Stop the kicking, you'll pass away
Ask a physician to sum up the road to wellness and most will do so in one word: moderation.
Moderation, according to Wikipedia, is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes, and the message from the doctor’s office will mostly likely be that the key to sticking around long enough to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing, is to agree to never do too much of it in the first place.
Now a sermon on the virtues of moderation is perhaps the last thing you’d have expected from the SuperWrap, but we’re not planning on talking about our own bad habits. Instead we just want to relay the doctor’s message to our ailing teams.
We’ll start off with the Bulls, who lost their third straight match when they went down 23-20 in Canberra this weekend. Already far too much time and energy is spent discussing how some home-town refereeing influenced the result, but just like last week, it will fail to change anything.
What they should do is listen to the doctor.
Some 33 kicks out of hand is not moderation, nor is doing that type of thing every week. Everyone knows exactly what to expect, and even the teams you foolishly believe can’t adapt to these bombardments have had the time to do just that.
And here’s the proof: out of those 33 kicks we saw on Saturday only six found touch and only one was re-gathered. Everything else was simply you giving the ball away. If it’s percentage rugby you’re after with that gameplan, then someone is lying to you about the numbers: 23% is a dismal fail.
The game has moved on and so should you, no matter how fond your memories are of years gone by.
One moment summed up their mind-set perfectly. Jan Serfontein took a tap penalty from deep and made 20 metres up-field. The ball was set up quickly and when it came out the Bulls had a four on three overlap. You couldn’t ask for a better platform, but instead of them using it to attack, we had to watch Morne Steyn give us another one of those 26 aimless kicks.
The sad thing is that the Bulls look a real threat when they use their hands to give the ball air. On Saturday they scored two brilliant tries when – on a mere handful of occasions – they did try to spread the ball.
The same thing happened the week before, when in the dying seconds of the match, they eventually gave up on the kick-chase and only a faint sprinkling of sideline chalk came between them and victory. What would have happened if they didn’t need the fulltime siren to bring them to their senses?
Moderation is also something they need when it comes to team selections. Experience is vital at this level, but if you rely on it too much you may just end up holding yourself back. In Arno Botha, Jan Serfontein and Handre Pollard, the Bulls have three youngsters that very few would argue will not go on to play for the Springboks. Yet, one is warming the bench, the other only got a proper run in the last match on tour and the most talked-about one is back in Pretoria playing Varsity Cup.
Yes, experience counts for a lot, but in some cases you have to make exceptions. Where do you think the Stormers would have ended last year if they kept out guys like Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Steven Kitshoff because they were too young?
Not that the Stormers couldn't do with a bit of advice from Dr S Wrap themselves.
We all know that defence is the cornerstone of any good side, but just as with everything else in life, too much of it is not a good thing. It doesn’t matter that you’re able to hold the mighty Crusaders (in front of their questionable away fans) to a mere 19 points if you can only score 14 yourselves.
There were signs of the Stormers attack of old against the Brumbies, but on Saturday it was all gone again. By the looks of things they can do far worse than to get Jake White on the payroll, even if it is only to taunt them on a weekly basis.
And it doesn’t stop there. Defence is good, but if you focus on it too much then other parts of your game will start to suffer. Like your set-piece. What good is it that you’ve mastered the art of the rolling maul if you can’t win your own lineouts? Or that you’ve pressured the opposition into a handling error only for your front row to give away a penalty at the resulting scrum?
And both teams should heed this: hope for opposition mistakes, but do so in moderation. If all you’re willing to do is to wait for errors to pounce on, then don’t be too disappointed if you’re still waiting for that silver platter when you’re back in the changerooms after the match. This is Super Rugby and there are teams here that are just as capable of limiting mistakes as you are.
Fortunately for all of us the Bulls and the Stormers are not the be-all and end-all of South African rugby. On Saturday we also had the joy of watching a team with far less talent at their disposal record their fourth straight victory – all of them against overseas opposition.
We’re talking, of course, about the Cheetahs, whose victory over the Rebels in Bloemfontein was South Africa’s only bright spot this weekend.
Strangely enough, if we wrote this same column last year, it would have been aimed straight at them. They used to care only about running the ball, and run it from anywhere and at any time. But things have changed this season.
Instead of only focusing on what is still a very entertaining attacking game, they’ve also allowed a pretty impressive defensive system the time to set in. The result is that they’ve leaked only four tries in their last three matches.
Because of moderation, the running game they love so much has a much better chance now of winning them matches.
To them, and to be used after every one of what we hope will be plenty more wins this season, our last bit of advice: everything in moderation, including moderation. Enjoy those beers, guys, you deserved them.
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 seven:
15 Robbie Coleman (Brumbies), 14 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 13 Richard Kahui (Chiefs), 12 Ryan Crotty (Crusaders), 11 Hosea Gear (Highlanders), 10 Aaron Cruden (Chiefs), 9 Will Genia (Reds), 8 Ben Mowen (Brumbies), 7 Matt Todd (Crusaders), 6 Liam Messam (Chiefs), 5 Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), 4 Scott Fardy (Brumbies), 3 Ben Afeaki (Chiefs), 2 Stephen Moore (Brumbies), 1 Scott Sio (Brumbies)
Bok Barometer for week seven:
15 Joe Pietersen (Stormers), 14 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 13 JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), 12 Jan Serfontein (Bulls), 11 Raymond Rhule (Cheetahs), 10 Burton Francis (Cheetahs), 9 Dewaldt Duvenhage (Stormers), 8 Phillip van der Walt (Cheetahs), 7 Lappies Labuschagne (Cheetahs), 6 Siya Kolisi (Stormers), 5 Steven Sykes (Kings), 4 Lodewyk de Jager (Cheetahs), 3 Lourens Adriaanse (Cheetahs), 2 Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), 1 Trevor Nyakane (Cheetahs)
Match of the week:
This week’s standout match comes from Dunedin, where the Reds managed their first win in that city since 1981. The Queenslanders had to overcome a massive second-half fightback by the desperate Highlanders, but in the end they hung on for a 34-33 win that ensured the home side remained winless this season.
Here are the highlights:
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:
As mentioned earlier, the Bulls look irresistible whenever they decide not to take the ball to ground or kick it away, and JJ Engelbrecht’s try against the Brumbies does a good job in explaining why we say so. Here it is:
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- Benn Robinson and Adam Ashley-Cooper, who played in their 100th Super Rugby matches this weekend.
- Anthony Faingaa and Ryan Crotty, who earned their 50th Super Rugby caps.
Here is this week's look at what players got up to on Twitter:
|Rugby players love their golf, and irritatingly many of them are almost as good on the course as they are on the field. We’re glad, therefore, to see Highlanders fullback Ben Smith plays more like the rest of us.
|The Kings are not letting on-field results hold them back when it comes to being tourists, it seems.This pose shows us just what a tough time they are having on the road.
|Talking about posing, how's this one from the Western Force. We thought it looked a bit dodgy, but then we were reminded that it was for a charity photoshoot. Ok, then...
|Jano Vermaak and Jurgen Visser found life so easy in Sydney that they considered staying on. Again, looking at these photos, there isn’t much stress on tour is there?
With friends like these...
Following the horrific story of violence in Durban last week comes another contemptuous story of poor fan behaviour at the Stormers-Crusaders game this weekend.
The SuperWrap has been inundated with stories of players being spat on, having objects thrown at them and being sworn at by fellow South Africans who just happen to support the Crusaders.
Now this crowd – who often turn up at the South African Sevens and continue their often alcohol-fuelled behaviour in abusing fans, officials and players - seem to have it in for the Stormers players now.
Unfortunately for all the passionate Cape fans – of which there are thousands – this minority has made it unpleasant to the point where players have hit out for the first time.
Bryan Habana had enough this past weekend, and tweeted that “I highly doubt there's any place in the world where you get booed off your bus, at your home stadium, by your 'fellow' countrymen”
Habana followed it up with a suggestion of just where they could go.
"If I had the money I would happily buy all these 'Cape Crusaders' a one-way ticket to Christchurch!!
"And yet there are so many amazing, passionate, faithful supporters at Newlands!! We really appreciate your support!!!"
Gio Aplon, another Newlands favourite also had enough, posting the following tweet with a picture of Cape supporters in Crusaders gear.
“Thinking bout Mr Mandela in hospital & really wonder if he would be proud of this #fellowcountrymenabusingeachother”
“I Don't say they don't have the right to support who they want to.. But abusing your own people (fellow country men) ?? Is that on???”
Having been told more than once by New Zealand teams how they are privately embarrassed by the support they get from a certain section of the population, we wonder if Habana’s strategy isn’t perhaps the best one.
Everybody has the right to choose a team to support, but if that overflows into abuse and violence, it is just not on.
What a tosser
We enjoyed reading a story from the Community Cup, involving an American referee who chose to get a few weeks of work experience in South Africa.
He told us on sareferees.com that the following happened to him while refereeing a game in Rustenburg:
"I did the coin toss on the field for the SuperSport cameras. As I come off, a very large man by the name of Wally addressed me in Afrikaans. I told him I was from America and didn’t speak Afrikaans. He asked me what coin I was using for the toss and said I needed a proper coin to do coin tosses. He went to his car and returned with a South African five-shilling coin from 1948 (a beautiful coin of 80% pure silver, as I came to find out) and said: 'Here, you take care of this coin and use it in America.' I thought that was quite a remarkable thing to do for someone you had just met, and a nice start to the trip."
It shows you the rugby fraternity’s bond hasn’t died yet, in spite of those Cape Crusaders.
Our friends at the New Zealand Herald were at it again this week with their power rankings.
The rankings, written before the weekend’s matches, told the Stormers that “if they didn’t want to be seen as crap, then they shouldn’t be doing such a darn good impression of being crap” before rattling off this pearler about the Rebels chances against the Cheetahs.
“This lot know how to dig in under pressure and for the first time in their not so impressive history, the Cheetahs, who are forever handed the worst draw, return to Bloemfontein with more wins than losses. They have been handed just one small slice of fortune - they return home to face the Rebels which is about as scary as being confronted by the French Army. On that: what's the difference between toast and Frenchman? You can make soldiers out of toast."
Pot calling the kettle all black
Speaking of the Kiwis’ love of the French, we read an interesting story in the Herald on Sunday about New Zealanders bemoaning French clubs raiding the Pacific Islands in search of talent.
They are not happy seeing the tables turned.
"As I understand it, Clermont [leading French club] have set up an academy in Fiji," says NZRU chief executive Steve Tew. "I don't know the specifics. As I understand it, there is also an immigration agreement [between France and Pacific Island nations]. Clearly that is a significant opportunity for Pacific Island players. We have done all we can inside our own New Zealand franchises in terms of keeping a door open for them but we can only do so much because we have our own players as well."
"They [Pacific Island-qualified New Zealanders] probably are [more vulnerable to offshore offers] simply because of that [immigration agreement]," says NZRU chief executive Steve Tew.
"That is why we have identified the need to do a piece of work because it is not straight-forward. We will have to have the help of those communities themselves, whose knowledge and understanding is probably best."
Apart from raising the obvious question as to why the IRB is not protecting Pacific Island rugby, we must admit it was fun seeing the Kiwis getting a taste of their own medicine.
Finally, we simply wanted to send our condolences to former Hurricanes flanker Chris Eaton, whose wife Hannah passed away in an Easter car-accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the family.