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Friday Funnies – the Kings out of Super Rugby?

August 16, 2013 in Uncategorized

This would have been funny if it wasn’t so annoying!.

After refusing the option of being entrenched in the Currie Cup Premier Division until SARU could negotiate a sixth franchise in Super Rugby it seems the Kings are now prepared to consider this option.

According to Beeld this morning (Nuwe Super-plan vir Kings beraam? ) a proposal was made to SARU that the Kings would be prepared to forego the opportunity to play the Wooden Spoon Knockouts against the last placed South African team for the next two years if they were entrenched in the Currie Cup Premier Division

Now we all know that Beeld’s “rumours” don’t always pan out but this makes me angry even though it would be good news for the Lions, if true.

The decision to kick the Lions out of Super Rugby last year caused massive damage to the Lions franchise and the GLRU. Not only has the team’s development been put back three years, the union and the franchise suffered massive financial damages, all because the Kings expected to beat a weakened Lions team in the Wooden Spoon Knockouts and retain their spot in Super Rugby.

Now that that didn’t happen the Kings themselves are hemorrhaging players and will suffer huge financial losses next year and their development has been put back at least three years, now they are prepared to look at a reasonable option.

Why was it necessary to cause all this damage to two franchises and their partner unions before the reasonable option would be considered?

Hopefully the unions will remember this whole Lions Kings Super Rugby debacle when they vote for SARU EXCO members next year – the whole lot of them should be replaced.

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SARU needs to be held accountable

August 5, 2013 in Uncategorized

After six months in a rugby void and after losing nearly 20 players the Lions Challenge has been met and the Lions are back in Super Rugby (See Lions Back in Super Rugby!) while the Kings return to the nether regions of rugby. All because of an ill-conceived and poorly executed “plan” devised by SARU and approved by South Africa’s rugby union administrators to bring the Kings into Super Rugby at the expense of the Lions.

Reports from the Lions indicate that not only did they lose a lot of players but their earning dropped approximately 30% from 2012. The Lions were fortunate in that sponsors like MTN and Redefine were prepared to give them 2013 to see if they could get back into Super Rugby but others, like Coca Cola, were not so lenient.

Beeld on Friday speculated that, should the Lions lose the play-offs, their losses could amount to up to R100 million per year as losses in sponsorships, stadium earnings, suite sales, supporters kit sales and others mount.

This is what stares the Kings in the face now. Maybe not R100 million per annum as they hadn’t been able to attract big sponsors yet but certainly a heavy loss of income, probably close to R40-R50 million, as well as the loss of key players needed to prepare for the knock-outs next year.

Through player losses the Lions are back where they were at the start of the 2011 Super Rugby season with a bunch of Super Rugby rookies and the next few month will tell whether they lose more players when their contracts expire this year. (See The challenge met, a new challenge begins)

The Kings are possibly worse off than they were last year. Before this year’s Super Rugby most of their players were under the radar of the stronger unions but that has changed and not only have players like Engelbrecht, van der Walt, Bulbring, Petersen and Marais become visible and targets, these players expectations have also increased and the Kings stand to lose a number of players over the next year.

Both franchises will find it near impossible to attract top level players as their positions have been reversed for the next year.

And while these two franchises carry the burden of SARU’s incompetence the SARU executive and South Africa’s rugby administrators continue in their clueless ways and had even awarded SARU’s CEO, Jurie Roux, a bonus of nearly R1 million earlier this year.

Surely it’s time for SARU to take responsibility for this mess and to clean house.

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Lions vs Kings: The Heat is on

July 30, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Southern Kings will face the MTN Lions on Saturday in a SOLD OUT Ellis Park. When the Kings run on the field they will face a sea of Red in a Lions Den that only sees crowds like this during test matches.

Some international players have said that a full Ellis Park is one of the most intimidating stadiums to play in and the Kings will know that they are behind enemy lines on Saturday when they run on the field.

The Lions made tickets available at a very affordable price to ensure a large crowd but even they didn’t expect a sold out stadium with the last 1000 tickets being sold on Wednesday morning already.

Kings, the heat is on!

The heat is on, on the street
Inside your head, on every beat
And the beat’s so loud, deep inside
The pressure’s high, just to stay alive
‘Cause the heat is on

Glenn Frey, The Heat Is On: http://youtu.be/TpqAUtzWDuw

The Lions will run onto a fast dry pitch with a massive crowd of supporters in the stands so the scene is set but it will be up to the players to go out there and do the work necessary to win the match.

During the week the Lions would have worked on counter-measures to the Kings tactics that gave them some problems last week and the Kings would want to duplicate the pressure they created while forcing the game deep into Lions territory.

The Lions will want to ensure better ball retention from the kick-offs while they will also want to create some space for the backs to run the ball, two areas where the Kings effectively shut them down last week.

At the breakdowns the Kings managed to put a lot of pressure on the Lions scrumhalf and the Lions need to work on protecting the number 9 in order for him to get the ball to his backline.

Although the Lions dominated the set pieces and got their fair share of the ball from the breakdowns the Kings rush defence ensured that the backs were always under pressure while their tactical kicking pinned the Lions in their own half, forcing them to attack from deep. On Saturday the Lions need to find their backs more space to attack from and they need to play more in the Kings half of the field.

Having played one game against the Kings and getting a feel for the increased intensity should help the Lions plan Saturday’s game better and their experience in playing a series of knockout matches to win the Vodacom Cup will also help them maintain focus.

When the Lions take to the field on Saturday the wider impact of a loss cannot be in their minds, they need to focus on doing the basics right and on winning the game.

Both team lost key players to injuries.

The Kings lost Demetri Catrakilis and he has been replaced by George Whitehead who is a competent flyhalf while Scott van Breda comes in on the wing and will also take over the goal kicking duties. Young Shane Gates struggled at inside centre last week and is replaced in the starting XV by Waylon Murray.

The Lions lost Deon van Rensburg and Vian van der Watt but JC Janse van Rensburg, Martin Bezuidenhout and Jaco Kriel should be back at their posts. The one area of concern is at scrumhalf where Ross Cronje might not be fit which may mean that twin Guy Cronje will start and Pumas scrummie, Faf de Klerk, is apparently on standby should he be needed. The Lions will only announce their team on Thursday.

While the first match was tight I think the Lions have enough information now to effectively counter whatever the Kings can throw at them and should win more comfortably on Saturday.

Lions by 15

Post your support messages to the Lions team on the Lions Pride web site: http://lionspride.co.za/support-messages-the-lions-team

Lions: TBA

Kings: 15. SP Marais, 14. Hadleigh Parkes, 13. Ronnie Cooke (Vice Captain), 12. Waylon Murray, 11. Scott van Breda, 10. George Whitehead, 9. Shaun Venter, 8. Jacques Engelbrecht, 7. Wimpie van der Walt, 6. Cornell du Preez, 5. David Bulbring, 4. Darron Nell (Captain), 3. Kevin Buys, 2. Bandise Maku, 1. Schalk Ferreira

Replacements: 16. Charl du Plessis, 17. Hannes Franklin, 18. Steven Sykes, 19. Devin Oosthuizen, 20. Nicolas Vergallo, 21. Wesley Dunlop, 22. Shane Gates

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Advantage Lions

July 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Lions took the first step to getting back into Super Rugby by beating the Kings 26-19 in PE in the first Wooden Spoon Knockout game. In taking a 4-1 log point lead the pressure shifts to the Kings for the second game at Ellis Park next Saturday.

Ironically it wasn’t the Lions attack that won them the game but their defence as they withstood the pressure the Kings applied, especially in the first half, feeding on Lions mistakes and using an aggressive rush defence to cut down any opportunities for the Lions to play a running game. The Kings coaching staff planned their strategy well and it was only the Lions defence that kept the Kings from breaking through.

Luck also played a role when Stokkies Hanekom intercepted while the Kings had a clear overlap on attack but in the end Elton Jantjies’s more accurate boot was the difference.

Ref Jaco Peyper has come in for a lot of criticism this weekend for not referring Hanekom’s second try to the TMO and supporters from both sides feel he let the opposition get away with virtual murder but it is up to the teams on the field to use their chances and the Lions used theirs a bit better than the Kings.

Yes, Peyper could and should have used the TMO more. He should have reviewed the possible headbutt as well as Bulbring’s high tackle, he should have reviewed Hanekoms try for a forward pass and Marcello Sampson’s for a possible offside. But he cannot use the TMO to review all errors. In term of the IRB’s TMO protocols the TMO may only be used when a try was scored or prevented being scored or to review possible incidents of foul play, not for every error the ref may be unsure of or maybe hadn’t even spotted.

Side note: As a commentator Bobby Skinstad is a joke and an embarrassment to South African rugby. His knowledge of the laws is severely lacking and his hysterical outbursts unprofessional.

A number of possible citings might be on the cards, one for an alleged headbutt by a Lions player and another for a decapitation tackle by David Bulbring on Elton Jantjies, but so far the citing commissioner has been quiet. We can but wait and see.

Be that as it may, the Lions and Kings now prepare for the decider on Saturday with some injury concerns to key players. For the Kings the main concern will be whether Demetri Catrakilis will be fit while the Lions will hope for the return of Michael Bondesio and Ross Cronje, who failed fitness tests before the match. During the match the Lions also lost Deon van Rensburg, Vian van der Watt, Jaco Kriel, Martin Bezuidenhout and JC Janse van Rensburg to injuries.

Game highlights: http://www.supersport.com/rugby/super-rugby/video/261014

On Lions Pride: Lions, you did us proud

On We Talk Rugby: The Lions’ defence won the day

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Kings vs Lions: Winning the knockout contest

July 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

The teams have been selected, the preparations done and in two days time the fates of two unions will rest in the hands of a group of young men with an average age of 25.

The knockout contest between the Lions and the Kings will be over two rounds and the simplest way to make sure of your place in Super Rugby 2014 is to win both matches. But if that doesn’t happen SARU’s promotion/relegation rules come into play.

The first match in Port Elizabeth will be crucial as it determines where the pressure will shift for the second match in Joburg and each team will go all out to win this one and to win it well.

Both teams’ coaches have taken some risks in their team selections, the Kings in starting with young Shane Gates at #12 and leaving a lot of experience on the bench for the letter stages of the game, the Lions in starting all their loan players and especially in starting Elton Jantjies in place of Marnitz Boshoff.

The match with probably be won or lost at the breakdowns and the performance amongst the forwards for possession of good ball for the backs will be crucial. The contest up front will be tough and both sides have packs that can contest in both the set pieces and broken play.

With the selection of Gates at #12 the Kings have gone for a more mobile backline and will probably look to run the ball more than they have in Super Rugby but this may open up space for the Lions danger men, Stokkies Hanekom and Anthony Volmink. For the Lions coach Johan Ackermann is happy that Jantjies will settle into the Lions’ game easily now that he is back in the den and getting some of Mother’s home cooked meals. We’ll know by Friday night whether and which of these gambles worked.

With the vast difference in the opposition the two teams played leading up to these matches it is virtually impossible to predict how they will shape on the day and each team’s supporters will probably feel their team has the best chance.

Lions by 9

Post your support messages to the Lions players on Lions Pride or on the Lions Pride Facebook page. I will send them through to the Lions on Friday.

By the numbers:

Average Age:
Lions: 24.91
Kings: 26.18

Players over 25:
Lions: 7
Kings: 13

Players with less than 10 Super Rugby games:
Lions: 14 (7 with 0)
Kings: 3

Super Rugby games:
Lions: 382
Kings: 511

Provincial games:
Lions: 964
Kings: 1569

International players:
Lions: 1
Kings: 3

The knockout rules:

The winner will be determined by log points (win = 4, draw = 2, 4 tries = 1, loss by 7 or less = 1), if equal by

1. Aggregate points difference, if equal by
2. Most tries scored, if equal
3. The Kings stay in Super Rugby

http://images.supersport.com/COMPETITION%20FORMAT%20AND%20GENERAL%20RULES%20-%20FEB%202013.pdf

Kings – 15 SP Marais, 14 Marcello Sampson, 13 Ronnie Cooke, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Hadleigh Parkes, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Wimpie van der Walt, 6 Cornell du Preez, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Darron Nell (c), 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Charl du Plessis, 17 Hannes Franklin, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Devin Oosthuizen, 20 Nicolas Vergallo, 21 George Whitehead, 22 Waylon Murray.

Lions – 15 Ruan Combrinck, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Nicolaas Hanekom, 12 Dylan des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Warwick Tecklenburg, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Chrysander Botha.

More: Kings vs Lions @ NMB Stadium Preview

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Kings vs Lions Match Up

July 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

Sunday’s Rapport called the knockout matches the battle for life or death of one of the franchises and says that there will be no second chances next year, whichever team loses effectively signs the death warrant for its franchise.

A bit dramatic maybe but nevertheless true as the team that loses will lose too many players to stage a comeback.

The Kings not only will lose many of the journeymen they managed to sign up with the promise of Super Rugby, they will find it impossible to sign new players until such time as SANZAR approves a sixth South African franchise in Super Rugby.

The Lions lost 15 players after they got kicked out but managed to keep some and also to sign players on the fringes on short term contracts but they lose most of these players if they lose the knockouts.

There is so much at stake for both sides and both franchises are trying to hype up their supporters to fill their stadiums for the home matches:

Kings: http://youtu.be/79nTbnCwxWc

Lions: http://youtu.be/pfLPCN_cUvQ

Let’s look then at the players and match ups on which the fortunes of these two franchises rest over the next two weeks.

Fullbacks:

Kings: George Whitehead, SP Marais
Two very capable attacking fullbacks with Whitehead able to slot in at flyhalf as well.

Lions: Chrysander Botha, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Cronje
With injuries to Jaco Taute and Andries Coetzee the Lions have three backups that can still be an attacking force from the back and Lionel Cronje has proved to be an excellent impact player in various backline positions.

Wings:

Kings: Sergeal Petersen (?), Marcello Sampson, Michael Killian
If Sergeal Petersen is still out injured the Kings will be thin on quality wings but both Sampson and Killian can be a danger when given space.

Lions: Anthony Volminck, Deon van Rensburg, Ruan Combrinck, Chrysander Botha
Volminck has become a tryscoring machine while old man Deon van Rensburg may be a tad slow on wing but his defence is solid while back ups Combrinck and Botha can inject speed.

Centres:

Kings: Waylon Murray, Ronnie Cooke, Hadley Parkes
The injury to Andries Strauss has definitely created a problem for the Kings in midfield.

Lions: Alwyn Hollenbach (?), Stokkies Hanekom, Dylan Des Fountain, Lionel Cronje
Lionle Mapoe is out injured and time will tell whether Hollenbach is fit to play but Stokkies has had a great year at #13 so far.

Flyhalves:

Kings: Demetri Catrakilis, George Whitehead
The Greek has had a great Super Rugby season, both with the boot and in his game management but he just doesn’t have enough quality outside him to turn his backline into a real attacking force.

Lions: Marnitz Boshoff, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Cronje
Boshoff has had a good season with the Lions, a solid performer with the boot and in getting his backline away while Jantjies has had a less than stellar season with the Stormers but should be more comfortable with the Lions game plan but will probably slot in on the bench for the first game.

Scrumhalves:

Kings: Shaun Venter, Nicolas Vergallo
Both scrummies had good seasons in Super Rugby and will hope for good ball from their forwards.

Lions: Michael Bondesio, Ross Cronje, Guy Cronje
There is a wide gap between the quality of play from Bondesio and that from the Cronje twins while Bondesio, in the absence of Jantjies, has developed into a playmaker for the Lions.

Loose forwards:

Kings: Cornell du Preez, Wimpie van der Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht, Devin Oosthuizen
Apart from Catrakilis the Kings loosies were probably their best players during Super Rugby and have been able to compete at the break downs as well as give the Kings some go forward ball and will be the biggest threat to the Lions’ attempt to dominate up front.

Lions: Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel (?), Warren Whiteley (?), Warwick Tecklenberg, Willie Britz, Lambert Groenewaldt
Whiteley and Kriel’s participation is still uncertain but the Lions other loosies are quite capable to compete with the Kings loosies with the only concern being that Minnie might give Catrakilis too many opportunities to score with the boot.

Locks:

Kings: Steven Sykes, David, Bulbring, Darron Nell
Solid performers during the Super Rugby campaign in the lineouts, in ball carries and in the driving mauls and probably the strongest part of the Kings game.

Lions: Franco van der Merwe, Hendrik Roodt, Hugo Kloppers, JJ Breet, Gavin Annadale
The Lions struggled in the lineouts through most of their preparation games but Franco’s return should stabilise that. Hendrik Roodt has upped his game and is playing to the potential expected of him.

Hookers:

Kings: Bandise Maku, Hannes Franklin
Two solid performers in all facets of hooker play.

Lions: Martin Bezuidenhout, Robbie Coetzee, Swys du Toit
Callie Visagie is still on loan to the Bulls for the Super Rugby playoffs and it will be up to Bezuidenhout to help sort out the lineout accuracy.

Props:

Kings: Schalk Ferreira, Kevin Buys (?), Grant Kemp, Charl du Plessis
Even if Buys can’t play the Kings will still field a strong front row and a scrum that weren’t often outscrummed during Super Rugby.

Lions: JC Janse van Rensburg, Ruan Dreyer, CJ van der Linde (?), Julian Redelinghuys, Jacques van Rooyen
With the best scrummaging loosehead in the country anchoring their scrums the Lions have developed one of the best scrummaging packs in South Africa in recent years and this year is no different. The scrums will be the Lions foundation to attain forward dominance.

Strengths:

Kings: Lineouts, drive mauls, break downs, goal kicking, tactical kicking
The Kings will attempt to force the Lions to attack from deep through tactical kicks and will depend on turnovers to launch counter attacks. Once they are in the Lions 22 they will try and force lineouts to get their driving maul going.

Lions: Scrums, quick ball rotation, driving mauls, backline attacks
The Lions will use their scrums to establish up front dominance and use quick ball rotation to speed up the game to put the Kings defence under pressure. Near the Kings tryline they will use their driving mauls to try and score.

Also published on Lions Pride

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Kings vs Lions Supporters Bus

July 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

Lions supporters trip to the Kings vs Lions game in PE

Lions supporters trip to the Kings vs Lions game in PE

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Lions: “The reports of our death are greatly exaggerated”

April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

The media is full of hype about the Kings and their performances sowing the seeds of doubt in the minds of many people, including some Lions supporters, that the Lions will not be able to beat the Kings in the Wooden Spoon Knockouts.

I must be honest and admit that I was having some doubts myself. The Lions lost a number of players through transfers and retirements but they have some players out on loan to other franchises. The Lions have been playing against much lower level opposition over the last few months and then there is the issue of integrating their loan players back into the team before the knockouts.

One tends to forget, or ignore, the fact that the Lions preparation programme gets a lot more intense against better quality opposition in June and July in the run-up to the knockout matches when they play Samoa, the French Barbarians, Grenoble and Heineken Cup quarter finalists Montpellier as well as the Sharks and the Stormers, sans Springboks of course.

I then looked at the team the Lions can put together, barring injuries, and feel a lot more positive about the prospect of facing the Kings at the end of July. I looked at the players irrespective of current injuries, apart from Jaco Taute who we know will be out, as I don’t know when the injured players will be match fit again.

Lions players still available:

The Lions still have 11 players available from the match 22 that won the Currie Cup in 2011 and 12 players from the match 22 that played in their last Super Rugby match in 2012.

16 of the players in the match 22 for the 2012 Currie Cup semi final are still available.

In all 22 players who played Super Rugby or in the Currie Cup final or semi final are still available to play in the Knockouts, although the rumours are strong that JC Janse van Rensburg will be off to France soon especially now that he has once again been snubbed by Heyneke Meyer but until there’s something definite I’ll keep him in my squad.

Andries Coetzee, Anthony Volmink, Deon Helberg, JR Esterhuizen, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Jaco Taute (injured), Dylan Des Fountain, Deon van Rensburg, Alwyn Hollenbach, Michael Bondesio, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Derick Minnie, Franco van der Merwe, Hendrik Roodt, Callie Visagie, Martin Bezuidenhout, JC Janse van Rensburg, CJ van der Linde, Ruan Dreyer

Potential Golden Lions team for the knock outs:
(bold = players who have played some matches for the Lions in 2011 or 2012)

A potential match 22 for the knockouts contains only 7 players who didn’t play for the Lions in 2011 or 2012.

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).

Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Franco Mostert, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Guy Cronje, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Deon Helberg.

Additional players, including injured:

Jaco Taute – Fullback/Centre (injured)
Ruhan Nel – Fullback/Wing
Ruan Combrinck – Wing
JR Esterhuizen – Wing
Dylan des Fountain – Wing/Centre
Deon van Rensburg – Wing/Centre
Ross Cronje – Scrumhalf
Warwick Tecklenburg – Loose forward
JJ Breet – Lock
CJ van der Linde – Prop
Julian Redelinghuys – Prop
Francois du Toit – Hooker
Robbie Coetzee – Hooker

Can the Lions win the knockouts against the Kings?

Yes, but it will be a tough clash of two different styles of rugby. The Kings have focused on defence in Super Rugby, looking for try scoring opportunities from the breakdowns and on counter attack while the Lions will be playing an open attacking game, looking for quick ball and running in tries.

The Kings’ strength is that, through their defence, they can soak up pressure and hit back when their opponents relax and that has been one of the Lions’ weaknesses in the past – they tend to play for 60 minutes per match – and one which the Lions will not be able to afford in the knockouts.

All credit to the Kings for their wins against the Force and the Rebels and their draw against the Brumbies but the fact is, the Kings’ wins came against the two worst teams currently in Super Rugby and they were still outplayed for large parts of the games with their perseverence and defence helping them pull off these wins. While the Kings have exceeded most people’s expectations they are by no means a good Super Rugby side but they have shown that they can hit back if you slack off.

For the Lions to win they will have to be more balanced in their approach, prevent turnovers and breakaway tries and they will have to play for 80 minutes as the Kings have shown they are very fit and will plug away for the whole match. If the Lions defence is not on song they will give the Kings the opportunities they look for.

That said, the Lions have the players to pull off the wins in the two knockout games and I believe they will have the focus and motivation as well. If the Lions lose out in the knockouts they stand to lose many of the players whose contracts expire in 2013 and with that any hope of getting back into Super Rugby until SANZAR allows a sixth SA franchise, by which time they will start back where they were in 2010.

Unfortunately, by forcing knockout matches into a competition that wasn’t designed for it, SARU has allowed this to become a win-lose situation rather than a win-win. With so much staked on the games for both sides the clashes are going to be brutal do or die afairs with the only priority being to win. Entertaining? Only maybe.

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State of the Nation’s Rugby

March 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

It is disturbing that only two of the South African franchises have improved in their performance over the last four weeks and that the two franchises that are the main repositories of Springbok rugby have regressed dramatically.

After last week’s euphoria because of the three nil drubbing of Kiwi sides by Saffer sides we were quickly brought back to earth this week when the Bulls and the Sharks were totally outplayed by their opposition. What is even more disturbing is that it was so easy to see it coming.

Both the Bulls and the Sharks were still unbeaten before the weekend but the signs of a fall were there for all to see. And even more disturbing was the ease with which the Chiefs, Crusaders and the Brumbies scored their tries once they were on attack, even against the Stormers the previous week.

So far only the Cheetahs and the Stormers have improved from week one.

Waratahs vs Cheetahs:

After a poor start against the Sharks and a worse start to their tour down under the Cheetahs upped their defence against the Highlanders and played a more balanced game against the Waratahs to win two in row on tour.

Where the Cheetahs forwards were the main force in their victory over the Clan with the backs merely playing a defensive role, against the Waratahs they brought in their backs a lot more on attack while maintaining their defence.

If the Cheetahs can maintain their new-found defence through the season they have a good chance of improving on their best results of the past.

Kings vs Chiefs:

They defend with heart but the Kings have one objective and that, notwithstanding a fortuitous win over a pathetic Force side, is to lose respectably and they’ve been helped in this by a dire Sharks performance and a Chiefs side that took a break after they had scored their bonus point try.

Unlike against the Cheetahs where the Chiefs knew that the Cheetahs can come back and punish them if they slack off, they knew the Kings are of no consequence and they could rest their players for the last 30 minutes.

No matter how popular it is in the media to write up the Kings “brave” performances all the Kings real hope for is not to lose too badly.

Crusaders vs Bulls:

The Bulls manage to scrape home wins against a stuttering Stormers side, a poor Force team and then away against an inexperienced Blues selection. The only real positive for the Bulls is that Morne Steyn has found his kicking boots again but even that couldn’t save the Bulls from a six tries to nil blitz by a rampant Crusaders, a Crusaders side that struggled to keep the ball in hand in the first half and that left a number of tries unscored.

With Dan Carter having one of his better performance in recent times the Crusaders exposed the soft under belly of the Bulls and the Bulls were fortunate that this game didn’t turn into a real rout.

But the game had its moment of comedy when Deon Stegmann had to be lead across the tryline by Chiliboy because he didn’t notice the gap as wide as a barn door that had opened up before him.

Sharks vs Brumbies:

After beating the Cheetahs and scraping wins against the Stormers and the Kings the Sharks’ dependence on their big ball carriers were exposed by a polished Brumbies side. Without the likes of Willem Alberts to carry the ball across the advantage line the Sharks struggle without front foot ball and the deficiencies of their 9-10-12 combination was there far all to see.

But the worst was to see their lethargic and almost disinterested display on defence and the ease with which the Brumbies broke their line to score their tries. In the move to score their third try the Brumbies #13 struggled to get the ball under control while Burden and Jordaan patiently waited before trying to tackle him. And what’s with the little kick pass by Jordaan to Kanko?

The Sharks have now managed to score three tries in four games (one in their last three) and look more and more like a toothless old dog.

SARU:

Meanwhile SARU’s monkeys in charge are maintaining their attitude of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”.

Last week the media spin doctors explained to us that a non-South African African player isn’t really a foreign player when the Kings fielded Daniel Adongo, Nicolas Vergallo and Hadleigh Parkes while SARU looked on in silence.

This week the Kings went a step further and played Tomàs Leonardi, Daniel Adongo, Nicolas Vergallo and Hadleigh Parkes. I won’t be surprised if SARU continue to allow the Kings to flout the rules with impunity.

Note: According to Rugby 365:

SARU confirmed on Sunday that they have asked for an “explanation” as to why the Kings fielded an additional foreign player from outside the African continent.

“Media are advised that the selection of three overseas players by the Southern Kings in their match 22 against the Chiefs in Port Elizabeth on Friday [March 15] has been noted by SARU,” a brief statement said.

“SARU will be contacting the Kings for a report on the situation.”

Update: The Kings continue to ignore the two foreign player rule by including all four their non-African foreigners in their touring squad:

Andries Strauss, Bandise Maku, Cornell du Preez, Daniel Adongo, David Bulbring, Demetri Catrakilis, Elric van Vuuren, George Whitehead, Grant Kemp, Hadleigh Parkes, Jaco Engels, Jacques Engelbrecht, Johannes Franklin, Kevin Buys, Marcello Sampson, Nicolas Vergallo, Ronnie Cooke, Rynier Bernardo, Schalk Ferreira, Sergeal Petersen, Shaun Venter, Steven Sykes, Tomas Leonardi, Virgile Lacombe, Waylon Murray, Wimpie van there Walt.

Will the softcocks at SARU do something more than wring their hands?

Varsity Cup Shenanigans:

According to media reports Tuks have been rake over the coals for the second year running because they didn’t have enough bona fide students in their team and for the second year running they have come away with only a warning.

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by Baylion

How far will the Sharks win?

March 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Sharks take on Super Rugby rookies, the Southern Kings, in PE on Saturday in the Kings first game against top ranked opponents and speculation in the social media has been rampant in recent months about how far the Kings would lose.

After putting in a creditable performance against the Force, where the Kings’ defence was superb, the wild speculation of 100+ margins have been tempered a bit and margin predictions tend to be in the 15 to 30 point range now.

One player who will impact on the Sharks winning margin (I am not even contemplating a loss) will be flyhalf Pat Lambie. Not only because he is the goal kicker, and he has been kicking well so far, but because it is largely up to him to distribute the possession the Sharks get and to manage the game plan for the Sharks.

People took exception when I said after the Sharks first game that he had a forgettable game against the Cheetahs so I won’t use that phrase again but has has been playing within himself the first two games.

He has had solid but unremarkable games so far and it is time for him to come out of the box that Heyneke Meyer put him in during the EOYT and to show the creativity and spark we know he has.

If he does the Sharks can score a runaway victory, if he doesn’t the victory will only be “respectable”.

And if this read as if I don’t rate the Kings, I don’t. And it has nothing to do with politics or being anti or anything like that, I just don’t believe they have enough quality players to realistically trouble the Sharks.

Note: I went with a 30 point win on my Superbru because I don’t think the Sharks will let it “all hang out”.