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Posts Tagged ‘super 14 rugby

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

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.

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.

Is this the end of the road for Super 14 Rugby?

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The SANZAR partners, comprising of New Zealand, South Africa and Australia have not reached agreement on what format the Super 14 competition should take.  Time is running out as they have to meet with television broadcasters by the end of June to hammer out a broadcast deal.

 The South Africans agree with the expansion of the competition, but want the Southern Kings to have the additional franchise.  Australia wants the franchise to be based in Melbourne.

The Aussies and the Kiwis also want the competition to extend into June and enter the “Tri Nations window”.  This would mean weakened Super rugby teams at the business end of the competition.  South Africa wants an earlier start to the competition to cater for the extra fixtures an expansion would bring.

I have to agree with the Aussies that starting the competition earlier would be problematic.  Heat exhaustion can play a major role in games played in January and will detract from the fast pace of the game that we have come to expect from Super rugby.

Extending the competition into June is also not a viable solution though.  We cannot have teams missing their international players when vying for semi final spots and neither can we compromise the Currie Cup.  Although I must admit that the Currie Cup becomes a better product to watch when the Springboks return from international duty and play for their provinces.

The current format of Super 14 rugby is not working either.  No matter how much one loves rugby, trying to watch 5 games on a Saturday is also overload.  Never before have I left the TV on and gone and done other things around the house and quickly return to watch when a try gets scored or Bakkies Botha moers somebody.

And who gets to watch the Friday morning games?  Doing the Sunday morning highlights does not work for me.  Rugby was meant to be watched live and so many a good game goes by unwatched by South Africans.

The Aussie and Kiwi fans have it even worse.  Many of the games played in South Africa are screened in the middle of the night overseas due to time differences.  How many of them get up to watch games?  I have a sneaking suspicion that there are more viewers in South Africa per game than our overseas cousins, which is why SA gets to have so much sway in these negotiations with the broadcasters. 

So what is the answer?  Well it’s plain to see what the Australian agenda is.  They do not have a domestic rugby competition and couldn’t care about the Currie Cup or the Air New Zealand Cup.  So Super rugby is where it’s at for them.

Both South Africa and New Zealand must protect their domestic competitions and cannot be pushed around by the Aussies on this point.

Personally the ultimate in rugby is a test between the Springboks and the All Blacks.  But too much of a good thing is also not a good thing.  Maybe the Tri Nations must be expanded to include Argentina, Samoa and Tonga and this 6 nations tournament gets played every 2 years.  Old fashioned tours can be played in the off year where we can play 3 test series against Australia and New Zealandin rotation.

The Super 14 should be expanded to include the Pacific Islands teams but gets played on a regional basis at first.  Then the top teams go through to a Super 6 or a Super 8 competition, while the bottom 8 or 10 teams fight it out in a “plate competition”.

This will broaden the base of rugby in the Southern Hemisphere without compromising the domestic competitions.  And if the Aussies and Kiwis don’t agree……..well lets go it alone…….we have been there and done that before……….

2011………..Are the Boks ready for the Rugby World Cup title defense?

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Being an arm chair selector has in advantages. The Springbok team that you select will probably never end up playing together and you never have to justify yourself like Pieter De Villiers.

Selecting my team to play the British Lions got me thinking about 2011. All the talk right now is about the British Lions tour and rightly so. This is only their third visit to the shores of South Africa in the past 29 years with the other tours being in 1980 (won by the Springboks) and 1997 (won by the Lions).

Nobody can really think past 2010 Soccer World Cup and it is an honour for South Africa to be the host nation. But rugby people seem to be forgetting that 2009 marks the half way mark in the reign of the Springboks, the current rugby World Champions.

 In 1997, the last time the Springboks faced the British Lions, we were also two years off the 95 World Cup victory and South African rugby was in disarray. Kitch Christie, the world cup winning coach was gone, as was his successor Andre Markgraaf. Carel Du Plessis, who coached the Boks during the last Lions series, also got the boot before the 99 Rugby World Cup. 

 Are the Springboks that well prepared this time round, in their second defense of their crown? We felt let down by Nick Mallet in 1999 when the Boks last tried to defend their title and the question has to be asked whether history will repeat itself. Part of the problem at the 1999 World Cup was the issue of captaincy.

After Gary Teichman was dropped as skipper of the Boks, an uneasy vibe developed in a highly successful team. Players started feeling that if the skipper could be dropped, then everyone else was vulnerable as well.

By 2005 Jake White had a fair idea of who was going to be in his squad for the 07 World Cup and his faith was in John Smit as skipper. Victor Matfield, Os du Rand, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Fourie Du Preez and Percy Montgomery were all seasoned campaigners by the time Jake got his team to France.

Will John Smit be our captain in 2011? If he isn’t, then I suggest that we are already in trouble come crunch time in New Zealand.

There is little doubt that, barring injury or an alarming loss of form, Richie McCaw will be leading the All Blacks in a World Cup they will be desperate to win on home soil.

Smit’s position in the team may even be in doubt in 2009, let alone in two years time. He is already being played out of position and is not the world’s best tight head prop, although it must be said he has not done a bad job either.

Looking past Smit, who could possibly be the skipper for the Boks in 2011? Victor Matfield has been the stand in skipper when Smit has not been around but seems to play better for the Boks when he can just concentrate on his own game. He is also being pushed by a hungry Andries Bekker who may sense that he could force himself into the Boks starting line up over the next 2 seasons.

Jean De Villiers is a great player but has been injury prone over the years. The focus will be on whether De Villiers can last until 2011 and it will be a bonus for the Boks if he does. Building a team around De Villiers as captain would be a mistake however.

The Lions and the Sharks are both captained by players who are not part of the Bok set up. Cobus Grobbelaar and Johan Muller will probably not be part of the plans during the next three seasons and can probably be discounted.

That leaves Juan Smith, the tough as nails flanker from the Cheetahs, who is playing some fine rugby in the Super 14 as a possible Rugby World Cup 2011 captain. Smith will be turning 30 in 2011 and will be at the peak of his powers. Duane Vermeulen will also be knocking at the door and Smith will not have it all his own way.

 However, should he be selected as captain, then he must be backed by the coach, with Vermeulen being selected as part of the squad, based on his form in 2011.

One cannot write off John Smith either. He will be 33 at the next World Cup and could be aiming to make 2011 his swansong. Either way, the calls need to made now and the decisions backed by all the role players. The Boks have a title to defend.

Bakkies Botha……the Springboks not so secret weapon

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Let’s face it, rugby union is a hard game and not played by the faint of heart.  The professional game has had many advantages with rugby becoming a faster game played by bigger and probably more skillful players.


Gone are the days when rugby players going to the gym as part of rugby training were unheard of.  They got all the conditioning they needed at practice twice a week and in the pub afterwards, the players believed in those days.  Rob Louw the great South African flank even got dropped for a test match in New Zealand for jolling too much at the pubs.


Through the generations however, rugby has had the hard man. This oke would be one of the big forwards and most of them over the years have been locks.  England was at their most dominant when Martin Johnson ran the show from up front.  Johnson took no nonsense and in 2002 was the man who sorted out Springbok captain Corne Krige in the ‘Tangle at Twickenham”.   England went on to win the Rugby World Cup the following year.


Kevin De Klerk was a tough man in the heyday of strong Transvaal teams.  There is an old legend in SA rugby folklore that De Klerk would say to an opposition lock that “My ball is my ball…..your ball we can talk about” and woe betide any lightie lock that didn’t get the message.


Great teams over the years always seem to have had an enforcer in the mix.  New Zealand has produced Colin Meads, Andy Haden and Mark Shaw who were never afraid to take a step forward.  The 1976 All Black Ian Kirkpatrick fought pitched battles with Moaner Van Heerden, both drawing blood though gaping head wounds in the four test matches that South Africa won 3-1.  There were no blood bins and neither man would have even considered leaving the field.  They were playing rugby and it didn’t get any better than the old rivals sorting each other out.


 In the good old days Eastern Province were given the first match when an international team visited South Africa.  The 1980 British Lions faced up to EP at the infamous Boet Erasmus stadium in Port Elizabeth.  There had been many battles of the Boet over the years and EP was a feared and respected outfit who had been given the task to soften the Lions and giving them a traditional South African welcoming.


They breed them tough in that neck of the woods.  Schalk Burger was born in Port Elizabeth.  Mark Andrews and Os Du Rand, two of the all time great Springboks come from farming stock and grew up in the hinterlands of the province. Even a few of the Watson brothers were big okes that could take care of themselves.


There was a saying in South African rugby that if EP lost the game, they would always win the fight.  And the 1980 EP team had some hard men in its ranks.  Fronted up by Schalk Burger Snr in his prime and backed by his sidekick George Rautenbach the pack was a tough unit.  And in the backline was the suicidal crash tackler Dennis Campher.


The Lions went on to win the encounter but the 1980 British Lions injury count started at the Boet when Stuart Lane, the highly rated flanker limped off the field.  Schalk Burger would go on to win Springbok colours and become the enforcer of the Bok pack together with Vleis Visage in the mid 1980’s.


The 1995 World Cup winning Boks also had some hard men in the team.  James “Bullet” Dalton was always in opponents faces and he had back up from the likes of the man mountain Kobus Wiese and Hannes Strydom.


Mark Andrews became the Bok enforcer after them with guys like Os Du rand and Andre Venter adding the grunt when necessary in the late 1990’s.


Then Bakkies Botha came along.  The man is huge at over 2m tall and 116 kg of prime beef .  He already is a legend in SA rugby.  There is a story that Pieter De Villiers told at a dinner in Jeffreys Bay recently about the time Bakkies saw another hard man, AJ Venter lying at the bottom of a ruck.  “AJ come closer”, said Bakkies and when asked why, Bakkies retorted “So that I can moer your properly”.


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Fourie Du Preez when asked about funny moments on a rugby field came up with this one.  ‘The Bulls were playing the Sharks and during the second half, one of the Natal Sharks forwards said to Bakkies that he thought Botha always got substituted at half time so why is he still on the field.  Bakkies replied that he plays the full 80 minutes against the smaller unions only………..


John Smit tells of the tense minutes in the changing room before the kickoff.  ‘I look around the changing room and then I see Bakkies.  The sheer size of the man would intimidate anybody.  That when I know everything will be all right on the field.  With Bakkies there, the Boks are going to be ok”.  The team went on to win the 2007 rugby World Cup.


During 2009 Super 14 rugby, Botha made his presence felt in every game he played.  When pesky Phil Waugh stole one ball too many and needed to be put into his place, Bakkies helped him right with an elbow.  One of the most classic moments in modern rugby happened right after the incident when Bakkies was caught on camera blowing a kiss to Waugh.  Absolutely classic stuff from the big man of SA rugby.


And no, the incident certainly did not deserve a three week suspension.  After all, this is rugby we playing and watching, not netball or tennis or tiddlywinks.


Who are the future hard men of the game in South Africa?  Well Duane Vermeulen, Bismark Du Plessis, Ryan Kankowski, Beast, and Pierre Spies will all be sure to put up their hands…..ummmmmm elbows…….. in time to come.  The future of South African rugby is sound.