Perfectly Planned and Executed

Western Province 19 – Sharks 33

An article in my local paper titled, “That is why WP lost” may well have read: “Why the Sharks won.”

It lists the following 5 factors:

  1. Poor lineout play
  2. Poor fielding at the kickoffs
  3. Tactical kicking
  4. Discipline
  5. Charl McLeod

I honestly cannot contest any of these, especially the last one. The first four were of their making, and possibly reflects errors in the team’s preparation for the game.

One should rather dwell on what the Sharks did right. A lot was said since Saturday, but for me the one factor that stood out was the dedication of all the players representing the Sharks. No half measures, no starting slowly, no hesitance in doing what they prepared to do. This is the kind of performance many rugby lovers were waiting for from a team containing so many star players, and one we hope to see a lot more of in the future.

As a Province supporter, there were some aspects in the home side’s execution which I still cannot understand:

  1. Why was Etzebeth hardly ever used in the lineouts? Did he perhaps carry an injury? Michael Rhodes made a huge difference when he came on as a replacement.
  2. Was Louis Schreuder auditioning for a role in “Strictly come dancing” with his foxtrot and two-step paces behind the scrum? Apart from gifting McLeod his first try, he kept the Province backline under pressure.

The match was actually a fine example of how the game can be played in South Africa. The bristling talent of youngsters like Pieter-Steph du Toit really excites me. Imagine him and Etzebeth locking the scrum for the Springboks.

This brings me to the squad for the four matches in Europe:

It seems that some journalists have inside information, or are they just stirring? The names of Jaque Fourie and Bakkies Botha are being bandied about, and there is talk that Louis Schreuder’s name may have been erased from the list following his poor showing on Saturday.

Perhaps it is wise to wait for the announcement. One article I read this morning speculated on how certain choices can impact on certain players. There is no doubt after Saturday that Pat Lambie is the best flyhalf in the country. Picking Johan Goosen as Morné Steyn’s understudy will mean that Lambie will most likely have to eye a position as fullback, but with the return of JP Pietersen, Willie le Roux will also be targetting Zane Kirchner’s number 15 jersey, and where does that, again, leave Lambie?

Proteas Back with a Vengeance

There are possibly things that one can, rightfully, accuse Graeme Smith of, but not his ability to bounce back. I commented after the first test against Pakistan that they were underprepared and relying too much on their raw talent alone. Smith and AB e Villiers proved me so wrong.

The captain said that his side deserves more respect for having remained unbeaten on overseas series for the past seven years. Apart from the fact that, in my view, it would have been better had these words come from someone else, I think he is absolutely right.

In closing, I share a private little “I told you so” involving my colleague Bobby Londt. At the start of the first test, he was very surprised that Tahir was not included in the squad. The success of the Pakistan born Protea in the second test confirmed Bobby’s view. We hope that this will heal Tahir’s battered ego after the nightmare in Australia.

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