HURRICANES VS REDS: 26/4/14
The Hurricanes were simply magnificent. That drive, power, basic skills and attacking determination carried them to a deserved victory..They wanted to score tries! It's not that the Reds lacked purpose and talent; they played very well against an unstoppable team on the day. Corey Jane's hattrick of tries were a joy to watch. They came from concerted forward driving play and excellent distribution and judgment of the pass. They managed on many occasions to work a 5 on 3 situation; congratulations to the backline coach. Their's was a performance of relentless forward momentum; they also know that part of the secret of scoring tries is to identify your 'impact players', those who can see the tryline and reach it regularly. Therefore, they plan to bring into play these players at the right moment. Brilliant! I noticed too how their backs are masters of the 'flat' pass; this of course means players running on to the ball can take it at full pace. of course they made 'too many' errors, but when you're attacking for 90% of the game, it's bound to happen. When you have players of the calibre of Coles (multi-skilled hooker), Vito, Andre Taylor, Barrett ( what judgment and speed!), Leiua and the mercurial Perenara, winning becomes more probable. There are many others who should be mentioned - those in the engine room for example, like Thrush - what a player! For the Reds, Cooper played really well, Harris was very good, Slipper was indefatigable and Hanson and Robinson shone. The first try, by the Reds, was a masterpiece of tactical planning and execution, Robinson's entry into the line judged to perfection and the final pass to Lucas faultless. And I haven't even mentioned the Saveas! Great game!
BULLS VS FORCE: 26/4/14
No comment except to say it's the most boring and worst match I've seen since the tournament began as Super 12. This wasn't rugby; it was 'gaining grounds'. So it rained! Well, north of the equator, they play in rain very often and they have the confidence to 'run the ball'. I suppose Michael Foley, the Force's coach will say, 'A win's a win'. ( Just like Trevor Mills, the famous EP flyhalf of the fifties used to say after a Rhodes University vs Albany match in Grahamstown. Not known for his eloquence or articulate grasp of the English language, he would invariably say something like. 'Thanks for the game. We played for 2 points and we won. We got the 2 points'. Riveting stuff. Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers, has gained some fame among the less intellectually gifted followers of American football for his ''Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing'. Well in the above match, winning meant, for anyone who truly understands and loves rugby, absolutely nothing.
CHEETAHS VS STORMERS: 26/4/14
Well, this was one of the greatest games, if not the greatest, of the Super 15 tournament so far. What entertainment! What excitement! What skill! I hardly know what to leave out. There was so much ball-retention and brilliant support play. The passing was excellent, kicking purposeful, battles at the set-pieces and breakdowns first-class. ( Welcome back Heinrich Brussouw - what a star!) The match was characterised by speed, driving attack, initiative, courage and exceptional individualism. What to say about the will o' the wisp Willie le Roux? He's everywhere! His diagonal kick for Daniller's try was a gem - and just think, that didn't happen by chance; it came from excellent driving forward support play, through a number of phases and then , le Roux, standing at flyhalf, knew Daniller was waiting for the kick at the corner flag. Young Devon Williams had no chance. Benjamin was outstanding at centre for the home side - whose clever idea was it to play him at centre? Take a bow.
Turning points: Duane Vermeulen's ridiculous, stupid and self-defeating and illegal blocking of a defender so that de Jong's try was disallowed. I would drop him for at least the next match, from the team and from the bench - utterly inexcusable! That try would have brought the Stormers to within a couple of points of the Cheetahs - and then? There were umpteen phases in this match, by both sides. Ball retention was masterly. Another turning point -call it lucky if you will - was when Brussouw, tapped the ball back from what looked like an offside position, but it couldn't be offside because it happened in broken play. The Stormers were about to score and from Brussouw's tap-down, Pretorius, one of my absolute favourite rugby players, chose, correctly, to pass the ball to Cornall Hendricks, when most would have kicked it out. Then we witnessed the awesome speed of Hendricks who outstripped the very quick Devon Williams to the tryline. ( I was under the impression, having always been told, that the player with the ball could not run faster than the chaser. Well, wrong this time!) I must mention Nyakane, used effectively as a battering ram in midfield - wonderful planning. And raymond Rhule? A wonderful player!
So this was rugby at its very best. I was overwhelmed with excitement and admiration. I felt proud for South African rugby. It took away the bad taste of the Sharks' performance of the previous day and the disgraceful display of the Bulls and Force.
P.S. I don't like the Man of the Match award. It has to do with money and little else. Rugby is a team game.