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.

Joost was just too good -R.I.P

THE doyen of rugby broadcasting, Bill McLaren, remarked in his book “Rugby’s Great Heroes”, that the “Springboks had no right to be playing an outrageously gifted flank at scrumhalf.”

McLaren indeed summed up Joost. It is fact that the Springbok legend was not refined in the artistry of scrumhalf play but he was among the first players that a coach would pick purely because of his indomitable spirit, his sheer competiveness and utter refusal to lose.

In short, Joost was not a skilled scrumhalf – his pass was often suspect and his box kicking was poor, and coaches knew that, but they always picked him because he had an X factor for scoring and creating tries and a sheer refusal to lose that the rest of the team fed off.

The more a situation in a game deteriorated, the harder Joost played. He just would not give up.

I recall asking him at a press conference in 2003 following the Springboks’ defeat to England in a key Rugby World Cup Pool game if the Boks’ World Cup campaign had been won and lost (the defeat set them up for a quarter-final against New Zealand, and the Springbok team quite frankly was one of the poorest in decades).

He leaned up out of his chair and said with clinched fists said: “It is not a case of IF we beat New Zealand but WHEN we win the World Cup!”

And I knew he was not bull-dusting given his blazing eyes and clear restraint to not jump over the top table and punch my lights out. He would dearly have loved to…

Those eyes … women were mesmerised by them, rugby players feared them.

I was on tour in New in Zealand as a journalist in 1996 when Joost was being discussed on a TV show. One pundit said he had “gunslinger eyes that belonged at the OK Corral” when the going was tough in a match, but another on the show countered that with a wonderful description: “He has the ruthless, icy gaze of a German U-Boat commander scanning the Atlantic for ships to sink.”

One of the most famous photographs from the 1995 Rugby World Cup final was taken early in the game when the block-busting All Black wing Jonah Lomu was on the rampage and Van der Westhuizen (who had taken numbing injections to a rib injury to enable him to play in the final) flung himself into the path of the Tongan and cut him down at the ankles.

Lomu never scored that day (or ever against South Africa) and his opposite number at Ellis Park, James Small, later said that Joost’s courageous fling at the boots of the behemoth to bring “it” to a crashing halt, gave the team added belief that Lomu could be stopped.

But it was on attack that Van der Westhuizen was at his best. He had “white line fever” more than most and had the power, strength and tenacity to bash himself over for try after try.

If a Springbok or Bulls pack was advancing near the opposition line, it was an almost certainty that the rampaging scrumhalf would smash over. He was that determined.

Van der Westhuizen for some time held the record for the most tries as a Springbok, eventually broken by Bryan Habana.

Joost’s 38 tries were scored in 89 Tests, an incredible record for a scrumhalf. Habana, superb as he is, would be expected as a wing to score more than a scrumhalf after having being on the receiving end of creative movements (to date, 67 tries from 124 Tests).

But Joost was not just a finisher. He was a demolisher. If he had a sniff of the tryline, he would almost always score. One of his most famous tries was at the 1999 Rugby World Cup, the Springbok quarter-final victory over England most remembered for the five drop goals kicked by Jannie de Beer.

But those at the Stade de France in Paris that day will recall that the momentum shift in the game came seconds before half time when Joost, bandaged almost from head to foot because of innumerable injuries, set his sights on the corner flag and ran for his life though a white-coloured brick wall to miraculously get the ball down in field.

From my position in the media box, I had a view of Clive Woodward, and when Joost scored that try I saw Woodward throw his head back in dismay. He knew that it was a telling moment.

England heads dropped, the Boks entered the change rooms in front after a fierce first half, and De Beer did the rest.

That is possibly the best image we should recall of Joost van der Westhuizen. He was bandaged like a mummy and took half the England team on his back as he forced that game-breaking try.

By Mike Greenaway

Sacking BOK Coach Coetzee would be like putting an elastoplast on an amputation.

It is as simple as this. If the South African Rugby Union was listed on the stock exchange, the Board of Directors would be fired. The investors would have looked at the plunging stock, the disappearing dividends, and heads would roll.

There is no sentiment in business. Not when there is cold cash involved and expectant investors.

Are we taking it too far in saying that the Springboks are far more than sport and a business and that the Saru Board should fall on its sword?

Of course not. And when we are talking about a brand as internationally famous as the Springboks, the economic impact of a brand in free-fall becomes more complicated.

There are the direct stakeholders, the title sponsors and a whole bunch of supporting financial contributors that have their name attached to the Boks but, perhaps even more importantly, there is the countless multitude of “silent investors” that are the supporters.

The folk who buy (and burn!) the supporters jerseys and pay large sums to watch their team in stadiums around the world.

Springbok matches are watched by South Africans in virtually every city in the world. I have found a pub to watch a Springbok match in Bangkok and New York, others will have found a live screening in a startling array of arenas across the globe.

The Boks are big business. Those green and gold jerseys surface all around the world when the Boks play.

But what if more immediate supporters, those in South Africa, just stopped going to watch the Boks get humiliated …. again?

It is not debatable that the Boks are at their lowest ever ebb. Yes, they have lost a number of matches in a season before, such as in 1965 when there were seven losses and just one win (which was against the All Blacks) but that has been against top class opposition.

This year, the scale of the losses has been horrible, and how on earth can a Springbok team possibly lose to a very poor Italy team?

The easy target is Allister Coetzee and yes, he has been proved terribly out of his depth, but I feel sympathy for him and my sentiment is that the buck should stop with the Board that appointed him in the first place.

Allister was never going to be a success. And especially with the backroom staff that he was (mostly) given. I have nothing against Mzwandile Stick but how can he come from absolutely nowhere to coach the backline of the Boks? We know that it is because the coaching staff of Heyneke Meyer was seen to be too white.

Why on earth not continue with Ricardo Loubscher, one of Heyneke Meyer’s assistants who had spent four years with the Boks and is highly regarded? He would have been a merit appointment and offered continuity.

This is just one point among many that critics could make.

The bottom line is do not blame Coetzee for the blunders he has made this season, blame those who appointed him.

The stakeholders should be targeting the South African Rugby Union, not the hapless Coetzee. He did not appoint himself and he is surely doing his best.

But he was set up to fail by an amateurish Saru Board who did no forward planning – have they ever given that the Bok coaching staff changes entirely every post-World Cup year? – and appointed Coetzee almost by default. The suspicion is that nobody else could be found to take the job and the lateness of Coetzee’s appointment this year confirms that Saru were squirming ever since the end of the 2015 World Cup when they made it untenable for Meyer to continue.

Meyer did not want to leave. Yes he lost to Japan but in the end the Boks came third at the World Cup and almost beat the All Blacks in the semi-finals (18-20).

What would be soothing for the army of Springbok supporters worldwide (who can only voice their dissatisfaction on social media) is if the financial muscle that sponsors the Boks got together and read the Riot Act to the real culprits that are sinking South African rugby.

Sacking Coetzee, with no change among the green-blazered denizens of the Saru boardroom, would be like putting an elastoplast on an amputation.

BY Mike Greenaway

ENDS

BOK COACH MUST DO THE HONORABLE THING AND RESIGN

We could say the following in euphemisms, with kid gloves, if you like, but what the heck let us just say it like it really is: Springbok coach Allister Coeztee (AC ) must be fired by the South African Union the moment this Springbok team concludes an utterly miserable year that could conceivably have included with a loss to Italy (don’t joke), and then an almost certain loss to Wales in the tour finale in Cardiff.

It really is as bad and as serious as that. Rugby critics and luminaries have been saying this since June. Coetzee and his coaching staff are out of their depth and the issue is that the team gets worse each week, not better. This is quite possibly the worst ever Springbok coaching staff in 120 years of Test rugby in this country.

caption AC with OTC at Heart ( the short bloke in the middle ) with ran from 9-10am on Sat Morning

Coetzee heads a side that does not know how it is expected to play. Some of Coetzee’s selections are simply nonsensical, and the reality is that after 10 Tests in charge Coetzee simply CANNOT continue as captain of a ship that is going backwards.

There is no discernible game plan with an eye on the future. It is about picking a team each week that will do damage limitations.

A loose trio against England at the weekend comprising Willem Alberts, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Warren Whiteley? To be fair, that was about trying stop the England pack from bullying the Boks at the breakdown. But where was an openside flank to slow down the England ball and win turnovers for the Boks? Yes, there injuries in the position but heck this is about winning Test matches and I would have flown in Heinrich Brussow from Outer Mongolia (or wherever the heck he is …).

Coetzee must go now! There are still three years to the Word Cup in Japan. That is enough time for a coach like Johan Ackermann to come in and straighten out the mess, identify a game plan, pick appropriate players, and get the Boks on track.

The England victory over the Boks illustrates the point about how quickly a coach can make n impact. Less than a year ago they were the laughing stock of their country. They had had a very nice man in Stuart Lancaster as coach but he could not instil a hard edge in the England team and they failed to make the last eight of their own World Cup. England was a joke.
Less than a year later, England have won 11 games in a row under a feisty, fiery bomb-waiting-to-go-off Australian in Eddie Jones.

There is no more Mr Nice Guy. He picked as his first captain a hooker that had been regularly in the judiciary dock for dirty play, including biting. His point was that England would no longer back down from anybody. England are unbeaten under Jones and have climbed to No 2 on the world rankings

The Springboks, under the smiling Toetie, have fallen apart since losing by two points to the All Blacks in the 2015 World Cup semi-finals and well beating Argentina to the bronze medal (all under coach Heyneke Meyer).

In 2016 the Boks have lost six out of 10 Tests and conceded a staggering 31 tries.

How can this be? It is a disgrace that the Boks have conceded 31 tries in 2016. Well coached ….????!!!!

I am sick of hearing about the shock losses to Japan, Argentina and Ireland, as well as the whippings by the All Blacks in Christchurch and Durban.

Let me put this to you. If you were the Italy rugby team, and you obviously had seen the form of the Boks in 2016, would you not be licking your slips and slapping yourself together for a giant-slaying act? Would you not be seeing this match in Florence on Saturday as your World Cup final?

In over a 100 years, no Italian player has ever truly believed his team had a chance of beating the almighty Springboks. Quite right. Well I can tell you that every single Italian player will be believe that on Saturday in Florence they have a concrete chance of at last beating one of the game’s great giants.

Again, how can it come to this? How can it be possible that Italy will truly believe they can beat the Springboks, and if you are a Bok fan and are not worried … well you should be.

It is as simple as this. Allister Coetzee and his coaching staff are close to useless. They must be fired en masse asap so that the new staff have a full three years to coach the Boks back to glory.

by Mike Greenaway

Sharks vs Stormers match preview for today 5.10pm kick off

This week it has been something of a mutual admiration society between the coaches of the Sharks and Stormers but nobody is under any illusion that it will be all-out war at Newlands come 5.15pm this evening.

In the best traditions of derbies between the sides, Gary Gold and Robbie Fleck have been talking up the opposition while behind closed doors the teams are preparing to rip each other’s heads off.

The bookies have the unbeaten Stormers as favourites, mostly by virtue of being at home and that their combinations are better known while a number of Sharks are still finding their feet in Super Rugby.

The bookies are probably spot on. The Stormers were emphatic in beating the Bulls at Newlands in round one and showed character to outmuscle the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein while the Sharks struggled to subdue the Kings in the first half of their round-one match but then showed admirable courage in seeing off the Jaguares in Durban last week.

“We have a lot of respect for a Stormers team that is probably a few years ahead of us in terms of progression and continuity from (outgoing coach) Alistair Coetzee to (his long-time assistant) Robbie Fleck. They are a tight unit and we will show them the respect they reserve by the urgency with which we will play. We are not just going to pitch up in Cape Town and see how it goes …!”

The Sharks are in a good place, psychologically-speaking. They know they are not world beaters just yet but have taken confidence out of their wins over Toulon, Toulouse, the Kings and the Jaguares. The Argentineans did not score a point in the second half at Kings Park because of tenacious defence from the home side.

“We are making incremental progress and recognise that what has gone before this season for us will not be good enough against the Stormers, who will pose very tough questions at a packed Newlands,” Gold said.

“Fleckie is taking their game to a new level,” Gold continued. “He has had his own influence on how he would like to see things done. He has taken the strengths built by Allistair, the set pieces and defence, and added his attacking mindset to that foundation. We hear from guys in their squad that they are very happy under Fleckie and as a South African I am ecstatic that the Stormers went that route. Fleckie is a very smart guy and certainly did his apprenticeship. He was a great Springbok player and then an assistant coach for six years. I am very happy for him and for SA rugby that he has been recognised and I think he is doing an outstanding job.”

Fleck, in turn, has heaped praise on the Sharks, in particular their vastly improved defence following last season’s pitiful effort in this regard. They conceded a whopping 43 tries, and in the off-season recruited defence guru Omar Mouneimne.

“We know Omar from the time he spent coaching at the Stormers between 2008 and 2010, he’s a very good defence coach and you can see a big difference in the Sharks’ defensive system,” Fleck said.

“The Sharks are looking good, and appear to be a well-rounded side. There are some clear changes from last season, they’re very organised defensively and have a well-balanced kicking game, with good kickers in Joe Pietersen and Willie le Roux. But I also think they’re looking to keep the ball in hand a bit more. We’re actually two quite similar teams.”

Pietersen has been a steady influence at 10 in taking over from injured Patrick Lambie and his experience has been preferred to the flair of youngster Garth April. Fleck knows Pietersen inside out having coached him when he was the Stormers’ fullback for a number of seasons.

“Joe’s a really good rugby player, and when he has time on the ball he can be very dangerous. He generally makes good decisions, so we can’t just let him have it all his own way, we have to put him under a bit of pressure. He’s a point-scoring machine, and he’s got a nice flow into the Sharks’ attack and he’s running things smoothly. I like the way the Sharks are playing, they’ve got some big strong backs and a mobile pack.”

So it is pats on the back all round from the respective coaches but the phoney war is just about at and end and this evening’s game will not be for the faint at heart.

Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (co-captain), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

Substitutes: Scarra Ntubeni, Oli Kebble, Vincent Koch, JD Schickerling, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Nic Groom, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Huw Jones.

Sharks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Beast Mtawarira (capt).

Substitutes: Kyle Cooper, Juan Schoeman, Lourens Adriaanse, Hyron Andrews, Philip van der Walt, Michael Claassens, Garth April, S’bura Sithole.

By Mike Greenaway

ENDS

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?

Footnote

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

All Blacks need a strong Springbok team to validate them.

My great friend Mike Greenaway has been fortunate to cover many of South Africa’s post-isolation Test matches in New Zealand and have learned beyond any shadow of doubt that the Kiwi rugby public loves nothing better than a strong Springbok team visiting their shores.

He recalls being in 2005 being in Dunedin for the match between John Smit’s defending Tri-Nations champion team and the All Blacks at Carisbrook, and at stake was the crown. The team that won that match would win the Tri-Nations.

It was a week of feverish excitement in Dunedin. The old rivalry had been revived and gripped the “Edinburgh of the South”, as the icy city is known because of its strong Scottish ancestry. On the morning of the match, the Otago Daily Times carried this headline across its back page: “Welcome back Boks – we have missed you”.

This was a reference to that dreadful period in the Springbok-All Blacks rivalry where the South Africans went missing in action. After having beaten the Kiwis in the third-place play-off at the 1999 Rugby World Cup in Cardiff, the Boks then lost eight in a row to the All Blacks, including the infamous 16-52 humiliation at the (former) fortress of South African rugby, Loftus Versfeld, in 2003.

South Africa won the Tri-Nations the next year in their first campaign under Jake White and Smit and, although they did not win in New Zealand, there was a sound drought-breaking triumph at Ellis Park, and in the next match between the sides, the following year, the Boks were resounding winners at Newlands.

Which brought them to Dunedin for the return match and the Kiwis were indeed thrilled that there was again a genuine contest between their team and their old foe. There was a column by a veteran journalist who recalled how as a youth he had woken up in the early hours when the All Blacks were touring South Africa and with his dad had listened to the radio commentary that told of these monstrous Springboks that were dominating Test after Test, and he wondered at the time if they could ever be beaten.

Indeed, in the pre-isolation era, the Boks beat the All Blacks more often than they lost, although there was not too much in it. In 1992, before the isolation-breaking Test between the countries at Ellis Park, the Boks were up 20-17 in Tests between the countries.

Sadly, that positive record was quickly overturned in the professional era. The All Blacks had moved up to another level following the Boks’ isolation following that tremendous series between the teams in 1981, which should have ended in a drawn rubber had it not been for the shameless interfering of Welsh referee Clive Norling – who to this day knows better than to set foot in South Africa – in the infamous “flour bomb” Test at Eden Park.

The All Blacks won that Test with a late penalty by fullback Alan Hewson after a penalty contrived by Norling. Incidentally, that 2005 Test in Dunedin lived up to expectation and the All Blacks won that match (and the Tri-Nations) with a late try by hooker Keven Mealamu.

In general, though, the Boks have been inconsistent against the All Blacks post their 1995 Rugby World Cup final triumph. In 40 matches since 1996, the All Blacks have won 28 and the Boks just 12, with only three wins on New Zealand soil in 17 years of annual visits.

That is why New Zealand gets so excited when a strong Springbok team visits, as is the case this week. The reports out of New Zealand clearly indicate that the country is once more seized with rugby fever.

The reason is because the All Blacks need a strong Springbok team to validate them. They routinely beat everybody, give or take France occasionally upsetting them in World Cups and the Wallabies once in a while providing a Bledisloe Cup upset.

However, it is the Boks that still have that historic ability to render the All Blacks human when they are seemingly unbeatable. The Kiwis know it and they would rather have that competition than not.

The last time Italy played a Test match in Durban they lost 101-0

The last time Italy played a Test match in Durban they lost 101-0 on a day when Stefan Terblanche scored five tries on the wing, and indeed the average result in the 10 matches to date between the countries has been 55-13 to the Boks, but anybody who is expecting Italy to roll over at Kings Park tomorrow is sorely mistaken.

The Azzurri have come a long way in recent years thanks to their exposure in Six Nations rugby and a few months back they beat France and Ireland, and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was in the stands at Twickenham when England were given the fright of their lives before defeating the Italians by seven points.

That said, the Boks are obviously expected to win and it is a question of how much, with respect to Italy. The chances of an upset of the century would be that much higher if this game was played in Rome, but it is Kings Park and the Italians are surely a touch fatigued now that the marathon Northern Hemisphere season is winding up.

They have their share of world class players, notably talismanic captain Sergio Parisse, and the opportunity to watch this truly world class player is alone worth turning up or tuning in. But the man that the TV cameras love, the stocky, hirsute and bearded battler that is Martin Castrogiovanni, has been restricted to a role off the bench because he picked up a niggle playing for the Barbarians against the British and Irish Lions in Hong Kong last week.

His opposite number, Beast Mtawarira, might secretly be pleased.

We all know about how well Castrogiovanni and company scrum, it is their trademark, and like the Boks they are no slouches at the driving maul, but it is their improved attack under new coach Jacques Brunel, that has most impressed Heyneke Meyer.

“They carried the ball more times than any other team in the Six Nations,” the Bok coach said. “I am not trying to do a PR job on them when I tell you that they almost beat England in London by keeping the ball.”

This is a reflection on the change of tack from Brunel. His predecessor, Nick Mallett, who once employed Meyer as his Bok forwards coach, funnily enough, had Italy playing a conservative game that was probably about keeping the score down. It was not about expression, but Brunel has induced the old Italian fire in his charges and a team that beat 2011 World Cup finalists France has to be keenly respected. And Ireland are hardly pushovers either.

Yesterday, Italy’s Australian-born winger, Luke Mclean, was a popular target at the Italians’ team announcement given his obvious ability to speak English, and he calmly said that Italy were confident that they would win. True story.

“We are not here on holiday,” the Brisbane product said. “We are here to beat the Springboks. We will have to put our best foot forward from one to 23, but we know that on our day we can step up and play against the best teams in the world. We have to go out and be confident. If you go out expecting to lose, there is only going to be one result, and we are confident that we can get the result we want. We have beaten two of the best teams in the world this year and believe that if we go out there and play our own style of rugby, and back ourselves to compete over the whole 80 minutes, we can win this one.”

Good on cobber McLean. Spoken with true digger spirit, but do they really believe they can win? It would appear so.

“You must understand that this is no ordinary end of season tour for us,” Mclean said. “Fatigue is not a question. We consider playing against the Boks an honour and it is something we would never take for granted. We have three games in this quadrangular competition to finish of what has been a good season for us. We don’t want to render what we did in the Six Nations a waste of time.

“We are pitching up to play and win, not to make up the numbers,” Mclean concluded with sincerity.

But the Boks know this. Meyer is no fool and he will have been talking up the opposition all week to his players. And the coach knows that the reality is that a correctly focussed Springbok team should never, ever lose at home to Italy.

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)

Kick-off: 5.15pm.

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (capt), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Arno Botha, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Italy : 15 Andrea Masi, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Luca Morisi, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luke McLean, 10 Alberto di Bernardo, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Sergio Parisse (capt), 7 Robert Barbieri, 6 Alessandro Zanni, 5 Marco Bortolami, 4 Antonio Pavanello, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto de Marchi.

Substitutes: Davide Giazzon, Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Valerio Bernabo, Joshua Furno, Tobias Botes, Luciano Orquera, Tommaso Iannone.

by Mike Greenaway

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