“Peter de Villiers is the biggest
coaching joke in international sport . . .”
This column should be about the glories of another impending, triumphant, all-conquering, heroic and historical Grand Slam march by the mighty men in black but … well, let’s just say the feeling’s gone.
Chris Rattue, NZ Herald
England, snooooooooooze, Scotland, zzzzzzzzzzz, Ireland, yaaaaaaawn, Wales, zzzzzzzzz …
Trudging off to the northern plains to fight these second-rate cart horses every year isn’t floating the boat any more.
South Africa’s travails against Scotland have restored a bit of lustre to the All Blacks’ achievements. And you can’t blame the All Blacks for winning so easily all the time.
But let’s face it – we only keep going there year after year for the money and because there’s nowhere else to go.
This year’s final test opponents, Wales, haven’t beaten the All Blacks since the days when you had to warm the wireless up before listening to a footy match.
Who are Wales kidding, holding a team crisis meeting after last weekend’s draw with Fiji? Fiji should hold the crisis talks.
Grand Slam. Yeah right. Ireland are loveable losers. Can anyone actually name anyone in the Scottish team? And England are celebrating after losses these days whereas we once laughed at them for celebrating a draw.
The All Blacks have trundled past that lot in third gear.
The rugby mob might be able to sell this to the masses now and then, but Northern Hemisphere tours of some shape or form take place every season. The only games that really stir the blood are against France.
If this concept had any chance of taking hold, I’d suggest the Lions break with tradition and play at home in a three-test series against the All Blacks every now and then. The Lions are terrific for the sport, usually play excellent rugby and would certainly be good enough to beat the All Blacks – or give them a run for their money. This just ain’t going to happen, though.
The current tours are increasingly lifeless. Another 20 years of this and they’ll be stone cold in the ground.
The coaches bang on about the significance of the Grand Slam. Fair enough – from the inside these are undoubtedly stirring achievements, unless you are Daniel Braid or one of the other bag carriers and training ground specialists (a new rugby skill of which we’ve only just been made aware).
But honestly, from this side of the world these tours mean diddly squat because by about the time the early morning cuppa tea has gone lukewarm, so have the Irish or the Scots.
You can’t keep squashing inept opponents year after year and also promote them as a meaningful foe.
I did happen upon one very animated discussion about the current tour last Saturday night – on the eve of the glorious battle against the Irish – which centred entirely on the riveting subject of Sonny Bill William’s hand size, a debate sparked by the Herald’s groundbreaking decision to print a lifesize drawing of the Williams mitt.
That’s about the state of play – haka controversies, Sonny Bill’s hand size, record test appearances, Dan Carter’s points record … etc, etc.
Graham Henry is probably right. Wales will come out with all guns blazing on Sunday morning. Maybe.
But blazing guns should be par for the course for any self-respecting test team. Sustained, meaningful success at this level relies on the quality of players and strategies, both immediate and in the overall organisation of the sport.
You could say that Wales have a terrific halfback in the lanky Mike Phillips, and beyond that the stocks are mainly fairly hairy.
And rivalries depend on both teams having a chance of victory at least some of the time. So, with what remains of any enthusiasm – all together now, come on Wales, try to make a game of it. Please.
RUGBY’S COACHING JOKE
You would think that a loss to Scotland, under any circumstances, would force South Africa to have a rethink about Peter de Villiers continuing as the Springboks’ coach.
Going into this season, the Boks looked well positioned to set up a mighty dynasty. Instead, they have crumbled.
De Villiers is a political appointment in the tricky and sometimes depressing world of post-apartheid South Africa. That aside, he is the biggest coaching joke in international sport, having brought a mighty machine to a grinding halt.
And yet, come a big day in the World Cup, you still wouldn’t write off the old enemy.
There is a trend with continuing criticisms over scrum problems in rugby. Coaches always blame the props from the other team. Only props from the other team are sneaky. Referees are never right. If an Italian frontrower does well, he cheated. Journalists very rarely – or never – suggest that props from other countries get a bad deal.
When it comes to dealing with scrum shenanigans, there isn’t much Phil Vickery-type honesty about.