Manhandled in Mendoza

NZ 22 – Australia 0

It took the All Blacks more than 25 minutes to score their first points. Full marks to the Wallabies for keeping the game tight, minimizing opportunities for the All Blacks to capitalize on backline mistakes.

After 53 minutes into the game, and with the All Blacks 22 points ahead, the Wallabies elected to tap when awarded a penalty right in front of the posts. When you have the opportunity to take points against the All Blacks, you take it. If nothing else, it will remove the nagging doubt about the duck against you on the score board.

One got the impression that this Wallaby team lacked the confidence in their own ability. Granted, few teams brim with confidence when faced by the formidable All Blacks, but that slight doubt is always exploited by the rampant Kiwi’s.

Despite a weight advantage, the Aussies simply lacked the oomph upfront to really compete against the abrasive All Blacks. You have to dent their confidence in the opening phases, and this is why I really look forward to the Springboks/All Blacks tests in this competition. (This was obviously written before the test in Mendoza.)

One bit of good news for the other sides in the Rugby Championship is that this was Sonny-Bill Williams’ last game for two years for the Kiwi’s. Whether you like him or not, he has brought an exciting new dimension to the game with his uncanny ability to offload in the tackle. This has now become the norm in world rugby, even in South Africa.

There was a time when we became renowned for trying to run through, rather than around, opponents. The last time this tactic worked was when Jonah Lomu ran over Mike Catt in 1995. In South Africa’s case, I can recall Gert Muller doing that successfully in the seventies. About time for us to move on, I think, despite the fact that it was an All Black who showed us how.

Unfortunately, the depth in the All Black side is such that Sonny-Bill will not be missed as much, had he played for another side. The same cannot be said for Bismarck du Plessis. I suppose that evens things up, a bit.

Argentina 16 – South Africa 16

No doubt I am not the only SA fan who woke up on Sunday wondering what had hit me. I am not only referring to the amount of red wine required to calm my nerves the night before.

I was still shell shocked by the tenacity of the Pumas, and how the Springboks failed to function as a unit. When they came up against their own style of play, they did not assert their authority, and resolute defense saw the backline mowed down before they could make any meaningful inroads. This was confirmed when I watched the game again on Sunday morning while baby sitting my daughter’s dogs.

We were totally outclassed in retaining or winning the high ball from kicks, and more than matched in every other department. Quite frankly, we can thank our lucky stars, and Frans Steyn, for the draw.

If the Pumas can maintain this intensity, I foresee a lot of problems for both the Wallabies and the All Blacks when they play in Argentina. An in-the-face opposition can rattle anyone’s cage – even that of the All Blacks.

Should SA stick to this game plan?

I tend to think that a fetcher, rather than three strong ball carriers, will alleviate some of our woes at the breakdown point. With Bismarck not there to fulfill this role, a suitable alternative needs to be found. I see that Brüssow did not play for the Cheetahs this weekend, so I must assume that he is injured.

Gavin Rich said the following on the SuperSport website:

The coach needs to put his own selections under scrutiny too, for it is laughable to say you won’t look at Heinrich Brüssow, who is missed at a time when the Boks are struggling at the breakdowns and just aren’t getting any quick ball, because he gives away penalties. Not when you select Flip van der Merwe, who gives away a penalty within the first minute of running onto the field.

Duane Vermeulen can compensate to some degree, with no sacrifice in the beef department. Keegan Daniel made a difference as impact player, and his speed when the opposition starts tiring can compensate for Vermeulen’s inability to stay the whole game after his long injury layoff.

On the halfback pairing, Rich has the following to say:

And with the forward platform of the previous week not there, it blew away the halo that had suddenly formed itself around the halfbacks, Francois Hougaard and Morné Steyn. They were rightly lauded after Newlands, but when the going got tough in Mendoza they did not respond in a way that inspires confidence ahead of the tougher tests that lie ahead in this competition.

To put it simply, Hougaard isn’t equipped to do what Meyer wants him to do, which is to ape the Fourie du Preez style of play and accuracy in tactical kicking, and it doesn’t help that he is now starting to spend a quarter of every test match he plays on the wing. And Steyn doesn’t have the attacking presence to make those around him a thorn for the opposing defensive system.

All in all, I would say that this is a timely warning, and one the ‘Boks would ignore at their peril. Can we fare any worse if Pienaar and Lambie start?

Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth









Cricket: Comparisons are Odious

For those of you who, like me, did not really bother to check the meaning of the word “odious” before: the dictionary explains it as: “Arousing or meriting strong dislike, aversion, or intense displeasure.” As in any sport, it is very dangerous to compare players or teams from the modern day game to those who competed in the seventies. Tiger Woods versus Jack Nicklaus is a classic example.

I received a fascinating article written by Mark Nicolas entitled “SA’s Superstars of the 70’s.”

If the names Eddie Barlow, Clive Rice, Graeme Pollock, Barry Richards, Michael John Procter, Vincent van der Bijl and Garth Le Roux rings a bell, you will enjoy this article. Nicolas also brings the stars from other countries into the equation, including the fearsome Windies fast bowlers and Thomson and Lillee from Australia. He also expands on the abilities of superstars from countries which our country’s politics and absence of TV at the time robbed us of the opportunity to see-in action.

Nicolas selects a team from those who never had the opportunity to play test cricket. As with all selections, I disagree with one or three, as I am sure you will too.

I could not help remembering watching a TV show around this time which had Kallie Knoetze and Garth le Roux on the panel. Kallie, a true blue Bull, made a derogatory remark about Le Roux and Western Province team mates, to which Garth responded: “Kallie, it is Garth, not Garf.”

Never take on a seasoned cricketer when it comes to sledging.

I look forward to your comments on the article, which I am sure will be as provincially biased as the cricket Curry Cup was at the time.

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