke in the big games with Canterbury and lose by a few points and this weekend was no different. There is a good reason why Otago has not held the Ranfurly Shield in about 50 years and it is because they always lose to Canterbury at the death.

The game came down to a contest of attrition among the forwards and the Crusaders went ahead in the first half and held on against a strong Highlanders come back. Although the Highlanders got ahead towards the end they gave away a controversial penalty after that to go on and lose the game.

Hurricanes 24 vs. Chief 14
The Hurricanes came back from South Africa with the maximum 10 points and with three wins in a row. The Chiefs looking to salvage something from their joyless season so far had a good opportunity to win this game with the Hurricanes still jet-lagged from their trip back.

However the Hurricanes got off to a good start and put some points on the board. Although the Chiefs controlled a lot of possession in the second half they were unable to capitalize on it and put on many points. This has been their basic problem all season, although their defence has improved over last year they don’t have the same attacking strike power, they really are feeling the loss of Muir, Willis and Reihana.

By contrast the Hurricanes have to be the big improvers, their tight five which was demolished by the Bulls has improved vastly and is playing with quite a bit of structure now allowing their potent back to make the most of their opportunities.

Waratahs 23 vs. Reds 35
One of the most interesting things about this local darby is that right through the Super 6, Super 10 and now the Super 12 the Waratahs have never beaten the Reds. The Reds say this is because they play for their state and the Waratahs play for Wallaby jerseys. Their must be some truth to this because the current Reds team looks like the worst ever, they haven’t won a game all season.

Yet once again they got up for this game and polished off the Waratahs once again.

Wendell Sailor scored a great individual try, the Aussies have been hanging out for something like this from him since he signed up, it will be interesting to see if he can start to deliver like that more regularly.

Based on what I saw from the Waratahs I think I can safely say that they will not win the Super 12 this year. Every time that there is a big game they choke, not unlike the Highlanders. The Waratahs may beat a few more teams this season and even make the semis but I’ll be surprised if they make the finals and I guarantee they won’t win, they just lack mental hardness.

Cats 23 vs. Sharks 29
Januarie made a good start to the game with his run which set up the first try, but he continued to make a number of runs in the game without regard for his support. To me a dazzling 20 metre run which turns over the ball doesn't rate as highly as taking the ball up 5 metres & setting it up. Januarie obviously has huge potential but he is a couple of seasons away from being world class, he needs to know when to run and when to look for support. The Cats seem to have potentially the two best halfbacks in South Africa at the moment with Jordaan on the bench as well.

Andre Pretorius would have been better advised to keep the ball in hand, his kicking was wayward and wasteful. I couldn't help but think that up against one of the most hopeless defensive flyhalfs in the world in Butch James his failure to run was almost criminal.

The first half of the game was quite a tussle but the second half was the basic rugby you see at the lower age grade levels. The game lost a great deal of structure with everyone just chasing the ball and throwing it around willy-nilly. How the Cats could concede 7 points to the Sharks who were a man down is as baffling as the Chiefs loss to the Blues was a few weeks ago.

As an aside, what is it with Pretorius and the sandcastles he builds for taking his kicks? Surely he won't be able to do that in the World Cup, he'll have to use a kicking tee like everyone else, how will that affect his strike rate?

Italy's present to McGeechan by Giampaolo Tassinari
And so the fairytale ends. The hope to see a resurgent Ireland win the Tournament and the Grand Slam honours died tragically at Lansdowne Road last Sunday when a too powerful English forwards’ unit won so much ball possession to enable his threequarters to score at will and win, deservedly, the Six Nations.

After the final whistle the score was 42-6 for Woodward’s men. A results too big for the Englishmen but we have to take and accept it. Of course a lot of people had hoped to see again the 2001 miracle when in that October Ireland beat England. That was another side anyway: there was the inspirational Keith Wood in it and England was still thinking of itself as the new “Invincible Armada” like the infamous Navy of Phillip II King of Spain so well destroyed by the quick England’s Navy.

This time nothing could prevent an England’s victory: they just began to focus on that match last Sunday likely during the after match functions of the Calcutta Cup. The players during last week just thought to play and train properly and their manager, Clive Woodward, took charge to meet the media and speak, speak and speak. After so many years winning exactly nothing, finally it came England’s finest moment. Now surely Woodward is becoming to think really that his team has chances to triumph in the next Rugby World Cup.

On Saturday in Paris the usual hordes of correct Welshmen invaded the Stade de France where they thought possible a Wales’ triumph so to avoid the Wooden Spoon. A scintillating opening try by Wales’ wing, Gareth Thomas, after only three minutes looked as if the Red Dragons could really do it as already done in 2001 with that famous Nigel Jenkins’ try. After getting the Wooden Spoon in 1990 and 1995 the men in red “won” it for the third time.

Hard times look ahead of Wales and they need to work a lot to get to the next RWC with some chances to enter the play-off stages. Moreover Wales will meet again Italy in the Rugby World Cup pool match for a true rematch of last February’s in Rome but don’t call off and underestimate Tonga and Canada in that Pool. Both are well known for their (too) robust play and unless you are a cometh that they cannot catch, a match against them is always something difficult.

Finally Murrayfield’s match. Scotland won it and deserved it. “We would like to know when in the future Italy will meet such a weakened side like this one” was the main thought in Murrayfield’s press boxes. It was Ian McGeechan farewell to his National Team for now he will take over from Jim Telfer as SRU Director of Coaching. His players fought to death to make him go with a last victory and they were successful mercy of another controversial Italian afternoon. After all a kind present by the Azzurri for McGeechan’s departure. Really in a well-known latin fashion.

The Azzurri won a lot of ball possession just to waste it at every chance and deservedly Scotland scored a lethal try with the great Chris Paterson (the most underrated Scot player of the last decade, curiously a magic outside-half, a place where none wants to field him) that kicked and chased the oval ahead of Gert Peens and untouched went to score near the posts. Once again in the Italian team Mauro Bergamasco was missing. Officially he had not recovered from a previous leg injury but it’s of common knowledge that the player disagreed Kirwan’s decision to use him on the wing. It’s surely a strange fact: you have one of the leading open-side flankers in the world in your side and you switch his position on the wing.

The other disturbing non-selection was that of prop Giampiero de Carli that was on the stands against France (“technical choice” was said and written) and that gave up to the call against Scotland when he knew he was going to sit in the Murrayfield’s stands. So he preferred to play club rugby in the Italy’s Cup final played in Caltanissetta, Sicily. A minor tournament waiting for the come back of the Super Ten (Italian professional League) that will resume its action next Saturday April 5.

Let’s fancy for a while if the Six Nations Committee would decide overnight for a relegation system. We would see Wales relegated (sic) and have Portugal on board next February 2004. The Portuguese XV are the real surprise of this beginning of year: they won even in the cold town of Krasnodar against Russia, 24-15, so to get an historic Grand Slam in the European Nations Cup also known as Six Nations “B”.

With a right expansion of rugby the world over we shall hear of Portugal and fellow raising and growing oval countries time and again. For instance let’s take the Czech Republic: despite a late surge of the Spaniards (Czech men at one stage in Madrid on Sunday were ahead 40-21) they held to win 40-38 against the home team that is awaited for the two legs RWC Repechage against the Eagles.

There was even honours for the poor and depleted Germans that in a FIRA second division match won in Gdynia against the much famous Poland. The latter is coming out of its cold winter where all rugby matters were stopped in the meantime. Now for the Polish it is time for their league too. It seems that after so many years of dominance the glorious Lechia Gdansk club (do you remember Lech Walesa syndacalist in the 1980’s?) is threatened to get in the runner-up place by the strong Arka Gdynia club. The rugby is growing very quick in Eastern Europe where the sun, don’t forget, still raises.

Springbok Form Guide by Lucas Scheepers
15 Jaque Fourie - He is a wonderful attacking fullback with no fear and his rock solid tackling coupled with a good boot makes him the leading contender over Werner Greeff who needs to sort out his high tackling.
14 Stefan Terblanche - Always a contender, he is a hard worker and his experience counts over Ashwin Willemse.
13 Andre Snyman - The strong man is having an excellent competition with good defence and some sparkling tries in a team that's been struggling. Robbie Fleck started well but must add some purpose to his enthusiasm.
12 Gcobani Bobo - Has tremendous skill and a powerful acceleration and should compliment Snyman's hard running abilities.
11 Pieter Rossouw - With very few players to select from, his performances in the opening games make him the most experienced and tactically sound player in the position.
10 AN. OTHER - This is SA's Achilles heel with no player in the mould of Mehrtens, Larkham or the best in the world - Wilkinson. James has an improved disciplinary record and he is a bit more formidable than Andre Pretorius although he lacks the little man's attacking instinct. Both contenders need to pick up on their work rate, tactical play and place kicking. Louis Koen?
9 Neil De Kock - He has an excellent quick pass and makes very few mistakes when taking options. Conradie compliments his play well and they should be 1 & 2. Davidson's options, over-eagerness and slow service counts against him and January lacks experience and tries too much by himself. Joost is a dark horse and his form's been very good in the first matches and he brings a lot to the party in terms of motivation and defence.
8 Pedrie Wannenburg - One of SA's stand out players in the competition, a tremendous hard worker who is not lacking in the skills department either. Lacks Bob Skinstad's lineout skills but is a better technical eightman in terms of running lines, defence patterns and protecting his scrumhalf. Adri Badenhorst have been playing excellent rugby and is a close second.
7 Joe van Niekerk - One of the better all round players in SA although struggling with injuries if fit he must be playing. Juan Smith is highly impressive and a very good stand in with Bob Skinstad for this position.
6 Corne Krige - Back to his determined and hard best, his experience coupled with captaincy skills and a do or die attitude is a bonus for every team. Roland Bernard is an excellent prospect, Hendrik Gerber and Piet Krause deserves a mention.
5 Victor Matfield - The man has few peers in terms of lineout work or poaching, he has sorted out his "looseness" problems and is one of the better all-round locks in world rugby. Selbourne Boome is an able replacement.
4 AJ Venter - The hard man of SA rugby and one of the hardest workers on the pitch, after the England test it was unfortunate he went his old undisciplined ways but he will come good in a test. Quintin Davids' been playing his heart out and deserves a mention as well as Jannes Labuschagne.
3 Faan Rautenbach and Cobus Visagie in tandem as they are used by the Stormers. The scrum will not suffer with these two fellows, Richard Bands deserves a mention.
2 Danie Coetzee - One of the few hookers that actually throws the ball in straight, this is a hooker's primary task as hooking's become obsolete. He has very good scrummaging power and does enough around the field. Hanyani Shimange is a very good replacement and would have learnt a very valuable lesson with his suspension, he wont make that mistake again.
1 Rob Kempson - Due to a lack of consistent performances from the other contenders the Ulster prop cracks the nod on reputation.

Super 12 Log & Weekly XV
Team Played Won Drawn Lost Points diff For Against Points
Blues 5 5 0 0 85 118 203 25
Hurricanes 6 4 0 2 153 22 175 20
Crusaders 5 4 0 1 111 18 129 19
Highlanders 6 4 0 2 124 35 159 18
Waratahs 6 3 0 3 193 0 193 16
Brumbies 6 3 0 3 167 20 187 15
Cats 6 2 0 4 192 -19 173 11
Bulls 5 2 0 3 179 -35 144 11
Sharks 6 2 0 4 187 -43 144 11
Stormers 5 2 0 3 158 -22 136 10
Chiefs 5 1 0 4 146 -17 129 7
Reds 5 1 0 4 184 -77 107 6

RF Super 12 XV:

15 Chris Latham (Reds), 14 Wendell Sailor (Reds), 13 André Snyman (Sharks), 12 Tana Umaga (Hurricanes), 11 Rupeni Caucaunibuca (Blues), 10 Carlos Spencer (Blues), 9 Justin Marshall (Crusaders), 8 Xavier Rush (Blues), 7 Richie McCaw (Crusaders), 6 Jerry Collins (Hurricanes), 5 Ali Williams (Blues), 4 Simon Maling (Highlanders), 3 Greg Somerville (Crusaders), 2 Keven Mealamu (Blues), 1 Tony Woodcock (Blues)

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

The market is down with English clubs, some of whom are experiencing financial difficulties. So the big money of the past is no longer available which bodes well for the South African market. Craig Livingstone, Rugby agent

The only thing NSW rugby can beat Queensland is in the number of former chief executive officers, presidents, coaches and bankruptcies. Chris Hanley

And what's all this 'our house' rubbish NSW go on with? They've had their home at the Sydney Sports Ground, T.G. Millner Field, Concord, and now they're calling Aussie Stadium 'our house'. They're a f------ renter. Chris Hanley

All the top refs think they are number one on the field, not number 31 as they should be. Neill Laurenson, a former South African rugby referee living in New Zealand

Super 12 form is not a good indication of how a national team will go. Eddie Jones

You learn quickly that there is no recipe in this game, no trigger you can pull to turn a team around in a week. I wish I knew what it is that makes a team click. Kevin Putt

I was annoyed with myself at how soft we had become. We could have dealt with the persistent trouble in numbers and afterwards I felt like I had let the country down. Robin Brooke on being told not to retaliate during the 1999 World Cup

It's been coming all season, it's as if somebody switched the lights off. James Dalton on his retirement from rugby.

I'd like to get into coaching. Then I can drop a few players. James Dalton

That is all I went to school for when I was young ... to play rugby at lunchtime. Richie McCaw

Super 12 Fixtures
(Previous year's score in brackets)
Date Home Away Venue Referee
Fri 4 Apr Highlanders (20) Blues (13) Dunedin Kelvin Deaker (NZ)
Fri 4 Apr Reds (18) Hurricanes (22) Brisbane André Watson (SA)
Sat 5 Apr Waratahs (19) Crusaders (96) Sydney Tappe Henning (SA)
Sat 5 Apr Bulls (27) Stormers (31) Pretoria Michael Katzenellenbogen (SA)
Sun 6 Apr Brumbies (42) Chiefs (15) Canberra Mark Lawrence (SA)
Bye Cats Sharks

Letters to the Editor
Hallo Ed

I would like to highlight my opinion on the inconsistencies that South African Rugby Teams possesses. I am referring to all of them.

Look at the Sharks. They just messed up the log. They lost against the Stormers, but beat the Brumbies and Cats? The Bulls,Stormers and the Cats are the teams that are capable of beating the top five teams (so far, the Waratahs - Stormers, Highlanders - Cats and Hurricanes - Bulls).

This can only mean one postive thing to SA rugby. To mess up to Super 12 log even more. All teams have yet to go against the Crusaders and Blues. The Sharks must now join the rest of our teams. The Super 12 has proven thus far that the Rudolph Straeuli Springbok player draft system has caused our teams to become equally strong, but also inconsistent, because each team plays more as a compilations rather than a team.

What I'm trying to say. Our teams can rob the Crusaders and Blues of 4 wins each. They must focus on this. This will upset the log. The Crusaders and Blues will have to beat teams like Highlanders, Brumbies, Waratahs and Higlanders to stay in the run, and that will finf our teams on top! Our teams must think clever!

Another thing: I have also seen that out biggest problem in Super 12 is turnover defence. I am not sure if the coaches address this a lot, but I've seen all our games thus far (I support them all, but I'm really a Bull), and this is where we loose our games. I'm sure overseas teams focus on turnover defence a lot.

Let's show the cricket fans that our rugby teams can focus, play as a team, and even more important, calculate.


Herman, Pretoria

Hi Lucas

I should like to comment on two statements in your last Forum.

1. One of your own: "The referee Stuart Dickinson was again heavily criticised for some of his decisions, what to make of this bloke? Is he biased, having a bad run or simply incompetent...". The answer is: All of the above. He is certainly biased against all South African teams and players, as the 20-odd examples published in the Naspers newspapers last week clearly illustrate. I can probably add another 20-odd. If he is having a bad run, he is having the longest one in history; since his appearence on the scene about 4 years ago up until now... and still counting. And if all that does not make him incompetent, nothing will.

Besides his blatant anti-SA bias the other thing that p*sses rugby supporters off is his shocking petulance. I remember a match a couple of seasons ago between the Waratahs and Reds where a fight broke loose between the two packs of forwards. Dickinson, the touch judge closest to the action at the time, of course stepped in and made the macabre recommendation that 2 red cards and 3 yellow cards be issued on the spot. I remember Scott Young, the referee in that match, saying to him: "You're joking!", whereafter Dickinson replied with something I couldn't quite pick up, and Scott Young - clearly perplexed by Dickinson's reply - said: "You can't be serious!". The upshot of it all was that for a period of time, 12 played 13 in what obviously turned into a disjointed farce. I also recall Dickinson strutting about proudly after the event, with a contented smile as if he had just achieved a major victory for all humankind.

2. One by Desmond Organ: "In the meantime the Australians have rewritten the basic rules of rugby and are now in the process of turning out the worst group of referees that I have seen since the Lions tour to South Africa in 1974." While I have no qualms with the sentiment, I cannot fully agree with the statement. My fear is that a generalisation such as this will let Dickinson off the hook. The current crop of Australian referees also includes some truly excellent ones, like Scott Young (one of the best in the world) and Andrew Cole. The other referees in this year's Super 12 are also doing a sterling job - Paddy O'Brien, Tappe Henning, André Watson, Jonathan Kaplan, Paul Honiss, Mark Lawrence; and even Steve Walsh is much improved on previous seasons (perhaps the fact that it is a World Cup year has something to do with it?) - which makes Dickinson's woeful performances stick out like a sore thumb even more. It's like saying "Irish referees are poor", because of the pitiful Dave McHugh, while there are some wonderful referees on the Emerald Isle; Alan Lewis, to name but one.

South Africans must discard their perpetually apologetic "I'm-sorry-for-sucking-some-of-the-earth's-ogygen" attitude and demand that Dickinson be permanently red-carded.



Let us know what you think!

Dickinson is a dick alright...
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