this afternoon two of Super Rugbys’ most enterprising teams do battle

MIKE GREENAWAY

RUGBY’s northern hemisphere is set for an invigorating breath of fresh air this afternoon when two of Super Rugbys’ most enterprising teams do battle for vital competition points at the hallowed home of rugby.

The recently ended Six Nations was a mostly dull affair but rugby in that part of the world will surely be set alight by the Sharks and the Crusaders, both of whom are committed to high-tempo, ball-in-hand rugby as promoted by last year’s new law focuses, and given the numbers of Springboks and All Blacks on show, this will be a timely warning to the North of what is in store for them at the Rugby World Cup in September.

This might sound presumptious but in all honesty two teams of this quality can only provide superior fare to the tepid, slow-motion Six Nations, and the Southerners will be further fuelled by the novelty of the grand occasion. This fixture would have been played in Nelson in remote Canterbury at a 10 000-seater stadium had England’s RFU not played ball. The contrast with a possibly sold-out Twickenham (the RFU have reduced capacity from 82 000 to 55 000 because of scaled-down Sunday public transport) could not be more extreme, and there is a good chance that the majority of the fans will be in black and white as opposed to black and red given the estimation that there is an estimated 900 000 South Africans and 250 000 New Zealanders in the greater London Metropolitan area.

Mind you, this match will be seen by Kiwis in London as an opportunity to show their patriotism in the wake of the February 22 earthquake and make a financial contribution to the relief fund (five pounds of each ticket goes to the New Zealand Red Cross).

No matter the composition of the crowd, the atmosphere is bound to be good. For starters, the usually rigid and unimaginative RFU have apparently got into the spirit of the Southern invasion and permitted stands selling boerewors rolls and traditional New Zealand meat pies.

And being a Crusaders “home” fixture, they have been permitted to provide the off-field entertainment, which includes the national anthems to be sung by Kiwi Geoff Sewell of Incognito, a professional tenor and multi-platform selling recording artist with over 3.5million album sales worldwide, as well as half-time tunes from Christchurch born soprano Hayley Westenra.

National anthems? That is definitley a first for Super Rugby and is an indication of the sense of occasion attached to this match.

The sideshows are all over the place, so it was interesting to hear the sobering words of Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder, who in his playing days captained the Crusaders to three of their seven titles: “The important thing on arrival here was to realise that we are not a travelling circus and this is all about competition points.”

This single-mindedness is typical of the most successful team in 15 years of Super Rugby history.

Since finishing 10th in 2001 – a momentary lapse of reason after winning the title in 1998,1999 and 2000 – the Crusaders have won four more titles, made the final on two more occasions and been in the semi finals in the other years.

Their last title was in 2008 and since then they have been rebuilding a new champion team.

Their backline has five current All Blacks and another who could well be the star of the next World Cup, massive centre Robbie Freuan who has the physical dimensions of Sharks flank Willem Alberts but with a turbo boost to boot.

Next to him is the celebrated heavyweight boxer Sonny Bill Williams, the 110kg former Rugby League star. With Freuan, that amounts to around 215kgs in the midfield. For the Crusaders, long gone are the days of deft, nubile artists at centre. They don’t need them. After the high-speed midfield tanks do their work, in come the fleet-footed cavalry in Sean Maitland, Zac Guildford and the beautifully named Israel Dagg.

That backline is served by a pack of mongrels that does not have the big names of the backline, especially with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw still injured.

“We have some good, grafting, hard-working boys,” Blackadder said of his forwards, who are led by the no-nonsense Kieran Read. “They are all trustworthy and unafraid of putting in the hard yards.”

The same can generally be said of the Sharks, although the Sharks pack suffered an uncharacteristic reverse against the Chiefs in week three of the Sharks’ tour. Until that match the Sharks’ forwards had reigned supreme in an unbeaten four-match run.

“We were poor, we are very disappointed in that forward performance,” coach John Plumtree said.
“We were not up to it in the collisions and were outmuscled at the breakdowns. And these are the areas in which we need to excel if we are to negate the Crusaders’ game.

“We know what we have to do, we are very excited about this challenge. Bring it on!”

Referee: Steve Walsh (NZ)

Crusaders – 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Zac Guildford, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett. Subs: 16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Chris Jack, 19 Jonathan Poff, 20 Kahn Fotuali’i, 21 Matt Berquist, 22 Adam Whitelock.

Sharks – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9. Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 John Smit (c).

Subs: 16 Eugene van Staden, 17 Tendai Mtawarira, 18 Gehard Mostert, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 JP Pietersen.

Crusaders team to play Sharks on Sunday

Crusaders team to play Sharks

There are two changes to the Crusaders team to play the Sharks in the historic Investec Super Rugby match at Twickenham on Sunday, March 27.

Loosehead prop Wyatt Crockett replaces Ben Franks and left wing Zac Guildford comes in for Adam Whitelock.

Guildford came off the substitutes bench in the second half against the Highlanders at Carisbrook last weekend, following a hamstring injury which had kept him out of rugby until that point.
Crusaders first-five Dan Carter is expecting a physical encounter against the Sharks on Sunday afternoon. He said: “They are a team full of big, fast men and it will be a very tough match. They have strengths across the park but we’ve prepared well for them. We are all looking forward to playing at Twickenham – it’s easy to get excited about this one.”
Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder said: “We have trained well here in London all week and now we want to replicate that against the Sharks at Twickenham on Sunday.
“It will be a big test for us, but I’m confident we can put in a performance to be proud of. We’re looking forward to playing in front of a big crowd – the atmosphere and sense of occasion should be superb.”
About $11 from every ticket sold will be donated to the Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake appeal.
It is the first time a Super Rugby match has been held outside of the three SANZAR countries.The Crusaders team to play the Sharks in an Investec Super Rugby match at Twickenham, London, on Sunday, March 27.

  1. Wyatt Crockett
  2. Corey Flynn
  3. Owen Franks
  4. Brad Thorn
  5. Sam Whitelock
  6. George Whitelock
  7. Matt Todd
  8. Kieran Read
  9. Andy Ellis
  10. Dan Carter
  11. Zac Guildford
  12. Sonny Bill Williams
  13. Robbie Fruean
  14. Sean Maitland
  15. Israel Dagg
  16. Quentin MacDonald
  17. Ben Franks
  18. Chris Jack
  19. Jonathan Poff
  20. Kahn Fotuali’i
  21. Matt Berquist
  22. Adam Whitelock

Goosen steers SA U20s to Argentinean double

SA U20 flyhalf Johan Goosen kicked five penalties and a conversion to steer his team to a 22-13 victory over Argentina U20 in the second international match played at the Lions Rugby Club in Santiago del Estero on Thursday night.

The Baby Boks and Vodacom Blue Bulls winger Courtnall Skosan scored his team’s only try of the match. All 22 points achieved by the South Africans were accumulated during the first 40 minutes while Pumas pivot Brian Ormson kicked two penalties before the break which ensured that the visitors enjoyed a 22-6 half time lead.

The South Africans, like the Argentineans struggled to gain momentum during the second half due to severe rain. Both teams conceded numerous penalties after the break and at one stage the Baby Boks were reduced to 13 players when centre Bradley Moolman and lock Carl Wegner were sin-binned for deliberate infringements during the match.

It was during this period of the match when the visitors were reduced to 13 players that allowed the Pumas to score their only five-pointer of the game which was achieved by Argentina U20 No.8 Martin Ignes. Ormson added the conversion which was also the final points scored in this fixture that saw the SA U20s triumph by 22-13.

“I am happy with the progress that we have made as a team during this two-week tour, especially due to the fact that we have achieved one of our tour objectives which were to win both internationals,” said SA U20 coach Dawie Theron.

“For us, it’s going to be about ticking as many boxes as possible before the IRB Junior World Championship kicks off in June in Italy. We’ve ticked this box, but there’s still plenty of work that lies ahead. Our intentions were to afford these players an opportunity of competing against overseas opposition, and to gauge how they adapt to foreign conditions.

“It is going to be important for the players to continue gaining game time from now until our next training camp. Some the guys will go straight back into the FNB Varsity Cup competition, while many of the other players will slot in with their provincial unions’ Vodacom Cup teams.”

Scorers: Argentina U20 – Try: Martín Ignes; Conversion: Brian Ormson; Penalties: Ormson. South Africa U20 – Try: Courtnall Skosan; Conversion: Johan Goosen; Penalties: Goosen (5).

Issued by SARU Communications

 

Collegians RFC launch

Collegians RFC, with the help of our sponsor ( Altius investment holdings), has established a professional partnership / collaboration with Randwick rugby club in Australia (http://www.randwickrugby.com.au/).

Randwick is the largest and most successful rugby club in Australia with players such as David Campese, the Ella brothers and currently Kurtley Beale having played for the club. They are the largest supplier of professional players to the Brumbies and NSW Waratahs and currently have 17 professional players collectively playing for those 2 super rugby franchises. The terms of the agreement encompasses supporting Collegians RFC holistically in order to develop and promote rugby in Mitchell’s Plain, Philippi and surrounding townships as well as within the greater Cape Flats area. This would include initiatives aimed at improving the coaching structure within our large junior and senior division, improving the the administrative capacity within the club, holistic player develoment as well as establishing strategic partnerships to promote rugby within the large number of disadvantaged schools in our area.
The professional head coach of Randwick RFC, Mr Craig Morrison, spent the week at Collegians and conducted several junior and senior coaching clinics for Collegians players/coaches as well as junior rugby players from Khayelitsha. He will return in June for another series of coaching clinics.
This partnership was formally announced at the launch of our new kit at Cape Town market last week (please see attached photographs). In addition, several new initiatives such as the launch of the new collegians website (www.collegiansrugby.com) and the Collegians foundation were announced at the function.

Collegians RFC is one of the most successful rugby clubs from a disadvantaged area since rugby unity in 1992. During the apartheid days, the club produced several Western Province and SARU players. Collegians RFC currently competes in the super league B divsion of the WP club rugby league and has about 300 junior and 120 senior active rugby players. It is the only club that develops youth rugby in Mitchell’s Plain. In 2010, all the senior signed and adhered to a code of conduct on and off the field. The club also does outreach clinics in Philippi and last year incorporated and supported and an entire women’s rugby team from Philippi. The club plays its home games at the Lentegeur Sports complex in Lentegeur, Mitchell’s Plain.

by Dr. Nasief van der SchyffExecutive member and head of medical division Collegians RFC

All Black coach Graham Henry’s challenge to Sonny Bill Williams

The Sharks are just going to love the timing of All Black coach Graham Henry’s challenge to Sonny Bill Williams to show more physicality in his game if he wants to start at the World Cup, starting with his performance for the Crusaders at Twickenham on Sunday

The 25-year-old sensation has so far offloaded in the tackle more than any other player in this year’s Super competition, many of them clever try-making, slip passes, but Henry has asked him to now work on another side of his game – using his heavyweight boxer’s physique to get his team over the advantage line.

That is just what opposite number Meyer Bosman wanted to hear … not to mention the players either side of him on Sunday, Stefan Terblanche and Jacques-Louis Potgieter.

At six foot three (1.91m) and weighing in at 110kgs of muscle (not a shred of fat in sight) Williams is so far unbeaten in his “other” sport, boxing, and he has an upcoming fight when the Crusaders have their bye (the one fight a season clause was worked into his contract when he joined the Crusaders from French club Toulon). Getting physical clearly will not be a problem.

“Yeah, I heard what he (Henry) said,” Williams told Christchurch newspaper The Press. “I think I will have to run about 50 times a game to please him,” Williams said after his team had trained in London.

“Seriously, though. If you want to get higher honours you have to listen to the powers that be and there is no bloke that is more powerful in New Zealand rugby than Graham Henry,” he said.

“So I will definitely been trying to take it to the line a lot more and hopefully do what I am told.”

Williams is an Aucklander of Samoan descent but after school chose a Rugby league career in Australia with the Bulldogs in Sydney. In 2008 he went back to rugby union when Toulon offered him a massive contract. Last year he returned home to New Zealand, citing a desire to play for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup after having turned down the biggest offer in rugby history. Toulon reportedly offered him a new three-year deal worth six million NZ dollars while the New Zealand Rugby Union could offer him only 550 000 NZ dollars per year.

Williams made his debut for the All Blacks in their match against England at Twickenham last November to become only the second Kiwi in history to represent his country at both Rugby League and Union, the last player to have done so being in 1921.

On Sunday Williams will feature in a Crusaders team showing just one change from the side that put 40 points past the Highlanders on their home ground last week, with Zac Guildford coming in for Adam Whitelock on the left wing.

The Sharks last night left Durban for London under no illusions as to the magnitude of the challenge ahead of them in what remains to be there final tour match.

The tour assessment so far is a mixed bag as far as coach John Plumtree is concerned.

“We are obviously disappointed with the way it ended in Hamilton against the Chiefs after doing so well in Australia, picking up 10 points there. Our intensity was really high against the Rebels and Force, but it dropped off in Hamilton which is a big disappointment. The third week on tour has been a real issue for us in the past and it continues to be – it’s something we’ll have to address in the future.

“But I have to say that 11 from 15 points isn’t a bad effort and there is still a tour finale to go. We’re pleased to have had the opportunity to spend some unexpected time at home and the boys are really excited about this game. It’s a case of ‘bring it on’ really.”

by Mike Greenaway www.iol.co.za

Three of the Sharks’ wins to date have been against the bottom teams

A sceptic would point out that that three of the Sharks’ Super Rugby wins to date have been against the bottom teams – the Cheetahs, Force, and Rebels – the other win being an impressive one at home against the Blues, who are second in the New Zealand conference and fifth overall.

An optimist would highlight the fact that a bonus-point win over the Crusaders in London on Sunday would see the Sharks equal the Stormers’ 2008 South African record of 16 log points on tour (the Sharks currently have 11 points from their visits to Perth, Melbourne and Hamilton).

A realistic would say that none of this really matters at this early stage of a season which will see each teams play 16 matches before the play-offs.

After five rounds It is too soon to get a good idea of who the top half a dozen teams are going to be, apart from the Crusaders, who are currently inhabiting another planet.

A Sharks realist would further point out that the Sharks generally are a team that finish stronger than they start, although there have been exceptions where they led at the halfway mark and then fell apart.

I am convinced that the Sharks are going to explode in the second half of this year’s competition when they attain peak fitness and get back to the intensity of their Currie Cup campaign.

Compared to September and October last year, the Sharks are some way off that pace in March. This will have something to do with the higher standard of Super Rugby but a lot to do with match fitness, which obviously gets increasingly better as the year wears.

You get fitness and you get match fitness, with the former being simply about aerobic capability and the latter about the body growing accustomed to the specific physical requirements of full-contact rugby.

It is easy – although hardly enjoyable – to run your butt off in pre-season training but another thing to have it kicked about in the full-blooded war that is match situations.

The Sharks forwards, in particular, are about 20 percent off the intensity they showed in the Currie Cup.

You might correctly point out that match fitness will get better for all Super teams , but my point is that for the specific game that the Sharks are aspiring to play – the high-tempo, ball-in-hand approach that kicked serious butt in the Currie Cup (and which contrasts with the slower, territory game the Bulls play, for example) – they are going to lift their intensity with each outing until they get to that same level.

Conditions on the day will sometimes call for a different approach, such as the heavy rain in Hamilton last week, in which case the Sharks players need to likewise get better as the season wears on – their kicking game against the Chiefs was poorly implemented.

And there is no better time for the Sharks to accelerate their game than on Sunday, because if they are leaden-footed against the Crusaders, they will see their backsides.

The thing is, the Sharks in 2011 have had some really good passages of play, as well as periods of play, but they have not been for long enough.

This will hopefully change as that match fitness we spoke about kicks in.

by Mike Greenaway .www.iol.co.za

Playing the Crusaders at the neutral venue of Twickenham will give the Sharks a helping hand

Playing the Crusaders at the neutral venue of Twickenham will give the Sharks a helping hand, reckons captain John Smit, but they will nevertheless have to pull serious finger if they hope to live with the red-hot, seven-time champions.

“Playing them in London is a little less frightening than playing them in Christchurch, but only marginally so, and if we don’t up our intensity from the disappointing levels of the Chiefs match last week, we will be in big trouble,” Smit said. “At least Twickenham won’t have the Crusaders’ knights riding around on horses before kick-off and smoke billowing all over the place. At least I don’t think they are bringing their horses!”

Smit said he felt for the Kiwis having to play away from home after their historic AMI Stadium (once famously known as Lancaster Park) was ruled out of rugby for the remainder of the year because of earthquake damage.

“Even when they play at the smaller grounds in their region, it won’t be quite the same, and the crowds will not be more than 10 000 or so. But these guys are nevertheless playing great rugby. The tragedy in their home city has rallied the Crusaders players,” Smit said.

The Sharks were in Melbourne preparing for their second tour match against the Rebels when the London match was first proposed and they soon warmed to the idea.

“It is indicative of our group of players that it did not take long for us to get excited about a unique match. It is something different and we would go home a week early but above all this match gives us the opportunity to give a little something back to the people of Christchurch,” he said.

“When you are over there in Australia and New Zealand, as we were, then you realise how big an affect the earthquake had on Christchurch. The trauma was huge,” the Springbok captain continued. “For us to go to London is a small thing if it gives us a chance to help (five pounds from each ticket sold go to the fund set up to help victims).”

Smit pointed out that the match has generated excitement amongst Kiwis and South Africans living in London.

“Many people follow Super Rugby on TV in the UK. There are 900 000 South Africans and 250 000 New Zealanders over there and many of them will jump at the chance to see a competition game first hand. The word from London is that it will be packed out (30 000 of the 55 000 tickets on sale were sold by Tuesday),” he said.

The Sharks team named to play the Crusaders has Jacques-Louis Potgieter in at flyhalf for injured Patrick Lambie while Springbok right wing JP Pietersen will make his return from injury from the bench.

Prop Eugene van Staden, who was injured in the Sharks’ home match against the Cheetahs, is over injury and is on the bench in place of Craig Burden (Smit will cover hooker). In another change to the bench, lock Gerhard Mostert is in for Anton Bresler

Sharks – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9. Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 John Smit (capt).

Substitutes: Eugene van Staden, Tendai Mtawarira, Gehard Mostert, Jacques Botes, Conrad Hoffmann, Adrian Jacobs, JP Pietersen.

by Mike Greenaway www.iol.co.za

%d bloggers like this: