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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Q&A with Gavin Rich and Brenden Nel

Our senior rugby correspondents Gavin Rich and Brenden Nel answered your rugby related questions on Friday.

The guys fielded questions which ranged from this weekend's Vodacom Super Rugby derby between the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls, to the performance of the South African under-20 team.

Thank you for taking the time to send Gavin and Brenden your questions, you can view the questions and answer below.

The question and answer session has closed.

Questions and answers
jeandre asked:
Brenden I''m a huge bulls fan but I''m scared the was way too much hype over this bulls vs reds game. The reds fielded a B team and I know the bulls work with momentum do you think this game could have given the bulls falls momentum and that we can see a upset from the stomers on newlands?
Brenden answered:
Jeandre, there has been a lot of hype and that will mean nothing come tomorrow. Both sides have good defenses but in these games it is the side that handles the pressure that will win. it will be close
Henry Hall asked:
Super Rugby has become monotonous - the tournament is far too long and the SA sides pay against each other far too much. It should be 2 pools of 8 teams each and then playoffs. Your thoughts?
Gavin Rich answered:
I agree it has been momentous so far, much better than I anticipated at the beginning. But I do think it should be played out over a shorter period, and while many games have had exciting endings, I do question the quality in that the attrition rate in the long competition is just so high and teams are seldom anything near full strength. You also get the feeling teams target specific games, which is why the Aussie teams have done better so far against Kiwi teams than we might have anticipated (eg Brumbies v Highalnders last week). So yes, two pools of eight teams and play-offs would appeal to me, but it won't appeal to organisers as Aussies need an extended competition.
louis asked:
hi guys
just 2 things
1 when are the no 9"s going to put the ball straight in to the scrum
2 When the hooker throw the ball in to a line out his feet are over the line –not behind the touch line –as we have been taught many moons ago
Brenden answered:
Louis, plain and simple answer to both your questions. It is part of the law, so should be reffed accordingly. Perhaps the answer lies in that refs have so much to look out for, they miss these things. Still, the assistant refs on the sidelines should help then.
Johann asked:
Hi Gavin & Brenden, great to chat again! It is fantastic to see our Super 15 teams performing on par with the NZ teams but what is a bit desturbing to me is the fact that although we see our juniors performing within these super 15 structures, our under 20 team has not won a title in 4 years! They have been beaten by either England, NZ or even France a couple of times? Please comment as to your take on this failure on our part!
Brenden answered:
Johann, at times our under-20 team hasn't been up to it physically as the New Zealand youngsters, especially amongst the backs are bigger and stronger. At times we've also prepared poorly. Hopefully with Brendan Venter there this year this will not be a negative.
Smith asked:
Elstadt or Etzebeth? Which one would you choose for the No.4 jersey of the Stormers?
Gavin Rich answered:
It's such a long time now since I saw Rynhardt play Super Rugby level that it is hard to say. I want to see him play again so he can remind me of what he can do. I did see him play Vodacom Cup, but that is a level down. Elstadtt does have the benefit of an extra year's experience, but Etzebeth is the more genuine lock. He is the better lineout option. Long term definiitely Etzebeth. Although we could well see him play No5 after Bekker, with Rynhardt or the equally impressive Quinn Roux (the Stormers have a lock factory churning them out at the moment) partnering him in the second row. I strongly suspect though that one of those players will end up at the Bulls one of these days...
Michael asked:
Hi guy’s thanks for the questions and answers, one question, is Pierre Spies really on form as everyone is thinking?
To me he isn’t doing anything extraordinary if one has a close look at his performances so far for me there are some questions marks he has a lot more to offer!
Maybe I’m too critical!
Gavin Rich answered:
Pierre definitely is back to his best but then he usually is very good when he gets mainly front foot ball and is going forward. It's when he is forced to play back and gets drawn into the physical game that he goes missing. But I've been impressed with his captaincy and maybe he will be good in those other areas too now that he knows he has to be the inspiration to those around him.
Andrew asked:
Guys, why does SA teams exit Sanzar and align ourselves with Euro comps? More money, less travel over time zones, we will win more games and our foreign based players keep more in touch with stronger SA comp? The only winners out of Sanzar are Aus!! And I hate the Wallabies!! Thoughts ?
Gavin Rich answered:
The world champions usually come from the southern hemisphere and I would want to be in the superior competition. I agree with Peter de Villiers' view that players came back to the Boks from nothern competitions often looking off the pace and short of a gallop. I know some of the franchise coaches also feel that players who arrive back from the north are often unconditioned, and the Sharks have had to work hard on the conditioning of Marius Joubert and Michalak. So in a nutshell - while I think Super Rugby is too long and quality will ultimately suffer, and maybe is already, I still think it is the superior comp and the one we should be part of.
ahmed asked:
firstly i would like to say kolisi and carr although very young and inexperienced are showing the sa sides the way forward at the breakdowns, i think these players should be given the licence to attack the opposition ball on the ground , let the big boys tackle and they go in and steal the ball, tis together with strong ball retention, should win stormers the game against the bulls what do you think?
Gavin Rich answered:
Well Carr isn't in the 22 but I agree with you that it's an important area.
Wayne "Croco" Thompson asked:
Hi Gavin/Brenden

The 2012 super rugby tournament has been mostly lacklustre thus far with a handful of impressive matches out of the entire lot. do you see the stormers winning the title when they not playing the best rugby of the conference and what do you honestly think is at fault for the cheetahs playing expansive rugby but still not winninig games. (I see the bulls vs stomers game being a overhyped average dissapointment)
Gavin Rich answered:
I know what you saying about Bulls/Stormers - it will probalby be an arm wrestle. But that doesn't matter when it comes to a big derby like this. I think the key in a situation like that is you have to be backing one of the teams and appreciating the games within the game, the battle for physical ascendancy etc, rather than watching it as if you are at Twickenham in May watching a Barbarians game. Agree with you about some lacklustre rugby but it has probably been less lacklustre than I thought it would be when I greeted the new year on 1 January.
Gustav Louw asked:
Hey Gavin

I Realy like the improvement in the Stormers pack and the Elstadt move to flank. What i dont understand is why Brok Harris still gets selected ahead of Malerbe? Frans is clearly much better. Whats your opinion? The rest of the pack looks awesome
Gavin Rich answered:
The Stormers coaches feel that Malherbe makes a bigger impact coming on than Brok Harris. Yes, the pack has been awesome so far ... but tomorrow is their first really big test. The sides they have played against so far have been badly depleted. At the same time, I also think the Stormers are the Bulls' first proper test for the same reason. So it makes for an interesting game.
Willie asked:
Hi guys,
I feel the absence of Francois Hougaard for the Bulls during the Blues match was instrumental in the outcome. He seems to give the side an attacking flair that was missing last year. I think he can do the same for the Boks. But Fourie''s looming return worries me. Your thoughts.
Gavin Rich answered:
I think as it is going to be a long international season both Hougaard and Du Preez can be used by the Boks. They offer different things, so there is awesome potential there. One worry I do have though is that while Du Preez has always been one of my favourite players, I got the impression during last year's World Cup that the old injury is worrying him. So I would want to see him play a few tough games before being sure he can still play at the required level.
Marinda asked:
Gavin - do you know when the HP manager of WP will be announced and who it might be? Also, for how long will Gary v Aswegen be out? Will he be ready for action once the team returns from overseas?
Gavin Rich answered:
I hear they had over 100 applicants so there is probably a bit of sifting they have to get through. I don't know who it will be - it's just an admin job really so it won't necessarily be a high profile job. Wouldn't be surprised if under-20 and Vodacom Cup coach John Dobson ends up doubling into the role. Gary will be back in four weeks. Gary van Aswegen that is.
J.Payne asked:
Hi is Stormers inclussion of Elstadt to counter the attacks of Spies.Spies is in very good form on the moment.
Gavin Rich answered:
They have two really inform bruising players available and that is what you need against the Bulls, so it is a horses for courses selection. Not related to Spies, though as we all know, Pierre is never as effective when his team goes backwards.
AJ asked:
OK, let''s get this one out of the way. Stormers or Bulls, and why?
Gavin Rich answered:
Stormers. The big thing about the Bulls has always been their physicality, the Stormers have the physicality now to negate that. The Stormers were forced to play a lot of their game going backwards last week, and they have shown they can do that. I am not so sure about the Bulls. If they don't have the momentum they may struggle. And at Newlands the crowd will be a factor. People forget that when the Stormers lost by three points to the Bulls there last year they were fielding their fourth or fifth choice flyhalf. They couldn't have played worse than they did that day, and there was still only three points in it. So I am going Stormers.
Jacques asked:
Hi Gavin

In this years competion it seems like a lot of penalties is been given in the scrums, sometimes I''m not sure why a penalty is given. Referees aren''t consistent when it comes to scrums. Will this play a role agin in the Bulls Stomers match?
Gavin Rich answered:
I would be surprised if it didn't.
Gazza asked:
Good day guys

What a weekend that lay ahead! I cant wait.

This is my assessment of Saturday''s game between the Bulls and the Stormers.

These teams are so evenly matched and there''s really nothing in it. However, I feel that with Stormers playing Elstadt at 7, they surely have sacrificed a bit of speed and potential high work rate amongst the Loose trio. This surely serves as an advantage for the Bulls.

Another point, due to AC actually playing Elstadt at 7 sends out a message to the Bulls that he potentially fears their forward pack and that he is too focussed on their game plan.

The moment you start worrying about what the opposition does and subsequently select your team to counter theirs, this already gives the Bulls some sort of psycological advantage going into Saturday while slightly disrupting their own team.

In 2009, they play Willem de Waal to counter the Bulls kicking game at Loftus (while Grant was clearlt first choice) and it didn''t work.

In 2010 final at Orlando, Schalk Burger was waiting deep (with fullback) to counter the kick and chase game and it didn''t work.

So what I''m trying to say is that Stormers should back their own game plan and that doesn''t seem to happen.

Based on this, I''m going for the Bulls by 4.

Stormers lineout should compete massively though... Will be interesting.

Would love to hear your thoughts.

Gavin Rich answered:
Elstadt is chosen to help the Stormers achieve dominance over the Bulls. I don't think they fear the Bulls pack, but they do have respect for the Bulls pack. Regarding a lot of your other points related to the kicking game, what happens on the highveld is not really relevant to a game being played at sea level, where the ball doesn't fly as far.
David berman asked:
How zit gav and brendon, can you rate the fly halves we have quite a few great ones , also can you talk to the new full backs we are seeing, and where do you think the kid will go ?
Gavin Rich answered:
Morne is playing his best rugby in quite a while, so I am interested to see how he goes tomorrow, particularly if the Bulls don't get the front foot ball they have been playing with recently. I think Lambie has been outstanding, but the kid who has really impressed me is Goosen. He doesn't just kick, he does everything. Pity about Elton's injury as he is key to the Lions' game plan.
Pieter asked:
Hi Gavin I hope you are well. My question is.
On fly half there is a lot young talent coming trough. Lambie, Goosen, Jantjies. How would you go about picking the springboks having world cup in mind.
In my mind and a lot of people will disagree with me but Morny is till my no. 1 because of his BMT.
All of the youngster are capable to be Springbok in my eyes and I would be unhappy if leave out Morny for the youngsters. The way I would go maybe is Lambie 15 Goosen 10 Jantjies on the bench.
Gavin Rich answered:
I have a feeling Heyneke will stick with Morne but I like your thinking. Goosen is special and if you're good enough you're old enough. But I would still like to see Pat get given a chance at flyhalf sometime.
Peter asked:
Hi Gavin and Brenden,the Stormers have no fetcher and dont contest the rucks,no wonder their possession count is so low.Secondly Robbie Fleck was one of the most innovative and attacking players we have produced,but on attack with all their name players the Stormers are woeful. Why? Please comment.
Brenden answered:
Peter, neither do the Bulls tomorrow. Defence has become such an important part of a game that the less you commit to the ruck the better, unless you can target turnovers of course. Rugby is all about manipulating defences until there is a gap, and both teams are good at that. I think the Stormers perhaps haven't found their perfect combinations on attack, but four games unbeaten wont make them have sleepless nights there.
Klasie van Zyl asked:
Who is the Referee for the Stormers/Bulls game on 31 March 2012?
Gavin Rich answered:
The world's No1, Craig Joubert.
Wes asked:
I see nearly every rugby pundit thinks the Stormers are going to win. I''m a supporter, but I really must disagree with you. My question though is do you think the Aussies and Kiwis are better conditioned than our lads? If so, do you think Meyer will change that?
Gavin Rich answered:
I think some of the South African teams are extremely well conditioned. Stormers in particular, but Bulls and Sharks too, and in fact if I think about it the other two teams too (can't imagine John Mitchell ever coaching a team that is not well conditioned). On subject of pundits going for a Stormers win, I don't think it is unanimous as you think - although I think they will win some of my other Cape colleagues such as Ashfak Mohamed of the Cape Times and Mark Keohane are predicting wins for the Bulls. Of course they are going to be proved VERY wrong, but they have gone for the Bulls...
Peter L''Estrange asked:
Your comments on scrum feed where the refs are not blowing. Do you not feel that the game would change for the better if the scrum was also contested as is the line out. The reason behind the refs NOT blowing is spelt out by the refs saying that the defending team have already put their defensive lines in place meaning that the teams determine how the LAWS are blown!! Ridiculous!! The laws are there- blow them.
Brenden answered:
Peter, it is an age-old argument. Refs want a good "flow" of the game and sometimes that overrules the whistle in their minds. But I agree ignoring rules doesnt help.
Gert Malan asked:
What kind of weather can we expect for tomorrow?
Gavin RIch answered:
It's been raining here past 12 hours but the prediction for tomorrow is same as it normally is in your neck of the woods in the Northern Cape - clear and calm.
Jacques asked:
Good Day

Will the Stomers be tested for the first time in the competition? And will they have the mental advantage not having lost one game so far?
Gavin Rich answered:
The Bulls seldom just don't pitch, so I would expect the Stormers to be subjected to their litmus test tomorrow. Although I have gone for a Stormers win, I have to also admit that we don't really know their capabilities as they have played mostly depleted teams and there isn't one game that they have won where you wouldn't expect them to win. This game is on more of a knife-edge. I don't think there is a mental advantage - if Victor etc were still in the Bulls side then it might be different, but the Stormers are the SA conference champions and they made the play-offs of both the big competitions last year whereas the Bulls didn't. The Bulls should be confident after their annihilation of the Reds, but then once they have their momentum up at Loftus it is a whole different ball game. Newlands is at sea level, the crowd intimidation factor will be behind the Stormers. I think the Stormers are quietly confident.
Craig asked:
Hi guys

Do you feel that the SupeRugby games this year have been so close because the teams are more even or because the rule-changes have restricted teams? Rucks are the problem right? I reckon a relative "free-for-all" at ruck time, which will drag more players in, to protect/contest the ball and thus making space out wide for more tries...
Brenden answered:
Craig, I think it is a bit of both. Rucks have been blown up strictly and this has increased the penalty count. The defenses have improved and the player movement, especially in New Zealand has benefitted sides. I like your idea, but dont think the IRB is going to fall for it, unfortunately.
Gert Malan asked:

One of the big talking points was the absence of a fetcher for both teams. Do you think Ralapele''s often under appreciated skills in this area will give the Bulls an edge tomorrow?
Brenden answered:
Gert, glad you've also seen it. Chiliboy has been one of the best fetchers in SA rugby this season and he certainly is making a play for the number two jersey in Green and Gold. Two sides to this and it comes down to who protects the ball better tomorrow. Still you can be assured Chili will have a crack at any untended ball.
stephan asked:
Im not being biased but i think if both,the bulls and stormers play to their full potential,the stormers should beat the bulls with something to spare.if u compare the positions the stormers are the superior outfit and couple that with home advantage,they should be favourites..that said,the bulls do have momentum,and thats something the stormers only had in patches sofar.Am i wrong thinking this?
Brenden answered:
Stephan, couple of arguements there, but the stormers are definitely favourites. As for comparing positions, that never works, because motivation is a keen factor in these games. The Bulls have surprised before and it will be close. Don't write them off yet.
Leon asked:
Hi guys
With all the talk about the outcome of games hinged around referee''s interpretation of the breakdown laws, do you think they will change their ways? Include the third referee more?
Brenden answered:
Leon, I think we're moving closer to a more open system of communication by referees to the public and the more we understand them the better we understand the game. I know there are trials planned for an explanded role for the TMO and can only see it as positive.
Walter asked:
I am full of confidence My Team will go onto the Field and give it their Best. May the Best team Win. O an Jeandre if you are truly a BULLS Supporter you won''t ask such a Question Go Bulls
Gavin Rich answered:
Probably not meant for me but just my tuppence worth - supporting your team doesn't mean you have to do so blindly.
Blake asked:
Hi Guys hope you are well.
Justa quick one, have noticed since the start of this year''s super rugby comp the ref''s haven''t been monitoring the half way line from a kick off perspective, there is atleast 4-7 p[layers past the line by quite some distance before the bill is even kicked. any thoughts on this?
Gavin Rich answered:
Hoo boy, looks like I am going to have to start wearing my reading glasses to watch tv as well. Haven't seen it, but then my eyesight is an issue at the moment (Bulls fans would probably tell you it's always been an issue...)
Theo Lutt asked:
what will your prediction scores be??
Gavin Rich answered:
I think the Sharks will win by... Oh, forgot, there's only one game taking place tomorrow - Stormers 23 - 15
Nyameko asked:
The build-up to the Stormers/Bulls game is so massive. Its as if a test match is going on this weekend. Is this healthy for the teams really?? A build-up like this in a provincial game used to happen in the isolation period.
Gavin Rich answered:
If the players want to play at this level they should embrace the challenge of being part of such a massive occasion. I am loving it. I woke up on the wrong side of bed on New Year's day and have been a bit grumpy but suddenly I am seeing positive things in the world again... Great, great, great, bring on the game!!!
CK asked:
Hey Brendan / Gavin.

How many more times are they going to put Craig Joubert in charge of a Stormers - Bulls game. This always seem to happen and the outcome is always in favour of the Bulls when it does. Just see this article: - It''s become a fact between friends that the Bulls never lose when Joubert blows the whistle, and since this game is gonna be tight, I wont be surprised if he doesnt have a say on the outcome again. How does he always end up with this game?
Brenden answered:
CK - Craig Joubert is widely acknowledged as the best ref in the world and the biggest game should get the top ranked ref. As for bias, I'm sorry but that is a bit of a joke. I'm sure if we analyse all those games we can have pros and cons for both teams. As for the Cape Argus article, they have lost their independence this season and have shown no balance in the debate. I wouldn't even entertain that drivel - Joubert is a fine ref, acknowledged across the world.
Tank asked:
How do you handle being objective about players and coaches, and being able to say negative things about them, yet maintaining a relationship with sadi players and coaches?

This Director of Rugby role is fast becoming the most controversial role in rugby. How would you structure a coaching team?
Brenden answered:
Tank, balance is the key. As long as the "negative" stuff isn't personal, and is based on fact, then there should never be a problem. A player knows when he has played badly. Plus there is a bigger picture, and both sides need to acknowledge they need each other. Being objective is seeing both sides and not looking blindly at one. I always laugh at some of the criticism because in Pretoria I'm seen as anti-bulls and outside pretoria pro-bulls. Strange stuff indeed. As for the director of rugby, any position that can add value and help the Springbok coach would always have my vote. The problem is that in the past, directors of rugby have been folks who actually want the bok job - at least those punted for it. It would need someone to understand the boundaries and stay within them.
Dorfling Terblanche asked:
Any thoughts on what the Bok squad should look like? We can do what England did and inject some youth in the team, and in four years we will have a fantastic squad.
Brenden answered:
Dorfling, way too early in the season mate. We do a Bok barometer every week in the SuperWrap, but its form based. To be honest, I don't see too many changes. Those still available will be in the mix, and Heyneke may add one or two rising stars. Heyneke has spoken of having a second squad - a rising stars squad, so to speak - training with the Boks and we might see that happening.
Jurie Schoeman asked:
Is it fair to say that if the Stormers truly believe they have the potential to win the tournament this year, a big game like this is a must win. The Crusaders in their previous invincibility ALMOST never lost in Christchurch neither did the Bulls when they were on their winning streak. I am a big Stormers supporter - according to me if the Stormers want to become a champion side like the Crusaders and Bulls once were, tomorrow should be a formality. The Stormers need to shake of the voodoos of the past if they want to become champions. What do you guys think?
Gavin Rich answered:
Hey, that's exactly it. I agree with you completely. In fact that might be the subject of my newspaper preview when I get down to writing it. Where the Stormers went wrong last year was their inability to win the big ones at home - Crusaders twice and Reds once - oh, and of course the Bulls. They need to show they can handle the pressure of the big occasion. I don't think the Bulls are as good as people think they are, and that being so, the Stormers have to win if they are to be confident about going all the way to the trophy.
Wayne Bell asked:
Why do Ireland not play sevens rugby?
Gavin Rich answered:
Don't they? Seems very Irish...

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