HAS THE SPRINGBOK – ALL BLACK RIVALRY BEEN IGNITED?

THE clamour for tickets ahead of yesterdays sold-out Rugby Championship match between the All Blacks and the Springboks in Wellington has raised the question as to whether the age old rivalry between the teams has been ignited. (match was a draw 16 all )

Unquestionably it has thanks to the recent resurgence of the Springboks under Rassie Erasmus, but the rivalry born in 1921, when the two countries first met in Dunedin, is mostly rooted in the 75 years of the pre-1996 amateur era, and since then it has been seriously tested in a modern era that has seen New Zealand dominate world rugby.
But since 2016 that outright Kiwi dominance has waned a wee bit, as they would say in New Zealand parlance, as evidenced by their loss and a draw to the British and Irish Lions, two losses to Ireland, and one defeat apiece to Australia and South Africa.

And it is the closeness of the last three Test matches between the Boks and the All Blacks (going into this morning’s game) that have had South African hearts aflutter and New Zealanders welcoming back a genuine challenge to their dominance.

Last year, the teams perfectly cancelled each other out with a home and away aggregate score of 66-66 following the 34-32 Bok win in Wellington and the 32-20 All Blacks victory in Pretoria; while the previous encounter between the sides had seen the visiting Kiwis squeak home 25-24 in Cape Town.

In other words, there was one point separating the teams over their last three encounters before today’s match.

And the closeness of those three matches has been celebrated by rugby purists in both countries who have treasured the rivalry between the countries, but had wept at the alarming discrepancy between the sides in their previous three encounters that had seen the All Blacks ruthlessly win 41-13, 57-15 and 57-0.

But let’s digress from the Boks’ erratic (to put it euphemistically) performances against New Zealand in the professional era and examine just why these two countries have this exclusive and mutually sentimental need to beat each other more than the other nations.

Over three quarters of a century of amateur rugby, during which the two countries out rightly dominated world rugby, the Springboks had a superior record to the All Blacks.
In short, up until the first post-isolation Test between South Africa and New Zealand in 1992, the Springboks had won 20 Tests against the All Blacks, the latter had won 15, and two matches had been drawn.

The Boks had won a series in New Zealand (1937) but the All Blacks had never won a series on South African soil. As the rivalry progressed into the post World War Two era, the Boks defeated the All Blacks eight times in a row, and nine times out of 10, including the famous “All Blacked out” series of 1949 in South Africa in which the Kiwis had no answer in three Tests.
These days, can you imagine the Springboks winning nine out of 10 consecutive Tests against the All Blacks …?

Progressing into the post World War Two era, the Kiwis won a home series 2-1 in 1956; the Boks reciprocated with a 2-1 win at home in 1960; the All Blacks then won 3-1 in New Zealand in 1965 only to be overturned 3-1 in South Africa in 1970.

South Africa again won 3-1 in South Africa in 1976 only to lose 2-1 in New Zealand in 1981 in an incredibly dramatic tour that divided the country on the issue of “sports versus politics”. Whatever your stance, that tour strikingly entrenched the colourful relationship between the two rugby-mad countries.

In 1986, an unofficial All Blacks Cavaliers side (missing two conscientious objectors in John Kirwan and David Kirk), lost a series in South Africa that again had New Zealanders on the one hand demonising apartheid but with another hand tuning the TV remote into the rugby.

The rivalry thankfully enjoyed a bright new dawn in the post-apartheid Test of 1992 in which the Kiwis squeaked home at a reverberating Ellis Park, with the late James Small spilling a pass at the end of the game which should have seen him win the match for the Boks.

The Boks, and Small, then got it wonderfully right in the World Cup final at the same venue in 1995 after having lost a series in New Zealand in 1994.

And that brings us to quite possibly the most emotional celebrations the All Blacks have ever enjoyed, certainly in what I have seen in 25 year of covering international rugby. The scene was Loftus Versfeld in 1996 and the New Zealanders had snuck home against the Boks to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in a series they would win 2-1.

In the press box that day, I saw usually stony-faced Kiwi scribes weep with emotion, as did Sean Fitzpatrick and his men. The Loftus pitch was littered with All Blacks lying prone on their backs, staring to the heavens with delight.

That is what it meant to New Zealand to at last win a series in South Africa.

And, sadly for South Africa, that home series defeat marked a watershed in the great rivalry. From then on it has been mostly one-sided, with the New Zealand landslide held up only by the occasional Springbok obstacle.

In the 50 matches since the start of the professional era, New Zealand have won 36 Tests to South Africa’s 14, although in that time the Boks have won two World Cups to the two of the New Zealanders (they have a third from the 1989 amateur era).

Overall the New Zealanders have won 79 percent of the Tests they have played and the Springbok 65 percent. No other country has come close.

The problem for the age old rivalry is that in the professional era, the Boks have at best posted threats of a revival, with the occasional bang inevitably followed by a despairing whimper.

And the reason for this has been the abjectly poor administration by the South African Rugby Union. There has been a miserable failure to ensure there is continuity in the coaching structures of the Springboks, and consequently the players, which has meant that after every four (post World Cup) years a new coach has come in and started from scratch.

This contrasts starkly with a New Zealand model that has seen continuity in management of the team just about forever. Just one example of this is the fact that current All Blacks coach Steve Hansen began his apprenticeship for the top job under Graham Henry in 2004, taking over as head coach in 2012, and when he bows out after the World Cup later this year, his probable successor, Ian Foster, will have been an assistant for the last eight years.

This relentless continuity breeds seamless and sustained success, and it is why the All Blacks have been dominating a Springbok set-up that has a wholesale clearout after every World Cup, with the incoming coach largely starting from scratch.

Consider the following. After the 1999 World Cup which saw the Boks beat the All Blacks in a bronze medal play-off and then again in 2000 at Ellis Park before Nick Mallett was fired, the Boks then lost eight in a row to the All Blacks as first Harry Viljoen and then Rudolf Straeuli failed to rebuild the Boks in the post-Mallett era that had seen the Boks equal the world record for successive Test victories.

Straeuli had in fact blooded the core of players that under Jake White would record back-to-back victories over the All Blacks across 2004 and 2005, and then win again in 2006 in Rustenberg.
That same Bok team would win three in a row against the All Blacks in 2009. That was under coach Pieter de Villiers, but when Heyneke Meyer took over with a whole new squad and staff, the Boks lost six in a row to the All Blacks before a win in 2014.

Meyer ultimately presided over a Bok team that lost just 20-18 to the All Blacks in the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup, and then there was a colossal clear-out of players and coaching staff that meant incoming Allister Coetzee was fatally impaired, and those three 50-something reverses to the All Blacks in 2016 and 2017 were the result.

The Boks under Erasmus are now enjoying a resurgence against the Old Foe but the bottom line as far as challenging the All Blacks for a meaningful period of time is that Saru has to wake up and ensure that the Boks have long-term continuity instead of fatally having to reinvent themselves after each World Cup.

Mike Greenaway has the privilege of covering most of the Springboks’ victories over the All Blacks in the professional era. Here are his three favourites.

1998 New Zealand 3 South Africa 13 (Wellington)

This was the last ever Test match at the famous Athletic Park, a rickety old ground that was to make way for the Cake Tin that was nearing completion at the time of this match. The All Blacks wanted to bid a fitting farewell to a historic stadium but Gary Teichmann’s Boks were the party poopers. The unforgettable moment in that match was the match-winning try that saw flyhalf Henry Honiball deliver a brilliant inside pass to incoming blindside wing Pieter Rossouw.

2009 New Zealand 29 South Africa 32 (Hamilton)

The score-line flattered an All Blacks side that scored a late flurry of points after the visitors had smashed them for most of the game. The Boks had already beaten the Kiwis twice in South Africa and this victory secured them the Tri-Nations title. This match was memorable, too, for the three crowd-silencing penalties struck by fullback Francois Steyn from well within his half that locally earned him the nick name of “Jet boots”.

2006 South Africa 21 New Zealand 20 (Rustenburg) -His great mate Martin Myers was at that game

This was one the filthiest Tests between these countries of the modern era. The Boks under Jake White and John Smit were dangling by a thread after five successive losses. One more and there would have been a clear-out ahead of the 2007 Word Cup. But the “gatvol” Boks threw all caution to the wind and scrapped out a win that was secured by a last-minute penalty goal by Andre PretoriusA year later that same Bok team won the World Cup!

By Mike Greenaway

RUGBY FORTUNES CAN TURN ON A TICKY …… or RUSTENBURG REVISITED!

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.

ENDS

Looks a great read -Watched all the games regarding the Lions 2017 tour to NZ

In the Line of Fire: The Inside Story from the Lions Head Coach

Looks a top read -just bought it from Amazon

World Rugby awards Rugby World Cup 2023 to France

The World Rugby Council today awarded Rugby World Cup 2023 to France, which was selected following two rounds of voting during its interim meeting in London.

France received 24 votes to South Africa’s 15 in the final round of voting. In the first round, France received 18 votes to South Africa’s 13 and Ireland’s eight.

Following today’s vote, France will be hosting rugby’s showcase men’s event for the second time and hosting the 10th edition of the event 200 years after William Webb Ellis gave birth to the sport.

World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “Congratulations to France on being elected Rugby World Cup 2023 host. They presented a very strong and comprehensive bid, which clearly resonated with the Council today.

“We had three outstanding host candidates, who raised the bar and overwhelmingly demonstrated that they were all capable of hosting an exceptional Rugby World Cup. There was very little to choose between the candidates and this was reflected in the independently-audited evaluation report.

“I would like to pay tribute to Ireland and South Africa for their dedication throughout a rigorous, and transparent process and hope that they will bid again. We now look forward to working in partnership with France to deliver what I am sure will be a very successful Rugby World Cup in 2023.”

About the Rugby World Cup 2023 host selection process

The Rugby World Cup 2023 host selection follows a complete redesign of the bidding process to promote good governance and transparency, while providing prospective host unions and governments with an opportunity to gather all the information necessary to ensure hosting capability prior to moving through the process. This re-modelling has been assisted by The Sports Consultancy, which helped develop the documentation and tools and supported World Rugby throughout the process, including the evaluation and assessment phase.

During the applicant phase, the first phase of the process, interested unions were provided with the criteria for evaluation. Initially, there were four applicant unions, but Federazione Italiana Rugby withdrew its application, leaving Federation Française de Rugby, Irish Rugby Football Union and South African Rugby Union to proceed to the candidate stage, which in itself is a mark of their ability to host. On 1 June, 2017, the three candidate unions submitted their full bid documents, which were evaluated by the World Rugby Technical Review Group. The group submitted its report to the Rugby World Cup Limited Board, which in turn made its recommendation to Council today (31 October) prior to the vote on 15 November.

Voting process for selecting Rugby World Cup 2023 host union

On Wednesday 15 November in London, World Rugby Council decided which candidate union would host Rugby World Cup 2023. The three candidate unions were not be able to vote during the process.

That means, in total there were 39 votes left to be won, split up as follows:
• The four remaining Six Nations unions and three remaining SANZAAR unions had three votes each

• The six regional associations (Oceania Rugby, Sudamerica Rugby, Rugby Americas North, Rugby Europe, Rugby Africa and Asia Rugby) and the Japan Rugby Football Union had two votes each

• The remaining four votes belonged to Georgian Rugby Union, Rugby Canada, USA Rugby and Federatia Romȃnă de Rugby

• The unions/regional associations cast their votes as they saw fit, including splitting their votes or abstaining

• The entire process has been overseen by independent auditors

• As no candidate won a clear majority (20 votes or more) after the first ballot, the candidate bid with the lowest number of votes dropped out and then a second ballot was called between the remaining two.

The Rugby World Cup Limited Board is: Bill Beaumont (Chairman), Agustín Pichot (Vice-Chairman), Gareth Davies (Wales), Mike Hawker (independent), Brett Gosper (World Rugby CEO).

Currie Cup Final 2017 Preview WINNING WAY IS THE ONLY WAY FOR THE SHARKS.

As a player Robert du Preez was ultra-competitve, as a coach he is possibly more so, and on the eve of the Currie Cup final between the Sharks and Western Province, the 54-year-old refreshingly cut through the hype and hot air that will always accompany a major sporting event.

How are the Sharks are going to play? Have they anything special up their sleeves for a Province team that caught them off guard three weeks ago in Durban? Do the Sharks kick too much (they kicked more than any other team in three months of pool play)?

The taciturn coach mustered a wry grin before explaining how it will be for the Sharks: “Look too much is made of ball-in-hand rugby (or any particular brand). We want to play winning rugby. If that means we have to kick the ball a lot, we will do that.

“This year we have played to our strengths, which is our pack of forwards. Having said that, our backs have on many occasions done well for us with ball in hand. So we can do both, and it comes down to what the situation requires,” Du Preez said forthrightly.

In short, Du Preez does not want to have a pigeon-holed style of play.

“We want to build a way of playing that suits the Sharks and it does not happen overnight.

“We are not a New Zealand rugby team, we are a South African team, and we want to play a South African brand of rugby.”

Du Preez’s Sharks have led the Currie Cup from the front this season, evolving their way of playing, and it has come down to the same key elements. Uncompromising forward play and winning the gain line battle to provide the backs with opportunities to play what is in front of them — be that flyhalf Curwin Bosch spreading the ball or probing for territory with the boot.

And when without the ball, the Sharks have been brutal on defence.

How the Sharks play is not rocket science and if Province are to stop them at Kings Park, they know their forwards are going to have to trade blows in the frontline trenches. There will be no short cuts.

The Capetonians understand this full well from what transpired in the 80s minutes of their recent win in Durban. That match summed up the Sharks. For 30 minutes, when the Sharks were at full throttle, they steamrolled the opposition.

After the match, Province coach John Dobson admitted that he thought his side were goners given how the Sharks dominated that half an hour. But then the Sharks took their foot off the pedal. Suddenly the opposition could play, and they certainly did, spearheaded by flyhalf Robert du Preez jnr, who brilliantly made the most of the unexpected front-foot ball coming his way.

But the Sharks will not be as charitable in a final. Once bitten twice shy. They have come a long way this season to throw it away now.

That WP win was possibly the best thing that could have happened to the Sharks because it laid bare their strengths and weaknesses, and empathised the ruthlessness and efficiency that is required to be a champion team.

“Three months of hard work comes down to one game. There is nothing more we can do now,” Du Preez said philosophically. “We could not have worked harder than we have. I am incredibly proud of the players. Now it is about being calm and composed, and expressing ourselves as we have done all season.”

*** Du Preez has made one change to his squad for the final. Injured wing Sbu Nkosi is replaced by Odwa Ndungane and the latter’s place on the bench is taken by Rhyno Smith.

Sharks – 15 Garth April, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Odwa Ndungane, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Thomas du Toit.


Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Tristan Blewett, 23 Rhyno Smith.

Curwin Bosch flyhalf for the Sharks -Pic Steve Haag

Western Province – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Huw Jones, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl (c), 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Werner Kok, 23 Dan Kriel.

Kick-off: 4pm

Referee: Jaco Peyper

Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds & AJ Jacobs

TMO: Marius Jonker

BY Mike Greenaway

All Blacks team named for final Test against Australia

The All Blacks team has been named to play the third Bledisloe Cup Test against Australia at Suncorp Stadium, Australia, this Saturday 21 October.
The matchday 23 (with Test caps in brackets) is:

1. Kane Hames (5)
2. Dane Coles (54)
3. Nepo Laulala (9)
4. Samuel Whitelock (92)
5. Scott Barrett (13)
6. Liam Squire (12)
7. Sam Cane (49)
8. Kieran Read (106) – Captain

9. Aaron Smith (67) -pictured below with Razia Myers and me

10. Lima Sopoaga (12)
11. Rieko Ioane (9)
12. Sonny Bill Williams (42)
13. Ryan Crotty (31)
14. Waisake Naholo (14)
15. Damian McKenzie (8)

16. Codie Taylor (25)
17. Wyatt Crockett (67)
18. Ofa Tu’ungafasi (10)
19. Patrick Tuipulotu (14)
20. Matt Todd (10)
21. TJ Perenara (38)
22. Anton Lienert-Brown (18)
23. David Havili (2)

The team features four changes from the matchday 23 which played the last Test against South Africa and they are all in the backs: Lima Sopoaga comes in for Beauden Barrett in the 10 jersey, while Waisake Naholo comes in on the wing for the injured Nehe Milner-Skudder. TJ Perenara is reserve halfback, with Anton Lienert-Brown coming into the 23 to provide additional back cover.

Meanwhile, Sam Cane will play his 50th Test in an All Blacks career which started five years ago in June 2012 when he made his Test debut against Ireland.

All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said this weekend had all the makings of another great Test match.

“Both teams have their own goals and expectations. From Australia’s point of view, they’ll be desperate to win as they haven’t done so for some time. For us, our goal is to never be satisfied at where we’re at, and that means it’s greater than just the outcome. It’s about how we play, individually and collectively as a unit. We’re always striving to get better every game and this week is no different.

“As always, to do that, our preparation has to be spot on and bone deep. It’s an individual focus for each player. The job of the team management is to facilitate a training week which provides them with clarity and the right amount of intensity so that they can arrive on Saturday ready to hum.

“It’ll be another great opportunity for this young team to show what they’ve learnt throughout the year and playing at Suncorp Stadium will be another fantastic learning experience for them all. It’s a great ground with a lot of tradition and there’ll be huge support for the All Blacks, which we’re looking forward to.”

Pictures from Captains walk about at Newlands which featured the All Blacks today ahead of Saturday’s 7 October date with the Springboks

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