AB is Redefining Batting

These are not my words – it was uttered by a commentator during the Bangladesh/Pakistan match yesterday. Few can fault this thinking, or disagree with the view. Batting him at number three, as many pundits suggested before the match against England on Saturday, proved to be the right decision. A highlight of the match for me was the look on Stuart Broad’s face as AB rewrote the batting manual, and reminded me of the saying about the best laid plans

It seems that we are building momentum as the series progresses, rather than starting with all guns blazing, which may just be the way to win the cup.

Now for the semi-final, and the chance to shake the choker label once and for all.

I told you so

Don’t you just hate it when a prediction about your team is vindicated, especially when it was your own?

The Stormers lost eight of their own lineouts on Saturday due to forced changes resulting from injury. There is no doubt in my mind that the game against the Reds was there for the taking, but when an essential part of the game plan is disrupted, it will not happen. It is not as if the Reds did to the Stormers what Matfield and company did to the Chiefs – they sommer did it to themselves.

The statistics published in Sport 24 tells the sorry tale:
Lineouts won: Reds 7, Stormers 7
Lineouts lost: Reds 4, Stormers 8!
Scrums won: Reds 8, Stormers 7
Tackles made: Reds 60, Stormers 139
Missed tackles: Reds 13, Stormers 17
Turnovers won: Reds 7, Stormers 10
Carries: Reds 129, Stormers 75
Clean breaks: Reds 1 Stormers 4

Enough said.

The Poltergeist strikes again

The Kiwis appear to have the same problem with spelling Afrikaans names as I have with the names of people from the South Seas. On Sunday, the following appeared in the NZ Herald:

Another lineout error right on the hooter – the second straight caused by a long throw from Rhys Marshall – gave Jacques Poltgeiter the chance to make it 15-14 heading to the sheds.

The Webster’s dictionary defines a poltergeist as: a noisy usually mischievous ghost held to be responsible for unexplained noises.

Those noises were most likely the unprintable utterances by the Chiefs as the Matfield/JL Potgieter combination kept the scoreboard moving with Victor upsetting the lineouts and Potgieter slotting the resultant penalties.

Take nothing away from the Chiefs – to score three tries in the last ten minutes, and slot a conversion from the side-line for the draw takes a very special team, and proves why they were the champion side for two years in a row. This does not absolve the Bulls for losing a game because they thought they had already won.

Whatever your views were when the return of Matfield was announced, you have to admit the genius of the man. I cannot see a Springbok side at the World Cup without him. If he is used sparingly during the Rugby Championship, his uncanny insight in the underworld known as lineouts will be essential for us to triumph in the World Cup.

Waratahs Pruned back to Size

The Warratah is a “low woody perennial plant usually having several major stems”, according to one definition I found on the internet.

The absence of their major stem at fullback would not have made a difference to the final outcome. Don’t you just love reading the following in the Sydney Morning Herald?

It was a ferocious contest against the Sharks and Michael Cheika’s men did not take a backward step. Brutal contests are compelling, but while Cheika is no doubt proud of his side’s effort, he should not forget it was hand-in-hand with a 22-point loss. There is something amiss.

 The harsh truth is: if effort was not lacking, than either skill or tactics were. It is easy to point to the 19 penalties awarded against them but referee Mike Fraser was not a factor in this hammering. The Tahs were not penalised out of the game, they were pinged because they were not in it.

 For the first time this year they were on the wrong side of the possession count. The breakdown was the only area where the Waratahs could compete for the ball. When players were committed, bodies were moved, but at times desire exceeded discipline.

 Pressure does that. The lineout for the visitors was a messy struggle, but it was nirvana compared with the scrum. The Waratahs won two scrums for the entire match. To not have a competitive scrum means you are punished for your opponents’ mistakes as well as your own. It’s morale sapping.

I could not have put it better myself. Take a bow, Jake and the boys. You did us proud.

A Final Thought

Spiro Zavos makes an interesting point in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

SANZAR refuses to acknowledge that the heart of the refereeing problem in Super Rugby lies in the decision in 2009 to ditch the neutral refereeing system and bring in local referees. The simple fact is the use of local referees is skewing results in the Super Rugby tournament towards the local side.

 New Zealand rugby expert Keith Quinn, in his column in the Rugby Review magazine in 2009, wrote this about the local refereeing system that had been put in place: “After two rounds of S14 where referees have been in charge of teams from the ref’s own country, the teams from the ref’s country have won all those games so far! That’s from not one, two or three games … but from SEVEN games.” Quinn’s observation (which anyone in a tipping competition will understand) has been officially confirmed by a study released this week by the Queensland University of Technology of the 2009 Super Rugby and European Super League 2006-09 seasons. When home teams play foreign teams with a home country (local) referee, the home side wins 71 per cent of the matches. But when home teams play foreign teams with referees from the foreign country, the home team wins only 50 per cent of the matches. And when two teams from the same country have referees from the same country or neutral referees, the home side wins 57 per cent of the matches.

I would love to see the statistics of Australian and New Zealand referees handling the whistle in matches involving South African sides in the Super Series. I have a sneaky suspicion that our fate will appear far worse where an Aussie blew in SA matches against NZ sides, compared to when our referees handled matches between their sides.

The “red hand” of Aussie cricket umpire, Rod Tucker, gives credence to my theory. Two dubious decisions against Jaques Kallis, and then not giving Hales out on Saturday proves my point.

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