No need for panic mechanics, but...
Proudly South African. You couldn’t be anything other than that if you watched the Super Rugby clash between the Cheetahs and the Bulls in Bloemfontein on Saturday night.
It was a match that had everything you could ask for as a local spectator. Both teams ran out in a positive frame of mind, putting on a highly entertaining spectacle as they relentlessly tried to outwit each other with ball in hand. They did so without compromising any of the physicality you’d expect when these two meet, and with non-stop competing for the ball (the one thing that really makes this game special).
It was never negative or cynical, and it came despite the fact that the South African conference crown was up for grabs.
The match wasn’t without fault, but it was by some distance the best one we saw the entire weekend. It would be tough to argue against our contention that, at this level, that match was one of the best advertisements for South African rugby ever.
It’s a pity then that it wasn’t the best advertisement overall.
That honour goes to one that came at halftime of that match. And unfortunately it wasn’t local, it was German.
If you didn’t spend the halftime break pouring drinks, you may have seen this:
Note: Before clicking the play button, fit a good set of earphones. If not, make sure you’re alone in the office.
Wow! How good must it be to have a product that makes everyone who’s seen (and especially heard) it, want it? And without a single word spoken?
How good would it be if South African rugby didn’t need words (not even the SuperWrap’s hopefully somewhat-sensible ones) to sell it?
Is it possible? Well, if you weren’t busy pouring drinks, you may have had a look at all those schoolboy derbies shown earlier on a Saturday afternoon. You’d have realised that, with all that talent available, nothing is impossible here.
It’s not a lack of engine parts that is limiting the racing team we call South African rugby. But it could be a lack of mechanics.
The Kings showed us that all year. They combined a squad of relatively unknown players with a talented coaching team and the result was more success than most of us would have predicted. In motoring terms it could be said that they put together a team of mechanics so talented that they could use mostly reject parts to build themselves a V6 that revved quite high.
If they can do it, why can’t everyone else?
Part of the problem is the fact that the few mechanics we do have seem to have a habit of not wanting to share manuals.
Saturday’s match was a good example. Certain parts of both the engines we saw on display were running like a dream, but other parts of the same two engines barely sputtered.
Let us start with the Cheetahs. SA Rugby owes former real-life diesel mechanic Os du Randt and his coaching partner Naka Drotske a huge thank you. Is there anyone that would have called Lourens Adriaanse being included in this year’s first Springbok squad? Yet, no one is really surprised. He is just the latest in a long line of world-class scrummagers to come off that Free State production line.
At this stage there is enough reason to suspect that if you gave Os and Naka enough time with Grey College’s U14C scrumhalf, he too could run out in the Bok No 3 jersey before the year is done.
Then you have the guys who stood on the other side of the tunnel on Saturday. Every time you saw a couple of blue jerseys forming a line, you knew you were in for something special. That Bulls lineout must be the envy of almost every international team out there. And once again you have to thank the coach.
Has there ever been a man who knew the inner workings of a lineout and maul better than Victor Matfield? And how lucky are we that he is one of those rare geniuses that have the ability to teach others what it is he knows?
We also saw quite a bit of misfiring, though. Neither team was firing on all cylinders.
For them to do so before the playoffs start would require something unheard of in this country. The two provincial engines would have to swop mechanics. If the Bulls had a scrum that could stand its ground they would be everyone’s tournament favourites right now. Likewise, if the Cheetahs had an attacking platform as predictably solid as the Bulls lineout they would wreak absolute havoc with ball in hand.
If such a swop had to happen, now would have been a perfect time for it as well. The two sides are done playing each other in the league phase this year, and the misfiring parts of the two engines have the next three weeks off.
It’s a pipe dream, we know. You don’t get to the top in this game if you’re in the habit of giving away your secrets. You also don’t stay employed for long if you’re caught empowering you opposition.
But you also never become better at what it is you do if you don’t learn new things.
How much better are these self-same Cheetahs because current Springbok and former Bulls defensive coach John McFarland spent some time earlier this year to help them get organised on that front?
How much better will both teams’ playoff prospects be if their respective pit-crews were to swop notes now?
Here are our teams of the week:
Note: our weekly teams are selected on the past weekend's action only, so overall season form is not a factor. Players in teams with a bye are then obviously not considered.
Super XV for week 16:
15 Ben Smith (Highlanders), 14 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 13 JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), 12 Jan Serfontein (Bulls), 11 Hosea Gear (Highlanders), 10 Morne Steyn (Bulls), 9 Will Genia (Reds), 8 Ben Mowen (Brumbies), 7 Michael Hooper (Waratahs), 6 Steven Luatua (Blues), 5 Juandre Kruger (Bulls), 4 Brad Thorne (Highlanders), 3 Lourens Adriaanse (Cheetahs), 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), 1 Benn Robinson (Waratahs)
Bok Barometer for week 16:
15 Hennie Daniller (Cheetahs), 14 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 13 JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), 12 Jan Serfontein (Bulls), 11 Bryan Habana (Stormers), 10 Morne Steyn (Bulls), 9 Francois Hougaard (Bulls), 8 Pierre Spies (Bulls), 7 Arno Botha (Bulls), 6 Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs), 5 Juandre Kruger (Bulls), 4 Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), 3 Lourens Adriaanse (Cheetahs), 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), 1 Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs)
Match of the week:
No surprises here. It had to be the Cheetahs-Bulls clash. Yes, there were mistakes, but far fewer than in the other games. And yes, there were more tries scored elsewhere, but none of them mattered as much. Take a bow, gentlemen!
Please note that video footage is for the website only and is rights restricted, and therefore only available in regions that fall within SuperSport’s broadcast footprint.
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Try of the week:
The try of the week also comes from Bloemfontein. He’s done it so often this year that there surely can’t be anyone left that would call this a fluke. We’re glad that we can now say that Bok coach Heyneke Meyer agrees.
Here is Willie le Roux scoring our try of the week:
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- Keven Mealamu, who played in his 150th Super Rugby (SR) game this weekend.
- James Hanson, John Ulugia and James O’Connor who all played in their 50th.
- Quade Cooper, who became the first player in SR history to score in every way possible for a second time. On Saturday he had one try, one conversion, two penalties and one drop goal.
Here is this week's look at what players got up to on Twitter:
|Ardie Savea, the younger brother of Julian, showed us his version of “chillin”. We’re not sure why or how or even why you would want to do this on a boat, but we’re happy he’s relaxed.
|Rugby players have to put on their number ones a lot, and nobody ever helps them dress. Laurie Weeks found a novel way of learning to tie a tie, thanks to youtube it seems.
|Francois Hougaard and race car driver Gennaro Bonafede were at the premier of Hangover 3 last week. Why the Elvis wigs we don’t know?
|New Bok Lourens Adriaanse didn’t tweet about the call-up to the national squad, but rather took his wife some flowers. All we can do is applaud him for knowing how to do things right
Shock as no Bok shocks
Here at the SuperWrap desk we’re known for not becoming overly emotional when Springbok squads are selected. Like you we often disagree with the coach, but we know that we’re not the ones having to deal with the stress of actually putting our selections out on the field to play.
Normally we don’t judge, but we’re about to make an exception.
How dare Meyer name a squad that almost the entire country seems happy with? At the time of writing 75% of people who voted on front-page poll thought his selections to be “Very good”. Such a thing is unheard of.
What next for us Bok fans? World peace?
Maak 'n Whoopsie
It was rather interesting to hear that Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske had a bit of a hissy fit last week after his comments about respecting the Bulls were printed.
The comments, made at a press conference and reported by supersport.com and others, made him so livid that he called in the local newspaper hacks at Die Volksblad and demanded an explanation from them for printing the story.
According to our source it was an hour-long rant, and Drotske said his words were misinterpreted. He later issued a release on the Cheetahs website to explain what he really meant.
We’ve listened to the tape again and find no distortion of the quotes in any story.
The answer probably lies in how one cynical hack put it to us this weekend in Bloemfontein. “The Cheetahs and English don’t mix well”.
One eyebrow was lifted on Saturday night when the Blue Bulls Company issued a release confirming the move to Montpellier by veteran centre Wynand Olivier.
What caught our attention was the timing – the release was sent out at 9:38pm on Saturday night.
Now in the PR business it is an old trick that if you don’t want people to notice, you send stuff out either on a Friday or Saturday that it loses any traction in the media.
But what we can’t understand is that the move was confirmed, both on supersport.com and in newspapers several days earlier.
Now, Olivier has been a magnificent servant of Blue Bulls rugby. He hails from Affies just across the road and spent his entire career at Loftus Versfeld.
Surely a player who has played more than 100 games for a team should be given a better farewell?