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Will the Boks defend their title in 2011?

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AB Captain Ritchie McCaw

Image by nznationalparty via Flickr


 It was bound to happen. At some stage of his Springbok coaching career, Pieter de Villiers was going to get exposed. The time has come in 2010, where a shift in rules that favours the attacking team was completely missed by de Villiers.

The All Blacks were ready. They blasted off the 2010 Tri Nations in style, obliterating South Africa and Australia in the process. The Men in Black played intelligent rugby. They are holding onto their ball in their own half and backing themselves to retain possession and eventually create space out wide.

A large part of their game plan has been based around Ma’a Nonu who can carry the ball up powerfully as the second receiver. In contrast the Boks have looked directionless and have played with no real purpose, although nothing can be taken away from the passion they breathed into the Soweto Test.

Jake White’s game plan has come to an end. The strategy that won the 2007 World Cup is old school now and fresh ideas are needed…..and quickly.

Some of the senior men in the Bok team are looking…..well ….old. John Smit is captain courageous but Ritchie McCaw is more looking the part of a 2011 World Cup winning captain than Smit is right now.

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It would take a brave coach with certain knowledge that he will win the World Cup next year to fire Smit at this late stage. Pieter de Villiers is damned if he drops Smit and damned if he doesn’t.

Key combinations have still not been established in the Bok team. Just who the center pairing, the loose forwards and the front row are going to be in a year’s time is still not clear.

Playing “Barney” at prop is not a solution for 2011 and if he is not the first choice hooker then sadly it is time to let the old warrior hang up his boots. Just who will captain the Springboks then is an intriguing question.

Victor Matfield has lead the Boks before but has not dominated the line out internationally this year and may be under pressure from Andries Bekker for the number 5 jersey come 2011.

Another candidate being mentioned is fellow Blue Bull Fourie Du Preez. Much respected by both the players and the South African public nobody would argue with the choice.

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However, Fourie is a quiet man and the captaincy role may cause him to take his eye off his game. And if South Africa is to win 2011, it will all revolve around Fourie Du Preez being on top of his game without any added responsibility.

One other player that is in the mix is tough as nails Juan Smith from the Free State. The rugged flanker had a lot of input into the Springboks resurgence at Soweto and is also a well respected man in South African rugby.

Smith leads from the front and will never take a step backwards. We have learnt from the great victories of 95 and 07……it takes nerve to win a World Cup. Being led into a final by Juan Smith in 2011, nerve and a determination not to step backwards will be instilled into the Springbok’s quest to defend our title of World Champions.


Let’s Go Stormers…..Let’s Go

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After many lean seasons in the Super 14, the Newlands faithful have eventually got something to cheer about.

The Stormers emphatic 42 -14 win over the Crusaders proved that they have the character to go all the way in the 2010 Super 14. The Crusaders came at the Stormers and an early Dan Carter charge down and try could have swung the game right at the beginning into the Crusaders favour.

However, Schalk Burger who is growing in stature as the captain of the Stormers kept the troops calm and let from the front ably assisted by the ever improving Duane Vermeulen and the Andries Bekker who is developing into a world class lock forward.

Bekker has been instrumental in bringing the winning culture that is developing in Cape Town. He has found his feet in international rugby and is starting to impose himself in the big games.

As Mark Andrews the legendary Springbok enforcer and World Cup winning lock forward noted, the first few seasons of big rugby are difficult as Bekker would have been tested by the big men like Bakkies Botha.

Andries Bekker sorting out two Hurricanes players at once. He is developing into the enforcer of the Stormers team

Bekker has shown that he is now ready to take his rightful place in world rugby and outclassed All Black’s Chris Jack who is back in the Crusaders team as well as Brad Thorne.

Every great team has its enforcer and Bekker has taken up that mantle in the Stormers team. Mark Andrews, Adri Geldenhuys, Moaner Van Heerden, Kevin De Klerk and Bakkies Botha have all played major contributions to the Springbok’s successes over the decades and eventually Cape Town has bred a lock that fits into the mould.

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(Above: Andries Bekker outplayed All Blacks  Brad Thorne and Chris Jack and his reputation as a world class lock forward is growing with every game.)

Going into the build up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and South Africa is looking good up front. The old firm of Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha will still be around barring injury and Matfield will be hard pressed to stay ahead of the man from Cape Town as the number one lock in the country.

5 Reasons for the Stormers success:

Rassie Erasmus and Alistair Coetzee

With Erasmus as Director of coaching and Coetzee the head coach, these two men have formed a great combination that is paying off on the field. Rassie was given the cheque book and brought Brian Habana and Jacques Fourie into the fold.  These two world class players have fitted right into the brand of rugby that the Stormers want to play. Coetzee learnt invaluable lessons as Jake White’s understudy and a happy culture exists amongst the players.

Schalk Burger

The incredible Schalk is a machine who is relishing the role of captaining the side. Immensely popular and respected by his team mates and has been instrumentally in ensuring the players are playing for the jersey and for each other. Nobody can rattle Schalk and the Stormers have been a composed team this year that have handled the big pressure moments well.

Andries Bekker

Bekker has dominated the line out, cleared out well in the rucks, had galloping runs on the wing that opponents have found difficult to stop and has added “grunt” to the tight five. He is now a world class player in his own right.

Duane Vermeulen

He has moved up in the pecking order of number 8’s in South Africa and must be breathing down the neck of Pierre Spies. His cross defense against the Crusaders was sublime and his dismissive tackles of two Crusaders attackers just meters from the Stormers try line proved just how strong Vermeulen is and how dedicated he is to the cause.

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(Above: Duane Vermeulen carries the ball up. He has played a big part in the Stormers success in 2010)

The Stormers Back Line

It is difficult to highlight certain players when the back line is operating as a unit and everyone is playing their part. Peter Grant is getting the line moving and the experienced Jacques Fourie is a colossus in midfield. Bryan Habana is probably under rated in terms of defense, while Gio Aplon continues to surprise everybody with his calmness under the high ball and the gaps that he just seems to glide through.

The Stormers boast the best defensive record in the competition and the Crudasers discovered this to their chagrin at Newlands.

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(Above: Bryan Habana defense has been as good as his attacking capabilities in the 2010 Super 14)

Can the Stormers eventually go all the way and win the Super 14?  Schalk Burger has cautioned the players not to get ahead of themselves but was pleased with the intensity with which the Stormers overcame the Crusaders. The big hurdle will be the Bulls at Newlands in two weeks time. The winner of that game may well end up being crowned as the 2010 Super 14 Champions.

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May 2, 2010 at 7:07 am

“Tree Aan for Sport Parade”

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The recent media exposure given to the End Conscription Campaign made me realize that over 20 years have passed since the end of the South African Bush War.  Needless to say this occasion is passing by with hardly a mention anywhere.  This is sad because the Border was something a whole generation of young South Africans had to face and was a rite of passage for nearly two decades of SADF National Servicemen.

on patrol on Charlie kaplyn

(Above: SADF on patrol : The Charlie Kaplyn during the South African Bush War)

The dreaded brown envelope that contained the SADF national service call up papers was received in Matric.  Being a swimmer and a surfer, one obviously opted for the Navy when completing the required forms for the South African Defense Force.  Obscure details like having attended naval cadets for a few months in Standard Four were naturally included in the form in the vain hope of actually being called up for the Navy.

The day arrived and my brown envelope was in my hand.  I had to report to 2 SAI Walvis Bay in January 1985.  Cool, January was the call up everyone wanted because it meant you could get your two years over with as quickly as possible, as opposed to the July call up where it seemed a death sentence was waiting for you for six months.

Walvis Bay, but that’s in South West Africa was the first thought that went through my stunned brain.  Hey, but at least it’s at the coast so maybe I have been called up to the Navy after all, was the second consolation thought that hit me.  I showed my call up to a mate of mine who had an older brother who had been to the “Mag” already.  Nah, he said 2 SAI means that you going to the infantry.

Wonderful, I am going to a foreign land for two years to serve in the Infantry.  It didn’t get much worse than that, believe me.

I asked some of the local surfers if there were waves in Walvis Bay and whether I should take my surfboard with me. There were  vague mentions of a surf break called Guns near Swakopmund but the unanimous decision was not to believe the army when it said you could bring your own sports equipment for the Wednesday afternoon Sport Parade.

The first Sport Parade after “klaaring in” was very important.  This was when you chose your sport for the next two years.  There were two blonde PF women admin soldiers at Walvis Bay who played tennis who attracted many to the sport.  But Wednesday after Wednesday brought negative reports from the troepie hopefuls who were trying their luck.

There was wind surfing as well at Walvis Bay.  Luckily one of the ou manne warned me about the wind surfing.  The wind surfers had to “tree aan” and carry the equipment on the “loopas” all the way to the lagoon and “makkirie pas” and “om keur” so many times that by the time they got to the lagoon it was almost time to come home again.

Some of the “roofies” opted for pistol shooting as their sport.  This was also a fatal mistake because the shooting range was quite a distance away and pistol shooting attracted many of the P.F’s which meant that most of the national servicemen spend Wednesday afternoons being asked if they could “sien daardie sand duin? “Daar gat julle”

Ou manne also warned us to stay away from “Bondel Sport”.  Bondel Sport at Walvis Bay meant throwing medicine balls at each other for the entire afternoon with the P.F in charge shouting at the “Dienspligtes” to throw the heavy balls harder at each other.

There was a volley ball court right next to the bungalows at 2 SAI and that seemed to be the safest option to me, so I decided that volley ball would be my sport for the next two years.  There were so many guys doing volley ball that one never got a game but at least you could chill and relax for the afternoon.

Then rugby started.  Each platoon had to form a team to compete in the company trials.  A mate of mine Lionel Neethling was a Western Province Schools rugby player who had been classified G3K3 due to high blood pressure.  G3K3 meant that you couldn’t do physical exercise in the SADF and was quite a sought after classification by the sick, lame and the lazy.

However, once it was discovered that Lionel could play rugby, he was ordered to attend the Sport Parade and play rugby, despite being a G3K3.  He was also ordered not to fall over dead during Sport Parade.

Having played on the flank at school I was asked if I wanted to be in the platoon team for the rugby trial.  Sure I thought, it could actually be fun to play some rugby but luckily I said that I would only play if they really needed me.

Sitting on the sideline of the rugby field as a reserve suddenly made me realize that the only place where there was any grass at all in the 2 SAI army camp was at the rugby field (apart from the grass that was being smoked that is).

2 SAI was on the edge of the desert and was a very bleak place.  Actually being able to lie on a patch of green grass was something a troep at Walvis Bay did not do, because there was just sand and the odd malnourished bush here and there.

Sunday afternoon infantry school

(Above: Sitting on the grass at Infantry School, Oudtshoorn cleaning R4 rifles with the weeks washing in the background)

The first trial started and a few minutes into the game a sickening tackle by a PF corporal on a young troep jolted all those sitting on the touchline.  Yeessh, this was not schoolboy rugby we were witnessing as the injured player was removed from the field.  Fortunately it was a centre that needed replacing and suddenly none of the reserves could play centre.

I never made the company rugby team but my name was on the rugby attendance register which meant that every Sport Parade as well as Monday and Thursday afternoon PT sessions all the rugby players had to report to the rugby field.

It was bliss.  A few hours to relax and dream of home away from the madness of basic training while your mates were being drilled to death in the PT sessions or carrying windsurfers up and down to the lagoon or climbing sand dunes while pistol shooting.

Twenty years after the days when the boys had to go to the Border and it seems like nobody even remembers.  It is probably a noble thing to honour the ECC people and it was brave to make the choice to rather go to jail than do two years national service.  But many of us did do our national service and this article is written for them.  Tree aan…..staaldak, webbing en geweer………

Is Eastern Province rugby being shafted again?

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Cheeky Watson and SA Rugby have been punting 16 June as the launch date for the Southern Kings, the franchise that would revive rugby in the Eastern Cape.

The Kings were going to play in the Super 15 after two seasons in the Currie Cup. The weary fans from Port Elizabeth accepted that there would be a few tough seasons until the Kings found their feet in top flight rugby.

But, we would be watching the Crusaders and the Sharks and the Bulls playing in our back garden again and that alone would be worth watching our team take a hammering or two along the way. There is a proud rugby tradition in Port Elizabeth and without a doubt we would have toppled some big name teams along the way.

There is no reason why the hills of Ciskei should not be able to match the prop factory that exists in Zimbabwe and that in a few years there would be new “Beasts” and Mjati’s coming through the ranks.

The rugby schools are here and schools like Selborne, Queens, Dale and Grey College have produced generation after generation of Springbok rugby players. Grassroots development programmes could feed talented youngsters into the rugby schools and then into the franchise with relative ease as the infrastructure is already in place.

Warning lights were flickering and alarm bells were ringing when it was announced that the extra super rugby franchise would be based in Australia. There were even a few ridiculous statements that the Kings would be based overseas.

Let’s face facts now. Under the current system the Kings will not make it over the long haul and rugby will continue along the path of terminal decline in the Eastern Province.

The team that has been selected to play the British Lions is a makeshift one at best and diehard EP supporters will battle to connect with this team. Even the doomed Southern Spears seemed to have more local support when they played the Cheetahs at the Boet Erasmus stadium a few years ago.

From reports on the game EP played against Western Province last weekend it is clear that rugby is not improving in the province. Cheeky Watson must act quickly and decisively if he wants to save Eastern Province rugby. And that includes using whatever political connections he has to safeguard the game for generations to come in the nursery of South African rugby.

Has the professional era doomed rugby in Johannesburg?

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From proud days when the rugby team from Johannesburg was known as Transvaal and could sweep all before their path in South Africa, the new team, the Golden Lions have turned their fans against them, fired their coach and the administrators are making strange statements.

The excellent article written by Rugby Guru on blogs highlights a massive problem in the game in South Africa and one that has been caused by the shift into the professional game or the modern era of rugby.

The Lions were thrashed by the British Lions 74-10 in Johannesburg and it is doubtful that a team from Gauteng has ever put up such a poor performance against an international touring team before.

What will the Golden Lions fans do should their team fall out of the Super 15 and become a spent force in South African rugby? How do you, as a loyal fan actually support another team or province in South Africa? Could a born and bred Joburg boykie suddenly become a Shark or Bulls or Cheetahs supporter?

True supporters don’t bail on their team just because they playing badly. Any avid sports fan would have grown up in Johannesburg wanting to play for the Transvaal primary schools rugby or cricket or swimming team. Local was lekker and that’s how we grew up in South Africa. The Cape Town people supported Western Province who are now known as the Stormers, Durban people supported the Banana Boys and if you came from Port Elizabeth, you supported EP.

Going to the Boet Erasmus to support Eastern Province in the 1970‘s and 1980’s was an exciting affair. The curtain raisers started at about 11am and school boy fans would rush to the Boet in their droves to watch and hook up with other mates. Later on, just before the main game, the stadium would start filling up with the hard core, blue collar EP rugby supporters.

The Boet Erasmus playing field was surrounded by wire to prevent the fans from running onto the field. It wasn’t always difficult to understand why. The Boet was always an intimidating place for other teams and the supporters certainly played their part.

The ouks from Despatch would start vloeking the opposition players, with big men like Kevin De Klerk and Moaner Van Heerden copping a lot of abuse. Oranges would be thrown at players with the big farmers from Patensie joining in with their biltong. A referee had even been klapped in the tunnel long before anybody had heard of Piet Van Zyl.

Throughout the 1980’s EP competed in the highest echelons of South African rugby and even if they never won the Currie Cup, that didn’t bother the ardent EP supporter. We shouted for our team whether we won or lost the rugby and would cheer our team when they won the fight.

However professionalism killed competitive rugby quickly in the Eastern Cape. Slowly even the die hard fan stopped supporting EP and the team ended up not even being able to attract fans when playing at a school field in Humansdorp. EP dropped to becoming the worst provincial team in South African rugby.

This slide from grace was dismaying for the EP fan and we became the first fans in South Africa to lose our team. That is why we the disenfranchised fans from Port Elizabeth support the move to have a Super 15 team in our town.

What South African rugby needs is a bit of the old style promotion/relegation games. And we cannot allow the administrators to hide behind their lack of performance any longer. The administrators wrecked the game in the Eastern Cape and a similar situation now exists in Johannesburg.

Should a team fall out of the Super 15 for a season and lose some sponsorship…… with it Mr. Administrator and look for another job.

The top five teams in the Currie Cup must play in the Super 15, as the Aussies seemed to have scooped the extra franchise in the competition.

And if that promotion/relegation place took place between the Golden Lions and the Southern Kings one thing is for certain. Rugby Guru will be shouting for his team just as hard as I will be shouting for mine.

Bring on the British Lions

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There is a story in the folk lore of Eastern Province rugby about the opening game against the 1980 British Lions that involved Dennis Campher a tough centre who had perfected the art of the crash tackle.

 EP had talented players in its ranks and they were up against a Lions team that many thought would win the 4 test series against the Springboks, who were back into international rugby for the first time since the 1976 All Black tour to South Africa.

Schalk Burger Snr fronted up the pack with Pote Human while the talented Gavin Cowley was at flyhalf. Dennis Campher the best crash tackler in the business was on his outside and Johan Heunis who was destined to become a great Springbok fullback in the 1980’s elder brother Chris, was also in the team.

The 1974 British Lions almost came unstuck against EP at one of the “Battles of the Boet Erasmus “

Cowley recalls playing in his 3rd match for EP and as a 20 yr old stood on one side as Stuart McKinney, Gordon Brown, Kerrie Van Eyk and George Barnard started a free for all.

EP was well known in South African rugby for winning the fight when the going got tough.  Although the Lions managed to win 28-14, the efforts of the men from Port Elizabeth earned them the right to play the opening game against the 1980 British Lions.

Teammates used to watch Dennis Campher warm up in the changing room with awe.  He would start head butting the wall then wrestle with team mates as motivation.

 Campher was known to be able to change a game.  Even the great Naas Botha was wary of receiving the ball when playing EP as Campher was known to push the law to the limit in his crash tackling defense methods.

 In a game against Northern Orange Free State at the Boet Erasmus stadium, the game was getting away from EP. NOFS were on the attack when Dennis Campher launched his counter attack.  Minutes later four Purple Panthers were lying on the ground writhing in pain after being tacked by Campher and the game’s momentum swung into EP’s favour

In 1980 he began screaming at a selector to open the changing room door because he was going to charge and sort out the British Lions before they even got onto the field. 

The Springboks are going to need a similar “gees” up front to beat the 2009 British Lions.

Somehow the Australians have got their scrum together and it was an unpleasant sight watching Springbok hopeful Jannie Du Plessis being shunted by Ben Alexander in the Sharks vs Waratahs game over the weekend.

John Smit stabilized matters when he replaced Du Plessis but the series against the Lions could be won or lost up front.

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(Above:  John Smit, South Africa’ s World Cup winning captain will have to earn his spurs as a tighthead prop against the British Lions)

This view is echoed by Willie John McBride the victorious captain of the 1974 British Lions who said “I still think the team that scrummages is the team that prospers because you are going forward and you dictate the next play’.

“And that worries me a wee bit. I haven’t been impressed with the scrummaging during the Six Nations” he said in an interview with Paul Ackford “

 The Springboks have to dominate up front and the front row tussle could become a highlight of the series. 

Should the Bok front row be able to put the heat on, the British Lions can be beaten.  Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield will dominate Lions captain Paul O’ Connell who is being touted as the enforcer for the Lions.

 It is difficult to imagine Juan Smith, Schalk Burger and/or Heinrich Brussow not making an impact in the test series with Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski also keen to make their mark against the British Lions.  The last two tests are being played at altitude…..we have taken our home ground advantage………..Bring it on…….

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(Above:  Pierre Spies will be determined to make his mark against the touring British Lions)

The team sheets for 1980 Eastern Province vs British Lions game were:

Eastern Province:

J P Pretorius; H L Potgieter, D Campher, H Lotz, C Heunis; G S Cowley, M R O’Shea; D J Olivier, J P Delport, J Ferreira, G Human, S W P Burger, M van der Merwe (captain), N Snyman, A Johnson Replacements: G van Zyl for Lotz (26 mins); T Kankowski for Potgieter (27 mins)

Scorers Tries: Heunis, Campher Conversion: Cowley Penalty Goals: Pretorius, Cowley

British/Irish Lions XV:

B H Hay; H E Rees, R W R Gravell, P J Morgan, M A C Slemen; W G Davies, T D Holmes; G Price, P J Wheeler, F E Cotton, W B Beaumont (captain), A J Martin, J Squire, J R Beattie, S M Lane Replacements: D L Quinnell for Lane (2 mins); J M Renwick for Davies (29 mins)

Scorers Tries: Slemen, Holmes, Rees Conversions: Davies, Renwick Penalty Goals: Davies (2), Renwick Dropped Goal: Davies

Referee S Strydom (Orange Free State)

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Jannie Du Plessis….The real deal

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Super 14 rugby has provided some good entertainment over the years.  In 2006 the Australians thought they had found their solution to being walked over in the scrums.  “Rodzilla” had hit the scene and was ready for the big time. 

Rodney Blake was a massive man, weighing in at 127 kg.  Rodzilla had more than held his own against the other loose head props during the Super 14 that year.  Os Du rand had been injured that Super rugby season and came back in time for the Tri Nations.

The first few scrums Os used to size Rodzilla up.  Then the moment arrived.  Os squared Blake up and squeezed him.  Blake backpedaled at a rapid rate of knots and his test career literally ended that day.  The Boks lost by two points but Os was back in town!!

Pieter De Villiers has actually made a canny move by moving John Smit to tight head.  South Africa is very thin in this position, with Jannie Du Plessis being the only other contender.

CJ van Der Linde, Cobus Visagie, BJ Botha and a number of others are all plying their trade overseas.  That means that Du Plessis and Smit are the best on offer in the crucial number 3 position.

Brian Mujati is at best a good provincial player and Brock Harris has added more grunt to the Stormers front row than Mujati could.

No tight head from the other South African Super 14 franchises has impressed either. Just how good Lawrence Sephaka can scrum will be put to the test by the Highlanders Jamie McIntosh in a clash at Coca Cola Park when the Lions host the visiting New Zealanders.

Werner Kruger has looked better than Ryno Gerber for the Bulls but is not Springbok material at this stage.

Jannie Du Plessis will be starting for the Sharks against the Waratahs this weekend.  Can he demolish the new Aussie strongman Ben Robinson like the Os Du Rand of old?  This is the moment for Du Plessis to draw his line in the sand and let South Africa know he is a hard man of South African rugby.