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SUPER RUGBY 2016 ABOUT TO KICK-OFF

The coming weekend sees the kick-off of Super Rugby 2016. A lot has been said and written about the new format and two debutant teams. Pre-season games have been played and many have read into this and what we can expect for the season to come. However until the first weekend is over we will not truly know where the teams stand. Here is a look at what the weekend holds in store for us.

The Blues will take on the highlanders in the opening game of the season. This is always a good game to watch as both teams can rate themselves as contenders for the number 1 spot in the New Zealand conference. The last couple of seasons however both of these sides struggled in the first couple of weeks. Expect some good running rugby. The Blues to take this one purely because they have the home ground advantage. Kick-off at 8h35 SA time at Eden Park.

The Brumbies will then take on the Hurricanes at the GIO Stadium at 10h45 SA time. This is another good match up with two of Australia’s top 3 teams playing against each other. The Hurricanes have never really lived up to their potential in the past, but they have been known to make the front runners stumble. The Brumbies is always a side to watch. Again I will give this to the Brumbies due to the home ground advantage, but they will have to counter the Hurricanes up front. If not they will struggle to win.

One of the games that will have most neutrals pinned to their seats will be the Cheetahs vs Jaguars game. Purely because everyone will want to see what the Jaguars are going to bring to the table. This game should be filled with fast paced action and a lot of running. However the scrum and rolling maul will play a big part as well. That is if the Jaguars will stick to the tried and tested Argentinian style of rugby. Most will give this game to the Cheetahs. But to be honest I see the Jaguars winning this one. This is the perfect game to finish off Friday’s action. Kick-off at 19h00 in Bloemfontein.

Saturday will see an early start for Lions fans. The Sunwolves host the Lions in Tokyo with kick-off at 6h15. This will have many neutrals up early as well. The Lions did not have the best of warmup games but I will not read too much into that. The Sunwolves are an unknown factor. Still if the Lions stick to what they do best, running the ball and using the forwards to get quick ball, they should win this one. Then again we all know what Japan did against the Springboks in the World Cup. I am hoping to see fast running rugby in this game.

The Crusaders and Chiefs game is one of the two games of the weekend for me. The Crusaders has lost some key players and this might impact on them in a negative way. The Chiefs, as we all know, are one of those teams that can have a brilliant game one week and the next look like they have not played together in months. This game will see some good running rugby with hard tackles and lots of turnover ball. This is another game where I am going against the main stream and pick the Chiefs to win.

In Australia the Waratahs and Reds will take each other one. Easy pick is the Waratahs to win. I just can’t see the Reds winning this one. Then we also have the Force and Rebels taking each other on. If history serves t be right the Rebels will win as they are playing away from home.

The Kings vs Sharks game should be an easy pick, but both sides have been going through some of the field issues. The Sharks struggled of last season and unless there has been a monumental mind shift in the squad i don’t believe that it has changed. Management and players are essentially the same. The Kings are in financial crisis and players are begging to get paid. This can’t be good for them either. Still the Sharks should win this one.

The Game of the weekend will end of the action on Saturday. The Stormers take on the Bulls. This is never a high scoring game and kicking should play a big part in the outcome. Still running rugby is always on the cards. The Stormers are under a caretaker coach of sorts and the Bulls have their tails up after some good warmup results. The game however is played at Newlands and it has become extremely difficult to beat the Cape side at home in recent seasons. The Stormers should win this by a slim margin.

Rugby and the “Super” Professional Era

Rugby is fast moving into the “Super” Professional Era if it has not already arrived in it with a bang. Rugby is nearing the same situation as Soccer has been in for decades. More and more rugby players leave the country of their birth to go and ply their trade in another one. All due to the money that goes along with it.

The Southern Hemisphere countries are most effected by this. They can’t compete with the Yen and Euro and see players leave their shores on a regular basis. Nothing stops them for selecting these players for international duty. Except the fact that the Northern and Southern Hemisphere seasons do not coincide and some international competitions are played outside of the two international windows. This means clubs don’t need to release the players.

True the Six Nation are also played outside of the International window, but with most of the players involved playing in Europe this is not a problem. Agreements are in place that the players are released.

There are two ways of solving the problem for all involved. The first option is that the IRB puts a rule in place that forces clubs/provinces to release players that are selected for international duty. the players to be released a week before the Test and to return immediately after the last match has been played. The thing is most clubs won’t be happy about this as they pay the players much more than National teams can afford. This law can also force the Nations to pay the clubs/province the match fees at least for games missed by the player selected. Then the National bodies will complain again.

The second option is to have the Southern and Northern Hemisphere seasons coincide with each other. With two international windows during the season and then obviously a season ending period. The problem is which hemisphere will play during their summer. The more likely one would be the Northern hemisphere as this will negate the problem of frozen pitches and snowed out games.

At the moment all we are seeing is brilliant players being lost to international rugby and it will make rugby poorer in the long run. It will mean that club/provincial rugby becomes the most important form of rugby and Test losing stature. That is untill a Word Cup comes around. A sad situation for the fans, untill something is done about it. And the only ones that can chane it is the IRB.

For now we make peace with players chasing the money and being lost to International rugby. My opinion is that players should not be paid for representing their countries in any case. And clubs/province should be obliged to release a player selected to play for his country. It is an honour to represent one’s country and one that should be respected. One that should not be paid for in any form.

follow Dave on @djvanman on twitter

Winter Tours start of with epic games

The Winter Tours or Incoming tours as we know them in the Southern Hemisphere started this weekend and what a weekend of rugby it has been. Here is a quick look at all the results and matches.

Japan 18-22 Wales
It is the closest that Japan has come to beating Wales. At halftime it looked like they might just do it as they took an 11-6 lead into the break. In the end it was experience and some good luck that kept Wales from losing the game. In what was a brilliant gesture the Wales team formed a guard of honour for the Japanese as the left the field. Next week will be interesting to watch. Will Japan get that first win over Wales?

All Blacks 23-13 France
The All Blacks conceded the first try in the game but then fought back to win it 23-13 after leading 17-10 at the break. France however had more scoring opportunities but they struggled to finish. The All Black defence was also steady and that made a big difference. If France can cut out their errors in finishing the All Blacks can expect a hard game next week.

Reds v British & Irish Lions
The first half was a pretty close affair with the Lions just edging the Reds to go into the break 7-16. As expected the Lions dominated the scrums and asked questions of the defence. With rain pouring down the second half didn’t live up to expectations but in the end it was still a good game of running rugby. The Lions were just to good for the Reds but will have to step up if they want to beat the Wallabies.

Scotland 17-27 Samoa
Samoa rewrote the history books when they recorded their first win ever over Scotland in Durban. The Scots were always on the back foot as Samoa ran in three tries to one. Handling by the Scots cost them a couple of scoring opportunities.

Springboks 44-10 Italy
The Springboks with 5 new caps in their side was just to strong for Italy. Willie Meyer, Habana and JJ Engelbrecht at the defence guessing at every touch of the ball. The scrums suffered a bit and the Boks will have to work on this. The fielding of kick-offs is also a problem. Italy did have the Boks under pressure for the first 30 minutes of the second half but the Springbok defence proved to much and being 20-0 down at the break didn’t help much.

Argentina 3-32 England
Argentina elected to field a second string team against England. In the end this cost them the game. England were 3-25 leaders at the break and ultimately went on to win the game 3-32. Still it shows Argentina that they do have some depth when it comes to the Rugby Championship later this year.

USA Eagles 12-15 Ireland
Not Ireland’s finest moment but with out their mainstays who are playing with the Lions it is still a good win. It also shows the gap between first tier nations and second tier nations. Maybe it is time for the IRB to rethink how they help these smaller rugby nations. Maybe time to force first tier nations to play more tests against them.

follow Dave on @djvanman on twitter

Dear SANZAR, Lyndon Bray & IRB,

I hope the whole bunch of you are happy with what your referees are doinbg to the state of rugby, while you sit back and do nothing. It is a crying shame the way you handle issues surrounding them.

The Stormers gets slapped with a nice big fine of ZAR 230,000 becuase they insulted an incompetent match official. Yes I agree they were in the wrong to do it, but have you guys really thought why they did it? Week in and week out I sit and watch super rugby and other rugby games. Every week there is at least one game with a referee that doesn’t know his head from his backside. Making calls and costing teams games. Every now and again a guy like you, Lyndon Bray, will come out and say it was a mistake. Yet the same referees still officiate matches.

Now I have come to referees defence time and time again. Saying that they are only human and that they get blamed to much for teams losing games. No more. Not after the pathetic display earlier today by Mr Fraser and his fellow officials in the game between the Stormers and Rebels.

It is time referees get called out by the coaches and players for the mistakes they make and that they start paying fines and get banned from officiating for these blatant errors. You should take a stand and do it very quickly. The time is going to come when teams are going to sit down on fields of play if a referee is officiating, because he is incompetent.

Get your heads out of the sand or what ever dark place it is up and realise that the referees are bringing the game into disrepute more than the teams themselves. They are creating an environment where fans are going to rebel and take to the field like one Piet van Zyl did. And it will become ugly.

I mean how do you miss a knock on in slow motion replay? And to then award a penalty try when only a probability existed for a try to be scored? The laws are clear a certain try must be prevented before a penalty try can be given. The same with the earlier penalty when Woodward kicked for touch from the tee. It is clear according to your laws that this can’t happen. A scrum being the end result. Not a retake of the kick. At least Fraser didn’t give him the full minute to retake it. Still it cost the Stormers 3 points.

This brings the next thought to mind: Was the game fixed? Well looking at it this is what most people would asked. Had it been a cricket match an investigation would be ongoing by now. The same as the incident in the quarter-final between the Springboks and Wallabies in the 2011 World Cup. That referee got awarded “Referee of the year” in 2011 by New Zealand. Yet he was hopeless. Makes one think doesn’t it.

To be honest my 7 year old daughter nows more about the laws of rugby than some of your officials.

Regards,

Dave

follow Dave on @djvanman on twitter

Rugby News this past week

Here is a more comical look at the rugby news of the last week.

Keegan on Afrikaans
Keegan Daniel according to the Beeld said he is fed-up with the number of Afrikaans players in the Sharks team as well as the cliques that are forming. Daniel denied this and said he gets a long fine with the Afrikaans players. He also knows there is no clicking sounds in the Afrikaans language. I’m wondering which Beeld journalist didn’t get a invite the the last game at Kings Park and now has a stick up his arse. Keegan as Afrikaans okes still like you.

Stormers to small
Last season there was no question about the back three playing for the Stormers. Some even praised them for the heart they showed on defence. Peter Grant got slated for the team not scoring tries. He was to slow. Now he is not there. Suddenly the back three, the same guys that played last year, are too small and that is their problem. Nobody is blaming the crappy kicking game plan they are employing. Then again we are a fickle bunch and need to find something to blame.

Luke trims his beard
Luke Watson has trimmed his beard and is no longer looking like Conan the Barbarian. and suddenly the Kings are winning again. So that must mean that the reason they lost 3 big games in a row, one by 72-10, is that Luke looked like a caveman. Not that they weren’t playing good rugby or that theysuffered to many injuries.

In closing to all you small, bearded, afrikaans players out there: “Stay away from the Sharks, Stormers and Kings.

follow Dave on @djvanman on twitter

what has gone wrong in SA Rugby?

Watching the Stormers and Sharks play this weekend was like having a root canal done. Painful! And that is a meak way of describing it. In those to teams we have some of the best play makers and players with the natural ability to run the ball with flair. But we are not seeing it happen.

They have been coached into kicking the ball and that is what they will do everytime they get the ball. Patrick Lambie has changed into a kicking flyhalf when he was once a dynamic linebreaker at fullback. The poor wings have to look for work in midfield because the ball seldom get to them on the wing. When it does the move has been telegraphed and they have no space or they kick it.

The Bulls in their last two games realised that they are much better of if the ball get out wide. They are running it more than we are used to seeing and it is paying off. The Cheetahs and Kings will run anything and everything and look at the seasons they have had so far.

Yes the New Zealanders and australians kick as much as our teams, but they also run the ball. They create opportunity and use it. We create it and then we kick the ball. Now the last time I looked rugby was still a game where you could run with the ball in hand. Kicking the ball was for that other game called soccer. The one where people look at you and you go to ground claiming a penalty.

Maybe, just maybe it is time for the Sharks and Stormers to throw caution to the wind and run the ball. Ask the Reds how they scored a 100m try and you will realise that they ran with the ball. I just hope Heyneke Meyer and the rest of the South African coaches saw that and learned from it. I’m not saying they must run everything, but a bit more running will not be bad.

follow Dave on @djvanman on twitter

Stop getting your knickers in a knot and enjoy the game

My good friend and co-writer on http://www.rugbybanter.com , Bonty, wrote a brilliant piece called “the Sissy Revolution”. In the article he makes the point that no longer can “fans” just banter and talk about the game of rugby. They get all defensive and sometimes even attacking when you differ from them. I want to add on to this.

These days everytime a team losses a game it is the referee’s fault. Even when they win the referee gets blamed for some or other thing he missed or that he blew their team up for. No longer is it the players or coach that is in the wrong but always the referee. The poor sods. They are now less liked than a Metro Cop in Johannesburg or a South African politician.

Yes they do make mistakes and sometimes it does cost your team the game. But what about the times when it doesn’t or when your team benifits from that mistake? Ask any Sharks fan and they will retell how they were robbed in the Super Rugby final against the Bulls by a referee. It wasn’t the players fault who didn’t play untill the whistle blew, but the referee who didn’t blow it.

I remember many years ago how Western Province lost a Currie Cup final due to a forward pass not being called. Everybody in the Cape was up in arms about it. The next year they won the title due to a try being scored from a forward pass and no one said a word. That is how the cookie crumbles.

The same can be said about the selection of the Springbok team. Ask any supporter and all the players in his team should be Springboks. They are the best in the world and no one is better. Even if they are playing for the Limpopo Blue Bulls. No longer do we look at a player and rate him because he is brilliant but rather because he plays for a certain team. Ungortunately we don’t select the team.

I do it as well. I blame the referee for a game being lost. I disagree with players selected for the Bok team. And I discuss it with others and listen to what they are saying. The problem is those “fans” that blame the referee every game don’t know the rules themselves. The guys that want their whole team in the Green and Gold only watch their team play. And they allow themselves to be brain washed by what the media prints and certain commentators have to say.

Some of these so called rugby experts that played for some or other unknown school’s first team and even the Springboks, don’t know their heads from their arses. They can’t even wipe without using a GPS to locate their backside. Yet they are experts and we believe what they are telling us.

My advice: “Stop getting your knickers in a knot over nothing and enjoy watching rugby again. And please don’t belive everything the experts say.” It is time we get together again and show what we know about rugby and not be ignorant of others. We are killing the game for ourselves.

follow Dave on @djvanman on twitter

Sport, supporters, fans and fanatics

Over the last couple of weeks rugby in South Africa has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. First there was the fight at the Kings v Sharks game, then the killing of a spectator at the Sharks v Rebels game and the latest is the “Cape Crusaders” behavior this past Saturday at Newlands.

Crowd control issues is however not only limited to Rugby, but Soccer and hooliganism is synonymous with each other. Cricket has had its fair share of incidents as well where crowds insulted players and fights broke out. This is however not what I want to touch on but rather why we support the teams that we do. The answer seems very simple to me.

We select teams on the way they play and whether w e like that style. Some times it is because our parents support the team or because we are born in a certain region. Then there is some that select teams because of political stances. The “Cape Crusaders” is a good example of the latter. The problem with this is that we want to force others into supporting our team and sometimes this will be done at any cost.

I have seen this many times over at just about every stadium I’ve visited. At Loftus you don’t sit on the East Stand if you don’t support the Bulls. Ellis Park has it problems on the upper levels. So does Kings Park and Newlands. It is sad if you think about it. The rivalry is what makes sport so interesting but then you get certain elements spoiling it for all.

I support various teams in all sports. The reason is that I watch sports from different countries. Rugby sees me support the Stormers and WP locally with the Cantebury Crusaders in the ITM cup. London Irish in Aviva and Stade Francais in Top 14. Ireland for the Six Nations but always the Springboks in international rugby. Cricket it is the Cape Cobras, Kolkata Knight Riders and Proteas. Soccer well Manchester United first and foremost then Orlando Pirates and Bayern Munich. Germany has been my international side since I can remember and then Bafana-Bafana.

It is fair to say I’m a sport fanatic and will support my team win or lose, but I will never try and force my view on others. Yes we disagree and argue but never to the point where it gets ugly. Politics should decide your team for you but rather your love for the game, region and style of play. But then that is just my view. Maybe it is time to split supporters from different teams at all sports. But then that won’t be fun anymore. Just get the hoodlums out and beef up security.

follow Dave on @djvanman on twitter

Rugby: It is in my blood

With the 2013 rugby season fast approaching here in the Southern Hemisphere, the first game is in just over a week, my wife commented that she will be without a husband again over weekends for the next 11 months. Believe me she meant it literally. You see I don’t miss a rugby match unless it is for death or serious illness, and then my dear friends, it must be my own.

Born in the Western Transvaal as an Afrikaans miner’s son the only sport I knew, till we moved to the East Rand and South Africa came out of isolation, was rugby. Soccer was not an option unless you wanted to get beat up and not much else was shown on television. I started playing this wonderful game of rugby in gr. 2 and as the smallest kid in the school at that stage I had two option: Scrum-half or Hooker. I opted for hooker.

My playing days only got serious once I got to std. 3 or these days gr. 5. I played hooker for the school’s second team by gr 6 it was the First XV as well as the Second XV on most game days. And this would go on until I turned 16 and had to undergo a chest operation due to a rugby injury. End of my playing days. I had to turn to cricket to compete at a sport. Yet I never stopped watching rugby.

In 1995 with the World Cup in South Africa, I believe my passion for the game really started showing. Some of the games were mid-week with 2pm kick-off times. School only got out at 2.20pm. This meant I would miss at least the first half and that I would just not let happen. Most of my school buddies bunked school to make out with the girls down by the little dam in the neighbourhood. Not me. I bunked school to be home for rugby kick-off. (I also bunked school to watch test match cricket).

I cried when we won the 1995 World Cup and I did it again in 2007. In 2011 I cried when the Boks lost due to Bryce Lawrence this time because I really felt down and out, cheated if you may. I cried the same way in 1989 when Western Province drew 16-16 with Northern Transvaal. This after Scalla Scholtz scored a brilliant equalising try in the last minute, but got injured. Andre van der Merwe had to take the kick to win it for WP and he pulled it wide.

I have shouted and sworn at referees, players and coaches a like when they made mistakes in my eyes. I have selected my teams and disagreed with teams selected by others. I have gone to games and came home without a voice, even did it while sitting in front of the television. I have even planned my wedding day around rugby. My wife wanted to get married in November. That is year-end tour time. I told her it would be fine but before she selects a date we need to see which Saturday the Springboks would not play. Best of all is she agreed.

Why do I do this you may ask. Is it because I love rugby? Or maybe I’m just very passionate about the game? Better still I’m a fanatic maybe? All of this is true in my case, but that is not the real reason. You see you can take away my passion. Give me a reason to hate the game. Even get the fanaticism out of me. It won’t change a thing. I will still not miss a game and I will still shout and scream like crazy. Why?

Because rugby ultimately is in my BLOOD!

Weekend Rugby Predictions

The weekend sees a lot of tests being played as the November Internaionals gets into full swing. There is not much in the line of provincial or club rugby happening with only one RaboDirect Pro12 game between Zebre and Ulster being played. Here is how I see thing going this weekend. Kicking of with RaboDirect game:

Zebre vs Ulster
Zebre might have the home advantage but that doesn’t mean much. They have not win a game so far this season and beating Ulster will be a huge upset. Ulster should be able to win this one with ease. It is like having Russia playing the All Blacks. Ulster by 20 or more.

Now let’s move on to the real action of test rugby:

Wales vs Samoa
A week ago I would have given this one to Wales hands down. Now I’m not sop sure after Wales went down to Argentina. Wales should still be better than Samoa, but they might doubt themselves slightly. This should be a good game to start of the weekend. Wales by 10 minimum.

Italy vs All Blacks
The best thing about this game will probably the All Black Haka. Other than that it will be a one sided affair. That we will see running rugby is a given. The All Blacks by 35 or more.

England vs Australia
England is coming from an impressive win over Fiji and will be looking to build on this. Australia however is wounded after a massive defeat by France. This will be one of the games of the weekend to watch. The winner of this game will probably be 3rd placed in the world rankings after the weekend. England by 8.

Scotland vs Springboks
Scotland might have taken a heavy beating from the All Blacks, but they were in the game well into the second half before the slide came. The Springboks had to come back against Ireland to win the game and their first half performance let them down. This will make for the game of the weekend. Scotland believe they have what it takes to win while the Springboks are searching for a comprehensive win. The Springboks should be able to win this by 10 or more.

France vs Argentina
This is going to be another cracker of a game. Both sides had good wins last weekend and will want to build on that. Argentina is looking more and more like a real contender at the highest level. France has always been one, it just depends on which French side pitches up for the game. The battle up front will be the one to watch. I’m backing France by 5, but this might be the game I get wrong this weekend.

As always this is just my view……….

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