Contrary to popular (local?) belief, a rugby final does not have to be boring. What I found fascinating was not only the contest on the field, but also the game of chess being thought out by the coaching staff as fortunes swayed.
At halftime, I was convinced that Heyneke Meyer had no option but to include Heinrich Brüssow in his Bok squad. Then, watching how the Chiefs eliminated him in the second half, I realised that a clever coach will find solutions to many problems that appear to be insurmountable.
Both coaches must take a lot of credit for what happened – both of them picked up virtual no-name brands and took them to the final. I mentioned the importance of team cohesion last week, but this weekend showed another extremely important ingredient – the ability to change your game plan to what is required on the day.
In the end, White was unable to find another strategy to counter George Smith being neutralised, and this cost them the championship. Let me hasten to add that the Brumbies have possibly come closer to winning than any other team in the competition would have, if they had to overcome the same odds.
Dave Rennie (Pictured above) is possibly the most under-rated coach in the series. His application of substitutes was the final fling of the dice which broke the back of the Brumbies.
At the conclusion of the Lions/Kings match, I wrote on Facebook that I was totally confused. The losers on the night were the winners. The winners of the match will be kicked out of next year’s Super 15. Interviews were conducted with the winners, then the losers. The losers are elated, while the winners have tears in their eyes. All I was waiting for was for the TV referee to be appointed man of the match.
There was no winner, really, and rugby certainly is the loser as a result of a stupid announcement, some years ago. I think that, including the EP team in the premier Currie Cup competition, will go a long way to help the union continue its development plans and become the strength we know they can be. My only concern is how quiet Cheeky Watson is. If that man is quiet, expect an announcement to upset the apple cart.
I came across an interesting comment in the paper this morning, concerning the unfairness to the Kings of only being given one season, and then having to take part in a play-off. Says the journalist: how fair was it to remove the Lions last year without the option of a play-off?
There can be no doubt that the inclusion of Fourie du Preez will be the most talked about aspect of the squad selected. I am more concerned about two other scrumhalves, and whether they have what it takes at this level. If Piet van Zyl is not considered too adventurous for selection (when Du Preez is not available), why was Sarel Pretorius overlooked? Jano Vermaak is more in the Heyneke Meyer mould, with Hougaard out of contention, and will most likely be the understudy to Du Preez.
Ek soek ook nog steeds vir Brüssow in die span in plek van Marcell Coetzee.
Proteas Salvage Something
After a disastrous ODI campaign in Sri Lanka, the Proteas took a significant step in the right direction by winning the T20 series, and that in the backyard of the world number one T 20 side. The marked difference came from the bowling of the Proteas which enabled them to defend relatively small scores. On the batting front, the Proteas still seem fragile – only JP Duminy and David Miller showed some consistency.
Although Faf was lacking with the bat, his approach when leading the side seemed more confident and calculated than that of De Villiers. In all fairness, the format of ODI’s and T20’s are vastly different, which makes fair comparison diificult.
Even so: the machine still seemed better oiled with Faf leading, and having AB in the outfield not only saved runs – he was instrumental in taking stunning catches in positions he might not have found himself in, if he was to skipper the side.
Only time will tell if this will last, but the inclusion of our leggy Imran Tahir also added some bite to the attack. With Robbie Peterson out of form in the bowling department, Tahir seems to have regained his confidence, and will most likely make a return to the test side. His energy and approach speaks volumes about his character as a competitor and his passion for the game after a disastrous tour of Australia, when he fell out of favour, can only be admired.