A Rugby score 16 -52 at Loftus and an unexpected surprise

THE last two occasions the Springboks hosted the All Blacks in Pretoria the visitors behaved rather rudely, trashing Loftus Versfeld to the tune of 16-52 in 2003 and three years later crushing Jake White’s Boks 45-26.

That opening statement written by my mate Mike Greenaway (16 -52 at Loftus ) inspired me to reflect on a wonderful by product that came out of that fateful day if you supported the Boks.

I was at the game -dressed in Black (All Black = think mad ! ) and I had beers thrown at me and my dear mate Rob Viviani who was with me had a smile all afternoon on his face as I coped abuse from 150kg men who drove bakkies and who thought I was fair game on the walk to the stadium . It was a glorious match.You could hear a pin drop at the final score .I remember walking back past those self same supporters who where a bit better oiled with klippies and coke and the odd beer to be greeted with the words -Julle Manne het goed gespeel -Drunk and gracious -what a combination

That evening I got phoned by my friend Samm Marshall who was on Good Hope FM at the time and asked to be on air on Sunday morning -to talk about the game …I loved this and had a good old cackle .

Good radio indeed -Good Hope loved the chirps and asked me to do a regular once a week chat on a Saturday. This went on for a number of months until Heart FM under the then direction of Selwyn Bartlett heard about the show and offered me a slot on Heart 104.9fm -To shorten the whole story On the Couch was invented or #OTC as it was called and this show ran till 2016 -We had fantastic presenters Fiona Furey ,the late great AZ Abrahams ,Peter Stemmet ,Sam Roy ,Rob Vember and then Tapfuma Makina .We first started with a 15min chat and then it went from 8-9am and then settled on 9 to 10am.

We had the good and the great on the show -The glorious time was during the 2007 World Cup in France ,We had regular crossings to Mike -The chats had color and depth and I think our French even improved.

Mike Greenway even went on to write John Smit’s book “Captain in the Cauldron” a best seller might I add and one of the sureal moments on radio was when the Cape Town book launch happened it was the night before the world cup draw 2010 -which took place on Friday night .We had arranged to speak to Mike on the Saturday as he was leaving to go back to Durban and when we called after about 2 sentences he gave the phone to John Smit and said you chat to him – Wild amazing radio totally off the cuff and unplanned – Smitty had also just done the world cup opening the night before .

I even got to be published for a few years and wrote for SA Rugby Magazine doing a Proust type questionaire .I got the names to do it: Andrew Merthens,Richie McCaw ,and all the top SA rugby players ,It was great fun ,this writing lasted for about 2 years.

I digress back to the rugby stories. Mike and I met at BMG records in 1996 at at music conference ,when the music business was the business ,I will never forget during the one talk by Dave Thompson (he of Idols fame ),Mike mentions ,”Mart cover for me ,I must do a quick phone interview with Mark Andrews ,my reply is ..uck he is a Springbok Rugby player and Mike says yes I also do rugby writing” .Well that sealed a friendship that is still going strong today .He is by far the best writer in the country ,not because he is my mate ,but because the color and opinion is so good and he is normally correct -The bugger ,but we still love him for that .

I remember one year going Durban with my girlfriend Razia (who became my wife ,this must have been 2008 or 2009 ) to see the mighty Sharks on a crest of a wave up against the Crusaders (my side ).McCaw had just come back from an injury layoff and Mike tells me your side stands no chance ,Well mighty McCaw dragged the Sharks around and single handily made mince meat of the Sharks ..I was furious with Green -telling me the Saders had no chance .

When my mom passed away in 2001 Mike and I made a pact we won’t miss All Black games -We have been to Rustenberg (Andre Pretorius saved the Boks bacon that day )
Bloemfontein and Durban for consecutive test matchs -All Blacks lost both and Boks became the number 1 side .We had great fun.even John Smit came to pick up Greenaway to continue writing the book he was doing and drove Greenaway back to Durban -I had the piss taken out of me because I had an All Black shirt on …

We have seen the AB’S in PE in 2011 -The AB’S lost and then last year at Newlands I saw a glorious win by 1 point -Who cares the Blacks won.

Stuart Rubin my great mate came to watch the Boks take it up the nought at Newlands 19 -nil ….What a weekend that was.

I have had Sipho Mabuse sing the SA national anthem at an All Black game at FNB Stadium -The Boks got smashed that day, but the anthem singing was the redeeming feature of the day .

So the motto is when I am at a game in SA the Boks sometimes win, but it wont happen this coming weekend 6 Oct 2018 -The ghost of van Riebeeck won’t appear ,but the AB’S will win by 15 points or more and Mike thank you pushing me all those years ago when my mom passed away -and saying we not missing an All Black game.


This is one of the great rugby reads of all time ..

I was at the game with Mike Greenaway and got so smashed after the game .

I was given a 500m coke bottle filled with Jack Daniels and stumbled out the stadium and then we went to Traders …..You had to be at Traders to see the party afterwards .

It was a sight to behold .Never to be repeated ever .I have been friends with Mike for over 22 years ..We met at record co BMG (when the record industry worked ) and we have seen some classic matches but this was off the chart …

I saw Mike last week in Durban and we had a catch up ..All that has happened is we have gone more grey ,but the laughs are still the same ..If only Mike would write a book about the oval ball and his travels .He is by far one of the best rugby writers in SA

Mike Greenaway Column

Who remembers Andre Pretorius, the former Lions and occasional Springbok flyhalf? You can be forgiven if the memory banks need a bit of a jolt to recall the gifted but terribly injury-prone pivot.

It should not be that way given that Pretorius played a hugely significant role in the Springboks winning the 2007 World Cup, even though it was Butch James that ended up usurping the No 10 jersey from him at that World Cup.

It goes back to an almost forgotten Springbok match against the All Blacks in the less than alluring surrounds of the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in dusty Rustenburg. The context of the match was hugely significant because John Smit’s Boks had lost five matches in a row, including copping 45 points from the same New Zealand side a week before in Pretoria. The public mood was ugly, and it was the same in the boardroom of the South African Rugby Union, which was itching to fire coach Jake White.

Smit knew that a sixth consecutive defeat would mean the end of White, and most likely himself, as a new coach came in and gave the team a spring clean. Everything the Boks had worked for from 2004 towards the World Cup would go out the window.

After the heavy Loftus defeat, White changed plans and took the Boks out of Pretoria, away from the discontented public and put them in a resort near Sun City.

Smit later reflected that his players were absolutely “gatvol” of losing and “didn’t give a damn anymore. Before kick-off there was something of a declaration of war in the change room, and the Boks ran out and played like frenzied animals. The All Blacks, who had won 15 in a row, responded in kind and the match turned into a throwback to the amateur era when it was case of “anything goes,” especially in the set scrums.

A vivid memory I have of that game was a crazed Carl Hayman rising from a scrum in which he had obviously been given a ‘Welcome to Rustenburg’ from a tight forward and chasing Os du Randt to a ruck where he split his head open with a punch.

This ferocious but fascinating struggle built up to an almighty climax when All Black No 8 Rodney So’oialo had a moment of madness in the 79th minute and dived into a ruck, palpably from the side, with his team 20-18 ahead.

That was when Smit tossed the ball to Pretorius, famously saying “rather you than me”, and then went into earnest prayer, the captain later admitted.

The kick sailed through the uprights, the All Blacks had been beaten 21-20, White was saved from the coaching gallows and a year later the Springboks had won the World Cup.

The moral of the story is that a rugby team’s fortunes can turn on a ticky. Zeroes one day, heroes the next, and that goes for the Springboks under Rassie Erasmus as well as Eddie Jones’ England, again with the World Cup about a year away and both teams on losing streaks as they enter this intriguing three-Test series.

Finally, a postscript to that Battle of Rustenburg. The relief among the Boks was reflected in madcap celebrations at Sun City. The spanner in the works was that the All Blacks were also in the building, so to speak (where else do you go out in that neck of the woods?) and both teams ended up in the Traders bar where a distinctly combustible atmosphere prevailed. The All Blacks did not like losing and the Boks were happy to rub their victory in the Kiwis’ faces. An injudicious remark by Butch James to assistant coach Steve Hansen almost caused a fracas and Smit decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and escorted his team to pastures new in the complex.

The battle-lust waned as the night wore on and there was reconciliation in the wee hours when Smit encountered an All Black sitting in a bush, looking rather ruffled. “Dan, do you need a hand?” Smit asked, and Mr Carter replied: “Thanks Smitty, that would be nice,” and off the pair went to the casino.


Who will be the new Springbok rugby coach ?

It would seem there is no chance of the South African Rugby Union (Saru) making an impetuous appointment of the new Springbok coach and there are gathering reports that the governing body will go so far as to make an interim appointment until they have found the right man to take the Boks to the next World Cup.

Rassie Erasmus, the enigmatic former Cheetahs coach and current Saru High Performance General Manager, is hotly tipped to fulfill a caretaker role for the June series against touring Ireland.

Saru are tight-lipped on the conjecture and have said that while the matter of Springbok coach is on the agenda for their Council meeting in March, there will be “no comment on the Springbok coaching position until there is an appointment,” a Saru spokesman said yesterday.

The shortlist of candidates for the job is, to be facetious, rather short, and it might well have shortened even further if news out of Japan is to be believed regarding Allister Coetzee, who for so long has been the front-runner for the position vacated by Heyneke Meyer.

The former Stormers coach has been reported as saying he would “definitely be returning to the Kobe Kobelco Steelers next year”, although this could also be taken with a pinch of salt. If Coetzee is offered the Bok coach job, he could do an “Eddie Jones” and take advantage of an inevitable out clause in his contract with the Steelers regarding an offer to coach an international team.

Coetzee in white T Shirt -with OTC team on Heart 104.9fm..airs every Saturday from 9-10am

Another name bandied about is that of John Plumtree, the former Sharks coach and former Ireland assistant coach who is now second-in-charge at the Hurricanes, last year’s beaten Super Rugby finalists.

Plumtree has always said that he wanted to end his coaching days in Wellington, the New Zealand capital city that he often referred to as “home.” It would take a lot to lure him away from Wellington but Plumtree some time ago also told The Mercury that the Springbok coaching position would appeal to him.

Erasmus, meanwhile, has often stated that he does not want to return to the spotlight of a high-profile coaching job. But as a Saru employee, he might well be coerced into an interim Bok coach role for a three-Test home series.

Saru, it has to be said, are to be commended for not rushing into an appointment. Bok supporters want a winning team and it is imperative that Saru get it right. Time is on their side. Rugby World Cup Japan is just under four years away.

By Mike Greenaway

Bismarck du Plessis’s final Sharks interview

There was no masking the emotion on Bismarck du Plessis’s face as he gave possibly his last ever interview in Sharks colours ahead of his Sharks career finale against the Stormers at Kings Park on Saturday. Just how much the Sharks mean to him was etched into every contour of his battle-scarred features.

“I read a scripture recently, which said ‘teach me to number my days’, and so yes, it’s a very emotional week,” the 31-year-old said. “But It’s hopefully not my last time that I’ll be playing here … you never know … but for me it’s been a great journey. I arrived here when I was the seventh best hooker in the Free State, when I got the opportunity from CEO Brian van Zyl van Zyl and coach Kevin Putt. I’m very grateful to them for sticking their heads out and giving me that opportunity.”

Ten years on he and his brother Jannie are having to prise themselves away from a city and a franchise that has become synonymous with the battling boets from Bethlehem
“Some of the most special memories have been just just to wake up every day in Durban, open the curtains and see the beautiful ocean. And also just to experience the amazing culture we have at the Sharks, it’s been the most special thing in my life to be able to wake up and play for the Sharks,” he said.
“But I don’t want any accolades, from anyone, that is not why I play the game,” the hooker said. “I would have been happy to play 20 games for Bethlehem dorp at the time, and I never thought I’d have this privilege to play for the Sharks.”

He says the Sharks have been his dream team for as long as he can remember.

“On holiday here as a five, six-year-old boy, I remember Jannie and I walking along Windermere Road to go watch the Club Champs, and watching great players like Springbok legend Danie Gerber and Domkrag (Springbok prop Frans Erasmus), Pote Human and all those great players who dominated the club scene at the time. I remember sitting at the top of the stands and wondering if I’d ever have the opportunity to play rugby. As I say, I don’t play for any accolades, I just play for my teammates and the respect I have for the guys who play with me.”
Two players have been especially instrumental in Bismarck’s evolvement into the best hooker in the world going into the September Rugby World Cup.

“When I arrived at the Sharks, John Smit was absolutely influential in everything I did. The other guy who gave me the best of everything and was like a father to me, was Johan Ackermann, the current Lions coach and former Sharks and Springbok lock – just the way he conducted himself on and off the field even with the ups and downs he went through.”
But, as he says, now his days in Durban are numbered, with French club Montpellier rumoured to be the recipients of some of the hottest property in the game.

“For me, it was always about backing the process and knowing where I stood, and that’s what’s sad about this chapter of my life. But like I said, John has always been great to me. When he was a player the way he helped me to develop my skills, he allowed me to become better than I was when I arrived here.
“For me it’s a very sad day to be leaving the Sharks, I guess I never thought this day would arrive. I’m a Sharks boy through and through, I love the Sharks with all my heart and I don’t want to play for any other side in the world.”

There have been Currie Cup title wins and Super Rugby finals, but once more Du Plessis insists that it is not about the trophies.

“In almost every year I’ve been here we’ve been involved in play-off matches, but I’m just happy with the group of players that I have been able to play with. A lot of people might measure themselves on the amount of trophies they’ve won, but I measure myself on the type of person I am as I leave here. I’m a much happier person. I remember writing my last exams, and packing up all by myself in my varsity room, stuffing it all into this little Volkswagen beetle I had and driving about 12 hours from Bloemfontein to Durban in a car that could only go about 80kmh and I had to fill up about six times because it only had a small petrol tank. So as I leave, and if I come back, I think I do so as a better person.”
Naturally it has been all the better to have his brother for most of the journey.

“You know how special it is or us, it was always the plan for Jannie and I to play rugby together,” Bismarck says. “I thought even if we could have just played together for Bethlehem dorp that would have been okay, so to play here at the Sharks with him has been so special. Other players have been like brothers to me too.The Beast, Jannie and I must have played 150 games together; JP Pietersen – who got married over the weekend – I can’t remember a game that I didn’t play with him. Then there’s Odwa Ndungane, and Ryan Kankowski, who has been my roommate from 2005. We went through a lot together, it’s really special and that’s why we’re such a close-knit group. We’re all like brothers.”
Du Plessis will leave the Kings Park pitch with tears in his eyes on Saturday night, no question about it.

“I’m the biggest Sharks fan and always will be, it’s about being the best and staying at the top of your game. It’s always about those succession plans when somebody leaves, and when someone comes in wondering if he will he able to do the job. But I think the Sharks are in a great space, at the beginning we didn’t even have a gym, and I don’t think there is any better culture or place to play rugby.

“For me, I am a passionate passionate Shark, I don’t know where I will be heading exactly. I’m a very principle-based guy and I won’t go anywhere else (in South Africa). If ever I get the opportunity again to come back, and the coaching staff think I can add value I will most likely take them up on that offer. I will miss this place with everything I have.”

by Mike Greenaway

When was the 2007 Rugby World Cup actually won for the Springboks?

When was the 2007 Rugby World Cup actually won for the Springboks? Was the defining moment the disallowed try by England wing Mark Cueto? Was it Percy Montgomery’s soaring penalty goals or even that long-range effort by Frans Steyn before half time?

It was many things. But what if I suggested that the first major step to the title came the year before in the less than salubrious surrounds of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg? And that quite possibly the biggest hero in the road to glory was (forgotten) Andre Pretorius?

Lest we forget … The year was 2006 and Jake White and John Smit’s Springboks had lost five matches in a row, including a humiliating 0-49 disaster against the Wallabies in Brisbane.

The week prior to Rustenburg, the All Blacks had put 45 points past the Boks at Loftus Versfeld and there were rumblings from all over South Africa, including the South African Rugby Union, that a sixth consecutive defeat would mean the sacking of White, which almost certainly would have meant a change of captain as well. There would have been an “ambulance job” appointment of a new coach and the Boks would have been overhauled.

In those days, the visiting Tri-Nations teams played back-to-back Tests, so it was the All Blacks once more in Rustenburg for a game that had massive consequences riding on it for White and Smit. Maybe it was the unglamorous setting, maybe it was the desperation of the Boks, but that game became a throwback to the amateur era in terms of the players belting the hell out of each other, and to heck with the TV cameras. It was a streetfight.

It came down to a moment late in the game when All Blacks No 8 Rodney So’oialo blatantly went offside at a ruck and English referee Chris White blew a penalty for the Boks, who were trailing 18-20.

It was not an easy kick, and 26000 South African fans at that rustic ground, and 22 Springbok players, held their breath and watched exultantly as Pretorius calmly guided the ball between the uprights.

The Boks won 21-20. A tearful John Smit almost suffocated Pretorius with gratitude, and the day was saved. The Bok celebrations that night at Sun City were epic. An All Blacks team that had won 15 Tests in a row had been beaten and the heat was (temporarily) off White and Smit. They lived to fight another day.

A year later they were holding aloft the Webb Ellis Cup at the Stade de France but what might have transpired had Pretorius missed that kick in Rustenburg?

White was on very thin ice and almost certainly would have been sacked had the Boks lost. Let’s not also forget that despite that reprieve in Rustenburg, White later that year was recalled from the Bok end-of-year tour to face a Saru enquiry after the Boks had lost their opening two tour games, to Ireland and England.

White rejoined the tour and the final match (for some reason) was a second Test against England, which the Boks won 25-14, again after a rallying ‘do-or-die’ speech from Smit.

It was a psychological turning point for Smit’s Boks. England visited South Africa in 2007 and got two 50-point hidings, in Bloemfontein and Pretoria, and the next occasion the countries met was in Paris at the World Cup. The Boks won that Pool game 36-0, and then, of course, the final.

All magnificent Springbok history … But would there have been a very different and quite forgettable tale of the Springboks at the 2007 Rugby World Cup had Pretorius missed that kick in the bundus of the highveld, and White and Smit lost their jobs?


I was at the game with the writer Mike Greenaway (and he was not working ) and our gang of friends .The party after the game was off the chart at Traders in Sun City.I was a upset to put it mildly the All blacks lost and i paid the price

What great memories from an epic WEEKEND

BY Mike Greenaway


Sharks players that are suspended from rugby because of foul play will now be docked their wages.

This was the no-nonsense resolution passed at a meeting of the Board of the Sharks Directors at Kings Park yesterday.

The notorious disciplinary record of the Sharks in Super Rugby this year – three red cards and three yellows – was high on the agenda and the Board has shown firm leadership in clamping down on the issue by warning the players that they will be hit where it hurts most if they irresponsibly transgress – in their pockets.

Chairman of the Board Stephen Saad told The Mercury that the Board agree fully with the public that the reckless behaviour of some of the players is intolerable. Saad went further and said that the suspensions given to the players by organising body SANZAR is not enough.

“We have decided that going forward there must be a policy of ‘no pay for no play’ should a player be suspended for foul play,” said Saad, who is one of the country’s leading captains of industry with his pharmaceutical company, Aspen.

Saad said this would be a prerequisite in future player contracts at the Sharks and that the current players would be “asked” to have the clause accepted into their contracts.

“The Sharks Board agree that red cards and dirty play cannot be condoned and it is unacceptable that this behaviour be associated with the Sharks brand,” Saad said. “We endorse the executive management’s suggestion that the current censure (suspension from playing) is inadequate and can confirm that further sanction on the players has been taken over and above that served from SANZAR.

“To this end we consulted legal counsel with regarding ‘no play-no pay’ for red cards,” he continued. “We feel this new censure is appropriate and will have the necessary teeth.”

The Sharks have lost senior players in Bismarck du Plessis (four weeks for a kick to the head), Frans Steyn (five weeks for a tip tackle) and Jean Deysel (seven weeks for a knee to the head) plus have had three other sinbinned.’

Jean Deysel sent off during the Crusaders game in Durban on Easter Saturday

As it stands, the suspended players are on full pay. It is known that senior Springbok can earn up to R500 000 a month from provincial and national contracts, a fortune however you look at it but particularly if he is idle at home because of a reckless act on the field.

It is not going to happen again at the Sharks.

The three afore-mentioned players are part of the seven-man player leadership group and all have captained the team, and with another member of the group, Patrick Lambie, injured for six weeks, the impact of the suspensions has surely been keenly felt by the squad and the coaching staff, who count on the support of the leadership group.

But it was not all doom and gloom at the meeting. Saad said the good news was that there has been a financial recovery over the last year or so under CEO John Smit.

“At the KZNRU AGM the consolidated accounts showed a financial turnaround of nearly R22 million in a single year,” he said. “The largest part of this turnaround can be attributed to the Sharks’ financial improvements. John has not only managed his expenses well and implemented the needed governance but has been instrumental in driving the sponsorship revenue.

“This was sorely needed to underpin the investment we need to make in our squad to help impact the future strength of Sharks rugby.”

The Sharks face a must-win game against the Bulls at Kings Park on Saturday. They have slipped to ninth on the overall standings and have lost their last two games.

“On the rugby front the Board recognises that we are not where we would like to be but need to acknowledge that John and his team in less than two years have won a Currie Cup, been in a Currie Cup semi-final with a very young squad and topped the SA Conference in Super Rugby last year for the first time.”

by Mike Greenaway

Sharks Captain Keegan Daniel and that scurrilous report

The writer has been covering Sharks and Springbok rugby for 17 years and in that time I have seldom encountered one of my journalistic colleagues getting it as grieviously wrong as the Beeld man who effectively labelled Keegan Daniel a fascist and a zenophobe.

The inference in the scurrilous report was that Daniel dislikes Afrikaans-speaking people and as leader of the Sharks wants fewer of them in the Sharks squad.

It is a remarkable accusation to make considering Daniel is the captain of the Sharks because he is both popular and a populist. His coach, John Plumtree, knows this because before he last year settled on a successor to John Smit (at Super Rugby level) and Stefan Terblanche (Currie Cup) he consulted with the senior players at the Sharks, almost all of whom were Afrikaans-speaking, as to who they wanted as captain.

Bismarck du Plessis, as Afrikaans as they come, was another leading contender but the senior leadership group to a man chose Daniel, making it an easy choice for Plumtree in the end.

No wonder the coach was furious when Daniel was accused of being fed-up with the Afrikaner majority in the squad.

I am fortunate to be covering the Sharks’ current tour and have seldom seen a group more content with each other’s company. They are hugely disappointed with the results, make no mistake, but they are not turning on each other.

And while they understand that the old chestnut of “divisions in the camp” inevitably crops up in the media when a team is on a losing streak, they don’t have to like it, and if anything they are becoming a more closely knit group as a result of the unsubstantiated rumours.

The fact of the matter regarding the demographics of the Sharks is that the team has been turning incrementally Afrikaans just about since Ian McIntosh recruited Vleis Visagie from the Free State in the late ‘80s.

Until now, nobody has noticed or cared, thankfully, because why would it matter? Right now, if you really want to know, the 26-man touring squad consists of three Zulus, two Xhosas, three English-speaking whites and … 18 Afrikaners.

There was a similar demographic this time last year when the Sharks made the Super Rugby final and the Currie Cup final. It did not matter then, so why should it matter now, just because the team is losing?!

The bottom line is the unifying force of the Sharks jersey and the common good of the team. This is something that the current coach, John Plumtree, feels strongly about. The New Zealander has coached and won titles and made many a final with Swansea (Wales), Wellington (in his native country) and the Sharks after having had a long career as a player in New Zealand and South Africa (with Natal).

He has been around the block a few times and has learned that what matters is the jersey and its history, the legacy left by those that have gone before and, if a player is not committed to the traditions, he will be gone under Plum, whether he is pink, blue or speaks Japanese. That is how it should be, obviously.

The values that Plumtree holds dear are the values he recognised in Daniel when he settled on making him captain.

As Daniel himself told me not long after he was appointed captain: ““How I live my life and carry myself in the public eye, and treat other people, is very important to me. I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today if did not have a spiritual grounding.”

“For me captaincy is as much about winning rugby games as it is about developing people and, in fact, the more you invest in the well-being of the players, the more games you are going to win. In a squad you have a cross-section of guys, all of whom go through ups and downs on and off the field. I just feel that if there is contentment, then you will get more out of a player.

“If you are performance driven and are just worried about a number at the end of the day, you will be successful in the short term, but if you are people driven, and show a genuine interest in their welfare ahead of the result, they will want to produce the result and you have a better chance of getting it.”

Heartfelt words, indeed, and the players I have spoken to this week have testified that this is how Daniel conducts himself.

An Afrikaans-hater? It just does not add up …

By Mike Greenaway

Two of South Africa’s most influential players might return on Sat

TWO of South Africa’s most influential players, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and openside flank Heinrich Brussow, are set to start their first Tests since November 2009 when the Springboks host the Wallabies in a return Tri-Nations match at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

Two years ago the pair were stand-out players in a brilliant year for the Boks, which saw them win the series against the British and Irish Lions and then go on to win five out of six Tri-Nations matches, including three wins in a row against the All Blacks.

Brussow, who came to light during the Lions tour, and Du Preez, the true general of the Springboks’ game plan over the last seven seasons, have not played since the defeat to Ireland in Dublin in the final match of 2009 because of recurring injury problems.

The 29-year-old Du Preez missed the entire 2010 season after undergoing surgery to a long-standing shoulder problem and made a tentative comeback for the Bulls in this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

He was understandably rusty after his long lay-off but when he started to find his feet, it coincided with the Bulls turning their poor early season form around and almost making the play-offs.

Brussow suffered a serious knee injury early in 2010 and a year later made a stunning comeback for the Cheetahs in their victorious tour match against the Waratahs in Sydney, which was ultimately the upset of the year. Brussow was excellent at the breakdown in the Free State’s first overseas Super Rugby win since they beat the Highlanders in Invercargill in 1996.

Unfortunately he did not play again this year for the Cheetahs because of rib and then hamstring injuries.

Brussow, who turned 25 last week, was in the Bok squad for the recent ill-fated Tri-Nations tour. It had been hoped that he would play off the bench in Sydney and then, when he was not ready, in Wellington, before the medical team eventually erred on the side of caution and recommended a spell off the bench for the Cheetahs in yesterday’s Absa Currie Cup match against Western Province in Bloemfontein.

Brussow had a very good cameo in the Free State win and, more importantly, passed his Springbok fitness test and is likely to start against Australia in a loose trio that will see Pierre Spies at No 8 and Bulls teammate Danie Rossouw on the blindside flank.

As for the return of Du Preez, the Boks were much maligned in 2010 for their ineffective tactics but many a critic pointed out that the absence of Du Preez’s educated boot was the real problem.

The debate as to whether or not the modern game has moved on since Du Preez was such a match winner in 2009 will no doubt be under keen scrutiny over the fortnight of the Boks’ home Tri-Nations matches.

Interestingly, Du Preez is set to make his comeback alongside his RWC 2007 flyhalf Butch James – himself making a comeback – and not the 2009 superstar Morne Steyn, who is in the fight of his life to retain the No 10 jersey.

James last played for the Boks when he came on as a substitute in the 44-31 victory over the Wallabies in Pretoria last year.

Captain John Smit is likely to continue at hooker ahead of Bismarck du Plessis and there will be places on the bench for stars of the away Tri-Nations leg in flank Jean Deysel and lock Gerhard Mostert, and a long-awaited comeback spot for loosehead prop Gurthro Steenkamp.

Springboks (probable): 15 Francois Steyn 14 JP Pietersen 13 Jaque Fourie 12 Jean de Villiers 11 JP Pietersen 10 Butch James 9 Fourie du Preez 8 Pierre Spies 7 Danie Rossouw 6 Heinrich Brussow 5 Victor Matfield 4 Bakkies Botha 3 Jannie du Plessis 2 John Smit (capt) 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Substitutes: Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Gerhard Mostert, Jean Deysel, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Juan du Jongh

Well miracles will never cease. No less than fifteen of the Rustenburg 21 have been raised from the dead

Well miracles will never cease. No less than fifteen of the Rustenburg 21 have been raised from the dead and will front up against the Wallabies at Kings Park on Saturday. And not a minute too soon for Springbok fans who have found the Tri-Nations joke wearing a bit thin, even though there is a World Cup reason to the short-term madness that saw the Springbok jersey humiliated in Sydney and Wellington.

There will no doubt be sardonic grins in Auckland and Sydney at the Lazarus-like restoration to rude health of sure-fire World Cup starters in Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Beast Mtawarira, Pierre Spies, Fourie du Preez, Butch James, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Frans Steyn and Francois Hougaard.

And all of them will feature in Saturday’s return match with a Wallabies side that walloped the Boks 39-20 at Australia’s Olympic Stadium – along with handful of the shamed tourists.

In the squad of 24 announced yesterday for the Tests in Durban and Port Elizabeth (against New Zealand), the forwards survivors from the tour are captain John Smit, Danie Rossouw, Gerhard Mostert, Jean Deysel and CJ van der Linde. Apart from certainties in Smit and Rossouw, the others played their way into the World Cup (and Tri-Nations) reckoning.

Mostert and Deysel are the bolters after they took their chances with big games against the All Blacks last week after the injuries to locks Johann Muller and Flip van der Merwe. Mostert, who was released by the Sharks to join Stade Francais, has also leapfrogged his former Sharks team-mate Alistair Hargreaves.

Veteran Van der Linde came from nowhere to play his way back into contention with fighting performances off the bench.

Tourists who disappointingly did not make the most of their opportunity on tour and have been discarded are the Bulls front-rankers Werner Kruger and Dean Greyling, but their colleague Chiliboy Ralepelle is unlucky.

Then again, the words of selection chief Pieter Jooste were revealing when he yesterday said that the last six positions in the World Cup squad would come down to comparing the performances of certain players in the Tri-Nations home leg with those of recent tourists.

For instance, a player such as Patrick Lambie, who has been discarded for the home leg of the Tri-nations, is just about certain to go to the World Cup.

While he will not start in the big games at the Rugby World Cup, his versatility in being able to cover 10, 12 and 15 make him an invaluable tourist.

In the meantime, Butch James is the man of the moment at flyhalf. The No 10 jersey is his for the taking if he can produce commanding performances over the next fortnight. Morne Steyn is on the outer, but coach Peter de Villiers will revert to the hero of the Lions series if James does not make the most of this opportunity.

Of the backline players that toured last month, a number have vanished because of inconsequential performances, including Wynand Olivier, Adrian Jacobs, Bjorn Basson and Lwazi Mvovo, although the impressive fullback against Australia in Sydney, Gio Aplon, is recalled after missing the Wellington Test because of injury.

Otherwise, the backline reserves are almost completely overhauled. Only Juan de Jongh, Aplon and Ruan Pienaar are retained, and none of them will start against the Wallabies this week.

The long-term injured players that were not considered for the Tri-Nations but could still make the World Cup squad are Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts.

Cheetahs opensider Heinrich Brussow makes his comeback today for the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and if he comes through unharmed, is tipped to start the Test match.

Likely Springbok starting line-up against Wallabies: 15 Frans Steyn 14 JP Pietersen 13 Jaque Fourie 12 Jean de Villiers 11 Bryan Habana 10 Butch James 9 Fourie du Preez 8 Pierre Spies 7 Heinrich Brussow 6 Danie Rossouw 5 Victor Matfield 4 Bakkies Botha 3 Jannie du Plessis 2 John Smit (capt) 1 Beast Mtawaria

Tri-nations squad for home leg: Backs: Gio Aplon, Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Morné Steyn, Butch James, Ruan Pienaar, Fourie du Preez, Francois Hougaard

Forwards: Pierre Spies, Jean Deysel, Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Gerhard Mostert, John Smit (capt), Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, CJ van der Linde

by Mike Greenaway

The South African Rugby Union went on confrontational attack

The South African Rugby Union went on confrontational attack this morning as the best form of defence of the alleged Springbok training camp in Rustenburg that is running concurrently with the Tri-Nations tour to Australia and New Zealand.

In fact, CEO Jurie Roux angrily denied that there is a training camp at all, telling a packed media conference at the Springbok hotel in the New Zealand capital that it was merely a gathering of injured players who are being collectively rehabilitated.

Rouz, who was in Australia last week for broadcasting meetings and in New Zealand this week for a Sanzar conference, sat on the right of coach Peter de Villiers at the conference to announce the team and when the predictable first question was about the “Rustenburg 21”, he began a defence that was initially measured but by the end of the conference had developed into full-scale attack, which culminated thus: “I am not denying that they are in Rustenburg, I am denying that there is a secret training camp. I have got my players in a single high performance entity being rehabilitated,” he said. “That is it, but you (the kiwi media) want me to say that I am running a separate Springbok team and have sent a B team here.

“Well, I would like to cut the cast off Schalk Burger’s finger, I would like Andries Bekker to not need an operation, I would like all of them to be uninjured, but they are injured and being rehabilitated, so what do you want me to do? I am not a miracle worker,” he exclaimed.

Roux, a Stellenbosch accountant by trade, then raised eyebrows with his response to a local reporter who said he had merely been seeking clarification of what was going on.

“It is a unique thing to me that people are worried about this at all. I run a multi-million rand corporation where my biggest asset is my players. I need to do something to get them all ready for the World Cup and that means the best medical attention in the best environment for the injured.

“This is a simple thing and if I was not doing it, I would need to come to New Zealand to look for a job, which is the last thing I want to do,” he said.

A cocker-hoop De Villiers gleefully added: “And I won’t come with you!”

Roux concluded: “What do you with injured players? You don’t send them to Bali or Mauritius to have a holiday, you put them into a high performance centre to get the best possible rehabilitation – I don’t understand the confusion and why there is this conspiracy theory.”

It was pointed out to the CEO that the “training camp” stories emanated from South Africa not New Zealand.

“That is perception and confusion coming from the media, and you can’t believe everything you hear in the media,” Roux said.

It was just about forgotten that Roux was there to announce the Springbok team.

The only surprise was that Morne Steyn was named at 10 and not 15, where he has run this week with Patrick Lambie doing the duties at 10. Oh well maybe it is all part of a cunning plan and Lambie will in fact do most of the attacking from flyhalf and Steyn and his boot will be there for the defence.

The expected changes see Gerhard Mostert making his debut for injured Flip van der Merwe; flank Jean Deysel coming in for axed Ashley Johnson, with Danie Rossouw moving to No 8.

In a tactical switch in the centres, Juan de Jongh moves to No 12 and Adi Jacobs starts at outside centre with Wynand Olivier dropping to the bench.

Lambie replaces injured Gio Aplon and Odwa Ndungane is promoted to the bench.

Springboks: 15 Morne Steyn 14 Bjorn Basson 13 Adrian Jacobs 12 Juan de Jongh 11 Lwazi Mvovo 10 Patrick Lambie 9 Ruan Pienaar 8 Danie Rossouw 7 Deon Stegmann 6 Jean Deysel 5 Alistair Hargreaves 4 Gerhard Mostert 3 Werner Kruger 2 John Smit (capt) 1 Dean Greyling

Substitutes: Chiliboy Ralepelle, CJ van der linde, Ryan Kankowski, Ashley Johnson, Charl McLeod, Wynand Olivier, Odwa Ndungane.

%d bloggers like this: