Commentators irritate me when they insist on describing what I can see on screen. The better ones analyse and give qualitative comment. It’s not an easy job: I did it on Rhodesian Television for a few seasons many years ago now and made my fair share of mistakes. The Australian commentators appear to have a weaker grasp than their NZ and SA colleagues regarding laws of the game. Perhaps they’ve been watching too much Aussie Rules, the game that makes Gaelic football look like a kindergarten birthday party. Maybe it’s the convict inheritance; who’s to say?
I still find the Australian and NZ backs use the blindside far more and far more effectively than our teams do. It’s hard to say why. When we do employ the surprise of a short side attack, the player receiving the final pass so often overruns the ball. It’s understandable as the player wants to hit the line at speed, but closer coaching is needed – repetition, repetition, repetition!
The game is played at such a high level that victories nowadays are often gained through unforced errors e.g. Jantjies’ aimless kick downfield in the Lions vs Stormers match which led to a try. What sort of flyhalf kicks aimlessly to a counter-attacker like Kolbe? Well, Jantjies for one. One moment of inattention and the game has gone. (I wouldn’t take Jantjies to the World Cup even though John Mitchell thinks he should go: too erratic for me.)
A few observations:
i) Why do teams kick for the right hand touch by using the ‘banana’ kick? You get far more distance by using a left-foot kicker. It’s baffling and very stupid. The Stormers, correctly, used to get Aplon to use his left foot for those. Why change?
ii) I’m sick of hearing players, interviewed after the game ‘thanking my heavenly father’ – what position did He play? It’s intrusive and disingenuous nonsense. I suppose it’ll only stop when Sonny Bill Williams, a recent convert to Islam, thanks ‘Allah’ after a match.
iii) Why do some commentators waste their time criticising refs? It’s understandable when you get incompetents like Hoffman recently, but it should be kept to a minimum. In this regard, the TMO in Bulls vs Rebels game set new standards for myopic idiocy when he did not ‘see’ the ball grounded over the tryline by Burger Odendaaal. Disgraceful.
iv) The Stormers are the only SA side using a flank, Burger, as pivot, as the antipodean teams do. I’d use Senatla as the Highlanders, for example, use Osborne and Naholo. The Lions do use Whiteley and sometimes a prop.
v) Interviewers after matches are routinely hopeless. They don’t succeed because they give the matter no thought. It’s irritating! Take Matthew Pearce after the Newlands match. He’ll serve as a model for all the other useless interviewers. (Jim Courier is the best; does the Australian Tennis Open. Why? Because a) he knows the interview is about the interviewee b) he does his homework, through prior analysis and research. Pearce commits all the errors – no proper preparation, asks questions that only require a YES/NO answer, gives the answer in the ‘question’ e.g. ‘You must have been pleased by your forwards performance and the passing of the backs.’ Well, it’s not a question for one thing and for another, what’s the player supposed to answer? ‘Yes’? Like Pearce, all the rugby interviewers are unprofessional – in fact a disgrace when you think they’re actually being paid real money. Here are the simple rules: Never ask a YES/NO question; never include the answer in the question; always ask a question which requires a plural answer e.g. ‘what aspects of you play today pleased you?’; ask questions which require analytical replies e.g. ‘how would you describe the way you played to a plan today? Why did you persist with....?.’; let the interviewee do most of the talking; it’s not about YOU!
A highlight for me was the diagonal kick of Daniel Carter for the agile and powerful Nadoulo to pluck the ball out of the air on the corner flag and score. It was skilful thinking and execution at its best. Carter seemed at his brilliant best again after a series of patchy performances – hence the retention of Slade at No. 10 for so many of the Crusaders’ matches. I have to say the Crusaders have had a very strange up-and-down competition so far; coming back to their best lately. They, like many others, have McCaw et al ‘hanging wide’ to make the extra man. I mentioned that last week, but repeat it because I don’t notice Coetzee of the Sharks, for example, ever hanging wide. I know he’s a great forager but so is McCaw. The more successful sides never commit ‘too many’ players to the breakdown.
So the Lions didn’t make it, but what pleasure they’ve given in recent weeks with their inventive and courageous attitude.