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Revenge of the Stormers: Part 2

March 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

The clash between the 2 coastal teams, the Sharks and the Stormers will be another sign for the latter to see how far they’ve progressed from last year’s “almost there” season. As we all know, they were the only South African side to feature in both the Super rugby – & Currie cup final last year but actually winning the competitions was a step too far for the Cape based side. I base those disappointments to 2 things: Experience & home court advantage.

 

The Bulls had experience galore as they were in the finals the year before and the Sharks were playing infront of passionate fans in Durbs & eventhough I don’t want to dwell on the past or take anything away from these 2 championship sides, I do believe we would’ve atleast had 1 different result if those 2 games were played at Newlands. But lessons were learned & one of the most important ones learned was that come knock out games, you wana play at home & how do you do that? By finishing on top & the end of the round robin stages.

 

It may still be early in the competition but the Stormers are doing just that and they have the perfect opportunity this coming weekend, not only to extend their lead at the top of the log but to up their progress by beating the Sharks in Durban, something they haven’t done I think, since 2004. And they can do it as they have following counting in their favour:

 

-          FORM: The Stormers haven’t lost yet this year, yeah that includes preseason too baby, where the Sharks failed to get the W 2 times in row lately. They’ll definitely be a different kettle of fish (excuse the pun) in Durbs so the Stormers will have to bring their A+  game

 

-          PLAYERS IN & PLAYERS OUT: In the CC final last year, the Stormers had to make due without kingpins like Andries Bekker, Peter Grant & Jaque Fourie.


  Yes we did have Juan de Jongh to replace Mossie but Fourie in my book is the world’s best 13 & will be missed if he’s not playing. The Sharks are just not the same without their CC final MVP Pat Lambie. Potgieter is a good replacement to have but I believe that the backs do miss their Lamborghini.


 

-          CONFIDENCE: the Bulls game gave the Stormers the much needed confidence to believe that they can win in Durban & crossing the tryline 6 times against the Force should also give them the boost they need to balance that brilliant defense with an all-out attacking offense.

 

Now I obviously just mentioned factors that count in their favor but there are a couple of things that can count against the Stormers:

 

-          LOSS OF PIETER LOUW:


We might be getting Schalk back but Louw will be sorely missed. Up until his injury, I think he’s one of the best loosies in the country and his impact on the game will be missed.

 

-          PRIDE & REVENGE: The Sharks will be hurting & being back at home they’d wana give their fans a good show against the current log leaders. All week some of Stormers’ players have been saying in the media that this isn’t a revenge match. Hey, that’s what they’re suppose to say!!! But don’t think for a second they forgot about last year’s final. This could either mentally motivate them or mentally distract them.

 

-          CAPTAINCY:

It shouldn’t really be problem as I’m sure that Jean will be the vice-captain and will certainly lend a hand or a word to Schalk but when it comes to substitutions I’ve noticed that Coetzee isn’t a fan taking his captain off the field much like Jake White did with John Smit during his tenure. But like I said, I can’t see it being a problem but it will be interesting to see how the coaches go about managing their captain.

 

-          LOSING: A loss would not only break the Stomers’ winning streak & put the Sharks back on the road by kick starting their momentum again in this competition but the loss for the Stormers could also mean that once again, they were “almost there” against their coastal rival & who knows what that could do to the team going forward.


 

I’m sure the Stormers will lose a game or 2 in this competition but I really hope it won’t happen this weekend. It’s gona be a humdinger though and for some reason I’m not as nervous as I usually am 2 or 3 days leading up to the game. How did I feel before that Bulls game?? Wouldn’t you like to know..

 

I’m outy

 

Ps: I’ve just been wondering this whole week that if the Proteas can defend their choking tag, maybe that’s a good omen for the Springboks come RWC. Juuuuuuust think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The balance of power is shifting

March 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

The balance of power is beginning to shift. I’m not going to be so arrogant or stupid as to say that the power has shifted to the WP & Stormers but it’s for damn sure not with the Bulls anymore. The aura they had about their invincibility at fortress Loftus is one or 2 games away from vanishing and the fact that they lost against their arch rivals from the South this weekend (making it 2 games in a row that they’ve lost in Pretoria) mustve been like a dagger shot right through the heart of the Loftus faithful.


 

Look I’m not here to bad mouth the Bulls or kick them when they’re down coz I’ve done my fair share of that this weekend. And I wouldn’t be a passionate Stormers fan if I didn’t. That’s part of the game, that’s goes with the rivalry. You think about the heartache you suffered last year & then about the huge relief you have now.. knowing you FINALLY put one over them, you cant help but go overboard with your celebrations. But back to my blog.

 

Up until last year, the Bulls were regarded as the team to beat in South Africa and in Super rugby. Even with the Sharks securing last year’s Currie Cup title, there was still this unspoken law that to be the best in SA, you have to beat the Bulls in their own backyard, you have to take them off their pedestal. In the Sharks defense, up until this past weekend, they’ve shown that there are ready to do that as they have been playing the most enterprising rugby of the 5 SA sides so far. But with the result the Stormers got this weekend and their tenacious defense so far in this competition, they’ve made this struggle for power a 3-man race.

 

It will be foolish to write off the men from Pretoria as they’re still the 2-time defending champions and still have a plethora of world class Springboks with buckets & buckets of experience. The LA Lakers have also suffered lots of 3 – 5 game losing streaks during this current season. With only a couple of weeks till the playoffs, they’ve switched gears are currently one the hottest teams in the NBA. And some media & journalists have actually written them off, forgetting the real competition only starts come playoffs, forgotten that they’re still the 2-time defending champions and that they still have Kobe Bryant, whose arguably the best player of his generation.


 


Having said that, I do feel like the Bulls’ dominance they’ve enjoyed the last 9 – 11 seasons are dwindling in a downward spiral. And it’s not just because of this weekend but because of their whole season so far. One could say that their know-how-to-win experience carried them to victories against the Lions and Cheetahs but the cracks were showing in those games. The Highlanders further opened up those cracks and so did the Stormers and should they lose against the Lions this coming weekend, the dam will break & water would flow in Pretoria.            

 

It doesn’t get any easier for the Sharks either for suffered their 1st defeat of the season this past weekend.


 

They’re playing (in my opinion) the form team of the tournament, in the Crusaders this weekend and even though it may not be in Christchurch, it will still be a very tough game for them, followed by a date with the Stormers who by that time could still have their perfect record in tact after they face Australia’s 4th best team in the Force this coming weekend. And IF the Stormers can pull off another upset (coz lets not kid ourselves, this weekend was an upset) in Durban next week, this will put them in a very good position for still a very long season ahead and with that, eventually shift the balance of power back to the South.

 

Im outy

 

Ps: Saturday was a good day!! A VEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERY GOOD DAY!!!

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This could be last chance saloon for Tsotsy & Colly

March 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Proteas are one game away from finishing top of their group and even though they’ve already qualified for the quarter finals, captain Biff still feels that the team hasn’t fired on all cylinders yet. The game against Bangladesh is here fore of the utmost importance to make sure no rock is left unturned before we start the knock out stages.

 

To say that our bowling department has been impressive would be an under statement even if they were dismantled by the Indian openers in that first 15 overs of the game this past weekend but the bowling has now also become huge head-scratcher for the selection panel. I know that you don’t fix something if it’s not broke but it’s bizarre to think that our form pace bowler coming into this tournament, Lonwabo Tsotsobe hasn’t even bowled one ball yet. If he doesn’t play this Saturday, I doubt we’ll see much of him come knock outs. But who do you play in this final round robin game??

 

Lets consider the following:

 

-          AB is fit again to play & the Proteas would wanna make sure that their leading run getter don’t lose any momentum



-          Van Wyk has shown how destructive he can be (ok so it was Ireland, but still)

-          Faf du Plessis has been average with the bat (& even saying that is pushing it) BUT apart from AB, he is the Proteas’ best fielder

-          Colin Ingram has shown that he’s hungry for runs and they way he went about getting them mustve made the selectors take note

-          Botha has shown that he can be very useful in that nr. 8 batting lineup but is he still vice captain?

-          Tahir surely is a must on a pitch that Im sure Bangladesh would prepare for their own turners

-          Lobs & Parnell still has to play in this tournament while Steyn has some niggles.



 

I’m really not sure if the Proteas know who their best 11 is and think that they’ve taken it game-for-game with a kind of horses-for-courses approach. I’m not saying that’s bad thing but as we’re approaching the business end of the competition, I don’t think it’s a good thing either.

 

I must say that I liked our team for the opener against the West Indies in: Amla, Smith, Kallis, AB, JP, Faf, Botha, Petersen, Steyn, Morkel & Tahir And with the lower order batsmen like Botha & Petersen putting in some lovely cameos as the tournament went along, that team looks very solid on the batting & bowling front.

 

But what do you do with AB and his minor back injury early in the tournament from standing behind the stumps?

Or Colin’s solid CWC debut? 

Or Lobsy’s absence and Steyn’s injury niggle? Are 3 spinners enough or too much?

 

Those are questions the selection panel simply cannot ignore moving forward in the tournament.

 

I would love to see Colin get another run, Tsotsobe finally get an opportunity (just to check) and Van Wyk in the lineup to take some pressure off AB. So my team for Bangladesh would look something like this:

 

Amla, Smith, Van Wyk, Kallis, AB, JP, Ingram, Petersen, Morkel, Tsotsobe & Tahir

 

Van Wyk comes in at 3 with the task to have a real go at the bowlers and this could also give Smith an opportunity to get his eye in & Van Wyk’s presence could also take some pressure off Amla who’s also in need of a good score.


 

Runs shouldn’t be a problem as we’ve got recognized batsmen up until the nr.7 spot. With AB in the field, Faf can be rested and Colin can get another run, Tahir comes in for Botha but we don’t lose any batting as we’ll have Petersen coming in at 8. Lobs come in for Steyn who gets a well deserved rest & even with Steyn out, the bowling (based on form) still looks dangerous and lets forget that we can also call on Kallis and JP to chuck a couple of balls. If the selectors wanna be real adventurous they can throw a cap to Parnell instead of Morkel but I doubt that will happen.

 

Van Zyl was quoted earlier in the week before the Ireland game that no matter who plays, the Proteas will always field a strong side and of that I’m very confident but this could be the last opportunity for our fringe players to put their hands up as well as to have one last look at which 11 can best serve SA and hopefully lead us to the promise land.

 

I’m outy

 

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Captain my captain..

March 16, 2011 in Uncategorized

When it comes to Springbok rugby, John Smit is my captain.. He’s my captain through and through and since he’s preferred position is hooker, I’ll start him there. With that statement some of my friends will just shake their heads in disgust and it’s usually followed up with “how in the hell can you pick THAT guy over arguably the best hooker on the planet in Bismarck du Plessis!!??” which I usually just ignore or I’ll reply with something along the lines of: “Smit is more than a player for the Boks, he’s their leader & the glue that holds the team together & Bismarck got 4 – 8 years left to dominate the nr.2 jersey”

 

Now funny enough, this blog isn’t about the bok captain but about another captain who’s form at the moment doesn’t merit his selection & that ofcoz is Protea captain Biff aka Graham Smith. To say Biff’s form with the bat has been below par, unexceptable, horrible but most of all scary, is an under statement.



Smith prides himself on leading from the front, taking on the best bowlers of the opposition & tearing them to pieces. It hasn’t happened a lot these days but when it does, not only does it make him look like Captain Courages but it also takes a lot of pressure off the other opener or those that come in should a wicket fall.

 

Now, few would agree that his batting brought him into squad 8 – 10 years ago but since he took over the captaincy, he also brought that same aura of confidence and pride into the squad like Barney did in 2004 when he was named Bok captain. But rugby isn’t cricket & no disrespect to John but I think you have to bring more than inspiration when you the captain of a fielding side and even though Biff might not have contributed with the bat so far, his side has bowled out every team they’ve played against so far in the CWC including India and their mighty batting lineup. Sure he has weapons like Steyn, Morkel (& during this CWC Tahir, Petersen & Botha) in his arsenal but he’s still the guy that has to decide when to bowl them, for how long and with what field placings and you can’t take that away from him.



I know it’s not right to point to one man for your success in a team sport but surely the captain should get most of the credit of his team’s success as well as most of the blame for their failures. And until the end of this CWC Biff is more than willing to accept that responsibility and then some. A responsibility almost no one wanted to take after we failed in our own backyard in the ‘03 CWC. Smith will come to party and that big knock is just around the corner, of that I have no doubt. This is his last world cup as captain and could possibly be his last as a player too so I’m sure that he’s just as antsy as us the fans to see him give us a big one.

 

Some suggested he move down the order to get his form back. Whether its true or not, I’m not too sure of but I doubt the pride & confidence of the man would allow that to happen. And that’s also why, for now atleast:

 

When it comes to Protea cricket, Graham Smith is my captain.

 

I’m outy

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In batting paradise, it’s gonna be up to your bowlers to win the game

March 4, 2011 in Uncategorized

I guess one can now safely say that the Cricket World Cup is now underway as all of the teams have at least 2 games under their belt. I haven’t followed the tournament that closely but I was fortunate enough to watch the last 20 overs of the Irish run chase. I watched the game with a buddy of mine who supports the English in cricket, soccer & rugby & whose football team lost against Chelsea just the night before, so you can imagine the agony & suffering he must’ve endured seeing the Irish getting closer & closer to achieving the best upset in the tournament (so far). Yeah I know it wasn’t funny for him but it was pretty hilarious for me.

The 2 ladies sitting next to us asked me if I was also supporting the English to which I replied emphatically: Hell No!! Im proudly South African and Im proudly supporting our boys. She then asked me if the same thing can happen to us what’s happening to England, to which I just shook my head & said very arrogantly: Nah, its gonna be a walk in the park.. Sure it was cocky of me but I just couldn’t see us losing against the Netherlands.

It’s becoming more and more obvious that these world cup pitches are being prepared for batsmen to flourish. In cricket mad sub-continent, I’m sure those hundreds & thousands of fans would rather wanna see fours & sixes than wickets tumbling (unless their teams are bowling off course). This is why bowlers will need to concentrate extra harder on their lines and lengths, fielders can not afford miss-fields & drop catches (just ask Andrew Strauss) & captains will have to make sure that his fielding strategies and placings that he’s implementing will give his team the best chance to get wickets.

Top class seamers like Johnson, Steyn, Gul and hat trick heros Malinga & Roach has shown that if you bowl the right lines & hit right areas, you will get wickets.

 

You will probably get a bit of slap from the inform batsmen of the tournament as well as a couple of strong hitters but if you bowl correctly, you’ll have 6 chances to get him out. It’s still early for South Africa and we are looking pretty, but we still have to face favorites India, an English team that hurting & would wana prove a point, an Irish team that believe the sky is the limit & a Bangladesh team in Bangladesh. But that’s also 4 opportunities to put our bowlers through “bowlershell” and hope they can come out unscathed on the other side. If you consider that you attack the other team with the bat and defend your team with the ball, then the winner of this world cup is gonna be the team that’s got a better defense than its opposition.

SA’s secret weapon, agent 00-Tahir has brought a new dimension to our bowling attack but it is at the expense of who I thought was the form seamer in the series here against India, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

Tsotsi deserves an opportunity to play based on that form but maybe the selectors wouldn’t like him to perform because then they will definitely have to scratch there heads when it comes to who’s gonna play in crucial games. I do acknowledge that they are trying different things. I mean if Im not mistaken, Botha is the vice captain of the squad and he didn’t play yesterday. But having said that, was it really that much of a gamble to leave him out against the Netherlands?? I mean no disrespect to Hup hup Holland but you guys aren’t exactly on the same level as India or even England.

So yeah man, Let’s be happy for yesterday’s win coz after all a win is a win & it creates momentum & confidence.

But keep in mind, that there’s still a tough road ahead for us and especially for our bowlers we pick.

I’m outy

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Stormers won – But needs to up the anty.. ALOT!!

March 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

I wrote a blog a couple of weeks ago about how tough this year will be for the Stormers & WP (http://blogs.sport24.co.za/djp/this-could-be-a-tough-year-ahead-for-the-stormers-wp) and Saturday night against the Lions, they did little to convince me other wise. The Stormers reminded me of the ’10 Boks with their lack of creativity among the backs, the forwards being unable to lay the platform from first phase ball and the whole team, basically looking uninterested & lacking urgency. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I feel sorry for Lions losing another close game that they could’ve won but I will say that for 70 minutes, they were the much better team on the field. I hope for (and actually expect) a much better performance against the kitty cheetahs from the men of the Cape.

 

I thought we had a good team (or a good enough team) to beat the Lions at home but one concern I do have is the front row. I’ve been a fan of CJ van de Linde since his early Cheetah days and still have faith in him but I think he will better suited at tighthead than at loosehead. 


The Cheetahs pride themselves in scrumming and after seeing us struggle there, they’ll definitely try to expose us there. Bryan Habana needs a wake up call, maybe a relegation to the bench or something. Just days after his backline coach Robbie Fleck called him one of the best wings in the world, he went & showed the world that he can also be its worst.

I’m not a fan of change and don’t like chopping and changing a “winning” team but something needs to happen with Habana. 


He’s a shadow of his former self and I don’t understand why.

Maybe he lacks motivation, I mean he won everything a South African rugby player could win so why continue playing??

 

I also felt that the coach left his changes a tad too late. A player of de Jongh’s quality and skills deserves more than 10 or 12 minutes especially when the backline isn’t firing like it was on Saturday. 

De Villers & Fourie is still my 12 & 13 but 60min is more than enough time for them to play together. De Villiers took over the captaincy when Burger didn’t return which forced Coetzee to take out Fourie to accommodate de Jongh. Which I think was a mistake because Fourie (even with the little opportunities he got) always looked hungry & dangerous and was our best backline player in that game.

 What about Bekker??

The camera showed glimpses of him barking orders to the forwards and he captained the team in one of the warm-ups so why cant he captain the side in Burger’s absence and make Jean his deputy?

 

Gary Van Aswegen had an ok game and showed some BMT with nailing long ranch penalties in crucial stages of the game. Having said that, Bash looked really good when he came on and so did his half back partner, Dewald Duwenage. 


Ricky… (sigh).. Ricky.. I don’t know what’s up with Ricky. My friend & I joked that you could see that John Smit went through some training and lost weight but Ricky, who has also gone through training and reconditioning programs, still looks the same. So with the backline not firing, I think that Coetzee should’ve brought on his 20, 21 & 22 much earlier in the game.

 

There were some positives I took out of the match but I think the most important one is that we showed even if we play poorly, we can still get the result. We may not have any trophies to show off but we beginning to show a winning habit. We should be very scary once we play with confidence, urgency and to our abilities. We also showed a lot of character & guts to grind out a win in that last 10min of the game and that you can not coach. That comes from within the players: their will and determination not accept defeat. Even though none of the top 3 teams are playing top class rugby, the Sharks do look the most impressive early on. The Bulls showed us twice in a row why they are the trophy holders and the Stormers? Well, I’d have a better idea about where they’re headed after this weekend. It’s still a looooooong way to go.

 

Im outy