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Everything posted by Arlecchino

  1. Hey Heinrich, I have just been given the bad news and am still in somewhat of a state of shock. I have so many memories of the exchanges between "Hawkey" and all of us on this and other forum. He was forthright, honest and knowledgeable. He will be missed by all! May I offer my most sincere condolences to you and your family for your loss.
  2. I was alerted to the negative opinions being expressed here and have accordingly responded. SuperSupporter no longer exists either on Facebook or Superbru. Names and logos have been removed so as not to trouble barlee regarding IP. There may be some residual but that will be dealt with if and when it is discovered. I simply cannot remember all of the pools that I have run in the name of this forum. For those that have participated, it has been a pleasure interacting with you and sharing the usual banter. I shall no longer post about any Superbru activity.
  3. This pool is now up and running and has 14 members - how apt https://www.superbru.com/pro14/pool.php?p=11733520#tab=leaderboard
  4. Arlecchino

    SuperBru Pro14

    Due to the inclusion of The Cheetahs and The Kings we will be running a Superbru Pool for SuperSupporterBrus. Details soon.
  5. SuperSupporter runs various pools in Superbru including football and European Rugby so look for us and join the fun. The Super Rugby Competition has come to an end and our pool was won by Chiefs Supporter Dirk Fritz who incidentally has 17'686 caps. Riaan Wiid (Blue Bulls) was runner up and third spot went to Charles Duvehage (Sharks) who is a relative newbie with just 1071 S'Bru caps. It was a veritable dice to the death with Dirk taking honours right in this last game - he obviously picked the Crusaders. Well done to all of you who took part in the SuperSupporterBrus Pool. We sadly say goodbye to two South African franchises - the Cheetahs and the Kings but you can follow their fortunes in the Pro 14 which is a league that used to be the Celtic League. Hope to see you back next year in what we all hope will be a more logical format with strength versus strength.
  6. Now known as Currie Cup Premier Division: https://www.superbru.com/curriecup/pool.php?p=11715078&tab=leaderboard#tab=leaderboard
  7. Come and join the SuperSupporterBrus Pool EPL 2017/18 https://www.superbru.com/premierleague_predictor/pool.php?p=11713695#tab=leaderboard
  8. This is the SA 'A' team to play the French Barbarians on Friday night at Durban's Moses Mabhida Stadium - Kick-off is at 16:45. 15. Lwazi Mvovo, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Juan de Jongh (captain), 12. Harold Vorster, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Lionel Cronje, 9. Jano Vermaak, 8. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7. Ruan Ackermann, 6. Uzair Cassiem, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Andries Ferreira, 3. Wilco Louw, 2. Franco Marais, 1. Thomas du Toit Substitutes: 16. Ramone Samuels, 17. Ox Nche, 18. Trevor Nyakane, 19. Jason Jenkins, 20. Andisa Ntsila, 21. Dewaldt Duvenage, 22. Fred Zeilinga, 23. Francois Venter
  9. I did and tipped the result for WP & BP which lifted me 36 spots right between Lesley and Becs.....
  10. That is how I saw it as well Barns. I expressed that on Facebook and got shot down by my mate Bill van Zyl. I saw it as a fair contest and that Skosan touched the ball. Imagine a similar case where a player is chasing a ball on the ground in defense. he touches the ball whilst trying to get it under control and is nailed by an attacker. He is playing the ball and is fair game for the tackler. As for a penalty try and yellow card - Glen Jackson playing to the home officials.
  11. From Bill van Zyl As I think about the rain, I wonder whether the Bok performance yesterday was much like yesterday’s rain. A blessing in many ways, but we do need the rain to continue throughout the winter….. Has the Bok rugby drought broken? Is this the beginning of a new season for South African rugby? Or is it that old cliché of a single swallow not making it summer yet? I do not want to be the one who rains on Allister Coetzee’s parade. He has won a Test match, and that is a good thing. I hope this is just the first of many Test match wins for Allister and the Springboks. I hope that the game we watched yesterday is the forerunner of continually improving Springbok rugby. There were many things about the game that were worth celebrating; there were some very good moments, and in truth, there were some superb moments. But there were also some dire moments, perhaps too many of the dire moments…….. I want to start my discussion with one important accolade. Well done Warren Whiteley! The one thing that was hugely evident in yesterday’s Springbok effort was the arrival of a leader on the field. After the complete leadership vacuum of 2016 when the then team captain, Adriaan Strauss, simply disappeared into some invisible hole on the field of play and nobody took ownership of the leadership roles in the team it was a relief to see Warren Whiteley in charge. He was constantly talking to his players, geeing them up, congratulating good moments, clapping his hands to focus wandering attention, pointing, gesturing, barking commands. And, most importantly, working with the referee throughout the game. He might not be the best No 8 in world rugby, but he certainly has that aura of leadership. If he stays in the job for long enough he can develop into a great captain at Test match level. South Africa won a Test match against France. That is good news, but let us put the win into perspective. Much like the rain that fell over the Western Cape during the last week, it is a great start, but the drought has not yet broken. While good rains have fallen, the dams are still empty, the rivers are still stagnant, and the streams are just a trickle. Think on this: The Springboks beat France, the sixth-ranked team in world rugby. And this was by no means a full-strength French team. It was closer to a French B team! Six Nations first choice flyhalf, Camille Lopez, is missing the tour to South Africa as he has opted to undergo surgery during the French off-season. Stade Français winger Djibril Camara missed the tour due to a passport problem, and all the Toulon and Clermont players who featured in the recent Top 14 final were rested for this Test. All of Xavier Chiocci, Guilhem Guirado, Arthur Iturria, Romain Taofifenua, and Damian Penaud watched this game from the grandstand. We need to take a close look at how the Boks achieved their victory, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of both the squad and the individual players, and then look at what must be done to use this win as a foundation for the rest of the season. Perhaps we should start by looking at the worst aspects of 2016 and see if we can identify any improvement in 2017? During 2016 the Springbok defence was powder-puff at best. During the year end three test tour to the northern hemisphere the Boks made 299 tackles and missed 39. That translates into an 88,5% tackle success rate. They missed 11,5% of their tackles. Despite making so many tackles, it was the regularity with which they were dominated in the tackle that caused serious worry. The Springboks have been much praised for a “much improved” defensive effort on Saturday against France, yet the statistics are still very worrying! While making 178 good tackles they missed 36 tackles for a tackle success rate of just 85%, and that is simply mediocre at best. The saving of South Africa’s defensive effort was the much improved second line of defence and the huge improvement in the back-tackling effort. But that first line is still as leaky as the Möhne Dam after a visit by 617 Squadron. The wide channels were a very big problem in this Test. Both wings were guilty of drifting off their defensive channel, particularly Raymond Rhule, who’s defensive frailties were targeted by the French, forcing him to make a tackle count of 12. He made 12 good tackles and missed just 1. This might seem impressive on paper, but his wing channel was left exposed on a number of occasions when he was simply not there to make the tackle. Courtnall Skosan was similarly guilty of leaving his wing exposed as he committed to the inside tackle instead of staying with the team strategy of drift defence at certain moments. His own tackling was a little suspect, making four and missing two for a 50% tackle success rate. One such example of laxity by the wings was when Virimi Vakatawa found himself in space down inside the Boks' 22 and did well to get a pass out to Gaël Fickou, who was stopped just short of the try-line by a superb cover tackle from Jan Serfontein. The first line of the defence leaked but the second line stopped the danger. The outside channels need attention immediately! Whilst I am concerned about the number of tackles missed by the first line, I have to add that the pressure they put on the French backs was exemplary. They might have missed the initial tackle, but their presence in the face of the French attack was often sufficient to disrupt their flow. Forcing handling errors and risky offloads. I remain concerned about the midfield defence. Jan Serfontein made 18 tackles, including that great try-saver on Fickou, but he missed four. An 83% tackles success rate in the critical inside centre channel is below average. Jesse Kriel only made 6 tackles, but he missed 2. A 75% tackle success rate is rather poor, I would suggest. On the other hand the perceived defensive weakness of Elton Jantjies was nowhere to be seen as he made all 12 tackles he was asked to make. They might not have been physically dominating tackles, but they were enough to hold up the ball carrier until the cover defenders arrived. The back three of Coetzee, Skosan and Rhule struggled with the French kicking game, often being caught slightly out of position and back peddling to catch the ball. This is an area that will be exposed by any team with an accurate kicking game! The tackling amongst the forwards was exemplary. At the forefront of a massive effort was the much-maligned bad boy of South African Rugby, Eben Etzebeth. He made a massive 17 tackles, missing just 1 for a 94% tackle success rate. In addition his tackling was seriously dominant, stopping French ball carriers in their tracks time and again, carrying them back some meters on two significant occasions. It was an immense effort by the big guy. His lock partner, Franco Mostert, had a less impressive defensive performance, making 9 tackles, but missing 4. Malcolm Marx had an immense game in the tight-loose, but there is a worrying niggle with his defensive effort, making 3 tackles but missing 2, a factor that is missed when his overall game was discussed by the TV panel pundits. Warren Whiteley had his usual solid defensive game, making six tackles and missing none. Oupa Mohoje made 7 tackles, missing just 1, while Siya Kolisi made 14 tackles but slipped 3. In essence, it was an improved defensive effort, but there are still areas of huge concern. Have no doubt that the All Black coaching staff have made some notes. The next area of huge concern must be the Bok performance over the ball on the ground. Cold hard stats tell us the French won 98 rucks, and South Africa just 65. That is indicative of two things, firstly the French took the ball to ground more frequently than did the Boks, and that is a good thing. However, it is also indicative of a Bok failure to dominate on the ground. Take the analysis one step further and you find that both sides conceded 11 turnover on the ground. That is a bad thing! Now the stats become worrying. The French won 98 rucks and conceded 11, or 9% of their ruck ball. South Africa won 65 rucks but also conceded 11. That is a worrying 14,5% of their own ruck ball lost! Against teams that feed off turnovers and quick counterattack that statistic would be game changing! The truth lies in selection errors. South Africa took to the field without a fetcher in the run-on team nor waiting on the bench. The injury enforced absence of Francois Louw was particularly evident, with the other two stand-out fetchers currently available for South Africa, Jaco Kriel and Chris Cloete nowhere to been seen on Allister Coetzee’s radar. South Africa played the game with three wide-running loose-forwards, and that will always be a bad thing. We are not playing Touch Rugby here. The Boks are seriously missing someone who plays towards the ball in both the fetching role and in making gains over the advantage line. Someone like Duane Vermeulen or Ruan Ackermann? South Africa’s tactical kicking was vastly improved over the efforts of 2016, although Elton Jantjies first attempt at a corner kick drifted straight into touch while Andries Coetzee also over-cooked a couple, perhaps as a result of 1st Test adrenalin? South Africa only kicked the ball 20 times, and many of the kicks were controlled short range chips rather than trying to find territory deep inside the French half. It was better. Not great. Just better. Handling errors remain a bit of a problem. South Africa made 23 handling errors, which is average for all international teams yet too many for a top team, yet the French made a massive 37 handling errors. Many of the French handling errors were made in the face of superb Springbok pressure on the ball, forcing hurried passes, speculative offloads, and a couple of Hail Mary throws. Poor handling frequently resulted in promising moments going awry for the men in blue. The scrums creaked a bit in the beginning, instability on both sides of both of the scrums contributing, with Tendai Mtawarira crabbing while Frans Malherbe was guilty of over extending on the hit too many times. The Springboks found solidity the moment Steven Kitshoff took over on the loose-head side as he immediately scrummed straight. Lineouts functioned fairly well, with Malcolm Marx having cured his throwing yips of 2016. Franco Mostert was caught short a couple of times as his lifters were slow, resulting in the French spoiling his ball a couple of times. Eben Etzebeth remained untouchable at two, both on his own ball and intercepting French ball as if it were intended for him! For some obscure reason Oupa Mohoje, selected to add a lineout option for the Boks, was never used as a jumper. Oddly, he also scrummed at 8 in the Bok set-pieces despite being chosen as the blind-side flanker. I quote Allister Coetzee on this one: "If you look at those three loose forwards in terms of what we want, we want a good lineout option. We know Warren is a great lineout option but we need the fourth one in Oupa Mohoje and he's been very good at that. If you look at what he also brings defensively, he's very good." So why did you not use him in the lineouts? Not too sure what that was all about? An issue that needs urgent attention by the Attack coach, Franco Smith, is the way the Bok backline takes 3 out of 4 balls passed down the line standing still or at a one-step run. There is no running onto the ball with pace or power at all. It is static and allows better defences than that of the French to get right over the “gain” line and into your face before the ball gets to the midfield. A backline needs to go forward to be a proper attacking unit, and the Boks were not doing that. I am still unsure of Elton Jantjies’ ability under pressure. The French allowed him acres of space behind the set pieces and on clearance kicks and he remains untested in 2017. I will reserve my opinion until I have seen what happens when Ardie Savea, Sam Cane, and the like are coming at him. As the dust settles over Pretoria and happy Bok supporters sing their way into the night, I guess we can say this this performance was a step in the right direction. It was far from perfect, but it was vastly improved after the annus horribilis that was 2016. They were far more committed, better organized, playing to a discernable plan, and better disciplined too. And they were captained by a man who lead and payed with passion. Yes, there were problems. There is plenty of room for improvement, but this was a positive start to 2017. Like the recent rains in the Western Cape, it was a positive start, but we need a lot more.
  12. I harp on about certain aspects of the game of rugby which are important to me as a former player, coach and pundit. Bill has not made particular reference to these which I believe have a massive effect on a game. Paying attention to basic skills is fundamental to either scoring points or the prevention of opposition scores - tackling, passing, catching, kicking and running in space. I have gone through this team man for man and not one escapes my litmus test with a decent mark. I have always said that the spine of a rugby team is 2; 8; 9; 10; 15. In my view this team is spineless. In days gone by the number 15 in a team was the last line of defense and needed to be a rock both in the tackle and under the high ball. Nowadays that has been extended and the last line is a "back three". In this case they have serious defensive frailties. The halfbacks are the brains of a team - this team is brainless. I am desperately sorry that Duane Vermeulen is injured as he would have given this team the stability and strength under pressure that it lacks in my view. Etzebeth - "The Enforcer" is a silly boy in a man's body. Will the Boks get out of jail due to the raw nature of this French team which I suggested some time ago would not be properly representative? We will see. The real tests lie ahead in the games against our usual foes.
  13. From Bill van Zyl Venue: Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria Kick-off: 17:00 local (15:00 GMT) Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand) Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Marius Mitrea (Italy) TMO: Rowan Kitt (England) After the mysteries of Michael Cheika’s selections for Australia, we have the weirdness of Allister Coetzee’s choices for South Africa. Much like Cheika, Coetzee has made sweeping changes to his team. Eight of the team that started the Bok’s last Test of 2016, against Wales in Cardiff, have been booted right out of the squad as Coetzee hands out four new caps, to Andries Coetzee, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje in his starting XV to face France. Another uncapped player, Dillyn Leyds, is on the bench and should earn his first cap if Allister does what Allister does, and that is to throw his entire bench onto the field as the game progresses. Only four of the squad that played Wales will start in this game, Warren Whiteley, Elton Jantjies, Franco Mostert and Tendai Mtawarira, all get a run-on, while the other survivors, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Bongi Mbonambi and Steven Kitshoff will start off the bench. Some of Coetzee’s thinking makes sense if we were living in normal times. He has gone with combinations as much as possible – Cronje and Jantjies as half backs, Serfontein and Kriel in the midfield, and Coetzee and Skosaan as part of a back three that, somewhat weirdly, includes Raymond Rhule. This is a hugely inexperienced back division, with just 54 caps amongst the whole lot. These are untested combinations at the highest level of the game. And I am not sure they are all the best players in the positions in which they have been chosen. I am not even sure they are all the “form” players in South Africa at the moment. I still wonder why Ruan Combrinck is not in the squad. I am not sure what Willie le Roux has done wrong. I do not know why Francois Hougaard and Frans Steyn are on the bench? I have not seen the Serfontein/Kriel midfield pairing spark at all this season…. Raymond Rhule has a reputation for being one of the worst defenders in the Cheetahs’ squad, and that is saying something in a squad that is known for seriously leaky defence! I regret to say that I am even more puzzled by his loose-forward selection. The only open-sider in his entire squad, and the form flanker in South Africa, Jaco Kriel, is nowhere to be seen, while Siya Kolisi starts as open sider despite having played on the blind side all of 2017. Oupa Mahoje gets a start on the blindside, with Whiteley at 8. And then we have the somewhat single minded Jean-Luc de Preez as back-up off the bench. Quite simply, there is no fetcher anywhere in this trio. Coetzee has handed the contestable loose ball to the French! All three his starting loosies are players who like to play out wide. None of them offer the muscle that is needed around the edges and in the rough stuff. Mahoje adds a lineout option, but he is no great tackler, with a penchant for going high and earning penalties and yellow cards in the process. He is also no great carrier of the ball. Kolisi and Whiteley like to run wide as links on the outside. There is nobody to offer the muscle and physicality one sometimes needs around the fringes. None of the three chosen ones play towards the ball. And that is a very serious problem against a French side who will play the physical game! Frans Steyn has earned a recall to the bench for his first Test selection since 2012. I am not sure of this choice, although he does provide some back-up in the flyhalf position. His experience and mongrel might have served South Africa better in a starting role. And his ultra-long range boot might just have added some early points too. Admittedly, Coetzee is missing some very important big guns. Duane Vermeulen is, once again, on the injured list, as is Damian de Allende, Lionel Mapoe, Handre Pollard, Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee and Rohan Janse van Rensburg to name a few. Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira extends his record as the most-capped Springbok prop to 87 appearances. It will be his 25th successive Test for South Africa. I am not sure that Steven Kitshoff would not have been a better starting option, with the Beast to come off the bench. Franco Mostert gets to start alongside Eben Etzebeth in the second row, with Pieter-Steph du Toit to come off the bench. I am guessing that Coetzee wants Mostert’s mongrel and physicality to back up Etzebeth in the early stages of a game that promises to be very physical. I have very little problem with the tight five and their bench reserves. I might have started with Kitshoff and du Toit, but both offer super-sub potential. The loose trio worries me, and I think the back division is lightweight at best. Once again we have a backline short of experience and even shorter in leadership. If Jantjies wobbles under pressure again………… The total number of Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 265. There are 54 caps in the backline and 211 amongst the forwards, while the total on the bench is 151 caps. France have made 11 changes to the team that played the last Six Nations fixture. Only Brice Dulin, Gaël Fickou, Virimi Vakatawa and Louis Picamoles remain from that win over Wales, with Yoann Huget coming into the back three. Henry Chavancy of Racing 92 makes a first Test start for France at outside centre, with Maxime Machenaud and Jules Plisson forming the half-back pairing. Picamoles is joined in the back row by Loann Goujon and Yacouba Camara, while the new lock combination has Yoann Maestri, the captain, and Julien le Devedec together. And an entirely new front row sees props Uini Atonio and Jefferson Poirot both start, with Clément Maynadier at hooker in place of regular France captain Guilhem Guirado. Possible new caps off the bench include the La Rochelle duo Mohamed Boughanmi and Vincent Rattez. Prediction: When a team talks big, I start to worry. And the Bok management, especially assistant forward coach Johann Van Graan, have done their fair share of talking big this last week. Perhaps this is intended to give the squad (and the host of nervous supporters) some positive vibes by telling them their coaches have confidence in the team? Maybe it is somebody making a lot of noise as they walk past the local cemetery at night, just to ward off the ghosts and ghoulies? I would rather a team walk the walk, than talk the talk. We know that the French have arrived with a team that is tired after a long and arduous domestic season. We know that a number of their big guns have been left at home. None of the players who featured in last week’s Top 14 final are in the team for the first test. There is no Xavier Chiocci, Guilhem Guirado, Arthur Iturria, Romain Taofifenua, Camille Lopez, and Damian Penaud, and they represent a significant proportion of France’s better players. We know that this French team is light on experience. The game is at Loftus, where the thin atmosphere will also burn the lungs of the visitors in the latter stages of the game. In normal times the Springboks would be overwhelming favorites to bank a win. But that is in normal times, and not based on the reality of 2017. The 2016 season still looms as an embarrassing reminder of a team that lost it’s mojo and all direction, and a coach who lost his focus, completely. The lack of physicality and game plan in 2016 should have rung every alarm bell possible, yet Allister Coetzee has again chosen to go into a Test match with a hugely inexperienced squad that is woefully short on the physically abrasive and tactically astute players needed at the top level of the game. (And then there are those who point fingers at Eben Etzebeth and say he is a “bully” and “ill-disciplined” and “too physical” and all sorts of other things that frighten little children in the night. In fact he is precisely the kind of player that earned South Africa the reputation for uncompromising grit and determination in the halcyon days of Springbok glory. We need 15 Eben Etzebeth types to wear the green and gold, and not talk about dumping him for being a hard player!) There’s been a lot of talk about attacking out wide, and the likes of Coetzee and Skosaan will deliver if they get the ball in space and going forward, but the hard yards need to be done first. You have to win possession of the ball before you can take it out wide! France boast a dangerous close in ball-carrier in No 8 Louis Picamoles. Big backs such as No 12 Gaël Fickou and wingers Virimi Vakatawa and Yoann Huget will test the mettle of the Bok backline, especially out wide where Rhule and Skosaan will need to tackle a lot. (In the case of Raymond Rhule, just tackle…) And then we need to consider the defensive frailty of flyhalf Elton Jantjies…. The selection of three newbies in the back three, and yet another newbie outside back on the bench, is another gamble by Coetzee. Although France have a raw flyhalf in Jules Plisson I can see him being tasked to test the Bok back three with lots of high balls, with the muscularity of Vakatawa and Huget chasing to contest the ball in the air….. We have yet to see whether Allister Coetzee has worked out a game plan for his team… Any game plan…. I would hesitate to say that South Africa will win this one easily, but I do think that the Loftus factor and the fact that the French are coming off a long and arduous season will probably swing the game in the Springboks’ favour. I do not think it will be pretty, but the Springboks should win, just. Teams: South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds France: 15 Brice Dulin, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Henry Chavancy, 12 Gaël Fickou, 11 Virimi Vakatawa, 10 Jules Plisson, 9 Maxime Machenaud, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Loann Goujon, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Yoann Maestri (c), 4 Julien le Devedec, 3 Uini Atonio, 2 Clément Maynadier, 1 Jefferson Poirot Replacements: 16 Camille Chat, 17 Eddy Ben Arous, 18 Mohamed Boughanmi, 19 Bernard le Roux, 20 Kévin Gourdon, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Jean-Marc Doussain, 23 Vincent Rattez
  14. Am & Ralapele are out and Vermeulen will not get picked as he only arrives in SA on Tuesday.
  15. All 3 pools now over 40!
  16. Lions now 40 June Int 35 U 20 35 Excellent reaction. "The busiest people have the most time!"
  17. Bill van Zyl 9 hrs Springboks 2017 , I must share some thoughts regarding Allister Coetzee’s 2017 Springbok Squad. I have to start my discussion by stating out aloud, I am confused. This is not the first time I have started a discussion on Springbok selections with those words. Pieter de Villiers caused everyone to be confused, both by his selections and even more so by his public utterances. Heyneke Meyer started out so well, and then rapidly changed direction and strategies from week to week, which eventually gave me much cause for confusion, especially in 2015 as he meandered from an exciting open rugby style to an archaic forward based style that reminded me of the Bulls of the 1970s. And then there were his selections….. all those old men called back from the retirement villages of the rugby world. And now we have Allister Coetzee, and confusion reigns supreme. 2016 was truly South African Rugby’s Annus Horribilis – this was a year that many a Springbok supporter simply choses to pretend never happened. When talk turns to rugby matters in the pubs and clubs of the world, Springbok supporters are strangely quiet, almost obsequious in their attempts to change the subject to something more palatable. If ever a national rugby union’s gravy train found itself derailed, it was the spectacular implosion that was South African rugby in 2016. The Springbok rugby team resembled rugby’s version of a truly dishabille tramp wandering around looking for somewhere quiet to have a snooze. Their supporters, mostly amongst of the world’s most jeeringly triumphalist winners, lost their arrogance and self-satisfied preening and became amongst the angriest losers in the history of sport. There were many reasons for the spectacular face-plant that was South African rugby. A new coach, appointed at the 11th hour with a coaching and management squad that was not of his own choosing, seemed to have been set up to lose from the day of his appointment. He was given no time to watch and learn about the talent that was available to him, and even less time to prepare his squad before the Irish came a-visiting. His appointment had been delayed, postponed, and then delayed again as the rugby administrators of South Africa fought amongst themselves for power, influence, and a better seat at the dinner table. Fourteen rugby unions each pushed their own agenda with scant regard for the good of the whole. The President of SARU resigned and rode off into his personal version of the sunset; the SARU CEO was embroiled in court cases as he stood accused of siphoning money from the coffers of a university where he worked before joining SARU. Nepotism and personal agendas ruled every decision that was taken at the highest levels of South African rugby. Add in the undoubted pressures on the new coach to select a team that would satisfy national politicians and their non-sporting aspirations, and you begin to understand why the Springbok Coaching job is considered the poison chalice of world rugby. The corps of players from which the new coach had to choose his national squad was one of the most inexperienced batches of youngsters ever to attend a senior training camp. Senior players had abandoned ship in their droves the moment the 2015 World Cup entered history, heading off to earn foreign currency somewhere other than in Africa. A goodly chunk of Henyeke Meyer’s Dad’s Army finally hung up their rugby boots to grab a lucrative contract as somewhat tongue-tied and inarticulate television broadcast commentators and “specialist” analysists. Their expertise was lost to the game as they wore stylish corporate suits and smiled at the cameras while making inane comments. There was nobody left to nurture and guide the youngsters that would step into the empty spaces left by the disappearing seniors.. The six Super Rugby squads from which his players would come were playing six different styles of rugby, and five of them were not playing their unique styles of rugby terribly well. At the top end of the scale the Lions were playing a modern, fast, running style of rugby, and as we drop down the scale we found the Stormers attempting to emulate the Lions, but without the necessary skill sets required if you are going to run with the ball. The Cheetahs flung every ball wide out to the wing and hoped for the best, tackling was not part of their preparations. The Sharks and the Bulls persisted with a slow, forward oriented kicking game that required no great imagination and zero risk. The less said about the contribution the Kings made to South African rugby in 2016 the better. Into this turmoil stepped Allister Coetzee. At the time I said that he was a very very brave man. Very few of the world’s coaches wanted the job. (Save for Jake White, but he wants every job that is advertised in the world of rugby.) Sadly for Allister he was quickly exposed to the overbearing, unrelenting pressure of the local media and fans who demand instant success and nothing less. When his team of wet-behind-the-ears youngsters did not provide the instant success demanded by the unforgiving public, the pressure on the coach ramped up to the point where a lesser man would have packed up and left the room. (Remember Harry Viljoen?) Allister Coetzee did not run away. He stuck it out, but he became more and more like a startled rabbit in the headlights of an onrushing 18-wheeler truck. He quickly abandoned the open style of running rugby he had chosen for his first challenge against the visiting Irish. In his desperation to find a win, any win, his team switched to a style of unimaginative forward oriented rugby where every single ball was handed to a forward to trundle into contact and recycle, over and over again, with no plan, no imagination, and no idea where a win would come from. He was not helped by the invisibility of the man he had chosen to captain the Springboks. Adriaan Strauss simply vanished in the cauldron of test rugby, his obvious captaincy strengths at provincial level vanished like mist before the sun. Amidst his confusion of rugby styles he started to make selection errors and mistakes. The sign of a truly desperate man. Players were constantly deployed in out of position. South Africa’s best fullback was given the boot and flyhalves found themselves wearing the number 15 on their backs in test matches. Outside centres were chosen at inside centre, centres played wing, and vice versa, locks played flank, old men were called back from distant memory. Confusion reigned. And the results remained amongst the poorest imaginable. South Africa lost to Italy, and the fan based exploded in unprecedented fury. Nothing less than a public beheading and permanent damnation to Purgatory was good enough for the coach. The players were damned as spoilt brats with no pride nor ambition other than banking their next salary cheque. They were told they were unfit by many old men with beer bellies and distant memories of their own playing days. Administrators were condemned as a class and a clique. Anybody that said anything positive about a South African rugby player, coach, or team was a candidate for psychiatric evaluation and would be fetched by some burly men in white coats bearing a comfy white jacket with strange sleeves and little belts and buckles. Of course, the rugby authorities reacted to the anger and disappointment. They had to! Post mortems were held, privately and publically. Indabas were organised, endless discussions took place, plans were made and remade, and there was lots of talk of lessons learned and new plans and styles and national drives and refocusing and… and… and….. And now the 2017 international season has rolled around. The French are about to arrive in South Africa and rugby supporters have a serious case of the jitters. Allister Coetzee somehow survived the clarion calls for his dismissal, probably because nobody else in world rugby wants his job. He has a new-look coaching squad in his corner. And he has just announced his first Springbok squad for the year. The squad that will play against the visiting French. I do admit to being somewhat confused by some of his selections, and by some of his non-selections! There are eight uncapped players in his squad. Two forwards and six amongst the backs. The new forwards are both prop forwards, Ruan Dreyer and Lizo Gqoboka. Amongst the backs we see Lukhanyo Am, Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule, and Courtnall Skosan. Rhule, Cronje, Dreyer and Gqoboka have previously toured with the Boks, but are yet to play in a Test match for South Africa. Coetzee has also recalled six very experienced players to his squad. They include Frans Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Duane Vermeulen, two from playing rugby in France and one in England. Three locals have also been recalled, being Jan Serfontein, Coenie Oosthuizen and Chiliboy Ralepelle. The six returnees have more than 200 Test caps of experience between them. Frans Steyn plays for French side Montpellier and was a member of the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning squad. He last featured in a Springbok Test in 2012 when contractual disagreements resulted in his voluntary withdrawal from the Bok squad. Chiliboy Ralepelle is back in the Bok squad after four years – his last Test was in 2013. He had to serve out a lengthy ban for using illegal performance enhancing chemicals while playing rugby in France. Jan Serfontein was injured and missed the entire 2016 season, while Coenie Oosthuizen, who played 23 Tests between 2012 and 2015, is also back in the squad. Duane Vermeulen featured in only two Tests in 2016 before suffering an injury during the home series against Ireland, while Francois Hougaard returns after missing the “Darkest Hour” tour to the United Kingdom and Italy at the end of 2016 due to injury. Warren Whiteley has been named the 58th Springbok captain. The 31-man Springbok squad will assemble on Monday, 29 May for a week-long camp in Plettenberg Bay before moving camp to Pretoria where they will fine-tune final preparations for the first Test. Let’s take a look at some of those who have missed out on selection. Some of Allister’s 2016 troops who are missing from the squad include Trevor Nyakane, Juan de Jongh, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Uzair Cassiem, Jean-Luc du Preez, Faf de Klerk, Willem Alberts, Francois Venter and Jamba Ulengo. Some of these omissions are understandable, but some are a little confusing. I watched Ruan Combrinck’s return to Super Rugby with interest, and his performance against the Bulls last weekend told me he was back with a bang. I cannot understand why he has been sent off to play for the second team rather than being an automatic choice for the Springbok squad. I am also not too sure that I know why Lionel Mapoe and Francois Venter are down in the “A” squad? I can understand that Trevor Nykanye has been less than impressive at the Bulls in 2017, and that Uzair Cassiem and Juan de Jongh have just returned from injury. Willem Alberts should not have been called up in 2017, and Jean-Luc de Preez does not tick too many boxes for me, he is a big, muscular forward with very little flair or excitement in his game, and Jamba Ulengo has yet to live up to his star billing. But if he is in the second team, why is Raymond Rhule in the 1st team? His defensive woes are legendary and I am not sure his finishing is better than Ulengo’s. I am not sure, exactly, what Faf de Klerk has done wrong, and his omission has resulted in his being lost to local rugby as the lure of an overseas contract has won his interest! Let’s look at some other issues that cause confusion. If the likes of Steyn, Vermeulen, Kitshoff, and Hougaard have been called back from overseas, why has Bismarck du Plessis been left in France? Malcolm Marx is surely the future of South Africa’s hooking berth, but he needs a mentor and guide. He has worked hard to fix his lineout throws and his all-round game improves with every week. He needs someone to show him the ropes and help him hone the skills that compliment his undoubted physical attributes. He needs Bismarck du Plessis. Dare I say it? South Africa also needs Bismarck, for his sheer mongrel, his imposing presence on the field, his leadership and experience, and most critically his ball winning ability in a team that is woefully short of true fetchers on the loose! Bongi Mbonambi and Chiliboy Ralepelle are very good hookers at provincial level rugby, but neither are great scrummagers, neither are totally dependable at lineout time, and neither are real ball fetchers or carriers. Which brings me to the next oddity of selection. I must ask whether Warren Whitely is the best eighth man in South African rugby? No doubt he is an inspiration captain in his Lions outfit, and will probably be a good captain for the Boks, but I do have an issue with his choice as our starting No 8. The captain, any captain, must be the very best player in his position that is available for his country or team. He cannot be selected simply because he is a good captain, and I fear that Warren Whiteley is not the best No 8 available for South Africa. He is a very good link between backs and forwards, and his defensive attributes are world class, but I do not see him leading the physical charge up front, nor do I see him as an imposing presence in the hard stuff of test rugby. There can be no doubt that the man for the physical job of a test match eighth man play is Duane Vermeulen. In almost every aspect of eighth-man play he is better player than Whiteley, except perhaps as a tackler out wide and a support player out on the wing. He has built a reputation as one of the hardest men in world rugby, and is a very good captain too. It seems that we will see him start tests for South Africa as a blindside flank, which just appears a little silly. We need him in the role where he earned the nickname Thormeulen! We need him as a ball-carrier that attacks the gain-line. We need him as a master fetcher on the ground, and we desperately need him as the master-mind in South Africa’s defensive lines. These are all aspects of his play where he towers over Whiteley, yet where he could well be hamstrung if deployed as a flanker. (I am not guessing about his deployment as a flank! Coetzee said that he would be doing exactly that. With Whiteley installed as the Bok captain and first-choice No 8, Vermeulen will move to blindside flank.) We now must look at the rest of the loose-forward options in the squad! And I am even more confused. Coetzee has said that Vermeulen would start as the blindsider. Why then does he have two more blindside flankers in his squad of 31. Siya Kolisi and Oupa Mohoje are both blindsiders with just Jaco Kriel a true opensider. (Kolisi has played as an opensider but has specialized as a blindside flank in 2017.) Once again the Boks are light on fetchers! Where is Ruan Ackermann? If you want a muscular ball carrier who also has pace, he is your man, and he also brings considerable ball winning ability to the game. Why is his name missing from both the Bok and the “A” squads? I am confused. I am also confused why the best fetcher in South Africa rugby in 2017, Chris Cloete has not been included in the squad. Another aspect of the squad selection I find worrying is the lack of bulk, power, as well as experience, in the back-three options. I again ask why Ruan Combrinck has been left out of the squad. He brings that bulk, the power, and the necessary physicality that I do not see amongst Lukhanyo Am, Andries Coetzee, Jesse Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, and Courtnall Skosan. These are all will o’ wisp players. Runners one and all, but not men known for running the hard yards close to the goal line. I am not questioning their guts and commitment, but they are all a little light? Perhaps Allister is looking at Frans Steyn at fullback again? And where is Willie le Roux? The best attacking fullback with a South African passport anywhere in the world! Now we turn to the flyhalf options. Oh, wait! There are no options, there is just one flyhalf in the entire squad. Elton Jantjies has no back-up! (Unless it is Frans Steyn, again? We know that Pat Lambie and Handré Pollard’s injury woes have left the Boks a little light at flyhalf. But there are a couple of names that should perhaps have been in the squad, even if they were only there as back-up to the notoriously fickle Jantjies! Where are journeymen like Lionel Cronje and Fred Zeilinga? Neither have the flair nor excitement of Elton Jantjies in full flow, but neither will fold like Jantjies has shown he can and will do under pressure. Where is Garth April? Why has Curwin Bosch not been called back from junior duty as back-up for the big boys? If I look at the forward selections again, my confusion is again rampant. I see an awful lot of props! Ruan Dreyer, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Lizo Gqoboka, and Coenie Oosthuizen. Six props! I see three hookers: Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, and Chiliboy Ralapele. Why three? Why so many? I see four lock forwards, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, and Franco Mostert. This is predictable and unarguable. But I only see five loose forwards! Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Oupa Mohoje, Duane Vermeulen, and Warren Whiteley. I fear that we are overburdened with props and underweight in the loose forward department. And I reiterate: We only have one openside flanker! Amongst the backs I might question the selection of Lukhanyo Am and Raymond Rhule as I am not sure they are international quality players. I also question the inclusion of Rudy Paige in the squad. His decision making is non-existent, and his passing is as slow as ladies doubles on clay in the 1950s. Surely Faf de Klerk is a better bet? I am pleased to see the bulk and power of de Allende (or Dallender as Nick Mallet insists on calling him) back in the midfield, his 2015 partnership with Jesse Kriel needs to be reestablished, nurtured and polished, they promise to be the best midfield combination South Africa has had in years! The rest all deserve to be in the squad, although I fear that there is a distinct lack of experience, again……….. So, Allister, while there are some admirable selections in your squad, I am, again, confused by the thinking of so many of your selections! I hope I am proved wrong!
  18. Coetzee was asked about Bismarck and his answer is fairly consistent with everything else - it makes not a jot of sense in respect of his overseas selections: http://www.sport24.co.za/Rugby/Springboks/bok-coach-explains-bismarck-omission-20170524
  19. Here is how the genius of Keohane sees it: http://www.sport24.co.za/Columnists/MarkKeohane/fear-not-boks-will-whitewash-france-3-0-20170524 I did say that i was concerned about how seriously the French view this tour? Not at all it would appear. I guess Guy Noves is under a certain amount of pressure to be serious contenders in the Six Nations and to finally win a RWC for France.
  20. This is what makes Coetzee's selections look stupid: http://www.rugby365.com/countries/south-africa/79253-coetzee-wants-kriel-to-roar-with-lions Last weekend Ruan Combrinck more than amply demonstrated his superior abilities as a complete footballer against an admittedly struggling Bulls team. However given that this is his first game back and he showed his fitness, how can the Bok "coach" leave him out whilst including Jaco Kriel who is still on the injured list?
  21. Arlecchino

    Springbok Squad

  22. Arlecchino

    Springbok Squad

    This is always going to be blighted by politics and or regional loyalty. It is clear to a blind man that this is not the best squad that could have been picked and I really do not want to descend into a personal squabble which is brewing here. This in my humble opinion is not a good squad, Coetzee is not a good coach, and I have serious reservations about his assistants. But hey, the proof of the pudding. I must add just one other factor: too many of us sit in front of a TV and take what we see in front of us as the full picture. The TV director follows the ball. You do not see what players do off the ball - almost 90% of their time a certain few positions apart.
  23. Arlecchino

    Springbok Squad

    This is impressive: http://www.itsrugby.co.uk/team-squad-toulon.html
  24. Arlecchino

    Springbok Squad

    It simply astonishes me how we in South Africa have flung our principles out of the window in favour of being PC. For that read cowardly BS. A bloody shovel is what it is. We make selections in business matters based on this crap and end up watching the fallout on TV. What ever happened to pick the best man for the job? In addition I have never believed in sending a boy to do a man's job.
  25. Arlecchino

    Brendan Venter

    I have to confess that this article is impressive and this impression of Venter is quite moving. I too have always felt that a club is made up of people and their contribution, not their trophy cabinet. A club is or can and should be a cornerstone of a community. That said, he writes a weekly for The Times on Tuesday and recently his attacks on such players as Cobus Reinach and Jan Serfontein as well as their respective agents is beyond the pale. His blaming of "the system and coaches" in SA does not sit well with me - these are his colleagues. I was also suspicious of his handling of his role at The Sharks and how he got Jake White involved. Why? No idea. Gut feel. He has also mootched up to his pal Coetzee by defending a person who is clearly incompetent, but I suspect there is a hidden agenda.
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