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|Volume 4, Week 2
|Brilliant! While SA rugby is contemplating whom the latest quarry will be to assume the poisoned chalice of Springbok coach the Northern Hemisphere is gearing up for the opening weekend of the Six Nations. World Champions, England will defend their grand slam title against the Gaelic and Celtic hordes (oops and Italy) in a tournament described as the second best thing to the World Cup - a modest lot they are up there now…
On Friday yet another contender for arguably the third most dangerous job in Southern Africa will join John, Ian, Kitch, André, Carl, Nick, Harry and Rudolf as post isolation Springbok coach. The other jobs by the way are, Robert Mugabe’s chauffeur and the SA health minister’s speechwriter. What are the makings of a good/great coach? There are many quotes lauding the qualities required however this one from Ara Parashegian ex Notre Dame College football coach is especially relevant for SA rugby, ‘A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are’. South African players deserve a brilliant coach; supported by proper structures, sound management and faith in their abilities. PS: I believe in the tooth fairy, Father Christmas and Anna Kournikova's tennis talent.
The Six Nations will open with some mouth-watering clashes on the weekend; France host Ireland in Paris in a game that always produces some outstanding rugby. Lucky for the French, their nemesis of late B.O.D (Brian O’Driscoll) is out with an injury, Ireland’s sexiest man (yip believe it or not!) will miss out on captaining his country after being appointed following Keith Woods’ retirement. France, also with a new captain, Fabian Pelous will look to restore their European dominance of a few years ago and with an exciting mixture of youth and experience will be the main challengers for England’s crown. Home ground advantage will see France through but only just.
Talking of the champions, England will travel to Italy on the wave of probably the biggest sporting euphoria the little island has ever seen. Having been there when they reached the semifinal of football’s European Cup in 1996 this reveler can attest first hand to the party atmosphere that envelops the island nation after a sporting triumph of sorts. Since it does not happen too often – let every dog have his day, or rather let every bulldog write his biography. The England team should not struggle against Italy however the old saying rings true, it is easier to get to the top than stay at the top. On the form of the last few years, they certainly deserve to be there and should provide a spectacle for all in this competition considering the confidence factor and talent available. No doubts over the victor of this game, if Italy win it will be the biggest upset since Trafalgar.
The third match will see Scotland traveling to Cardiff for a match between two teams on the mend. Scotland might take a few years, with new structures, ideas and coach but at least they have recognized and set upon a way forward. Wales, on their RWC showing have the potential to surprise the more fancied sides if they are willing to continue with the way they played in Australia. An exciting brand of rugby coupled with some brilliant young talent should swell the hearts and voices in the valleys of this rugby mad country. Heard the one of the Welshman who complained to his doc that he kept on singing the ‘green green grass of home’, the doc diagnosed him with the Tom Jones syndrome upon which the alarmed Welshman asked if it was a common disease, the doc’s reply? ‘It’s not unusual’! Wales to win with an inspired crowd singing their team to victory.
Next week, a preview of the Super 12 and as usual a prediction from this writer on the top 4 in this year’s competition. Enjoy the great rugby on display and oh yes, mow the lawn, fix the gate, bath the dog and take the missus out for a romantic dinner as the next 13 weeks or so will be rugby time!
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|R.I.P. by Desmond Organ
|The upcoming weekend’s games in the Six Nations provide a much needed break from the rigours of decision making SARFU style. Following weeks of endless debate we are no closer to a resolution of the problems that have plagued South African rugby for the last several years. It is almost becoming a yearly event which surely will lose its appeal to even the most die hard of supporters. It was an e mail from one well informed fan that left me with little desire to continue my weekly contribution.
The opinions seem to indicate that any reverting to the 14 team Currie Cup structure will be the end of any viable international presence. What is even more alarming is the fact that millions of Rands have been wasted on consulting fees and retrenchments. Rian Oberholzer’s comments on leaving office now have a hollow ring to them, far from leaving SA rugby in a positive financial state he has contributed to its potential financial demise. The one piece of remaining optimism is that the various sponsors of rugby will unite and confront the new leadership directly. It is hardly likely that the Minister of Sport will be able to make anything but damaging contributions to the already chaotic situation. He is surrounded by countless “failed” sporting codes. It would come as no surprise if his real intentions are the complete dismantling of anything resembling success.
This brings us to the much anticipated announcement of the Springbok coach, what a job that promises to be. If the successful candidate is anybody other than Jake White we are indeed on a hiding to nothing. The list of candidates was by no means extensive and the endless compilation of additional candidates has turned the entire process into a farce. Perhaps it is indeed a good thing that SARFU has decided to be the main decision maker in rugby; what professional organization would want to be associated with such a pathetically amateur recruitment process.
Chester Williams may well be the man manger that the South African rugby scene has been yearning for; however a lack of experience at any level in the 15 man code will surely mean that he occupies an assistant role for the next several years. Although White has not coached at Super 12 level he does have the technical expertise required for the job. Many people will not remember that Clive Woodward followed a similar path to White prior to becoming England’s coach and we all know how successful he has been. It is the technical aspects of the game that separate winners from contenders and not purely the man management expertise of a great leader. White is rumoured to have limitations in getting his ideas across to the players and this is where a man like Williams could be invaluable.
An interesting article on a well known rugby web site has convinced me that White is the only viable candidate. The reason for this is that he has a long term approach to the development of a successful team. It is the young players that he has identified and nurtured at U 21 level that now find themselves in the Super 12. Not only has he identified players he has generated results when most national teams in South Africa were struggling just to compete. Just like Clive Woodward he has a long term strategy that could well lift the Springboks out of the quagmire that they currently find themselves in. However, I would not be the least bit surprised if SARFU did the obvious and chose a person without the necessary technical ability.
I for one am looking forward to the announcement as a place mark in the potential final death throw of rugby in South Africa. This decision and the future structure of the game are potentially going to be the most important factors in determining the future of a sport which has become the most talked about in South Africa. It in somewhat ironic that in many ways football is following the same catastrophic march into insignificance as a showpiece of South African sporting strength. All I can say is pray that some form of sane intervention rescues the game of rugby.
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|My Picks for the Super 12 by Vinesh Naicker
|For the Tri-Nations teams the rugby season is about to kick off again with the Super 12.
I’m not as interested in the Super 12 this year as I was last year. Last year the Super 12 was our lead in to which players would be representing our respective countries in the World Cup. This year there is nothing of consequence on the line.
Surprisingly the New Zealand teams are looking stronger this year than last year. The Blues won the Super 12 last year and Auckland went on to win the NPC. The achievements of these players was recognized by John Mitchell and, although his and the All Black teams journey ended in failure, the players did not suffer any consequences for their inability to perform. The huge Auckland contingent is all back and will be a formidable combination in the low pressure environment of the Super 12. I’ll be very surprised if they don’t make the top four this year.
The Crusaders are looking as strong as ever, a team that relies on teamwork more than the individual brilliance of its players. Having said that they have a surplus of riches in the pivotal flyhalf role; with a fit again Andrew Mehrtens, Daniel Carter and Aaron Mauger all competing for that job. Reuben Thorne will need to show the leadership and form that was sadly lacking in the World Cup if he wants to retain his position in Graham Henrys team. They are a tenacious team and have been there or thereabouts for the last five years. You can almost guarantee them a place in the top four as well.
The Highlanders looked pretty good last year until they self destructed in the dispute between coach and senior players. Laurie Mains and Tane Randell are gone, so it is up to Anton Oliver to step up and “put his money where his mouth is” as it were. I suspect, however, that with a new coaching combination; a continuing lack of world class players; and that glass jaw which Otago and Highlander teams consistently demonstrate, they’ll end up in fifth or sixth position once again.
The Hurricanes have historically been one of the most unpredictable teams in the competition, beating the best one week and then losing to the worst the next. Last year under their new coach Colin Cooper they demonstrated more mettle than they have in the past. My bet for this year is that they will play with greater consistency, but that their tight five will continue to be out-muscled when it counts. I’m picking them for a fifth to seventh finish at the end of the round robin.
What can you say about the Chiefs? At the inception of the Super 12 they were cursed with coach Ross Cooper and since that blighted beginning they have struggled to improve. On paper the 2004 squad looks like the best they have ever had. Unfortunately, although they seem to have a better squad than last year, all the other NZ teams seem vastly improved, and so in comparison the Chiefs have lost ground against them. I predict that they will subdue perhaps two of the South African teams and one each of the NZ and Australian teams to end up finishing seventh or eighth on the table.
The Australian teams look like they will continue to have problems in the tight forwards and flyhalf but I am picking the Brumbies and the Waratahs to make the top four. The Brumbies, mainly because they have maintained continuity in players and coach since last year and because they have always been the best performed team from Australia.
The Waratahs demonstrated a lot of potential last year and if they can find the big game mentality that the Wallabies showed in the World Cup then they have the talent to once more make the top four. Balanced against that is the fact that they have a new coach and have yet to find a credible captain and flyhalf.
Queensland is struggling both for players and for a coach. The loss of Julian Huxley will be a big blow to their ambitions of playing a dynamic game in the back. The indomitable Queensland spirit can only take you so far, I expect them to cause a few upsets in the competition, most probably against the Waratahs who they have never lost to, but to ultimately finish in sixth to ninth position.
Based on the performance of the Springboks late last year and the continuing fall out at SARFU the South African teams will struggle to concentrate on matters on the field. The Bulls and the Sharks are probably the two teams that will mount the best challenges. Although they will both probably be, as usual, strong at home, I suggest that they have not yet mastered the art of winning on the road.
In conclusion my picks for the top four Super 12 teams for this year are the: Blues, Crusaders, Waratahs, and Brumbies. Probably qualifying in that order.
Select Books, 232 Long Street, Cape Town. New Rugby list (no. 13) now out containing 380 books & programmes. Ph. (021) 424-6955.
|A Lions win in New Zealand would be outstanding, but don't compare it to England winning the World Cup. The Lions winning in New Zealand wouldn't scratch the surface of the sort of excitement and enthusiasm that came from England's win. Howard Thomas, Chief Executive of Premier Rugby
In the world of rugby there is not one person I genuinely dislike other than Brendan Venter. He is one of the most hypocritical, cynical, dirty and underhand players I have ever played against. I can't stand anything about him. He is a bad loser and a bad winner, an all-round horrible person. Matt Dawson
If those words came from somebody in rugby that I respected I would lie awake in bed unable to sleep, but they don't and I'm sleeping fine, thank you. Brendan Venter
I have a problem with governance. The board is not being allowed to make its own decisions and its powers are being diminished. The whole process leaves a lot to be desired and I have better things to do with myself. Alwyn Martin, another one of SA Rugby's four independent board members who resigned
Martin has a massive influence at Welford Road and none more so than when he speaks on the field. When he speaks everyone listens. He has an aura, the type that Joost had at the Blue Bulls. Jaco van der Westhuyzen
As head of a scratch XV, Woodward would be forced to dig out his overalls and return to the floor to deal with the dirty work - and one must question whether he remembers (or ever learnt) how to do that. Andy Jackson on Clive Woodward's 'lack of skills' to coach the Lions
Without the courtesy of communication, how can we be a partner? Instead our contribution has not been recognized and we have been treated quite shabbily. There are a number of issues which we as sponsors would like to talk about. Raymond van Niekerk, Gobal Head of Marketing for Investec
Van Rooyen is riding roughshod over the clear dictates of the Sarfu constitution and flouting company law in the way he carries out his duties with SA Rugby. This is unacceptable. And they talked of me as a dictator! Louis Luyt
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
|Letters to the Editor
Good that you are back!
The only person that I respected in the SA Rugby setup has resigned. I wonder if it will ever come to the situation that the rugby fans will stop watching rugby? It will happen if they persist in setting up quotas for black players in teams etc. They wonder where the racism in rugby comes from, but they create a breeding ground by putting in racial quotas. I think that I must start watching netball. At least there are good looking legs that I can perve at.
If I had to appoint a new coach there are only 2 candidates that I would look at. John Mitchell and Nic Mallett. Mitchell only did 1 mistake, he didn't pick Andrew Merthens. I think that Sarvu are too proud to go that way.
I'm not new to your forum and this is not the first time I e-mail to RF. I'm a passionate Springbok supporter and always was whether still "is" well that's debatable? My hope is just about gone, just about nothing left and to make a long story short, "my voorspelling is dat die SA super 12 spanne weereens die eerste 4 plekke van onderaf op die punteleer gaan inneem, daaraan bestaan daar by my geen twyfel nie. Wat die Springbokke betref, wat kan 'n man dan nog dink? hulle is sover dit my aangaan in hulle mo*r einde van die storie. Geen span enige plek in die wereld skrik die Bokke meer nie, geen een nie. Selfs Namibia en Kenia sien kans vir ons en dit se genoeg vir ons Bokke en die toekoms.
Ek glo nog in wonderwerke so by the way?
Baie welkom terug. Die jaar is maar eentonig as jy vir 'n rukkie groet. Aan al ons rugby vrinne, die jaar het reeds gevorder, maar mag dit wat oorbly vir julle almal geseënd en voorspoedig wees. Soos dit is, is die Super 12 slegs 'n paar dae van hier, en sien mens nogal met oorgawe uit na die nuwe seisoen. Wat my egter bekommerd maak, is dat die bestuur van ons geliefde spel nou nog nie hule sake uitgesorteer het nie. Soos dit vir my lyk, is hier 'n diktatorskap besig om te ontwikkel, en as die manne nie gaan saamstem nie, moet hulle liewers loop. Na sy verkiesing het ek amper, let wel amper, die indruk gekry dat van Rooyen die dinge gaan regruk, maar tans wil dit voorkom asof hy die houding van "ek is die baas" inneem, en ek is bevrees dan is rugby nog steeds net so diep in die modder soos die afgelope klompie jare. In kort, ek voorsien nie beterskap nie, inteendeel hierdie "siekte" van die bestuur gaan net weer die spelers aansteek. Ek doen 'n ernstige beroep op die administrateurs van die spel om hulle kleinlikheid en politiek vir ander geleenthede te hou, en doen wat reg is vir rugby, die spelers en die publiek. Onthou dok Craven se woorde : " Niemand is groter as die spel nie. "