On the Slide

A slightly improved second half performance securing the win against the Irish by the smallest of margins, still many areas that need improvement… and Heynecke asking for patience.

There’s not a lot I can say about the first half of the opening Test of the End of Year Tour. The guys looked stunned, making basic errors, giving away unnecessary penalties. You can blame that on inexperience if you want, but that story is also getting a bit too much for me to handle. The Irish could be the team blaming a poor performance on the lack of experience, yet they were the team playing all of the rugby in the first half and came out firing.

If you do blame it on the teams’ inexperience, then explain to me how can the players go from a Currie Cup final between the Sharks & Western Province, that saw such a great display of attacking rugby by both sides to players now in Green & Gold playing as if they don’t care about playing rugby.  We were poor in the first half to say the least.  It seems to me that any freedom to play the situation by reacting to what’s in front of you is being taken away by Heynecke, yet he has claimed that the players always had that freedom.

The players looked like mindless robots by aimlessly following this outdated game-plan, that seems to be stuck in the coach’s head, hoping that it will work like it did in the past for the Bulls.

Heynecke has already given in to some player selections, by bringing in the Goose and Lambie at flyhalf, which in all honesty I didn’t even think would happen, but he did it, yet the game-plan isn’t letting them play how they can play.  

So he can pick the team we all want to see, drop Zane Niknaks from the team but it’s not going to make a difference, because the next fullback will simply only be allowed to just be positioning himself at the back, catch the ball and kick it back and chase, because that is the roll of the fullback in this game-plan, same for the other positions.

My question is, if the national coach is as brilliant as some claim, why can’t he simply wake up and make some small adjustments and tweak it to make it more effective? And I must say, I was pleased when they announced him as coach with his track record etc, but I’m starting to doubt his ability. From the first June test against England, it seems we’re going downhill, except for the Aussie match where we played some rugby for once. Now Heynecke is asking for patience? The All Blacks are the pace-setters and have always been and to me they never seem to be rebuilding. You never see an All Blacks side just losing a game and blame it on inexperience or rebuilding. Player management seems to be the phrase being thrown around and I can agree with that, because some players are really over played, but even with the fittest and freshest players I feel the Boks under Heynecke’s guidance won’t do any better.

Our backline is so static and flat and I think the right word is… Boring. Just look at how the Irish were attacking in the first half, luckily they didn’t have their big runners like Brian O’Driscoll, but still kept our defence guessing, with dummy runners and player running from depth and playing with width. Can you imagine if our back-line were running plays like that with the player talent we have?

Their defence were simply waiting for our forwards to take crash balls and just rushing off their defensive lines and tackling us before we can get any momentum going.

It must also be said that the referee had a shocker of a game, the Irish were offside most of the time on defence but that is the captain’s duty to point that out. The captain must also pull the guys together and not play a whole half of embarrassing rugby only to get kakked out by the coach and then only play slightly better. Had we played like this in the Rugby Championship we would have received bigger hidings against the Aussies, Kiwis as well as the Pumas… are the Boks sliding? Will we struggle against the Scots? Will Lambie be giving more freedom to play his game, will he even be given another chance at pivot? We will have to wait and see what happens, but I’m not getting my hopes up at the moment, I think we will see more of the same…

Picks for the next round of Internationals:
Wales by 10, New Zealand by 30, England by 8, South Africa by 3, Argentina by 9

North vs. South

The End of Year Tour kicks off this coming weekend against the old Northern Hemisphere rivals… Hopefully, we can remain unbeaten for these three Tests but it’s not going to be easy.

The first stop… playing the Irish at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. It’s cold and rainy, something our front row shouldn’t be too worried about as the Sharks know how to scrum in the wet conditions, like we saw in the Currie Cup final against WP – but I would just want to point out that we’re still the Champs though!! Jannie du Plessis is probably in the best scrumming form of his life, which does make getting front foot ball from the set-piece easier.

It’s all going to depend on team selection though. I have a feeling Heynecke Meyer is going to play Morne Steyn at pivot, because he kicks so great? And obviously play Zane Kirschner at the back. Zane has played consistently well doing the basics right, but nothing special and that is what’s lacking at the moment. So if the forwards get good front foot ball then, whats going to happen from there? Is Morne just going to stand in the pocket again, effectively cancelling out the hard yards made by forwards? Heynecke Meyer admitted recently and said he has made mistakes during the first part of his tenure as Bok coach. Will we now see a change in thinking? The other thing is that he is probably going to play out of form Hougie on the wing, seeing that Bryan Habana has been left behind due to injury. But all these questions will be answered shortly.

Yes, the Boks had to deal with some big injuries, as we all know. But the Irish have now also had their fair share of injuries, with their talismanic skipper, Bryan O’Driscoll, as well as Stephen Ferris also been ruled out of the clash.

We have a couple of youngsters coming through and it will be tough, but I think with the right selections in key areas and we can “easily” remain unbeaten through the November Internationals.

My team selection for the first Test:

Forwards:
1. Tendai Mtawarira, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 3. Jannie Du Plessis, 4. Eben Ysterbeth, 5. Juandre Kruger, 6. Francois Louw, 7. Willem Alberts, 8. Duane Vermeulen

Backs:
9. Ruan Pienaar, 10. Patrick Lambie, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 12. Jean De Villiers (c), 13. Juan De Jongh, 14. JP Pietersen, 15. Jaco Taute

Bench:
16. Schalk Brits, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Franco v/d Merwe, 19. Marcel Coetzee, 20. Francois Hougaard, 21. Elton Jantjies, 22. Zane Kirschner / Raymond Rhule

 

I might even let Franco v/d Merwe start with Juandre Kruger on the bench, we know that Franco will play a hard game and organise the lineouts really well.

The change in the midfield with Jean moving back to inside and give Juan a go at outside centre, let them play their natural positions. But the key changes being Pat Lambie at pivot and Jaco Taute at fullback.


My picks for the first round of Internationals this weekend
:
Italy to beat Tonga by 4, England to beat Fiji by 10, Argentina to beat Wales by 5, South Africa to beat Ireland by 9, Australia to beat France by 6, New Zealand to beat Scotland by 20.

Province !!!

Breathtaking, intense, nerve-wrecking & a brilliant display of SA Rugby’s talent.
This year’s Currie Cup final was one of the very best.  Credit has to go to both sides… it was a thriller of a match-up !!

Firstly, to all those who didn’t give Western Province any chance of winning… finals are all about taking your opportunities, passion and the hunger to win.

Secondly, to the Sharks, thank you for a very entertaining game, it definitely shows how healthy SA Rugby is at the moment, even if Heynecke Meyer still believes more in his Bulls’ players in certain positions…

It came down to who wanted it more on the day and you could clearly see that after Juan De Jongh scored the try, that WP started to believe that this is their year to win the Currie Cup and the way we attacked with ball in hand was brilliant and with intent, our defence was rock solid even when the Sharks had us stretched at times, the try saving tackles that were made were exceptional and great to witness. The young guys played like warriors and never stood back, except for the scrums, until Jannie Du Plessis left the field, this was probably the only area where Western Province came a bit short.

And I do feel for the Sharks and their supporters, the Sharkies are definitely my second team which I support, and you shouldn’t feel disappointed with your efforts and the way you played, but there can only be one winner on the day and I’m very proud that this time WP came out on top, it has been long overdue.

I believe the Sharks and WP will for the next couple of years be producing the majority of the Springboks heading to the RWC 2015 in England.

To some of these Bulls supporters on Sport24 commenting on every single article about WP / Stormers with their fake profiles… julle begin nou julle name gat maak !!!  Ons is die Currie Cup Kampioene !!!

Super Rugby SA Conference Cup Winners
Vodacom Cup Winners
Currie Cup Winners

PROVINCE !!! Jou lekker ding !!!

Who will be victorious…

The Rugby Championship will be completed this weekend with the final round of fixtures to be played, even though the All Blacks already claimed the title last weekend, both remaining fixtures look set be thrillers…
&
Currie Cup Rugby nearing the Semi’s, who’s going to make the cut?

The Springboks have definitely made some significant changes to the game plan, even though Heynecke Meyer and captain Jean de Villiers continue to deny it, saying that they are only using their opportunities better.

Oh well, that’s debatable, but Johan Goosen has brought new dimensions to our attacking game, taking the ball up and playing on the front foot, right on the gain line.   This has kept the opposition defence guessing and players were playing towards the spaces and breaking the line and scoring tries and also creating loads of opportunities out wide and offloading in the tackles… still the same game plan? I don’t think so…

I say bring on the All Blacks, we have the fire power to really give them a good run for their money, even the All Blacks coaching staff are cautioning the Boks that we must be careful to run at them and play their type of game because they are expecting a more expansive game and basically saying that they are the best at it.

Sounds to me like they are a bit wary themselves?

The other fixture sees tournament newcomers Argentina to face Australia.  This will be a very good game to watch, both sides want to come out and prove a point and end their campaign on a high.  I think that the Argies are probably in a stronger position that Australia, less injuries, playing at home and also the Argies will have the self-belief that they can beat Australia this time around.

Argentina has definitely grown as a Test playing nation in recent years and its good that they weren’t ripped apart as many have speculated would be the case, joining the elite southern hemisphere tournament for the first time.  But then again, Robbie Deans and his Wallabies are in a tight spot and will do basically anything to win the match.

The Currie Cup is nearing the knock-out phase, who will be the final four progressing?

It was a good tournament so far and looking at the log and remaining fixtures, there’s not much that Blue Bulls will be able to do, should WP beat them at Loftus on Friday night, and should the Griquas beat the Lions in Kimberley, then the Bulls look a lot more likely to be the team fighting for their place in the premier division.

But with this said, lots can still happen in this shortened version of the Currie Cup, where we have seen so many changes to the log standings, forcing the teams to be on top of their game every single weekend.  The four teams to progress to the semi’s, I think, will be the Lions, Sharks, WP & Cheetahs.  But like I said, this can change so quickly…

My weekends’ winning picks:
Springboks by 5, Argentina by 6, Western Province by 5, Sharks by 9 and Lions by 7.

 

Currie Cup spicing up

This year’s Currie Cup was initially played down by many fans, saying it’s a watered down competition now and that Super Rugby took away the importance and prestige of one of the world’s oldest rugby competitions…. well, this year’s competition is proving the opposite.

A truly strength vs. strength competition has shown how healthy SA Rugby is at the moment, with the depth and youngsters coming through playing some awesome rugby.   Just ask the Bulls how tough this competition still is… seeing that if the Cheetahs manage to beat them this weekend, they will be in a tough spot and most likely will have to fight to keep their place in a promotion / relegation match, most probably against the EP Kings.

From a Western Province fans’ point of view the above situation brings a smile.  Can you imagine the Bulls playing in the first division? What a good laugh :)

Western Province have definitely impressed me with the way we are playing recently.   Our defence is still rock solid when we truly need it, but our attacking has got me excited and hopefully we can continue with this style of play and take it into Super Rugby next year.   This attacking style, offloading in the tackle, competing at the rucks to get quick ball, our running lines and dummy runners have definitely made WP look like the exciting rugby union it once was known for.

Even though we lost a couple of matches, I’m more confident in the team, that should we go to the Semi’s and Final this year, that we can win it.

I would have liked to see that Demetri Catrakilis remain with WP and the Stormers for next year’s campaign, as he and Nick Groom have been crucial to getting our backline going.  Our centre pairing are not simply just taking the ball up, but they are running for the spaces and offloading in the tackle which helps alot in getting go forward momentum and it’s great to watch.

Allister keep with it, you guys are finally on the right track here…

Looking ahead to the match ups of the weekend, here are my Superbru picks for Round 7:
Cheetahs by 10, Lions by 4, Western Province by 9

Wake up Boks !!

The Springboks will never move forward as a team as long as the “brains” trust continue being stupid…

This is the words from our Springbok backs coach Ricardo Loubscher according to Planet Rugby:

“It is about the execution of our kicks and the chasing lines. We are not worried too much about whether they are going to counter-attack, we just want to make sure that we execute our kicks well and we will get the results and opportunities that we want.”
Source: http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3821_8049833,00.html

I simply cannot understand him saying that he is not too worried about the counter attacking of the Aussies and then in the same breathe says we have to execute our kicks well ??

If we continue kicking away possession then the Aussies will run at us all day long, not to mention the All Blacks, and they will break our defence and score tries.

WE NEED TO CHANGE TO AN ATTACKING MINDSET FOR ONCE.

Look at Western Province, decided to run a bit against the Bulls over the weekend, and dished out a hiding, it was brilliant rugby to watch…

 

Bring on the Championship…

This weekend sees the kick-off to the very first edition of the new-look four nations competition – The Rugby Championship.  Some big matches to look out for this weekend…

The Rugby Championship will include new-comers Argentina.  Although, not quite at the same level as the other top 3 nations, the Pumas are currently sitting at #8 on the IRB World Rankings, but I’m sure if you going to underestimate them, then they are likely to cause an upset.

The Argentinian players have always been very passionate, physical and skillfull players and they always play with a lot of pride, and they will come to Newlands to make their competition debut and will also want to prove to themselves and their fans, and to us, that they are worthy to play with the big boys.

However, I don’t think that they will be much threat this season already.   I think they will start off with a bang, then maybe start fading out a bit.  It is going to take them a while to get used to the pace of this competition, but I also feel that the Pumas might be able to upset the Wallabies when they meet later in the competition.

Here’s the team to face the Pumas at Newlands:

South Africa: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Bryan Habana, 13. Jean de Villiers (captain), 12. Frans Steyn, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Francois Hougaard, 8. Keegan Daniel, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes
: 16. Adriaan Strauss, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Flip van der Merwe, 19. Jacques Potgieter, 20. Ruan Pienaar, 21. Pat Lambie, 22. JJ Engelbrecht

I don’t want to comment much on some of the selections, but leaving Pat Lambie out and playing Zane Kirchner, is just a weird move by Heynecke Meyer.  I know we were all expecting this to be the case but, Zane is nowhere near world-class, a decent enough provincial player at best.  He has never proven to be a class player at international level and I simply don’t understand the logic behind his selection, maybe it’s just the fact that there would only have been two Bulls players in the starting line-up if Patrick Lambie was playing…

Round 2 of Currie Cup action on this weekend, and last weeks’ results shows that the Currie Cup is still a very tough competition to win, and to predict…

Western Province needs to bounce back, I’m not too worried about the first encounter against the Sharks, as an early loss might just help us in the long run.

In Super Rugby the Stormers were able to get the wins in close encounters early on in the season, even though we didn’t always deserve the win, but pulled it through, and I feel that only the “luck” of winning those games ensured that we reached top of the table.

Now my question…  If the Stormers maybe lost 3 or 4 games early on in their campaign, then who knows how Super Rugby would’ve turned out for the Stormers…??

Good to see that Demetri Catrakilis is back for WP in the nr. 10 jersey and i think he will make a big difference this weekend, here’s a look at the Western Province team for this weekend’s clash against Griquas:

Western Province: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. JP du Plessis, 12. Marcel Brache, 11. Ederies Arendse, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Jebb Sinclair, 6. Tyrone Holmes, 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Don Armand, 3. Frans Malherbe, 2. Deon Fourie (captain), 1. Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16. Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Wilhelm van der Sluys, 19. Yaya Hartzenberg, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Damian de Allende

It’s awesome that Duane is getting his first start again after the knee injury that sidelined him for a couple of months, and he’s looking good according to the coaching staff, so it’s going to be nice to have him back on the field again, especially after news that Schalk Burger is finished for this season…

My weekend’s winning picks
Currie Cup: Cheetahs by 5, Western Province by 10, Sharks by 8.
Rugby Championship: New Zealand by 12, South Africa by 15.


Long-standing Tradition & Rivalry

South African Rugby’s longest standing tradition & rivalry, the Currie Cup, is once again kicking off with the old rivals battling it out to claim the trophy… 


The Currie Cup had its inception way back in 1889 and has since been one of the greatest honours in world rugby, to be able to walk away with this title.

It is also the oldest tournament to date in the world, but this year the format has changed somewhat, with only the top 6 provincial teams competing, with the Leopards and Pumas relegated to the first division.

Since the start many provinces have staked their claims to the title with Western Province the most successful, having won the trophy on 32 occasions.

It has only been the during last decade that this trophy has failed to make its way back to the Cape.

I am pretty excited about the Currie Cup, even though, many claim that it has lost its value due to Super Rugby and the SA Conference Trophy, but I grew up watching Currie Cup rugby, so for me, the Currie Cup will always be a great tournament to watch.

Western Province kicks off their campaign against the very Sharks that has broken the hearts of so many Stormers supporters in the Super Rugby semi-final.  I wouldn’t say that it is a grudge match, as both teams have  released many players for international duty, but winning will be vital and getting off to a good start will be awesome.

WP Coach, Allister Coetzee, said during the week that they won’t try to reinvent the wheel much in the Currie Cup, I’m hoping that doesn’t mean we will defend again for 60 or 70 minutes of the game… maybe it’s a good thing the Bulls are wanting to sign Jacques Nienaber?

We’re going to have to experiment with our attacking, we need to improve our attacking gameplan, our mindset must be changed to a team that goes on the field wanting to win this trophy more than any other province. Defence does play its part and a big part yes, but playing to score tries, offloading in the tackles, dummy runners, backline moves, all this needs to be implemented as it is critical to any team’s success in any tournament.

Good luck to Deon Fourie, who has been named captain for the Currie Cup season.  He deserves it, he’s a great player and leads by example.  Here’s the Western Province team taking on the Sharks this weekend:

Western Province:

15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. JP du Plessis, 12. Marcel Brache,   11. Gio Aplon, 10. Burton Francis 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Jebb Sinclair, 7. Tyrone Holmes, 6. Deon Fourie (captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Don Armand, 3. Frans Malherbe 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1. Deon Carstens

Substitutes: 16. Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17. Brok Harris, 18. JC Kritzinger, 19. Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Gary van Aswegen, 22. Damian de Allende

There are a couple of youngsters coming through the ranks and hopefully they can continue their good form that won Western Province their first Vodacom Cup title earlier this year…

My weekend’s winning picks:  Griquas by 3, Cheetahs by 7, Western Province by 9 

No Comment

The past weekend’s semi-finals produced some spectacular rugby. Congratulations to the Sharks and the Chiefs who have booked their spots in this year’s Super Rugby final.

As a Stormers’ fan, I always backed my team for the win, but I was very concerned about facing the Sharks in the week building up to the semi’s. Once again the Sharks came and rained on the Stormers’ parade. I’m dissappointed, yet losing in the semi’s is probably better than losing in the final again, because the Chiefs, I think, would have smashed us and exploited this defensive gameplan “we” choose to employ.

We had our chances to seal the victory at the end, even if we once again didn’t deserve to win the game, it looked as if we could sneak it, but some decisions led to the Stormers ONCE AGAIN kicking away possession of the ball after only a few phases of attack and not knowing what else to do. Let’s face it, the Stormers looked good with ball in hand, why not play like that from the beginning? This has been my question for so long throughout this season, why Allister and company still insisted on the defensive mindset and playing ugly rugby to “win”. Well, newsflash Allister !!! Read the papers, the Stormers played unattractive rugby and that leads to unattractive results, crashing out of the competition.

You could see in the post-match interviews, when asked about the Stormers’ inability to score tries and will they change the way they play going forward, then Allister almost started crying, because his plan didn’t work out. Should have listened to everybody that have been trying to give them advice… STORMERS play some rugby for once, get a backline coach…

Yes, defence is big part of the game, and very crucial if you need it in tight games, but every single match we played throughout 2012, we made it a close game because of this defensive mindset. The Sharks have figured us out, they were tired, yet still they came and conquered, because they came to Newlands to play some rugby, good rugby, attractive & attacking rugby. Good going Sharks, well done !!

If there is a team the Stormers can look at for some attacking flair, it’s the Sharks. Like Allister said… lessons learnt…… well, hopefully!! We will see if Western Province will start to look at a different style come the Currie Cup, which sees this year’s campaign kick-off against this very Sharks’ team…

With the Sharks being boosted by the likes of Patrick Lambie and Paul Jordaan for the trip overseas, to face the Chiefs, I think if travelling doesn’t play such a big part, the Sharks will have the guns to finish off the Chiefs. For SA Rugby, I hope the Sharks can do it, and I hope they can claim the trophy and bring it home…

The bigger picture….

Will Heynecke be choosing the right players for the Rugby Championship, or will he stick with the Bulls that have been very poor this season? If he uses the right players and combinations, we will have a very strong team, and will definitely be in with a shout. But time will tell, who he will pick in his squad…


A very strong possible starting XV for the Springboks:

15. Gio Aplon 14. JP Petersen 13. Jean De Villiers (c) 12. Francois Steyn 11. Bryan Habana 10. Patrick Lambie 9. Francois Hougaardt 8. Willem Alberts 7. Marcel Coetzee 6. Heinrich Brussow 5. Andries Bekker  4. Eben Etzebeth 3. Jannie Du Plessis 2. Bismarck Du Plessis 1. Tendai Mtawarira

( 8 Sharks, 5 Stormers, 1 Cheetah & 1 Bull)

Make the call

The Semi-finals of this year’s Super Rugby tournament is drawing closer and the players and coaching staff are hoping they check all the boxes in preparation for the knock-out games – A whole season of hard work now comes down to… win or go home.

First up, Chiefs vs. Crusaders at Waikato Stadium on Friday.  This will be cracker, with both teams playing real good rugby.

However, it seems as if the Chiefs maybe took the foot off the accelerator the past couple of rounds having lost their last two match-ups, against the Crusaders and Hurricanes.  The Crusaders have shown in previous seasons that they hit top gear at just the right time of the competition, and this year is no different. Daniel Carter is playing awesome rugby again after the injury, maybe even a little better. I will have to say that Dan Carter will outplay Aaron Cruden and play a big part in the Crusaders winning the first semi-final of the weekend.

Secondly, we have the all South African semi-final with the two big coastal rivals packing down against each other on Saturday afternoon.  It will be a hard fought battle and maybe the winning team might only be able to snatch victory by a moment of brilliance.

I don’t think that either team will run away it.  The Sharks have to travel, which my see them looking a bit fatigued come the last 10 to 15 mins.  With Eben Etzebeth back in the steam room will help our scrumming, as we desperately need to stop the momentum of those Sharks forwards who are in excellent form.  If we manage to stop them upfront and put them under pressure we are definitely going to see Newlands host their first ever Super Rugby Final.

The Stormers’ team to face the Sharks:

Stormers:
15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Deon Fourie, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Tiaan Liebenberg, 1.  Steven Kitshoff

Substitutes: 16. Frans Malherbe, 17. Deon Carstens, 18. De Kock Steenkamp, 19. Don Armand, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Burton Francis, 22. Gerhard van den Heever

With Deon Fourie being able to cover the hooker position from no. 8 allows the Stormers to have two props on the bench, this might prove vital late in the second half to be able to bring on two fresh props instead of just one. I have my concerns regarding a possible upset by the Sharks but I will always back my team for the win.

My prediction for the Super Rugby Final…

Therefore, my weekend’s winning picks:  Crusaders by 9 , Stormers by 4