Currie Cup Matches Saturday 12/10/2014

Neil Jardine

Captained Rhodesia 1962 – 1969 Rector of Michaelhouse. (1978-1986)

"Rugby is a thinking game – its’ not a running or a kicking game. This mania for running with the ball and playing open rugby at all costs is stupid – you must adapt yourself to the circumstances and play to your strength"

Now 50 years later Niel Jardine writes for Frosty Rugby Fans ...

A curate's egg of matches, some parts, good, some parts awful. The first half of the Golden Lions versus Griquas match was the most skilful passage of play and therefore most enjoyable of the three matches played. The passing among backs and forwards was immaculate. I've never seen better passing and handling, except for the skills in an old film I've watched of the successful British Lions tour of New Zealand in the 'seventies' with Barry John and Co. And in the case of the latter, passing without the unnecessary 'spin-pass'.

In the first half I did not pick up a single knock-on. Was there one? Knock-ons usually come from bad passes, something our television commentators and statisticians seem unable to grasp. We have the so-called stats for 'handling errors' and no count of shocking passes which more often than not, cause them..( At the expense of repeating myself, 80% of poor passes are made to the right because most players are right-handed. Do coaches know that? Doesn't seem so to me.) In this match, a depleted visiting side performed with energy and expertise to shock the opposition with a 16-3 lead early on.

Gouws Prinsloo, the Griqua fly-half once again gave a fine exhibition of basic skills and sound decision-making and Rocco Jansen's try was a gem of individual brilliance. That was all very well, but a rugby match lasts for 80 minutes and in the second half the Griquas became sloppy and had to face a far more concentrated display from the home side, who'd probably been given a 'ballocking' in the change room at half time by their coach Johan Ackerman.

Minnie, the home captain, again played with great intent and at flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff showed impressive judgement. Overall, the Golden Lions were worthy winners.

The Blue Bulls versus Cheetahs match was one of the dreariest and dullest matches of the season. Apart from some breakaway incidents towards the end of the match, it was a spectacle that wasn't.

Have we ever witnessed more 'collapsed scrums'? It was a disgrace. Marius Jonker, referee, had a tentative game and did little to help control the tight phases. Penalties from scrums went one way and then the other. I became bewildered, irritated and bored. Perhaps I'm exaggerating but Jonker seemed so dependent on the TMO that it occurred to me the TMO might as well have taken over the game. As for strategy, this saw short passes to tight forwards who lumbered on like World War I tanks, men who went 'over the top' heroically with tons of sacrificial courage but little focus. You'd have thought they'd been coached by that overrated WWI general Douglas Haig, who sent hundreds of thousands of men to their unnecessary deaths with his persistent and blindingly stupid tactics of nothing but 'full frontal attack'. So it was with the visitors to Bloemfontein.

Both sides defended well and the visitors played with desperation, perhaps too much, to score the bonus point tries they needed. Once again, Sarel Pretorius played magnificently, sniping around rucks and mauls like a Jack Russell on Speed. He was prominent throughout, both on attack and defence. Robert Ebersohn was the best back on show and deservedly won the Man of the Match award. Springbok JJ. Engelbrecht showed great pace as usual but he clearly lacks the skills to beat opponents with anything but speed. Like Pierre Spies he has no Kankowski sidestep.

Both packs of forwards played their hearts out and what more can one say of the magnificent play week-in-week-out of Adriaan Strauss? He is a great player and leader. And let's not forget Elgar Watts at flyhalf. He had a blinder. I feel sorry for Pine Pienaar, the Blue Bulls coach. He has all the right ideas and talks a good game but his players seem unable to apply agreed tactics for any length of time. For the Cheetahs, hats off to Naka Drotske and his coaching squad; they do wonders with a small pool of players.

The weather spoiled the match at Kings Park between Western Province and the Sharks. Victory could have gone either way and Pat Lambie missed two relatively easy penalties late in the second half which would have won the game for the home side. Lambie looked out of sorts. I suppose sitting on the bench for long stretches does little for one's self-confidence. I'm not sure I like the replacement policy except when injuries occur. Is that too conservative and unrealistic? For the visitors, Deon Fourie played with his usual drive and vigour. His try was a good one, courtesy of some mindless defence by Odwa Ngundane, who should have gone inside to tackle Fourie and left the outside player to the cover-defence. Elementary, my dear Watson. Aplon tried his customary slippery runs but most opposing teams now have his number and he made little progress.

I may be be missing something but I can see little reason to pick Schreuder at scrumhalf; to me he does nothing exceptional; I much prefer Groom. Talking of scrumhalf play, I couldn't help noticing that of those on show at the weekend, only Sarel Pretorius understands the futility of the kick from the base of the scrum down the touchline. Have you ever seen decisive advantage accrue from it? I haven't. It gives precious possession away and gains little ground. Fourie du Preez uses it a lot. Who's idea was it in the first place? Now it seems to me it's done because it's done; a reflex action which has lost any advantage it may once have had.

Why don't coaches try something different like getting the flyhalf to run wide, feint to kick away from the scrum and then 'hook' the ball back towards the side where the scrum took place. I've known it work devastatingly well.

Catrakilis, the WP flyhalf, with the strip-beard of an out-of-work ouzo salesman, had a fine game with very accurate penalty kicks and an obvious ability to read a game. Zeilinga again gave a neat performance for the Sharks; one to watch.

Too many of the 'returned Springboks' found it difficult to adjust well to the different demands of Currie Cup rugby. Next week should see them more comfortable in the local game. I don't know if this comment is important to you but it's important to me. In fact it's irritating. I'm talking about 'one-footed' kickers! Aplon, Watts, Habana, le Roux, Daniller, S.P. Marais and others. Percy Montgomery 'got away' with his one-footedness fairly well as did another gifted fullback, Chris Latham of the Wallabies. They were too lazy to practise kicking well with either foot. It's a disgrace. Montgomery's coaches at SACS have a lot to answer for. Why didn't they tell him he HAD to practise with his right foot.? Were these teachers in awe of a schoolboy hero? Whatever. The point is matches can be lost if the opposing flyhalf has half a brain and keeps the one-footed fullback pinned against the touchline where he can only get himself out of trouble by brilliant running – which both Latham and Mongomery could do- or HAVE to come inside to gain an angle. If you know they are forced to do that, you can plan your 'attacking-defence' strategy accordingly.

It's a matter of micro-analysis of opposing players e.g. knowing that Quade Cooper only sidesteps to the right. If you know that, you've got him. Players who have put in the work to kick with either foot confidently are worth their weight in gold. They can extricate themselves from tricky situations with relative ease.

Enough already! The semi-finals should make great viewing.

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