Friday, July 31, 2015

Leinster set to increase their Leo quotient!

The Rugby Championship takes a break this weekend, and it’ll be a week before World Cup warm up games kick off. So in the meantime, a quick look at the local scene.

Speculation is ‘hot’ that Leo Cullen is to be appointed head coach for the coming season, with a 2-3 year deal. The article I read mentioned ‘lack of other suitable canditates’. That’s a ringing endorsement if ever I heard one! Looks like Leinster and Munster are both participating in the Irish coach development programme by taking a punt on former players. I can think of two Irish  players that have made a success of the switch from player to coach, Connor O’Shea and Bernard Jackman. Could we not find a former plyer who’s already proved himself as a coach? I’m also concerned that the Leinster set up is getting Leo heavy, I mean, is there still going to be room for Leo the Lion? Well, joking aside, it’s going to be watch this space to see if the appointment is made whether it succeeds or not. I’d back him as a good forwards coach, but team strategy, player management – not so sure.

Things would look a whole lot better if we snag Tony Brown as backs coach, as exciting running is somethings that’s been missing from our game for a while.

In the Ireland camp, worrying news about Cian Healy, who looks unlikely to play any part in the world cup.

Monday, July 27, 2015

New Zealand and Australia power on in the Rugby Championship!


New Zealand and Australia set up the perfect end to the Rugby Championship, both teams going in to the final round locked on points. Neither South Africa nor the Pumas have  got a win yet!

Saturdays first match was one to savor for all lovers of the game. It was played at a furious tempo, with attack and absolutely blistering defense the objective for both teams. The difference at the end of the day was that the All Blacks made more efficient use of their chances, whereas the Boks left a good few tries behind.  It was all the more impressive as this was by no means the All Black A team, playing away in a very hostile environment. Still huge amounts to admire about the way the Springboks are playing, with a just a little more experience to bed the new players in, they’ll be leading from start to finish. England, Ireland, Wales France and Australia may still have their say in the World Cup, but if these two teams made the final, we could have the best final in history.

In Argentina, the Pumas kept in touch for most of the match, but got blown away in the last 15 minutes. Australia have a huge amount of talent in their backs, but it’s no quite flowing just yet. Argentina meanwhile are still looking for a pattern of play apart from intense disruption to take them to the next level.

Rugby Championship
Saturday, July 25
South Africa 20 - 27 New Zealand   
Sunday, July 26
Argentina 9 - 34 Australia

Friday, July 24, 2015

Typical noodlings on why I think New Zealand and Australia will win this weekend!

 Heinrich Brussow ( picture

Two rounds left in the Rugby Championship, if you didn’t win last weekend, time to get back on the horse this week!

The All Blacks arrive in South Africa with a slightly experimental 15, featuring Sopoaga and Broadhurst at fly half and lock. I think the all Blacks are trying out a few things, and also providing a reason if they do happen to be beaten. Sopoaga has a number of skills, but place kicking isn’t one of them, which could count against them in a tight match. They’ve picked three full backs in the back three, so they are expecting an aerial bombardment.

The Springboks have made injury forced changes, as Pietersen and Coetzee sit out the match. Great to see Heinrich Brussow back in the side, he’s renowned for his breakdown skills, but he has a great rugby brain too, he’s good at tracking the game in defence, and spotting a gap in attack. Heyneke Meyer is highlighting his side’s poor kicking last week, which won’t go away in a hurry, as it’s just not a strength of Pienaar and Pollard, but it should at least be better. I’d expect the All Blacks to be targeting Pollard, as the Springboks will also be pressurising the inexperienced Sopoaga. I think the Boks look stronger on paper, but still think the All Blacks will nick this – probably planning their main assault in the last 20 minutes!

In the other match, the Wallabies take on the Pumas in Argentina. The Argentines have struggled in this competition, with very few wins. They should have a Super Rugby side soon, which will go a long way to sorting out their issues with their big names all playing in Europe. But they’ll be up against it again this weekend, the Aussies may have been a bit lucky last weekend, but they have arguably a stronger starting line-up this week. Genia and Cooper last brought the magic together for the Reds when they won Super Rugby in 2011, and they’ve been in steady decline since. With their form pairing of Phipps and Foley, they should take this, once they can break the shackles of the stifling Argentinean defence.

Saturday 25 July

16:05 South Africa  v New Zealand
23:40 Argentina v Australia

Monday, July 20, 2015

The All Blacks impose, while the Wallabies get out of jail!

 Jesse Kriel rugby player
 Jesse Kriel ( picture

Round one of the Rugby Championship, and wins for the home sides. Now I have to confess I didn’t watch the New Zealand/Pumas match – I had planned to, had it recoded and everything, and was studiously avoiding Twitter and the media outlets so that I could watch without knowing the score. But I overheard someone discussing it, so I didn’t bother in the end. Pretty handsome win for the All Blacks, as usual, they are going to be the team to beat, and they have a bonus point in the bag already.

One bit of good news I picked up is that it’s a three round competition this year, short and sharp, and means it’s more likely full teams will be picked for each round.

In Brisbane, Australia got of jail with a try 2 minutes after full time, stealing a victory at the death. South Africa played great rugby for 60 minutes, then faded as their replacements came on, while Australia finished far the stronger, with the replacements leading the way. The Boks will be kicking themselves for letting that one get away. Their reserve props are not of the standard of Du Plessis and the Beast, at least they know that now. They also need a bit more experience at 10 – I reckon Morne Steyn on for the last 20 minutes would have closed that out beautifully. Some try for debutant Jesse Kriel, too! For the Wallabies, I thought Pocock and Phipps imposed themselves on the game in a way that their predecessors, couldn’t. Smashing match, four more great games to look forward to!

Fri - 17th Jul                       New Zealand      39 - 18   Argentina                                         
Sat - 18th Jul 15                Australia              24 - 20   South Africa

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Rugby Championship kicks off - live right now!

 Matt Giteau ( picture

The Rugby Championship gets going on Friday, and this alongside the 6 Nations, are the most exciting rugby competitions bar the World Cup. Throw in the fact that you have 3 of the top four rugby playing nations, a brutal travel schedule, and you have arguably the toughest competition in world rugby.

But a world cup year is always an odd one for the RC, there’s player rotation and the odd B-team emerging. New Zealand for instance, look slightly undercooked, with lost of players Highlanders and Hurricanes missing. Not sure how far the Pumas will be able to push them, but this is an opportunity for them if they can get the All Blacks to play their game.

Australia v the Springboks should be the match of the weekend. Australia have slipped to 4th in the world, and have picked a Matt Giteau at centre, in a side that is the most capped Australian 15 of all time. The Springboks, meanwhile, arrive with a side that alongside the regulation bruising forwards fetures a number of exciting backs – the whole backline really. Probably still going to go to the home side though as the Boks don’t travel well.

Fri - 17th Jul          New Zealand     -     Argentina            
Sat - 18th Jul          Australia     -     South Africa

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Springboks cruise, and an exit for Kane Douglas?

 Cobus Reinach (picture

The Springboks did a good job winning 46-10 against a World XV that looked a little out of shape and form.  You can only play the 15 that turn up, but what was good news from a rugby point of view is that of the 7 tries they scored, 6 were by backs, with two for Allende and 3 for Le Roux. They also have good strength in depth, with players like Lambie and Reinach coming on and adding value. Should be some great games in the Rugby Championship coming up.!

On the local front, it’s disappointing to hear that Kane Douglas sounds like he’s on his way out back to Aus. Moving country isn’t easy, but you also get the feeling that some of these guys come over expecting a rugby holiday, soft pitches, soft players and good money. The reality of fighting for your place, and finding it’s not as soft as you thought, may make home seem a lot more attractive.

Friday, July 10, 2015

World XV v the Springboks, and a bit of a round up!

 Bakkies Botha (picture

Well, I have to hang my head in shame after missing what sounded like an epic finale to Super Rugby, as the Highlanders claimed their first title. You know when family life gets in the way of your priorities! Bit harsh on the Canes, but the Highlanders did it the hard way, playing extra matches and away from home, so they totally deserve it. It’s really frightening when you watch the skill and pace both of these  teams  played the game at, and most of these players don’t have a sniff of an All Black place. But that may change soon, the All Blacks  stay at the top by being ruthless and promoting new talent.

Mid week, the All Blacks got a narrow victory over Samoa. It wasn’t really an All Black first team, but there is no doubt that Samoa have the potential to cause some major upsets this World Cup.

This weekend we have the Springboks taking on a World 15. The World 15 has Springboks  Bakkies Botha as captain and JJ Engelbrecht and Guthro Steenkamp in the team, and a host of other stars. The Bok selection looks strong and exciting, and hopefully we get to see some good running rugby.

Saturday, July 11
South Africa vs World XV    15:00