Blood on the tracks

My favourite author, Ian Rankin (of Inspector John Rebus fame), named many of his books after song titles of the Rolling Stones. I copy him this week by using the title of one of Bob Dylan’s greatest albums.

It has been a while since I last saw so much blood on a rugby field. The number of blood replacements is probably a new SA record, and testament to the boots and all performance by the ‘Boks. Or should that be the English?

It is always interesting to read previews of a rugby match after the event. That is normally an excellent gauge of the insight of the author into the game.

My concerns about the back trio of Kirchner, Habana and Pietersen were unfounded. Part of Meyer’s selection secrets was revealed when Morné Steyn covered the back when Kirchner was foraging up front. Pietersen did not get chance on the attack, but was all over the pitch. Habana was my man of the match. What a delight to see him back in top form.

Willem Alberts
Willem Alberts

The loose trio clearly lacked the cohesion that comes from having played together before, but Alberts and Coetzee were outstanding. I read that Coetzee did not attend a “rugby school”, which is why he never played Craven week. He travelled the gravel road to the top, according to yesterday’s Rapport, so making the ‘Bok side, and playing as well as he did on debut, is really a bit of a Cinderella story. Alberts had his best game in years. I saw a missed tackle or two near the beginning, but after that, missed tackles became the concern of the English as he just ran through them time and again. The ease with which Ben Youngs sniped from the scrumhalf position was a concern though.

The other two debutantes were not far behind. As with the loose forwards (and in fact the whole team), settled combinations will help them improve with every game. What I like about Etzebeth, is that look of innocent incredulity, almost a Labrador appearance, when he concedes a penalty. A bit different from Bakkies, and sure to not make him the same marked man as his illustrious predecessor at lock. One expected there to be problems in the lineouts, but this will be resolved as the hooker and locks get to know each other better.

Meyer’s theory about not having a formal fetcher in the team also paid off in the second half. With natural poachers like Bismarck, Oosthuizen and Habana in the team, he could opt for more speed in the number 6 jersey.

Having said that, the way in which the English slowed down our possession was a concern. Robshaw was hugely influential at the breakdowns. The tactic of delaying our own ball by having one forward after the other form a little extra set of feet at the back, confused me. If they did it to give Hougaard more space to kick, it did not help much. Any wise men out there who care to elaborate on this?

As expected, the first half was not good, due to nerves and little time to prepare. After the dressing room talk, we saw the senior guys setting the pace, pulling the youngsters with them. Bismarck, in particular, is an immensely influential player in all aspects of the game.

The replacements, particularly Coenie Oosthuizen, made a great impact. I also thought that Ruan Pienaar fared better than Hougaard, but one must never forget the latter’s yeoman’s work on defence. Although the commentators were very critical of his tap kick in front of the poles, I like it when a player has the guts to move outside of the mould once or twice in a game.

Two of Morné Steyn’s missed kicks were from the side line, and the other more the result of the swirling wind than an error on his part. He will be back to form on Saturday.

A last thought: was it just my imagination, or did the players going off for blood stay off much longer than normal? And if so, what was the thinking behind it?

Meyer is quoted as saying that he will stick to the same team for the next test. Why do I think that there will be far less criticism than last week?

Ten slotte, ’n rugby storie wat elke liefhebber se hart sal raak. Nuwerus, in Namakwaland, se rugbyklub raak vanjaar 50. Nie een van die spelers woon op Nuwerus nie, maar kom van omliggende dorpies (en omliggend is soms blerrie vêr, vra vir my, ek ken die wêreld.

Hier is die berig wat Saterdag in Die Burger verskyn het:

Die rugbyklub van Nuwerus in die suide van Namakwaland speel anderster rugby as die Springbokke.

“Jy sien, meisie, die Springbokke moet nog ’n span raak,” het Hennie van Wyk, president van dié rugbyklub wat vanjaar sy 50ste bestaansjaar vier, gesê.

“Ons is ’n familie. Nie soos die Springbokke, wat ’n week bymekaar is en nou moet speel nie. Van hulle het mekaar nog nooit eens gesien nie.” Tog sal die eerste toets tussen Suid-Afrika en Engeland nie misgeloop word nie – al speel Nuwerus vanmiddag om 14:00 teen Porterville, het Van Wyk verseker.

Nie een van die klubspelers woon op Nuwerus nie. Die naaste een woon op Bitterfontein, wat sowat 18km vanaf die dorpie is. “Die ander kom van heinde en ver – Kaapstad, Springbok, Loeriesfontein en Calvinia,” het Van Wyk gesê.

Hoe gereeld oefen hulle dan?

“Ons oefen een keer ’n jaar. So voor die rugbyseisoen begin. Almal hardloop so drie keer om die veld en dan sê jy: ‘Reg, kêrels. Wie wil rugby speel?’ Dan word die name gevat. Elkeen moet sorg dat hy fiks bly.

“Ons is ’n vreeslike trotse klub. Die manne word nie betaal om te speel nie. Dit gaan oor die liefde van die spel. En ons kán kuier. Ná ’n wedstryd word daar vleis gebraai langs die veld en later gedans.”

Die klub se 50ste bestaansjaar word op 4 en 5 Augustus op Nuwerus gevier.

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