The Cheetahs won the match by starving the Bulls of ‘good ball’, not just ‘ball’. The home team were also far more determined to keep the ball in hand, run with purpose and link effectively. From the kick-off, the Bulls were on the back foot. Desperate and fierce defense by both sides kept the scores fairly even from penalty kicks, but the second half saw tries, most notably from Clayton Blommetjies – now there’s a name to tickle the fancy of Charles Dickens – after some glorious interpassing and running off the ball.
The Cheetahs head coach, Franco Smith, and his advisers have been studying first, I guess, the way the Lions play – they hammered them in consequence in the semi-final – and definitely some careful analysis of All Black strategy and tactics. How wonderful to see the result of a group of coaches rethinking and retooling their whole approach. They went back to square one and rebuilt from there. On Saturday, the dividends are there for all to see.
I know Allister Coetzee watched the game and must assume he made a note or two. For the Boks to do well on their UK tour, the element of risk must come into the equation. Play with confidence and have the support ready when things don’t go according to plan. Not difficult; just practise it, over and over. Oh....and ‘over’.
Third Bledisloe Match: All Blacks 36 – Wallabies 10
The score suggests a convincing win, which, in the end it was. But there was a moment in the second half when two things ‘went wrong’ for the visitors. The first was when Foley's talented but nervous goal-kicker, missed a sitter in front of the poles. He had, earlier on, missed one bang in front from forty metres out. His temperament is fragile, like a golfer’s whose mind goes AWOL as he reaches the top of his backswing. Success with that kick would have brought the Wallabies within three points of their opponents.
Then the Australians scored a brilliant try, the ball touched down by Speight. But....but...they hadn’t reckoned with the TMO, one Shaun ’Granny’ Veldsman, who had looked up from his knitting just long enough to see a very naughty Haylett-Petty put out an arm to protect himself from Savea vainly chasing Speight. ‘Granny’ Veldsman, oh-so-correctly, ruled the try be disallowed because Haylett-Petty had impeded the All Blacks left wing: arguably right but absurd.
It is this sort of officious nonsense which calls into question the intelligence of some officials. Savea had no chance of reaching Speight let alone preventing the try. So, back went Veldsman to his knitting, trying to distinguish between purl and plain. He probably ‘gets’ the ‘purl’ but ‘plain’, never. Veldsman had ‘dropped a stitch’, needled the Wallabies and all right-minded rugby supporters, apart from the small minority of New Zealand ‘sheep-scarers’, those with half a brain, no heart and voices primed to jeer. They cheered Veldsman’s decision. As it turned out, this was a crucial turning point and the game was gone for the Wallabies. They did not score one more point.
We were after this, treated to a magnificent display of fifteen-man rugby, a world record was gained and all acknowledged a new way of playing this wonderful game: other coaches - back to the drawing-board!’
In South Africa we need ‘root and branch’ restructuring. Will it happen? My heart says ‘yes’, my brain says ‘of course not’. There are non-rugby factors in play here. So we will need another ‘Mandela’ to cut through the political correctness and provincial thinking – in every sense. Hardly likely but here’s hoping.