Sunday, July 31, 2011

All Blacks reveal new kit in training exercise

The new jersey (picture from )

New Zealand 40 South Africa 7

So as a Springbok supporter, I had the electro shock therapy, I had the counselling, but unfortunately I can still remember the match on Saturday. In the context of the World Cup, this is a gamble, a strategy. South Africa have an aging stable of stars they are trying to nurse through to hit their peak in a few months time, and to do that, they’ve sacrificed the overseas leg of the 3N. At the same time, they were hoping to uncover a few diamonds in the rough, and I suppose they haven’t been entirely unsuccessful in that regard.

The best place to start is the all conquering men in black, sporting new kitI’m not entirely sure about yet. What we got was a series of running attacks, superb, offloading in the tackle, and competency in the set pieces. Dan Carter, apart from a bit of wobbly kicking, put in a superb tactical display, he seems to have that ball on a piece of string. Cory Jane always looked dangerous, and Zac Guildford popped up everywhere at the right time. Time to be picky though. Putting 5 trys on this Springbok team, is that enough? The guys have barely met, the defensive system was like a sieve, I was expecting the All Blacks to be a lot more ruthless. It was like an elaborate training exercise for them, and at least gets them primed for the real start of the 3N next weekend.

For the Boks, Lambie looked good, tackled like a Trojan, and is pushing his way up the current fly half pecking order. Mostert had a stormer of a match, i was really impressed, and Deysel was like a human wrecking ball. Going backwards are Steyn, and Smit, while playing better, wouldn’t make the starting line up of any other top 5 ranked team. Chilliboy showed a serious turn of speed there as well. This is heaping pressure on the A team back in the Republic, think they need a miracle, never mind a bit of rehab.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tri- Nations rugby - the Springboks move to New Zealand, and the only threat they pose is in crimes against fashion

Dan Carter - he's not a jockey or a boxer


Saturday , July 30

New Zealand vs South Africa 19:35

Now that the carcass of the Springboks performance against the Wallabies has been laid to rest, it’s time to look forward to their match against the All Blacks. I say look forward with all the keen anticipation of a trip to the dentist. And after their dire showing, what else could we expect other than for a few All Blacks to come out and say they’d have to be careful of the Springboks. Jeremy Kaino was one of them seeing them as a ‘good team’ and as a ‘threat’ and Jimmy Cowan agreed with him. Reading between the lines, there appeared to be a few things that were left unsaid. Like ‘It wasn’t their piss poor tackling that worried us, or their dodgy front row, or their wonky line outs. They seemed to drop the ball a lot so we’re not worried about their handling, and they run out of puff (and ideas) pretty quickly, so it’s not their fitness or strategy that is a problem. Really, we’re just saying what our PR guy told us to say, it’s a job you know, that’s what we get paid for , doing as we’re told.’

I can’t see much threat in this Springbok team myself, there are crimes against fashion going on in the footwear department but apart from that they are a pretty tame set of Springboks, let’s face it, an out and out B team. Their only chance to lose with a bit of dignity is to bring their trademark aggression to the party, which was totally absent last week. They are a massive bunch of feckers in the forwards, and if they do some damage at the breakdown, broken field runners like Aplon and de Jongh could make their mark.

This is the Springbok team:

South Africa: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Adi Jacobs, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Danie Rossouw, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Gerhard Mostert, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Dean Greyling.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Ryan Kankowski, 19 Ashley Johnson, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Wynand Olivier, 22 Odwa Ndungane.

It's good to see Lambie starting, he can easliy slot in at fly half if needed, and Jacobs and De Jongh is a much better center pairing. Stegman should have been cut, and Roussow should have been playing at lock. A new lock pairing, injury enforced,  is not going to make lineouts or scrums any easier, although I like the look of Mostert.
The All Blacks are resting no 8 Kieran Reid, lock Brad Thorn, prop Owen Franks and hooker Keven Mealamu. This is their team:

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Adam Thomson, 7 Richie McCaw (c), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Samuel Whitelock, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements:16 Corey Flynn, 17 John Afoa, 18 Jarrad Hoeata, 19 Liam Messam, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Sonny Bill Williams.

Man for man. this team is just better than the Springboks. The loose trio is more moblie, and that will be critical at breakdowns where the Springboks are going to get massacered. It's going to be a tough day at teh office for teh Springboks on Saturday.

The Springboks in their current guise have at least one competitive fixture under their belts now and could look and play like more of a team this week. But when you’re up against it in the front row, at line outs, and your defence is not organised to the nth degree, the only outcome of this match can be an All Black victory by plenty.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Wallabies win the first Tri Nations 2011 match, and the rise of the metrosexual Springbok

Juan de Jongh (Picture from )

Australia 39 - 20 South Africa

As expected, the Wallabies made short work of the Springboks on Saturday. This is a sea change for the Springboks, the rise of the metrosexual Bok, with Juan De jongh boots the only bright spot in the team. The Springboks were always the bad boys of rugby, hanging on the ball when you tackled by a Bok wasn’t your first priority, hanging on to your head was your first priority. I mean listen to John Smit’s post match interview – ‘Well you have to look for the positives. We didn’t hurt anybody, the boys played nicely, we made some friends, hugged a few of the travelling fans and exchanged twitter names with a few of the nice Wallaby boys. And Juan really worked those boots – you go boy!’ .

There was none of this good sportsmanship shite in the old days (maybe only if you won). You’re the Sprinboks, you’re supposed to be out there ripping people’s heads off! This is what I was expecting to hear from John Smit – ‘That lousy New Zealand ref was against us from the start, if he ever comes to South Africa, he’s dead meat! And if I get my hands on that fecker Will Genia (although I might struggle to catch him - actually I seem to struggle to catch most people nowadays) he’s going to meet my friend paaain. Maybe I could get Gio Aplon to catch him – then he could meet Gio – then he could meet my friend paaain. I’ll tear his liver out and eat with some fave beans, and Gio, you’re from the Cape, what’s a good South African red that goes with liver?’

So what about the match? The Wallaby scrum was adequate without being outstanding, although Stephen Moore had a good match. Genia, Cooper and Ioane were in a class of their own, and should have scored more tries. South Africa were woeful, they defended like they’d only recently met, which they had I suppose, Dannie Roussow looked useful, Ashley Johnson had a decent debut, and that was it really. John Smit doesn’t look like an international player, Ruan Pienaar was off the pace, Deon Stegman was invisible and Wynand Oliver offered nothing in midfield. I was expecting at least physicality from the Boks, the Samoans showed the Ausssies struggled to deal with that, but that was sorely lacking. If they had a game plan I’d be interested to know what it was. The Springboks did well to only lose by twenty points. The Wallabies get their show on the road again, although against such poor opposition, I don’t know where that leaves them. The All Blacks are going to be the real test.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tri Nations 2011 kicks off - 1st round of the wooden spoon battle?

Tri Nations Preview

State of the Nations


Up until last weekend, when the Samoans made merry with their reputation, I would have said the Wallabies were in pretty good nick, with a Reds Super 15 title in their midst, and the Waratahs also having had a decent season. What a difference a week in rugby makes (to borrow a phrase)! Again, to borrow a phrase, they completely ‘misunderestimated’ the Samoans, and overestimated their own abilities. Last week’s Wallaby offering was a cross between an 2nd team, a 3rd team , and that mangy dog that lives out of dustbins. This week, apparently, they are putting out their ‘A’ team. Prospects for winning the 3N – pretty dodgy.

New Zealand

New Zealand are always the 400 gorilla in the black corner, it’s not about beating them, but trying to lose by at little as possible. Are Australia and South Africa going to mount a serious challenge to their 3N title? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. No.

Prospects for winning the 3N – excellent

South Africa

The Bok’s decision to send a B/C team over to Australasia effectively scuppers their chances of winning any away matches. They will have other excuses for losing their home matches.

Prospects for winning the 3N – slim to none

Australia vs South Africa

It’s old news that the Wallabies made a right bollocks of their preparation for this match by losing to Samoa. That’s one better than the Boks though, who haven’t played any warm up matches, and have no idea at present how bad they are. They face an underwhelming Australian scrum, and a backline that has world class elements in it. I wouldn’t really put Pat Mccabe in that category though, I’d rather have seen Fainga'a in there, or heresy after I dissed him last week, Giteau. Does Cooper have enough to work off him outside him? He didn’t really have his best match against the Crusaders when they put him under pressure, and he is sure to have the odd large Springbok strolling over his head.

The Bok scrum is adequate but not exciting with John Smit the only world class(ish) player, while their backline has pace to burn – Aplon, Basson and Mvovo are all seriously fast. I wouldn’t be scared to be tackled by any of them though, or rely on any of them to catch high balls. And we have Steyn and Olivier in mid field with all the creativity of a plank, so they are going to need to throw Lambie on if they can’t win it on penalties. Even then, there are no settled combinations, so it could come off swimmingly – or go horribly wrong.


If the Wallabies don’t win this one, their World Cup chances are fecked, and Ireland are looking good in their World Cup group. But they will beat this ragtag bunch of Boks, probably by a good margin.

South Africa: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Juan De Jongh, 12 Wynand Oliver, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Danie Rossouw, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Flip Van Der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Dean Greyling.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ Van Der Linde, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Patrick Lambie.

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom, 5 James Horwill, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.

Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Pekahou Cowan, 18 Nathan Sharpe, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Anthony Fainga'a

Sat - 23rd Jul 11 11:00 Australia vs South Africa

Sat - 30th Jul 11 08:35 New Zealand vs South Africa

Sat - 6th Aug 11 08:35 New Zealand vs Australia

Sat - 13th Aug 11 16:05 South Africa vs Australia

Sat - 20th Aug 11 16:05 South Africa vs New Zealand

Sat - 27th Aug 11 11:05 Australia vs New Zealand

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Everybody loves an upset (except Australia in this instance). All bow down to Samoa!

Alesana Tuilagi (picture from )

International Match
 Sunday , July 17

Australia 23 - 32 Samoa

Everybody (except the Australians in this instance) loves an upset don’t they? Samoa has a population of 230 000, and they must all still be partying right now. Imagine if they had a population the size of Australia? What can we learn from a defeat like this though? Well first of all, don’t feck with the Samoans. Actually, Wales could have tipped the Australians off there, but they obviously kept schtum. Secondly, no real news, but Australia don’t have a B team. They can just about scrape together 22 world class players, and some of them would make a world 15, but after that the cupboard is bare. Finally, Monsieur Giteau, even if he got a poor service from an out of his depth Phipps, is not a particularly good fly half, and is going to be lucky to make the team at all at this rate.

Samoa are going to have this match on DVD forever, and why not, they absolutely smashed Australia, they physically dominated them so thoroughly the Aussies must have had 15 stretchers on stand -by for the final whistle. The Samoans won every collision, every tackle was savage in intensity, they were hungrier, sharper, and played as a cohesive unit. How the Australians got it so wrong is a mystery, they turned points down several times to go for the corner, and basically showed the Samoans no respect at all. There were half baked combinations all over the pitch, and several players showed they are nowhere near international standard, Davies, Phipps and Hodgson in particular. But with Beale and Genia on the pitch, things did look a lot brighter for the Aussies so i wouldn’t write them off just yet.

For Samoa, Alesana Tuilagi and 9 Kahn Fotuali'i were outstanding, but they all were, take a bow the islanders!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Some dodgy analysis based on questionable research has the Aussies nosing it

The exciting graphic above (all my own work – I know, it’s hard to believe) shows the relationship between a provincial side winning the Super10/12/14/Rugby and the county of that province going on to win the Tri- Nations. It works 70% of the time. Well it failed miserably last year, as the Boks, despite the Super final being played between two SA sides, went on to get creamed in the Tri Nations. The Boks won it in 2009, but by 2010 the AB’s and Aussies had them all figured out. Well maybe they were crap too, but the net result for the Boks was one solitary win against Australia.

So that big build up is to have a look at the theory that as the Reds won the Super Rugby final, this means the Wallabies have a 70% chance of claiming the Tri Nations in 2012. Mmm, not so sure, shows what you can do with stats. But let’s not write them off just yet, and they get their warm ups underway with a match against Samoa this weekend.

This is their team:

Australia: 15 Mark Gerrard, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Matt Hodgson, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Sekope Kepu.

Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Dan Vickerman, 18 Scott Higginbotham, 19 Beau Robinson, 20 Will Genia, 21 Kurtley Beale, 22 TBC.

Not too many Reds about which is not surprising as they need to get a rest sometime. Having said that, this is a quite a light weight team IMO, I would have thought they’d be tying to get some of their top combinations going already. Phipps at 9 is a surprise, as is the sight of Vickerman on the bench – is this Help the Aged week? But I’m only a humble blogger, not the mighty Robbie Deans, so let’s see

Samoa have a good team, no doubt about it, they are normally ultra physical, a bit weak on set pieces, and deadly in broken play. I think the Aussies may need some of the cavalry on the bench to see this one home...

Samoa: 15 Paul Williams, 14 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 13 George Pisi, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Alesana Tuilagi, 10 Tusi Pisi, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i, 8 George Stowers, 7 Maurie Fa'asavalu, 6 Taisina Tuifu'a, 5 Daniel Leo, 4 Kane Thompson, 3 Anthony Perenise, 2 Mahonri Schwalger (c), 1 Sakaria Taulafo.

Replacements: 16 Ti'i Paulo, 17 Census Johnston, 18 Filipo Lavea Levi, 19 Manaia Salavea, 20 Brenton Helleur, 21 Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu, 22 James So'oialo.

Sunday , July 17

Australia vs Samoa 14:00

The Currie Cup and the ITM Cup have got going. I don’t know about the ITM Cup, but the Currie Cup only tends to get exciting with about three weeks left in the season. So if I watch anything at this stage, it will be by accident.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Reds are the Super Rugby Champs

Radike Samo (picture from )

One thing that really stood out for me in this Reds/Crusaders final, and that was Radike Samo’s hair. What a magnificent afro, even if he’s doubled the size of the hole in the ozone layer all on his own with hairspray. This was a worthy final after21 weeks of competition, as easily the best two sides in the competition slugged it out for the cup. Taking a step back, the ‘Saders with a home venue could easily have had a top two finish, got a weeks rest, and missed out on a 22000 km round trip. They looked tired by the end of the match, and just slightly off the pace.

But the Reds could only play what was in front of them, and did well to beat this excellent Crusader side. The Crusaders played a fairly conservative game plan, with intense pressure on the breakdown, the scrums, and were up quickly and in the face of Genia and Cooper. Cooper didn’t really have his best match, he had to resort to a lot of kicking to cope with the lack of space, and he didn’t kick very well, either to close or too far, and his far kicks weren’t well followed up. Carter was pretty quiet too, and has been for the last number of weeks, missing a few kicks that he should really have put away. He put one sublime grubber through that led to his try, but there was little of the flair he has on show, and the whole backline was pretty quiet, a bit in their shells.

It took ages for the Reds to find their rhythm, they were over eager, kicking and running at the wrong time, but when Digby Ioane finally found a bit of space, he made the most of it, running through half the Crusaders team. I blame Peter Crouch for the start of the dance celebration, but I guess Digby’s try was worthy of making a fuss over. Then it was Genia’s chance to shine, he found a little space, pinned his ears back and went for it, scoring the match winning try.

That’s the first time the Reds have won the competition, they were the form team, and played arguably the most attractive rugby. When you think great players like John Eales never got to lift the trophy, it shows you special the team of 2011 is. The Crusaders will be back, but time for the Reds to bask in some well deserved limelight.

Super Rugby

Saturday , July 9

Reds 18 - 13 Crusaders

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Super Rugby Final - BRING IT ON!

Quade Cooper (picture from )
Super Rugby

Saturday , July 9

Reds vs Crusaders 10:40

Super Rugby reaches it’s climax in Brisbane on Saturday after what seems like about 30 rounds of matches. OK maybe not thirty, but about 4 or 5 too many anyway. But it’s a fitting end to what has been grueling season as the two top teams by some distance fight it out for the title. 48 000 fans turned up the last time they played, to see the Reds shade the Crusaders with a 17-16 victory.

The stand out player for the Reds this season has been Quade Cooper, who seems to be able to dip into his bag of tricks and come up with a winning play on cue. His defense is not fantastic, and his kicking could do with some work, but his attack is sublime. All around him are eager runners, cutting lines of attack that have defenders grasping at thin air. And underpinning this attacking play for the Reds is stout defense, a more than able scrum, and intense competition at the breakdown.

For the crusaders, the stand out player for me is Sonny Bill Williams, who attracts 2 or 3 defenders every time he has the ball, but still seems to evade defenders and offload at will. Fruean alongside him is one mean customer. Then there’s the rest of an oustanding backline, and a truly world class scrum that are going to look to dominate the Reds, and make the breakdown an absolute warzone. Dan Carter has looked pretty quiet recently with all the fireworks going on around you, but if you were going to put your house on someone to kick points for you then this would be your man.

This really is shaping up to be the best final ever as neither teams knows when it’s beaten and can turn defense into attack in the blink of an eye. On paper the Crusaders are stronger, and we all know what they’ve been through this season, there’s more to this than just rugby for them. But the Reds are just brimming with confidence, and at home in front of what will be surely be another record crowd, I’m going with Quade and the boys. BRING IT ON!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Super Rugby - The Reds are hot, and the Crusade continues.

The Reds are hot! (picture from )

Brisbane was the venue for the opening clash of the semis. It’s not so long ago that the Reds where the whipping boys of the competition, fighting it out for the wooden spoon with the Lions and the Cheetahs, even the newly created Force eclipsed them. Nothing much has changed for the Lions – and just when you think things couldn’t get worse for them , they go bust. The Reds meanwhile, have blazed a trail in the opposite direction, lighting up the sky with a string of stellar performances, winning and playing eye catching rugby at the same time. They ooze confidence, and have a practically watertight defense.

 The Blues never really seemed to turn up for this match, they spent most of the time looking like rabbits caught in the headlights, and one try against the general run of play was all they really had to show for themselves. I was a bit disappointed that some of the ‘names’ in the Blues ranks, Rococoko, McAllister and Rene Ranger (when he was on couldn’t spark something), while the Reds threatened to break through every time they had the ball. The Blues were outmuscled by the Reds pack as well, so the Reds are not just about flashy backs. The Reds claim their first place in a Super final, and at home as well. It was a class match, end to end stuff, and a brilliant advertisement for Super Rugby. Cooper and Genia are in a class of their own.

There was a lot for the 2nd semi to live up to then , which it didn’t in the slightest. the only similarity was that the Stormers gifted the Crusaders a try early on, just like the Blues did to the Reds. The big question was were the Crusaders going to be able to cope with all the travel, and the resounding answer was yes. Remember how I said the Stormers looked a bit iffy on the big occasion? Well, iffy doesn’t come close to describing this performance, they were absolutely smashed by the Crusaders, physically as well as mentally. The Stormers need to get themselves a decent front row in a hurry, it was men against boys for them in the scrum, and I don’t think I’ve seen a South African team so comprehensively outmuscled at the breakdown since oh, the Springboks played the All Blacks in last years Tri-Nations.

What Ireland should be learning from Super Rugby is that the South Africans possess a set of competent if not outstanding forwards, and a set of backs with zero creativity among them. It’s the Boks Ireland should be targeting for win out of their World Cup group, not Australia. The Springbok pairing of De Villiers and Fourie didn’t produce one line break between them the whole match. The Crusaders meanwhile, seemed to break through at will, Fruean and SBW were in devastating form, and their pack was absolutely world standard. They book a place in the final, in a match I really can’t wait for. The Stormers had their injuries, that must be third choice scrumhalf, Peter Grant was just back from injury, they missed Duane Vermuelen and lost Burger with a broken finger. But they are a long, long way off winning the tournament.

Saturday , July 2

Reds 30 - 13 Blues

Stormers 10 - 29 Crusaders