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|Volume 3, Week 11
|Brilliant! There is
a famous claim that Rugby is the game played in heaven however, regardless
of your religious beliefs, if it is not televised on satellite television
then it is not being played there! Amongst many of its uses like beaming
“accurate” coordinates to “smart bombs” satellites is one of the most
important ingredients of modern sport as it allows subscribers to
participate and follow happenings in their favourite pastimes. Rugby Forum
does not have a satellite… yet, but by reading it you have an indirect
link to the game they play in heaven or maybe not!
The past rugby weekend proved to be very entertaining in particular the Waratahs Crusaders clash, although there was no real personal favourite playing it was such a brilliant game to watch and easily the best of the competition. The last 10 minutes was more nerve wrecking than watching Laurel & Hardy’s antics on a skyscraper and when the rookie flyhalf, Berne lined up the kick and made it, wow! Talking of big cahoonas! Pure rugby enjoyment! Games like this is the reason why people love watching the game.
The other big match was the old New Zealand rivalry between the Highlanders and the unbeaten Blues. The latter was beaten and in doing so, Taine Randell and his men provided the blueprint (excuse the pun!) for beating the Aucklanders. The name of the game? Pressure. Few people bar air traffic controllers thrive under intense pressure and in a game of rugby it starts right in front and it channels backwards. In a perverse way this defeat was good for the Blues as they can now settle down and win this competition because they have shown to be the one team capable of decimating perennial finalists, the Crusaders and Brumbies.
Talking of, the Brumbies played some textbook rugby in their first half against the poor Chiefs and although they went to sleep in the second it was fantastic to watch a team execute a game plan to perfection. They are clearly not up to their high standards of previous years but every week there is an improvement in their play and they now need an 80-minute performance, something we touched on last week. A weekend off will give then time to reflect.
A team who has been consistently inconsistent over the years and this paradox is tailor made for them, is the Hurricanes. Somehow this season they are winning those matches they would have lost in the past and the reason if some experts are to believed is the captaincy of Tana Umaga. His abilities as a player of rare distinction is well witnessed and documented and this extra feather in his cap and the way the team has responded must make him one of the main contenders for the coveted All Black captaincy. Captaincy from an outsider or a supporters point of view is something that sits comfortably around certain players’ shoulders, they expel an aura and there is very little doubt that this man is the leader. Look at the displays of certain teams and who their leaders are then suddenly it all makes sense.
Finally, the Stormers travelled up north - vini, vidi, vici or they came, saw and conquered except conquered may be putting it a bit strong. The biggest debate to stem from this match is Derek Hougaard’s lack of game time. There was precious little in terms of the low standard of play from the two best sides in South Africa. Yes, there are forwards and Johannes Conradie played very well but even with 50% ball guaranteed from the potential Springbok pack, what will happen to the ball from 10 to 15? Unfortunately players are not queuing either to raise their hands and claim, no demand their spot. Mediocrity might yet become the norm regardless of how positive we choose to be, compared to the other teams in the world and their performance curves, South African teams are a flat line that not even the good old Doctor Barnard could revive had he been alive.
The Sharks and Cats are on their Australasian sojourn and with opening matches against Chiefs and Crusaders respectively, the only realistic opportunity lies with the Natalians. Kevin Putt is faced with a very tough task with an already depleted squad of players however they can win this match if they choose to combine all the good of the past few weeks and concentrate for 80 minutes. Roland Bernard is a very good prospect and he will be tested against one of the better exponents in his position, Marty Holah – expect a big game from the youngster. Kenny Tsimba is also getting the opportunity for his first start and against tough opposition coming off a loss it is a bit much to expect the kind of impact he usually makes for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup. This match will be a great gage for the many promising youngsters in the team to see if they can cut it at this level. On your own ground in front of your home crowd (including Bloemfontein) is a far cry from Christchurch. The men will be separated from the boys.
Enjoy the weekend’s offerings, there are some great games, the Waratahs and Hurricanes should prove a good match-up and the Blues in Pretoria against the Bulls will hopefully attract another full house at Loftus (was it not a beautiful site to see the old stadium jam-packed for a change?). The Stormers host the Reds and this is the first of 5 must win matches at home, they can do it.
Enjoy it live at the park!
|Visit www.rugbyforum.co.za for statistics, all the quotes and an archive of previous issues
|The Great One, Wadham by Tom Marcellus
|As I flicked through the DSTV Highlights channels again last
night, and gazed idly at the burly figures of our Super 12 heroes
strutting their stuff – leaping, rucking, kicking, looping 'round, all
done with the ease that comes from countless Tuesday night practices under
floodlights – I couldn't help but hanker back to the old days, now almost
lost in the mists of time, when sportsmen leapt and rucked simply because,
Hey, why not, old fellow?
Inspired by a finger or 2 of the soothing nectar provided by my old friends, Messrs Justerini & Brookes, my mind drifted over all those great old sportsmen of yore, who, with a Harlequins RFC neckerchief knotted at their throat, or a cheroot dangling jauntily at their lips, played the game – whether rugger, cricket or tiddlywinks – in the old amateur spirit, and with a generous dollop of panache.
The names of 3 Rhodes scholars sprang immediately to mind: Tuppy Owen-Smith, who won a triple Blue at Oxford and captained England at rugby and played cricket for South Africa; Clive van Ryneveld, who similarly played rugby for England, but captained South Africa at cricket and was later an advocate of some reknown; and my own schoolboy hero, HD "Trilby" Freakes, who scored 122 not out for EP against the Australians, succeeded Owen-Smith as England fullback and then died in a blaze of glory in World War 2.
But even luminaries such as these, I decided (as I added another handful of ice-blocks, to reinforce their wilting comrades), had to bow in reverence to one sportsman who, more than any before or since, managed to encapsulate the scholar/sportsman/gentleman ideal so beloved by Victorians and some modern-day, bluff old sentimentalists like this arm-chair correspondent. His name: Charles Burgess Fry.
Fry (or "CB", to use his famous sobriquet) possessed an array of talents that have surely never been equalled, and his sporting achievements (as one author put it) "left a whole generation idolatrous and awestruck".
At the oval game (since this is a rugby publication), CB played for Oxford University, the Blackheath Club and the Baa-Baas. Many of his contemporaries believed that he would have donned the lilly-whites of England, had rugger not clashed with his soccer commitments, and only an accident deprived him of a rugby Blue (to add to his collection of 12, garnered in other sports). But I must admit that his famous contemporary and Oxford team-mate, FE Smith (later the 1st Earl of Birkenhead), did complain that Fry tackled "like a fainting schoolgirl" – and one would not want to debate the point with a man later known as "the cleverest man in England"!
But rugby was but a passing interest, and it was on the cricket field that CB achieved his greatest triumphs. He scored a massive 30 886 runs in first-class matches, at an average of 50,22. He racked up 94 centuries, 6 in a row in 1901, in which year he amassed a total of 3 147 runs. He captained Oxford, the Gentlemen XI (naturally) and England; and his teams did not lose one of those great matches.
Not surprisingly, CB cut an especially elegant figure out at the middle. Writing for Wisden in 1957, shortly after Fry's death, Neville Cardus described his bearing as follows: "He would stand classically poised after making an on-drive, contemplating the direction and grandeur of it. The cricket field has seen no sight more Grecian than the one presented by CB Fry in the pride and handsomeness of his young manhood."
Soccer, or association football (as it then was called), was another Saturday-afternoon frolic that Fry excelled at. He captained the Oxford team, won an England cap against Ireland in 1901, and performed creditably at full-back for Southampton in the FA Cup Final of 1902. For the record, it was won 2-1 by Sheffield United, after the first encounter between the teams had ended in a 1-1 draw.
Whilst still an undergraduate at Oxford, Fry also set the world long jump record of 23 feet, 5 inches, which stood for over 21 years before being beaten. He was also a brilliant sprinter and he would almost certainly have won a gold medal or two at the 1896 Olympic games – in fact, the winning long jump (by the American, Ellery Clark) was nearly a full metre short of Fry’s record leap.
Although CB set the world record for the long jump, it was an event in which he was never coached and in which he never trained, relying solely on his natural athleticism. Legend has it that, on the day that he set the record, Fry was busy smoking a cigar in the dressing room when the event started. He nonchalantly put his cigar down, took off his jersey and ran out on to the track and set the record. Immediately thereafter he returned to the privacy of the dressing room, promptly sat down and completed smoking his cigar.
For the record, Fry was also a fine boxer, and a passable golfer, swimmer, sculler, tennis player and javelin thrower.
But Fry was not just a sportsman. He headed FE Smith (see above) among the classical scholars at Wadham College, Oxford, where he won first-class honours in Classical Moderations. His peers at university recall how he used to receive letters addressed simply to "The Great One, Wadham" (a la Frik du Preez, who used to receive envelopes 70 years later marked only with a simple "Oom Frik, Loftus", scribbled by some young fan).
It is said that, during test matches at Lords (where, in retirement, he had a box), Fry's guests would wash down "bamboo shoots", a drink consisting of a tumbler full in equal measure of gin and whiskey. Lunch was lobster, followed by strawberries for tea, both washed downed with fine wine. All the while CB would be holding forth discussing the cricket in Greek!
Perhaps most remarkably of all, CB was even invited to become king of Albania, by a bishop with (rumour has it) a beard as long as WG Grace’s. Having soberly issued his invitation, the good bishop parted to drink a tumbler of neat Irish whisky – and it was still 11am.
But Fry paid a price for his brilliance. As one critic wrote, "Although he looked like a Greek god and often performed like one, he was a man brought low by his weaknesses. He made a catastrophic marriage, he was prone to nervous breakdowns and had judgement so flawed that he became a devoted admirer of Adolf Hitler."
And here's another one: "Fry was a walking Boy's Own cartoon, an outrageously talented man who did not know what to do with his exceptional gifts, except boast about them. Swaggering through Britain's imperial heyday, he affected the manners of an aristocrat (dishing out champagne in his box at Lord's), while struggling to make ends meet. He stood for parliament 3 times as a Liberal while professing no real taste for politics: he once accused his party of failing to support ballroom dancing."
Even so, it cannot be denied that Charles Burgess Fry was the perfect amateur, in many ways the beau ideal of the class of Englishman that he represented. As Cardus wrote in his Wisden tribute, "he was one of the last of the English tradition of the amateur, the connoisseur, and, in the most delightful sense of the word, the dilettante."
CB Fry passed away peacefully at his home in London at the age of 84 on 7 September 1956.
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|Brawn Versus Brains by Desmond Organ
|After a weekend involving arguably the top South African and New
Zealand teams I am more convinced than ever that rugby is a game played by
large and talented folk. The games between the Highlanders, Blues, Bulls
and Stormers saw the teams with the greater brawn factor on the losing
side. Whilst one could argue that the Highlanders are just as brawny as
the Blues, it was their much-vaunted backs that were kept in check. The
same could be said of the Bulls who never quite got the better of the
collective brains trust at the Stormers.
Week in and week out we have lauded the collective brilliance of the Blues back three and whilst nobody can expect them to fire on all cylinders week in and week out it was the manner in which some of the less fancied players in the Highlanders showed them up. Nobody deserves more praise than one Paul Steinmetz who despite receiving less press coverage showed that he is every bit as fast as the Blues backs and furthermore exploited the inability of Fijians to turn and defend as well as they attack.
Is it not that surprising that Carlos Spencer did not play as brilliantly as in weeks past, he was constantly under pressure and unable to attack in the direct manner of previous weeks. I was quite amazed at the manner in which he appeared to move laterally in an ever-increasing manner as the game progressed. The applause must go to Taine Randell who never ceases to amaze me with the manner in which he is unable to perform at test level as well as he does in the Super 12. He was a constant threat at the point of breakdown and was ably supported by the most ferocious hooker that I have seen in many years, Anton Oliver. Coupled with his accurate throw in ability he is quite clearly the form hooker of the Super 12.
The Bulls showed that at last South Africa has the ability to field a dreaded pack of large able minded players. Not that the Stormers could not be considered in the same mould after their destruction of a much-improved Waratah front row a week earlier. The manner in which both sets of forwards took the game to the opposition was a pleasure to behold. A real pity then that the wet ball produced a series of lost opportunities that might typically have seen the possession retained, something that has been sorely missing from the South African teams.
The basic difference between the two teams at Loftus was the defence of the Stormers and the creativity of their three quarters. Not that too much should be read into the performances of Greef and Fleck who are not the answer to the Springboks no 10, 12 and 13 position. I personally would like to see Jaco van der Westhuizen in a backline that has a repetitive reputation, no pun intended. What hope does the poor fellow have when he returns to the team to find the rest of the three quarters about as familiar with the playing patters as him and he has not been there for weeks. Maybe there is some truth in the fact that the Bulls forwards are built on the successes of the Heyneke Meyer Currie Cup team.
Alas we have had the opportunity to see Selborne Boome step into the limelight in the most charismatic fashion, by scoring a try that was well worked be several other players. Not being shy to throw the kitchen sink at players I thought that it was quite ironic that he was able to give me an opportunity to remember that he was in the starting line up and on the field of play. The lineout of the Stormers was a shambles during the game and it is quite amazing that there are so few good throwers of the ball. One would expect at least that now that every feed is behind the locks legs. I was impressed with the way in which the South African scrummies are at least feeding the ball in somewhat of a straight manner. For a year in which the crooked feed was supposed to be policed it is still occurring with disturbing regularity. But then again Mr. Dickinson is still considered competent by some old geezer in some far off place.
The one area that the South African teams need to focus is their speed of execution. Things seemed to be happening a lot more rapidly in the New Zealand derby. The South African derbies are generally closely contested affairs and it is worth noting that the degree of interplay between forwards and backs is looking a lot better than a year ago.
Rocket Scientists of the Week:
Eddie Jones facemask - Mr. Kefu for his opinions on the South African teams.
Haircut 100 – Robbie Fleck
Not an April Fools Joke – Stuart Dickinson considered more competent than Tappe Henning
Andrew Merthens Consulting – Taine Randell who expects the South African judiciary to be replaced
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|Super 12 Log & Weekly XV
RF Super 12 XV:
15 Joe Roff (Brumbies), 14 Andrew Walker (Brumbies), 13 Tana Umaga (Hurricanes), 12 Paul Steinmetz (Highlanders), 11 Mark Gerrard (Waratahs), 10 Stephen Larkham (Brumbies), 9 Johannes Conradie (Stormers), 8 Pedrie Wannenberg (Bulls), 7 Jerry Collins (Hurricanes), 6 Phil Waugh (Waratahs), 5 Daniel Vickerman (Brumbies), 4 Simon Maling (Highlanders), 3 Richard Bands (Bulls), 2 Anton Oliver (Highlanders), 1 Carl Hoeft (Highlanders)
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 email@example.com
|Geez, this fitness thing has got complicated, I just run my
blokes till they spew and then take 'em down the pub. St George coach
Butch McDougal on the difference between aerobic and anaerobic
We used to be beer-swilling idiots in my early days of the game, and you'd get as pissed as possible after games. Matt Burke
No, I haven't been back to Ballymore. In fact I didn't even get invited to the end-of-season ball last year. They rang and invited us at 9am on the day of the ball - how's that for a slap in the face? Former Queensland coach MARK McBAIN, who was dumped at the end of last year's Super 12
I think the only ones who didn't score a try for the Brumbies were the two ball-boys. Even the Ref looked threatening at times, as I'm sure he'd have liked to have a go at this lot. Patrick Innes on the Brumbies/Chiefs clash
I also hope my honest appraisal on the eve of the Crusaders game was not a motivating force for the Waratahs. If it was, it can only be a sad reflection on their standing as professional footballers. They are paid to play at their best every week, not rise only when they get needled in the press. David Campese
Rugby people are wondering whether he may be the answer for the Springboks. Has Derick Hougaard got what it takes? We need to know. Dan Retief
With the current way the game is played, you've got to have players in the team who can break up games. But it's a very rare commodity. The other guys haven't got that commodity as much as he has and it's extremely valuable to any rugby team. He's got something special. Graham Henry on Carlos Spencer
Looking at South African rugby, one wonders who the next great leader will be after Gary Teichmann. Francois Pienaar
South African teams performed disappointingly during the past number of years. They are just too inconsistent. Toutai Kefu
|Super 12 Fixtures
(Previous year's score in brackets)
|Letters to the Editor
|Dear Rugby Forum,
In response to the article written by Vinesh Naicker regarding the use of sand or a kicking tee at the Rugby World Cup, I would like to assure Vinesh that there will be no problems with Andre Pretorius' use of sand during the Tri Nations or the World Cup. This was confirmed by authorities after the necessary inquiries were made some time ago.
Peet van Zyl
Pentagon Sport Management
(Manager of Andre Pretorius)
As the Webmaster of the Sharks Website who has access to actual statistics, I take issue with Vinesh Naicker in his match report of the Cats vs Sharks. Firstly, with the way he goes on, without once mentioning the effort put in by the Sharks to win the game, you would expect to believe the Cats were either robbed, or had in fact won! All he seemed to have eyes for were the two halfbacks Pretorius and Januarie. Secondly, as is the way of non-South African fans, he has to "Butcher" young Butch James.
"I couldn't help but think that up against one of the most hopeless defensive flyhalfs in the world in Butch James..."
Here are some interesting stats: Tackles made by Butch: Sharks vs Cats - 12 (second highest in backline after Rudi Keil's 18), Sharks vs Brumbies - 13 (second highest in the team), Sharks vs Highlanders - 11 (second highest in backline behind Keil), Sharks vs Waratahs - 9 (second to Craig Davidson in backline).
As you can see he is putting in the tackles while penalty-wise he has not been yellow carded once, and has not been penalised.
I think it is unfair to continually harp on him, especially when there are others (the Hurricanes players and almost all the Fijians/Tongans and Samoans in NZ come to mind) who are doing much worse.
Once again thanks to Lucas for a fantastic newsletter!
Perpetually apologetic attitude
Thank you for the RF newsletter I receive. Such great rugby news from my fellow countrymen to receive here in AB land.
With regards to Colin's letter, I fully agree with him regarding this perpetually apologetic attitude of the South African players and supporters in general of "I'm sorry for sucking some of the earths oxygen"
Besides the ref issues, something I noticed over a very long period of time is this attitude by SA rugby teams when they play against Australia or NZ teams. Their body language tells me as a supporter or viewer at home. "Haai baie dankie dat ons teen julle mag speel. Ons hoop ons wen nie en hoop nie ons maak een van julle ouens seer nie" Compare a game of the Sharks to one against the Brumbies with the game they played the Cats? Against the Cats they showed guts, prepared to take it to the opposition, prepared to take a chance with a move, showed guts and grunt to really try and intimidate the opposition but against the Aussies or NZ teams, they allow them to determine the terms en kruip in hul doppe weg. The difference is like day and night.
Why? Sorry to suck the earth's oxygen? Nee magtag man, ek sal mos meer bedonn@#$ wees wanneer ek teen een van die spanne speel. Ek weet nie meer so mooi nie. one guy that shows exactly what I want to see is Joe van Niekerk. Hy laat nie met hom mors en dit is wat ek bedoel. Ek sal baie meer windgat wees oorsee as in my eie land. Genoeg gese.
I must say that last weekend against the Hurricanes with the "spear tackle' incisdent, the Cats stood up very well. I don't agree with fighting but at least they showed some guts to tell them "hey this is our grounds pals!
Nag ou grote!
Is it true to say that the SA sides don't play for 80 minutes because they cant , or just don't have the ability to produce a performance of that standar? Is it a coached thing or is it a heart thing ? Do we at this point find ourselves very short of experience and very thin on the match winners front?
It seems to me that we have little depth in both cases. Who of all our players would get into any of the top 5 teams in the world on reputation alone . Should we not be looking at this world cup squad with one eye on the 2007 world cup and hope that we can take a leaf out of the English sides 10 year build up to get to this point and hope that we produce a match winner or 2 along the way.
Am I being unkind to say that we by and large have stock players in this current group involved in the super 12 with 1 or 2 very good talents but no match winners yet ! My biggest fear is that the tri nations will be a 1 win affair and if the coach survives to the world cuo he wont be around afterwards which will leave us no better off than when we started. I really am trying to give our team ( who I will support no matter how disappointed I may get ) an honest appraisal and find it hard to be more confident then that.
I saw a SA team selected in the Sunday Times ( v d Bergh I think ) and its a very ordinary side at best. Matfield may jump well but his ball handling is poor and some of the other names mentioned worried me, What would be your top 15 and could you give a back up player for each position a sort of SA A side.
Looking for hope