What to learn from the Lions?

Very interesting that the ‘pasella’ team from two years back are now suddenly starting to win matches. Two in a row against the two bettter performing franchises of the last two years. Yes it’s early season victories and the S15 is not won or lost in February but they are clearly a team with a lot more passion and desire to do well than before 2013.

Why did they need to get sacked from the tournament before they stepped-up, is the thing that bugs me? Not only do they look strong (gym trained) and hard but there is also a urgengency in their play. They are putting their bodies on the line for team and victory; something that was missing in previous years. John Mitchell said there was a culture of softness in the Lions camp when he started to work with them. Now suddenly that softness seems to have evaporated. There is a new culture of ‘in-your-face’ I’ll show you what I can do, in that camp now.

In contrast the Stormers dished up the same old ‘shyte’ of the last 3 to 5 years. Defence orientated game plan with no imagination and no ability to built tries. The lesson from the Lions seems to be; pluck them out of their comfort zone.

The recipe with the Lions was sack the coaching staff and dump them out of the competition. You might argue that they (the Stormers) haven’t walked away with the wooden spoon for 5 seasons in a row like the Lions and therefore do not deserve that harsh treatment, yet.

That might be true in terms of the log points but in terms of amount of tries scored in the last 5 seasons they came very close to last (I haven’t really checked the stats and they might have scored a bit more than I remember).

Irrespective of whether they ended up in the last 5 -in terms of tries scored- if I have, to be honest, real difficulty watching Stormers games lately (last 5 years). It’s dull rugby.  I don’t really like the Aussie and Wales style ‘flap flap’ rugby. So I am not suggesting they should play a run-at-all-cost game plan. All I want is evidence of constructive rugby where you can see the team are building tries and have some innovative starter moves at the right time.

Something need to be done with Stormers rugby and my vote is start by getting rid of the current stale and one dimentional thinking coaching staff. If that doesn’t help drop them a level for a year or two (out of the S15) until they prove that they want to play in the competition. While out of the S15 get rid of some of the senior players; bring some new blood in (like they did at the Lions) and give them a challenge to win back their S15 status. Personally, I believe that new coaches with new ideas will sovle the Stormers problem of predictability. Opponents have figured out how to play them and a new approach is needed to solve the problem as the current bunch seems unable to revamp themselves. Just look what a new coach with new ideas did to the sevens team.

Harsh sentiments maybe but what makes them better than the Lions? Why can the Lions be treated like that and the Stormers not? Ultimately it is not where they end-up on the log that matters, for me, it’s about the quality of the rugby that they are playing. I as a Western Province supporter since I can remember has been treating them like a brother in jail over the last 5 seasons.

I want my team back and are to be frank ‘gatvol’ for the type of rugby I’ve seen from this bunch since 2009.

Take a bow Jake White

If the Brumbies don’t win the S15 this year they will win it within the next two years. My prediction – they are going to do it this year.

White is a perfect match as a coach for Australian rugby -as I’ll explain in a moment- and my second prediction is, therefore, that he’ll be the next Australian national coach.

Jake is a set-piece and defensive structure man which is what Ozzie rugby struggles with due to their Ozzie league influence. Jake’s biggest problem as a Springbok coach was his inability to move beyond set piece and defence. Flair or fast pace phase-after-phase-running-rugby is as natural to Aussie rugby as set piece rugby is to South African rugby. Jake, therefore, doesn’t really need to worry about teaching Aussie players to run with the ball. Credit to him for not trying to coach that out of them.  Continue reading

Reflections on the weekends super rugby matches

Blues/Crusaders

Making my Superbru picks, I thought the Crusaders might be a bit rusty after having had a bye in the previous round.

It panned out to be the case but let’s not take anything away from the Blues. It fascinates me how everything Graham Henry touch turns to gold –relatively speaking. Henry is of course the last coach able to gel this disjointed bunch into a cohesive unit. The Blues was a class above everyone else when they won the Super12 competition in 1996 and 1997 with Henry as coach.  Continue reading

Southern Kings: A delightful surprise

Expecting the worse I was reluctant to the point of rather snooze off in front of the TV when the Kings/Force match started at 6h00 this morning in New Zealand. 

The first 10 minutes was not encouraging at all with the Kings hardly seeing the ball. On the brink of switching the TV off, the Kings scored -the first try of the match. Intrigued, I started to watch with more interest; what a delight it turned out to be.  Continue reading

Time to move beyond the arm-wrestle

The Stormers/Bulls rugby match was just another agonising reminder for the thousands of South African rugby supporters that SA rugby is behind the ball game. It was a derby with as much traditional backdrop as one could find in the rugby world. The crowd was as a consequence emotionally charged with much expectation of being entertained with some exiting rugby.

The contrast to the Chiefs/Highlanders match however so stark that even the most ardent SA rugby supporter left the match -or walked away from his television set-with a poignant feeling of dissatisfaction.    Continue reading

Flagship; What flagship?

I was a WP fan all my life and enjoyed the type of rugby the Capetonions generally dished-up. In my heart of hearts I was happy for Province with their latest success run in the S15 (and CC last year). 

However, I must admit that I felt a certain amount of satisfaction seeing them lose to the Sharks. This perverse sense of enjoyment in their defeat had nothing to do with the players or the coach but much to do with the over the top reaction/behaviour of some Stormers supporters.

Fact is the Stormers still have no trophies to show but are lauded as the ‘flagship’ by some. I would think that a title like that would require at least some real evidence of being champions not only with regard to trophies but also in the manner in which you play.

Flagship signifies being an example; being a showcase of best practice. Too be honest apart from having an excellent defensive system the Stormers was not by any stretch of my imagination a team that I would like to hold up as a showcase/example of SA rugby.  Continue reading

John Kirwan to coach the Blues in 2013

Former All Blacks winger John Kirwan has been appointed as coach of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchise the Blues for 2013.

Pat Lam has been sacked after presiding over a horror season when the Auckland-based team managed just four wins from 16 games.

The Blues’ best finish under Lam’s guidance was fourth place last year. They finished seventh in 2010, and ninth the previous year.

Kirwan enjoyed an illustrious career on the wing for the All Blacks before moving to coaching which has seen him in charge of Italy and Japan in RWC campaigns. Continue reading

Don’t count your chucks before the eggs have hatched

Two recent articles by Rob Houwing left me quite irked to say the least. In the first one he bragg about the strength of South African rugby with three sides reaching the play-offs of this year’s S15.  He writes: “Whatever happens in the remaining three weekends of knockout fare in Super Rugby, South African rugby has affirmed its well-being by effectively having dominated the lion’s share of the 2012 competition.

…. this season is the first to be fairly obviously bossed by one nation … and that honour falls this country’s way as all of the overall log-winning Stormers plus Bulls and Sharks have made it through the six-team funnel.

…. at the end of it all South Africans were broadly entitled to a degree of smug satisfaction.”

In the second article he writes that history seems to indicate that the team that end on top of the log normally wins the competition. Sort of suggesting that the Stormers now fall in that category. Continue reading

S15 – playoff structure and possible permutations

Playoff structure works as follows:

  • The winners of each conference will make the six-team playoffs, followed by the next three teams with the most competition points, regardless of conference positions.
  •  The top two seeds receive a bye in the first week of the sudden-death playoffs
  • Playoffs – week one: third seed plays sixth seed; and fourth seed plays fifth seed
  • Playoffs – week two: top seed plays winner for 4 v 5; second seed plays winner of 3 v 6
  • Playoffs – week three: Semifinal winners meet in final Continue reading