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Part 2 – England’s Backrow conundrum

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 (Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

The Eddie Jones era by general consensus has started well. The honeymoon period will end when England arrive in Australia and they take on Michael Cheika’s new and improved Wallaby side. In the meantime one of the biggest dilemmas facing Eddie Jones and his English team has to be his back row selection and combination. Ben Pegna looks at the conundrum in detail…

There are two significant factors that should influence the shape of this back row.

The first is England’s attack shape.

England’s attack like most of the worlds’ top teams is heavily reliant on second man plays or the block move with two lines of attack and a potential receiver in the front line of attack and a second potential receiver out the back – hence why they call it a second man play in the Southern Hemisphere and a Block in rugby league, where it originates from.

The front line of attack ensures that the opposing defensive line can’t press forward as aggressively as they would if they weren’t there, and the player with the ball, the distributor, selects his preferred option, pass to the player out the back in the second wave of runners so the attack can go wide and around the defence or to the front player in the first line of attack, to take the line on and try and hit a weak shoulder or punch a hole in the defence.

Teams will keep utilising this shape and attack strategy throughout a game until there is a numerical advantage and they ‘double up’ on a defender or until a defender that they choose to target makes an incorrect ‘defensive read’ or wrong decision, choosing to hinge in, shoot up out of the line or hold back.

The best teams, New Zealand obviously come to mind, have an ability to utilise this attack but they are not solely reliant upon it as a strategy to break down the defence.

They unlike the majority of the top professional teams use the individual skill of their players to try and evade and beat a defender and create a half break which will hopefully lead to a full clean line break, or at the least create a chink in the defence that support runners can exploit.

Without relying solely on this second man structure the Kiwis as individual ball carriers take on the line and attempt to beat the defender in front of them and then utilise support players running lines off them.

This inevitably means that their attack isn’t just always spread across the field as two lines – a front line and second line behind, and as a result they are able to make line breaks in the middle area of the field and not solely on the wider axis and in the wider channels of the field.

They present a multiple threat attack.

England on the other hand, have had an attack that for quite some time is primarily reliant on the rugby league Block shape and on these two attacking lines spread across the field.

This is primarily due to their inability to be able to take the defence on as individuals through some form of evasion – side stepping, attacking a weak shoulder etc.

In general England’s players don’t have a ‘duel’ with an opponent – where a player takes on and beats a man or at least creates a half-gap in the defence and then passes to a support player penetrating the hole that has been created by the first player’s side step and skill.

Billy Vunipola is the one large exception to this in the current England pack of forwards.

He is a player that can perform this role as the ball carrier on this narrow axis in the channels closer to the ruck.

In the main though the support is lacking to exploit this strategy or way of taking on the defensive line.

Instead the rest of England’s attack is spread across the field keeping width to their attack whilst they wait to use their 2nd man plays.

As a result, Vunipola has on most occasions no one to pass to after breaching the line, and he is tackled, and with no support running a line off him has to set up a ruck and England start the attack all over again.

Here’s the juxtaposition, England’s reliance on this attack shape and an attack spread across the field requires a mobile back row, one that can help the team retain the ball in the wider channels and allow the team to build momentum and pressure by ensuring the recycling speed of the ruck is fast. A backrow that contains balance and a genuine openside flanker, but England don’t play one.

If the back row contains players who in the main see themselves as ball carriers and it doesn’t contain players who have the mobility and most importantly the natural inclination to play to the ball and win the ball on the ground, then the team is immediately limited in the quick ball it can generate.

Furthermore, if the back row can’t fulfil this role and ensure quick recycled ball then the onus and responsibility is greater on the back line players to win the ball near them and to help create quick ball.

This lack of support by the back row in these wider channels means that the team’s better runners with the ball in hand are not being properly utilised in performing their primary roles. Instead the likes of Jonathan Joseph and Anthony Watson, are being utilised to clear more rucks and secure the ball than they are to run with the ball and beat defenders and do what they are excellent at, and were selected for.

To redress this balance and free up other players, England’s back row needs to have a player who has a natural inclination to play to the ball, a Fetcher in South African terminology, a good old openside flanker, who prides himself on always being 1 metre away from the ball and who knows his primary role is the dark arts at the bottom of the ruck.

This need for a genuine openside flanker is further reinforced by England’s reliance on a rucking game, the ball is rarely kept off the ground.

This is seen across all parts of the park but especially when the ball is moved wide via the use of 2nd man plays and the ball carrier is tackled, there is no deep support behind the ball carrier for a pass to be made, and the ball inevitably ends up on the ground and a ruck is created – a breakdown of the attack.

Perhaps under Eddie Jones England will evolve their attack and look to pass more often and keep the ball alive but at present in the main rucks are created.

Going to ground and recycling the ball through phases is deemed to build pressure and to be the higher percentage less risky option, preferable to attempting to make a pass.

However, every time the tackled player goes to ground the laws of the game instruct the ball carrier to release the ball, and this creates and permits a contest for possession of the ball.

When England play Australia this summer, Australia will have at least one genuine openside flanker on the field, and perhaps two.

In David Pocock they probably have the best in the business post Richie McCaw’s retirement, and they could have Michael Hooper on the field alongside him or perhaps one of the other brilliant openside flankers Liam Gill, Matt Hodgson and Sean McMahon who have all shown excellent form so far this season for their respective Super Rugby franchises.

England’s conservative reliance on ruck ball, borne from a fear of losing the ball actually ironically provides plenty of opportunities for these excellent ruck exponents to compete to win possession when the ball is released by the English tackled player on the ground.

This way of playing further highlights the necessity for England to select a genuine openside flanker to battle on the ground for the ball at the rucks that are currently central to England’s play.

To create a game based on playing in wide channels with a gameplan that is dependent on going to ground and creating rucks, and then selecting a back row without an openside flanker against a team with two openside flankers – Pocock and Hooper or Gill will at best challenge England sternly and at worst put a serious dent in their progress.

How Eddie Jones chooses to address this lack of balance in the England back row especially in his own back yard in Australia on harder pitches with conditions suited to quicker rugby will be very interesting to see.

You get the feeling the back row at present is makeshift and there will be significant changes taking place soon.

It would be excellent to see the 19 years old Ospreys openside flanker Sam Underhill making the tour and getting an opportunity to start.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Maro Itoje get game time at blindside flanker, fulfilling a role similar to that of Scott Fardy the hardworking Australian number 6.

Both Scott Fardy and Maro Itoje are surprisingly good over the ball for such tall men, play similarly and have outstanding work rates.

A back row of Maro Itoje at 6, Sam Underhill at 7 and Billy Vunipola at 8 would be very exciting to see. It would offer work rate on defence and attack, ball carrying and linking ability and crucially that ability to secure and maintain possession at ruck time. Critics might point to the fewer lineout options this combination offers with the shorter Underhill and the heavier Vunipola and this would strengthen the case for Jack Clifford’s inclusion at 7.

Maro Itoje’s inclusion at 6 would allow space for the inclusion of Joe Launchbury or Courtney Lawes to stake a claim in the second row alongside George Kruis, although Lawes himself has been playing for Northampton at 6 lately.

In the meantime, James Haskell and also Chris Robshaw I am sure, will have something to say about all of this!

Over to you Eddie.

Opinion: SA A side for Saxons clash?

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The SA A side has arrived on the scene once again for South Africa and I have decided to have a look at the potential players that have a great shot at getting a call up, writes Benedict Chanakira.

BC Pport

I will look at the potential 30 man squad with players in consideration being potential Springboks in the future or players that have been capped before and likely to be outside the frame at the moment.

The SA A side enhances the player depth in the country, will get players prepared for test rugby and will show a clear hierarchy in who will likely get a call up to the Springboks should there be an injury- clear pecking order. The opponents this summer will be the England Saxons who are a strong outfit and are full of talent. It is believed that Exeter’s Ali Hepher is to take charge of the tour side.

From this appointment expect a brand of running rugby and an attack minded approach from the Saxons this summer. Johann Ackermann is in the frame to possibly take charge of the SA A side, however this is mere speculation and it could end up being someone else. The idea of Johann Ackermann possibly taking charge of the side would be a master stroke and will allow him the man to work with players he may possibly inherit if he becomes the next Springbok coach. This role opens the opportunity for SA Rugby to have a possible succession plan when the current coach moves on.

This will be the Springbok side for the June Tests I would expect bar any injuries. Due to the fact it could be the swan song for some players and some key cover for senior personnel. The side may not be the form squad but there is a slim chance that will see Allister Coetzee making wholesale changes in his first squad. Recently all new coaches have maintained the core of the previous squad and would expect the same from Allister Coetzee.

Likely Springbok squad?

Both prop positions are well covered and I would be surprised to see Jannie du Plessis called up. Coenie Oosthuizen will be swapped out for Julian Redelinghuys. Props: Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Frans Malherbe, Marcel van der Merwe, Julian Redelinghuys

Will Bismarck du Plessis and Schalk Brits be called up? Both have been fantastic and will play in the respective European Cup finals in the next few weeks. I will go with Hookers: Malcolm Marx, Adriaan Strauss, Scarra Ntubeni

These are the best lock forward options for SA at the moment and they deserve to face the Irish. Locks; Lood de Jager, Pieter Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert

Loose Forwards; Duane Vermeulen, Francios Louw, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Lappies Labuschagne

Half backs; Faf de Klerk, Rudy Paige, Ruan Pienaar, Elton Jantjes, Pat Lambie

Centres; Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel, Juan de Jongh, Lionel Mapoe, Damian de Allende

I just have to go with Ruan Combrinck in the Springbok side. By far the best winger in the country. The rest are in form and players who will be in the mix of the Springbok coach. Outside backs; Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen, Ruan Combrinck, Willie le Roux

SA A side:

Three loose heads and two tight heads that’s the battle with Charles Marais and Dylan Smith as who would be the best while young Lizo is not far off. Jacques van Rooyen looked solid against the Stormers and is more than capable in anchoring a scrum, with Vincent Koch that needs no introduction. Props: Dylan Smith, Lizo Gqoboka, Jacques van Rooyen, Vincent Koch, Charles Marais

Excellent hookers around the park and will find it useful if they improve their line out throwing. It is paramount players improve on their core roles as players. Hookers: Edgar Marutlulle, Bongi Mbonami, Armand van der Merwe

The young Bulls duo have been head and shoulders above the rest of the locks in contention for the SA A side. They are joined by the under-rated Lions lock Andries Ferreira who has quietly been at work in the Lions engine room. Despite one of the worst line out systems in the competition it was a tussle between John Astle and young JD Schickerling for me in the final lock slot and the young Stormers youngster has been impressive in the air on the Stormers ball and opposition ball. Add his ability around the park. Locks: RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, JD Schickerling, Andries Ferreira

This is the most difficult category to select. So many loose forwards have been in superb form. I have decided to go with two open siders who will play close to the ball. In CJ Velleman and Chris Cloete are the best in the business while heir prowess with ball in hand and defending is also worth commending. However, I have dropped Cloete for Carr who is more versatile and is just as a threat at the breakdown. Warwick Tecklenburg, Jannes Kirsten and Sikhumbuzo Notshe are the best blindsides in my view. They carry with a lot more purpose and are open to adding a pass to their game. This leaves Uzair Cassiem behind. Only just. Considering the average metres made per carry, turnovers, tackle percentage and potential effectiveness at the set piece. Loose Forwards: Sikhumbuzo Notshe, CJ Velleman, Jannes Kirsten, Warwick Tecklenburg, Nizaam Carr, Philip van der Walt

Cronje started a couple of games for the Lions and excelled. His game management and passing is quality. Groom and Reinach will offer much needed competition with Reinach still far from displaying the quality he displayed when he broke onto the scene. It could have been tempting to throw young Jean Luc du Plessis into the Springbok side but it seems too early and would be good to see him battle it out with Garth April for the 10 SA A jumper. Half backs: Ross Cronje, Nic Groom, Cobus Reinach, Jean Luc du Plessis, Garth April

Over the last two season Francois Venter has been one of the best midfielders in South Africa. I would not be surprised if he would end up at the Sharks one day. Howard Mnisi and Janse van Rensburg also make the squad. My only reservations is that Rohan harbours an indifferent tackling return. The Sharks duo also make the squad. Unfortunate call goes to Shane Gates. Centres: Francois Venter, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Howard Mnisi, Paul Jordaan, Andre Esterhuizen

Young, energetic and prolific. The future of the Springboks’ outside backs. Some of these players in form would easily make the Springbok side and would love to see them walk into that side. I feel Travis Ismaiel is the best of the bunch. Under rated and a serious threat. Outside Backs: Sergeal Petersen, Jamba Ulengo, Courtnall Skosan, Travis Ismaiel, Warrick Gelant

 Who makes your SA A squad?

Playing smart and some advice for the Beast

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SARugby Player profile

Passing and how the forwards take up the ball- the art of passing. Either players in South Africa have been instructed not to pass or they find the art pointless is debateable. Countless times this weekend players and more worryingly midfielders (12 & 13) have the option to pass when there are players on the outside but instead looking to take the contact and bump off the man.

This is an ancient way of playing the game. Attacking the man instead of space has also proven to be another trend within our game. The most expansive centres for the South African franchise belonged to the Bulls duo of Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel this weekend. A very big improvement from the duo who have seldom pass in the previous 6 rounds.

Both had a combined total of 13 passes and three offloads. In comparison to a Rene Ranger for example who made a mammoth 15 passes on his own.

Majority of the South African centres will not throw the ball often instead looking to hit it up every time and this makes it easier to defend. When the majority of players have the ball tucked in their options are limited to an audacious ‘out the back door’ pass to hitting it up.

Strength and brains could be a formidable combination if some of our midfielders or loose forwards attempted it. Watching the Stormers game could have left a few Stormers fans frustrated in how John ben Kotze blew two try scoring opportunities by tucking the ball in and taking contact instead of passing. The pass requires timing and thought. A skill we need to make more use of. Loose forwards always taking it up leaves the defence with so little to do.

When forwards are in a stagnant position and receive the ball with no momentum. The reliance to make it over the gain line is lowered. Imagine the difference when a forward comes at pace, taking the ball up with momentum into space. What would prove more efficient for a side moving forward? The tweaking of small things could improve the South African side’s attacks massively. What we saw from some of the sides this weekend, while marginally effective was a trademark of stone-age rugby.

Be smart- The officiating of Angus Gardner will leave a lot to be desired and it will be yet another puzzling official in not just round 7 but in the entire tournament. Over the years one has seen how great captains have handled matches and interaction with referees. Richie McCaw, John Smit and Jean de Villiers some of the best in my era.

The conduct of Sharks captain Tendai Mtawarira was not acceptable. The frustration was evident. The Sharks lost key player Marcel Coetzee, they got penalised at a rate of knots at the scrum and their general standard of play was below average. In fact it was poor.

The Sharks looked like a side that was already off on tour. It will be an uphill from here for the men in black and white to make the play offs.

Beast was at the tip of his boiling point and like his coach a few weeks ago was having another argument with the official. A referee in this occasion who also got frustrated. It was very frustrating for the Beast. His choice of words though not offensive managed to lack any respect for the official and in some perspective cost the Sharks 50/50 calls.

The Springbok loose head muttering ‘….it’s not fair….’ in the middle of several arguments with Gardner.  The Sharks camp may be feeling frustrated with the recent officiating in the last few weeks.

A Springbok with over 100 games for the Sharks should know better. Young players are watching and they will follow in their role models’ example. If he was to throw around his toys in that manner. There will be no respect shown to referees in our future generations.

Yes, they are some poor calls from the officials but rugby must maintain its standards of respect. The game can’t become like football otherwise it will spiral to an abyss of no return.

Considering Gary Gold just got punished for his lack of respect towards the officials. It was as if the Sharks as a group did not learn from the incident. A captain must keep his cool, even in the heat of the battle. When he loses it, the side will end up in no man’s land.

The Lions reborn…

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In 2009 when the Springboks were busy with the British & Irish Lions Tour, something else was happening at Ellis Park, the Jake White-Winning Ways team was conducting an audit, writes Benedict Chanakira

This was by far the best of all the Lions stories I have read when looking back. SA Rugby magazine managed to publish an article by Grant Ball titled; ‘Restoring the Pride.’ It was factual and painted as ugly a picture as you would think of. The Lions had two Springboks the, Earl Rose (never capped) and Jaque Fourie.

The rest of the squad was below average and not one player managed to pass the standard fitness tests. The Union has gone through the Robert Gumede purchase, the promotion/relegation, losing most of their star players and so many darker, hellish times. They have resurrected from a point of death, instead of lying down and remaining another Union that has died, the Lions are now the blue print South Africa will have to follow into the future.

It was not a once off, it was not just a system that worked in the Currie Cup that is watered down, the Lions have started Super Rugby well, they may not be perfect and there will be a rough patch in the near future like all teams will face but one has just got to feel they have something tasty cooking.

What must be noted is that they have played with an adventure, a confidence and a trust in their ability. The Lions have almost the perfect balance and despite their reluctance to employ the kicking game fully, they possess enough to win games. The Lions looks in great depth and that is with a squad filled with rejects, slow developers and small names other Unions never looked at.

They have decent depth in the important positions, their fans may worry that they have youthful, inexperienced talent in most of the squad but this year it looks like two or three injuries will not hamper their rise. They will not go unbeaten but they look like they will be challenging.

They have given youth a belief that if you train hard enough, have the talent you will get your opportunity. The Lions defence has held out to get the result required.

A bonus point in Tokyo and a win in Hamilton, two historic wins in a row. They may need to look at how effective there defensive lines are set up and how quickly they reorganize. The Lions backs have slipped a couple of tackles and it has proven costly in the game in Hamilton with at least two tries a direct result. A side with heart, hits the rucks and maintains a success percentage of over 90 and is aggressive at the breakdown.

They have managed to score the second most tries in the tournament and they are also among the top runners in the tournament. Their backs and forwards are so good their evasive skills and power have allowed them to beat defenders at will.

Jaco Kriel the top contributor with 10 defenders beaten and the Lions attack is definitely the first area South Africa copy. At 10 in particular they have players who are willing to distribute, run the ball and create space for those around him. The Lions being the only Union in the country with two Springbok fly-halves in their ranks.

Elton Jantjes may need to revise his kicking technic with some routine kicks missed but it is early in the season. They will improve and they will definitely be among the chosen 8 at the end of the season.

The Lions have combined a pack of forwards with speed, brute strength and scrummaging finesse and look out because here comes the Lions….

Rugby- A hooligan’s game filling up with hooligans

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Rugby

A hooligan’s game, played by gentle man. I have no dispute on how great rugby can be and is. When compared to football and the petty issues that surround all the other sports one gets the impression rugby is all but a heavenly game.

For South Africa once a long time ago Nelson Mandela alongside the great Springbok class of 1995 managed to unite over 40 million to form one rainbow nation.

The 2015 Rugby World Cup was at hand to deliver stories that warmed many a heart and none more so than the stories of Lood de Jager respecting referee Nigel Owen (inset above), Sonny Bill Williams giving his winners medal away to a youngster and who will forget the role Beauden Barrett played after he went for a trim at the hair dressers?

Such acts of class surpass rugby from most sports but maybe it’s also time we realised not all things in rugby are a joy to the eye.

The game has some ugly side which we are quick to ignore. South Africa in particular continue to be haunted and subjected to the dark side and 2016 will be a new year and it will start under a rather dark cloud.

The next Springbok coach is still not appointed and could well be appointed in the next three or four weeks. The question remains who will have the honour of leading the Boks for the next four years? Allister Coetzee is the front runner and there is talk that they will engage him after the Japanese league has been concluded.

The Quarter Final stage was completed this weekend and it will be important for SARU to create a system that plots the pathway for not just the next coach but how players are integrated in the system. At the moment there is a clear lack of trust and belief between the players, national coaches and systems.

Marriage divorce rates have increased over the years, however the marriage between sport and politics will never come close to a split.

Such are the levels in South Africa that John Mitchell’s departure from South Africa was due to murmurs becoming a loud voice from SARU President who said he and Lions Rugby president advised Theo Wakefield against hiring him.

Now I have no issue with referencing (at any job you need those) but it is surprising when the President of the Union interferes in the selection of a coach and holds a grudge from charges laid and later acquitted and cleared over 3 years ago.

Factor in the fact that politicians are more and more influential and are meddling in sport. Looking to fast track agendas in a façade to drive some form care and love for the game that doesn’t exist.

Could this be the reason PdV can’t find a coaching job other than at a tier 2 university? Apart from his inability to control his mouth and spout statements that border insults and conspiracy theories? This has mafia traits all over it.

Expecting more drama around the coach selection for the national side come the next few weeks, among the aggressive drive to transform teams as the pressure to meet what looks like unreasonable targets come 2019.

Honesty, respect transparency are non-existent in most rugby organizations. Rugby as we used to know it is changing. It is becoming a money game, forget the quality. Expansion of Super Rugby is a prime example as the quality is considerably lower and lower as the years go by and the number of teams continue to increase.

Add to the inclusion of the Southern Kings a Union surrounded with not just corruption but also controversy from race issues to financial Armageddon. It’s when people watch this that they realise the dark side of the beautiful game.

Rugby is continuing to go south! It is no more just the gentleman’s, unifying game. It has become a game that is all about the money the administrators have their hands on. The true love for the game is dying. The men who have interest in the game are being side-lined as the desire for change remains ignored. Integrity will always be in question, as teams are not even able to put their best XV’s out on the park.

Rugby has become a different game and 2016 will prove to be no different. The game we love is taking a sharp spiral down-hill. I urge you to enjoy the game as it is, for as long as you can. Soon it will be all but a memory of what it used to be.

BC

By:Benedict Chanakira

 

 

 

It’s just the first game – England

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It was not the start many expected.  Neutrals were left on the edges of their seats while the home side’s fans looked pretentious.  Fiji started erratically with Ben VolaVola knocking on a simple kick from George Ford. The England scrum looked shaky with the Fijian set piece impressive, especially after a double shove saw the Islanders get a tight head.

England won the battle and credit must go to Fiji for their attitude on defence, dedication and fight. There were glimpses of brilliance from the character and determination seen at the end to the composure to execute. The England bench was  impressive as they brought impetus and aggression.  Billy Vunipola the chief as he carried like a possessed man, Owen Farrell with a quality offload and composed kicked and Wigglesworth brought on a decisive, energetic approach at the base.

Test matches are never easy and Fiji showed why they will always be a threat with  ball in hand.  Despite an impressive show,  the same problems still linger for the Islanders : fitness,  discipline and structure. A major reason why they will never fulfil their full potential. Their work at the breakdown however highlighted a potential weakness and an are Australia and Wale  will target as they won 11 turnovers .

Unless addressed the home side could be in a spot of bother . While the murmurs of pool stage exit are premature and a bit over stretched England need to get better if they will be a force on this tournament.  While their defence has shown brilliance their penalty count remains high as Well. What looked good was their kick and chase game as well as the ability to vary their attack. Despite Ford fading as the game went on the English can take a lot of positives from this game.

Jonathan Josephs, Anthony Watson and Jonny May displayed glimpses but Mike Brown was world class.  Six line breaks,  two tries which included  England’s 100th under Stuart Lancaster and over 175 metres gained. As if his aerial exploits were not enough,  England’s Brown spear headed their start.

Watson’s battle with Nemani Nadolo was epitomized by two high ball duels that resulted in the Fijian being robbed in the air, and the English man being beaten as the Fijian scored the sole try in the corner. Nadolo was the more threatening of the two, but Watson can be commended for handling the Crusaders flyer.

With the match officials already off to an impressive start, rugby fans need to be prepared for constant interruptions, dodgy calls and the odd contentious call when a lot is at stake for a team. Teams will need to watch two areas of their play, discipline on and off the ball and defence.

World Cups aren’t won on the e first game, but they also aren’t won by performances like yesterday’s. The nerves, the butterflies, first game expectations and  the occasion have been reasonably  weathered. With no injuries reported, lots to work on England are set to deliver a better showing. Next up for the hosts is a battle against the Welsh who will have taken five points as well against lowly Uruguay!

 

 

Wallabies in World XV squad to face Japan

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Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images
Photograph: Chris Hyde/Getty Images

 

Australia will have a number of their players playing a key role in their match fitness by being part of a fixture against the Japanese onnSaturday August 15 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground in Tokyo. One will be wondering if it wasn’t possible to rope in some of the Springbok players who are not having any shot at game time. This is an opportunity to remind the coaches what they are capable of but to also allow themselves to be sharp should they get a call at the World Cup. The Japanese will get a good workout from the World XV. The will probably come short considering the quality they face.

Backs include :

Dom Shipperley (Rebels)
Ben Tapuai (Western Force)

James O’Connor (Reds)
Luke Burgess (Rebels)
Nick Cummins (Western Force)
Mike Harris (Rebels)
Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies)
Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs)

Forwards

Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
Liam Gill (Reds)
Luke Jones (Rebels)
Tolu Latu (Waratahs)
Sean McMahon (Rebels)
Benn Robinson (Waratahs)

Think about this, the Wallabies will effectively have 37 of their players playing this weekend. While there is a contrast to the oppositions there is a valuable aspect here- game time. Hope to have two great games of footy involving the aussies.

The clock is ticking…

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The deciding week in the Rugby Championship. South Africa will go into the last test having all but secured third spot on the log unless they succumb to a shock loss. Will Pieter-Steph du toit feature in the fourth game with the former Sharks lock having managed to get a few minutes against the Lions in the warm up game. The giant lock was impressive, dominant at lineout time, solid in defense and had a great break to cap off a decent night on the park. One has to hope he will feature for the Springboks and manage to get the same chance as Lood de jager had (missed most of the rugby this year but managed to step up in a Test match) and take it. The match against Argentina will be an opportunity for Meyer to have a look at several more options and it would be even better to try out some combinations. Will Jean de Villiers get the opportunity to win back his jumper? Had the skipper been fit the Springboks would not have been privileged to have Damien and Jesse in the midfield. That in itself is a positive from a fan’s perspective. His injury that is. What I do know is that Jean’s leadership will be the most important asset the Springboks get this week. It will be time for the skipper to prove the doubters wrong and step up to the plate; question is for who? Jan Serfontein is also believed to be recovered and all of a sudden Meyer has the difficult task of picking not just a squad but a best XV.

Argentina will present a physical onslaught and will require the very best from our player; our forwards more so. With Jannie and Francois Louw it will be an opportunity for several players to get a shot at the 31 man squad.

 

It is also expected Fourie du Preez and Willem Alberts more importantly will be back and a decision whether they will feature will be made later in the week. They are likely to receive much needed game time as they look to be ready for the England show piece. All hopes of the Springboks final showing will be on the shoulders of the returning stars. Argentina will not only be two dead rubber tests but they will tell Bok fans where exactly they stand with the World Cup on the horizon. The Springboks have managed to improve every game this year but it’s not good enough to dominate games over 60 minutes only. Goodness, even Wales have managed to perfect that art. They have managed to dominate against every powerhouse side but still lost. At the end of the day it counts for nothing! The next two weeks will be pivotal for all four nations. It will be the performance that is needed for Argentina and South Africa while Australia and New Zealand will be aiming for the crown. Will New Zealand be able to make it 19 from 21 win in the Rugby Championship? Will they claim every Rugby Championship title since its inception?

A funny story in somewhat has popped out of the New Zealand camp with the All Blacks looking to take their innovation levels to a new level by taking two half backs only to the world Cup. That would mean, take Aaron Smith and TJ Perenara and have Colin Slade cover the third slot. Why? Steve believes it could allow the All Blacks to take more back line options to the World Cup. This is something the men in black are considering, it looks like they were impressed by the Highlanders five-eighth Lima Sopoaga. Only time will tell if Colin Slade will actually be considered an option in this position. With Hooper cleared to face the All Blacks it will be an interesting match this weekend. It would also good be good to see the All Blacks give Beauden Barrett a run at Fly half and they could also throw in Patrick Osborne into the cauldron with the persistent injury to Cory Jane. With Steve Hansen believed to be willing to gamble on Nehe Milner-Skudder who was battling with a rib injury in one of the two tests against Australia. The All blacks are looking solid going into the World Cup and have the most balanced and assured side.

Australia may need to work on several aspects of their game such as their kickers who all have been shocking. The Australian scrum has improved but it will not worry their Pool A opponents who will see some creeks in that pack. A positive for the Wallabies will be the return of Kane Douglas. They are in desperate need of second row reinforcement as they will likely call on James Horwill this weekend with the injury to Rob Simmons.  The countdown to Rugby World Cup 2015 continues, and there will be a lot more questions answered in the next few weeks.

Wallabies change seven!

6

Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images
Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

 

The Wallabies have managed to make seven changes to the side that beat the Springboks in the last minute of play. Michael Hooper finds himself on the bench with Zimbabwean-born David Pocock moving into the starting side. Matt Toomua also comes in for the absent Matt Giteau.

Greg Holmes gets a rare start, with Scott Higginbotham dropping out of the side. Will Genia is injured so there will be Nick Phibbs at nine, while Nic White is the replacement. Foley finally returns taking the spot of not so convincing Quade Cooper. The pivot will offer a better all round kicking option which will help the Aussies in Argentina.

 

Australia – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 James Slipper.
Subs: 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Dean Mumm, 20 Michael Hooper, 21 Nic White, 22 Quade Cooper, 23 Kurtley Beale.

Schalk or Kriel?

22

Look at the stats and the answer is clear.

Jaco-Kriel-268x300

So I hear many folks saying that “on form” Schalk Burger certainly deserves a call up to the Bok squad… but why look at “on form”… I mean.. what determines who is “on form” and who not.

So in order to determine who is “on form” let us look at the stats and see if Schalk Burger even features and how he compares with other runners like Warren Whiteley, Warwick Tecklenburg and Boom Prinsloo… new guys who have few or no caps.

Now I know that it is easy to look at overall stats and say that Warren Whiteley is the top tackler with over 200, but he’s also played the season in every game. How about we do some long division (That is wiskunde) and look at stats for average in matches.

If we use the main things expected of the modern day open side flank (being that he needs to be a ball hunter). But one thing our Brendon stole from Heyneke Meyer is the requirement that loose forward players need to be all rounders. Well let’s look at those major stats for loosies. Meters gained, meters run, tackles per match, turnovers won and the opensider’s old nemesis, penalties conceded at breakdowns.

Meters made per match

1. Kriel – 52,7 meters gained per match

2. Duane Vermeulen – 38,39 meters

3. Schalk Burger – 27,06 meters

Players beaten per match

1. Kriel – 3,70*

2. Vermeulen – 1,23

3. Burger – 0,96

Clean breaks per match

1. Kriel – 0,84

2. Burger – 0,37

3. Duane – 0,28

Turnovers won in the series as a whole

1. Liam Gill – 26

2. David Pocock – 23

3. Jaco Kriel – 22**

In the last two seasons Kriel has made 412 tackles missing the sum total of just eleven… for tackles missed percntage of just on 0,25%…

It remains to be seen whether Heyneke Meyer will rely on his Class of Bulls 2007 and jake White veterans… but if one looks at these statistics, selecting Schalk Burger over Jaco Kriel into the Bok side has to be a sentimental rather than rational selection.

 

* Kriel beat 44 players in the series. This is sixth on the overall log of players beaten. Given he missed a number of matches and was initially a second choice players. This places him ahead of Ben Smith the All Black full back.

** Out of the top ten ball stealers Kriel rates as the lowest for penalties conceded at breakdowns which will be vital in RWC.

# article adapted from an English one on http://www.rugbyworld.com by Russ Petty and using Opta Stats statistics system

Dok Danie Craven se kroegstorie

6

Dok Danie Craven – hy sou Saterdag verjaar het – was geen drinker nie, maar daar was tog die dag toe hy die hoteleienaar gedwing het om ‘n kroeg oop te stel.

Absa Currie Cup Round 3 Preview

3

We have a look at this weekends Currie Cup fixtures and squads

ABSA Currie Cup
ABSA Currie Cup

Preview : South Africa vs Argentina

4

The Springboks kick of their 2014 Castle Rugby Championship campaign with a fixture against the Pumas at Loftus Versveld Pretoria by Clayton Saville

Springboks vs Pumas

Absa Currie Cup Round 2 Previews

3

Its round 2 of the 2014 instalment if the Absa Currie Cup and we give you all the lineups and our thoughts – By Clayton Saville

Xerox Golden Lions
Xerox Golden Lions

Locals in Japan

10

Twitterite and RW commentator Sackey has been following our local stars in Japan and gives us a lowdown on what is happening to our boys there.

japon.png

 

 

 

 

 

 

The EOYT and what we can expect

5

Benedict Chanakira gives us his previews on our opponents in the EOYT.

Benedict

 

 

Border Rugby Part 2 – a visit and the future

4

Benedict Chanakira visits the East London sides and gives his views.

Benedict

Border Rugby – its future and past Part 1

29

Our new columnist Benedict Chanakira takes a look at Border’s past with a view to the future.

Benedict

 

 

Can talent alone beat Scotland?

53

Ruggaworld this week is privileged to speak to what is becoming a growing phenomena in the world of rugby: a female rugby nutter! We love hearing from fans of the game and this week we speak to Elaine McAllister from Scotland:

Scotland the Brave
Scotland the Brave

Elaine’s is a great twitter account to follow @Elamay99 so please do not hesitate to follow her. But first:

1) Its refreshing to hear a woman talk so passionately about the game and Scottish Rugby in particular. Where has your love for the game been fostered?

I have always been involved in sports however rugby was not the most prominent activity in the area I grew up.  It was really when I was completing my undergraduate degree in Aberdeen that I started going along to the prem 1 games for fun and from that I developed my real passion for the sport, it is now a hugely important to me and I am very glad that I made that decision on one beautiful sunny afternoon.  It is everything about the sport that really resonates with me, the tactics, the physicality, the environment, the fans, it has become my family and having this passion gives me the opportunity to make new friends all around the world because the rugby family are a very special bunch J Interesting that you should mention the fact I am a woman though because I have never seen myself as being separate from any other fan. I feel, in Europe anyway, that there are an equal number of women to men. I have travelled to games, both in the rabo and international, independently and have never felt like I was walking into a male dominated arena.  Actually I would happily say, particularly international matches, it is more about families than gender.  I think the SRU and the clubs themselves make rugby very accessible to everyone.

2) Allan Solomons is but one of the many exciting new acquisitions of Edinburg Rugby this season. Are you guys finally gunning for silverware?

Alan Solomans seems to have his head screwed on; I am excited to see how this new coaching team comes together and which direction they are going to take the team. I am happy to have Solomans on board this year, apprehensively though, as huge promises have been made before so I will hold back on the full emotional commitment until the bright lights have settled a little.  Are we gunning for silverware, one day, but not this year. I think we, as fans deserve a solid consistent performance year and personally I would rather go to the rugby every week and see a team that I want to support, the fancy baubles can come later.  I think the boys need that as well getting a solid team with everyone to the same level playing and the same type of game everything else will come naturally after that.

3) You tweet often about the Heineken Cup and your concerns that its being strangled out of existence by England and France. Why is this competition so important to Scottish rugby and perhaps European rugby in general?

Hahahahaha… yes I do feel very passionately about so I occasionally send a tweet or two. The Heineken cup and Amlin cups are wonderful tournaments that have seen me travel throughout Europe to follow my team, and what really frustrates me is that England and France pulling out is, in my opinion, financially based.  The Aviva and Top 14 represent a single, individual rugby union each, both looking to increase their share of tickets, broadcast right etc by having more teams in the tournament however their justification is the it’s not representative given that the Rabo doesn’t have a relegation, besides the fact that there would be no where for these professional teams to go as the Rabo countries are not littered with Semi-Professional teams, unlike England and France, the issue is that they seem unable to see beyond the domestic leagues.  The Heineken cup is a European cup, and as such it is the Unions which are represented by their professional teams it is not a domestic league competition, England and France choose to use their domestic league to select who goes through to the Heineken but Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Italy are unable to do this as all their professional teams play in the same league, our domestic league is already an international league.

4) The match between the Boks and Scotland was a close affair last year. We particularly remember the beautiful try you guys scored from a line-out set piece. Would you say this year will be even closer or has the Boks since edge ahead in your opinion?

Yup I remember that game very well, it was perhaps a little unfair to lose that game, I genuinely believe we have a chance of claiming this win.  If we smarten up our act a little and not give away so many penalties, learn to play your game a little, we will take this.  Scott Johnson has been doing a fantastic job, both as head coach and Director of Rugby.  But if we do lose, it is not sore, the Boks have the number 1 sport in SA, a huge player pool and the financial backing, I would be more concerned as to why, since we have met over the last 2 years has we been so difficult to beat? We have less than half of the resources but our skill and physicality matches yours.  Talent???

5) Did you play the game yourself?

No, I am a girl, I play Netball.  I just wasn’t an option when I was growing up or even when I was at university.  This is a new to me movement and one that I am happy to support but not partake in.

6) Who is your favorite player right now and why?

From where??  Scotland and Edinburgh I would have to say Matty Scott, he is young but I think incredibly understated, consistent in his development and game play.  He creates some beautiful plays but never seems to get the headline, definitely my favorite.

7) Unfortunately for most of us Scotland represent something between a very cold rainy day and a scene from Trainspotting. Why do civilized people continue to inhabit the land?

That’s funny because my image of SA is similar constricted a land of wild animals and machete killings!!!  Scotland is a beautiful country, with a wonderfully unique culture, the people are fantastic we have a wonderfully quality of life.  Free health care, free schooling to a tertiary level, free eye test, free water (there are bonuses to it raining a lot you know) low crime rates.  I can walk down most streets in the country and be able to start a friendly conversation with someone.  I live in a town where stranger say hello to you, check if you’re alright if you haven’t taken the mail in etc.  Why would I not live here.  Also I am Scottish and Scotland is home. Come over and see!

RW note: We would love to! Thanks so much Elaine.

 

News from all over

12

With snarky commentary where required…

So how were those Boks against England

29

Guest writer Mike Bersiks gives us some insight on the Bok performance against England.

Cheetahs wil uitreik na ondersteuners

10

So drie weke terug het ons ‘n artikel geplaas wat Brendon Shields as ‘n brief aan Vrystaat Cheetahs se president, Harold Verster, geskryf het.  Verster het die brief gesien en dit belangrik genoeg gedink om te antwoord op die vrae wat gevra is.

Dear Oom Harold…

44

Dear Oom Harold…

Re-think the match 22

49

Our very own Brendon Shields, who is under a self-imposed ban from blogging till now, shares his views on how we should re-shape and re-think how we use the whole team.

One more analysis: Bright Young Things.

17

Guest writer Mike Bersiks completes our final analysis of the Bok v Aus test match.

Meyer’s eyes opened by near misses?

42

Guest writer Mike Bersiks asks whether Heyneke Meyer is learning anything from two close misses in our away leg in the antipodes.

Clarity behind Kanko’s omission

41

There has been some confusion over Kankowski’s omission from the Springbok squad of 30 players for the Castle Rugby Championship kicking off in Cape Town on the 18th of August.

Are the Lions in more trouble?

40

The ANC’s newspaper, the New Age reports that Super 14 franchise money is also now adding a heap to Lions troubles.

Black EP power is a mirage

93

How long will we still be fed the mirage that EP is the cradle of black rugby
and deserves to play Super Rugby?

Go Wild Dog Sports! Local rugby jersey brand name! Finally!

16

As one of the top rugby nations you’d think we would also have the top rugby jersey marques from here… but we use Kiwi manufacturers to make Bok jerseys and all our teams wear apparel from overseas marques. BUT now we have our own local brand name and RW says … Local is Lekker!

2012 Super 15 snippets

19

The teams are not really releasing anything spectacular so after scrounging the net we’ve found at least some snippets to start off as a whiff of an appetizer for 2012 Super Rugby.

4N fixtures and logo

9

So the “Rugby Championship” (in contrast to the cricket joke called the Vroteas)  does have a sponsor. The fixture list is yet another Andy Marinos negotiated special however…

Why were the Boks humiliated?

54

Saturday’s humiliating loss against the Wallabies prompts the question: Where did we go wrong?

SA Sports Illustrated: Ruggaworld’s their July 2011 blog of the month

52

So the guys as SASI reckon we’re their sports blog of the month for July 2011.

Mbalula’s demands must be followed with cash help

5

SARU has pledged its coaches to help develop sports at school level after the former ANCYL leader whines about school sports.

Sports minister Fikile Mbalula

Lions MTN sponsorship deal signed

35

So now MTN and the Lions have announced that the cellular giant will replace A&G as well as Xerox as main sponsor for the Lions…

Peter Bills sucks and Kiwi cheating

12

A few years ago… okay more’n 20 (i.e. the 80’s) Tony Greig famously questioned Merv Hughes’ inclusion in the Aussie ODI squad to face Sri Lanka. Fat Merv opened the bowling, Fat Merv ripped Lanka to pieces… and Bill Lawrie similarly gloated on air “Stick thadup yer arse Tony Greig!”… I have a similar gloat today….

So where are these millions of black fans, Gary Boshoff?

35

So after reading what I regarded as typical nonsense from Gary Boshoff I decided to check out all the millions of adoring black fans of rugby who are so sorely disappointed in the “whiteness” of local rugby.

SARU are cowards who don’t back their most precious assets

71

The national coach and team are SARU’s most precious asset… so why not back the team… and why let old Boer mentalities dictate their reaction to Anglo-Saxon discrimination?

Bok Legends: A man called Bennie

15

With all the recent talk about flyhalves some of you may enjoy a read about the Springbok legend BENNIE OSLER, who played in an era when there was NO protection for a flyhalf. He is an inductee in the 2009 IRB Hall of Fame.

Frogs are a hoodoo side for us

56

The heriocs of 1997 were the last of the Boks in France twelve years ago. The overcooked Boks will likely have this as a bridge too far.

Laws favour defense

5

Old regular PhilipDC gives us his views on the Currie Cup and rugby in general.

The real Barry Heatlie

33

Of all the recent inductions to the Rugby School’s Hall of Fame none can be less worthy of the honour than South Africa’s Barry Heatlie, a convicted thief who also claimed that it was due to him that the Springboks are wearing green jerseys.
Boertjie tells the true story.

Why the Cheetahs can win the Final

26

Nobody would have written an article or thought of writing an article about why the Cheetahs can win the Currie Cup after five matches in this years competition.

Bugsbunny shares his views on the final.

RuggaWorld is getting a facelift!

59

RuggaWorld is changing its colours!  And we want you to be part of that change.

Why we love the Currie Cup

7

Sitting in front of the television at half-past two waiting for the big match to start…

Bugsbunny shares his love and affiliation for the oldest domestic competition in the world.

How to defend the RWC in 2011 – Part II

63

In his second installment, Newbokshields discusses the players that should take us to World Cup glory in 2011 in more detail.

How to defend the RWC in 2011

44

RuggaWorld member Newbokshields believes South Africa will retain the William Webb Ellis Cup if…..

Performers must be #1

8

Numbers sometimes contains beautiful symmetries. On Saturday the Boks won by 9 points, Morne Steyn scored 9 points and Ruan Pienaar failed to score 9 points. Guys who perform, should be first choice.
REVIEW FROM RUGRAT FYNDRAAI IN THE USA

Kiwis unfazed by loss

35

The Kiwi take on the loss in Bloem is remarkably unfazed here today. I suppose it has something to do with the TAB having the Boks as favourites to win by $1 – $2 before the game. TABS seem to rule life Down Under!
REVIEW BY RUGRAT OUT WIDE.