The Alternative Rugby Review | 23/24 August 2013

This is not the place to find who won, who scored, or who played well. This is what I thought of what I saw, mostly useless information, and why the refs and commentators were sh1t.

Currie Cup | Free State Cheetahs v Sharks

Os du Randt has the entire back row of the Cheetahs coaching box to himself, and he needs it. He’s like your ears is Os, he never stops growing.

As kick-offs go, one of Riaan’s Smit’s efforts in the first half was about the worst attempt I’ve ever seen. It didn’t just not cross the 10m line, it actually went into touch inside his own half. It was the kick-off equivalent of Miley Cyrus.

miley

Referee Jason Jaftha has a bad case of Kaplanitis. Symptoms include blowing your whistle twice as loud and long as is necessary, thinking you’re better than everybody else, and always needing to be the centre of attention.

I can’t stand quick tap penalties, I think it’s unfair to not wait until the opposition is ready. At the very least I reckon they should play touch rugby rules, where the guy who takes the tap isn’t allowed to score. Seriously.

The Cheetahs forwards have the best handling skills of all South African teams. In fact, I’d back them in a catch and pass competition against any past South African backline that included Braam van Straaten, De Wet Barry, Marius Joubert and Pieter Rossouw.

One of those forwards is named Hercú Liebenberg, although I do enjoy how Gavin Cowley keeps calling him Hercules.

hercu

How is there not a better fullback than Hennie Daniller in the Free State. He hasn’t broken a tackle since 1997 and every single Cheetahs forward is faster than him. Who’s playing at 15 for Grey Bloem this year? Get him in there.

Rugby Championship | New Zealand v Australia

I said last week that the Australians are smart to get a strong male voice to sing their pop-song anthem. So I guess it’s equally smart by New Zealand then to get what looked like Claire Johnston from Mango Groove to sing Advance Australia Fair in Wellington.

Did they really need to fly four neutral officials in from South Africa? I know the assistants play a bigger part in decisions these days, but think of the carbon footprint (and the officials who have to spend a week in Wellington…)

Tom Taylor had a fine debut, showing excellent running and handling skills throughout. But he can’t kick off to save a baby, he only got about half his restarts above the height of Brodie Retallick’s shoulders.

But Wellington is a tough place to make your debut as a kicker. Even Christian Lealiifano missed his first kick in Test rugby. It seems cruel, though, that Tom Taylor managed to hit both uprights with the same kick, and have the ball bounce back his way instead of over.

Ma’a Nonu has clearly forgotten how to play rugby. He’s just lost it completely.

nonumad

After watching him all year I now believe Nonu must’ve taken a massive blow to the head in pre-season and he is suffering from rugby-specific amnesia. How else do you explain:

  • He hasn’t broken the line once all year,
  • Kicking the ball long and directly out off a lineout steal,
  • Throwing a skip-two pass straight to the wrong Israel, and
  • That shoulder charge on James Slipper where he actually made an effort to put his hands behind his back.

They should just drop Nonu, get him some proper medical care, and pick a Smith or Whitelock to replace him. (Let’s face it, the All Blacks could probably pick a side made up entirely of Smiths and Whitelocks and it would probably be competitive.)

Michael Hooper is a very good player, but everything he does (and I mean absolutely everything) is at least 25% illegal.

hooper

In fact the Australian side in general has gone back to playing what they like to call “clever rugby”. It’s also known as “obstructive running”, “playing the man off the ball” and “moaning to the ref about everything, even stuff that happened last week”.

At least scrumhalves are putting the ball into the scrum straight (after a week of testing and being penalised by the refs). But is it still a rule that the hooker can’t raise his foot early, because Steven Moore practically had his foot up before Japtha called “Bind” and “Set”.

Israel Folau was unbelievably good against the British and Irish Lions, but he’s added something extra to his game against the All Blacks: the ability to turn himself invisible for large parts of the game.

Admittedly being invisible probably helped him grab that intercept towards the end.

folau

And the fact that the pass was thrown by Nonu, a man more out of touch than Mugabe.

But wait, there’s more. For Griquas v WP, Lions v Bulls and Argentina v South Africa:

…..

Currie Cup | Griquas v Western Province

Western Province captain Deon Fourie has made a successful move from hooker to flank, but Allister Coetzee might consider him on the wing after his 70 metre sprint to the corner.

Fourie did make a classic highveld error, though, trying to slide in for his try from a few metres out. You can do that in Cape Town in winter, but not in Kimberley. I’m pretty sure he ripped his nipples right off his chest.

A lot was said in the press during the week about Griquas flank Hilton Lobberts having become something of an enforcer this year. I think that’s just a nice way of saying he’s become something of a bit fat.

Still, Lobberts is more of a force on the field than Nizaam Carr. The way I remember it, Carr had an awesome debut in an unlikely win away against the Blues a few years, and he’s been living off that since. He must be amazing at practise.

I think Kurt Coleman also starred in that Blues win, but he’s mostly missed out since then, so he was probably hoping to make a good start. Like not kicking off directly into touch.

kurtc

Then the second half began and he knocked the ball on under his own uprights. I’m more effective in my first 10 seconds after waking up than Coleman is in the 10 after a kick-off.

Western Province have been the best defensive team in domestic rugby for a few seasons. They have a solid structure, and seem to love tackling. But it would be nice if they weren’t also the worst turnover team in existence. Because tackling is tiring. And boring.

He had his try disallowed, but you should hope you’re never one-on-one defending against Cheslin Kolbe. He will make you look very silly, and wherever he is at the time Hanyani Shimange will not be able to stifle a fit of chuckles.

Currie Cup | Blue Bulls v Golden Lions

Golden Lions flyhalf/fullback Marnitz Boshoff looks the business, both off the tee and in general play. It makes me worry that Elton Jantjies’ agent will be pushing hard to get his man a permanent contract at Province.

I’ve seen him play twice now, but I still can’t decide if token crazy hair guy (Golden Lions’ Willie Britz) is actually a very good player or if his hair just makes him stand out. A little out of column A, and a little out of column B, I think.

britzhair

If South African fans made up songs about players like British football fans do, then I’d suggest singing “My house… In the middle of Mastriet…” for the Blue Bulls wing.

Historically, the Blue Bulls have been a physically imposing and intimidating team. But contrived translations of a few of the current surnames should make anyone feel better:

  • Ruan Snyman – Ruan Hairdresser
  • Jurgen Visser – Jurgen Fisherman
  • Francois Venter – Francois Salesman
  • Clayton Blommetjies – Clayton Littleflowers

Blue Bulls fullback/flyhalf Jurgen Visser has stood out since gaining some Super Rugby experience this year, and he looks like a promising prospect. He also looks like the lovechild of Kramer from Seinfeld and Michael Jackson in the Thriller video.

visserthriller

Commentator Owen Nkumane said “total rugby” 17 times during the match. Was it a fair (if overused) description of the way the Golden Lions were playing, or not very subliminal advertising for the IRB’s TV show (Thursday nights on SuperSport)?

The driving maul is probably the opposite of “total rugby”, and surely we’ve seen enough of teams kicking penalties to touch rather than poles to insist on a rule change. I’m happy for the sides I support to carry on using it as long as it’s legal, but I wish it wasn’t.

I had big props for Golden Lions wing Anthony Volmink last week, and I’m glad he followed it up with another strong performance. The guy showed plenty of skill and awareness, grabbing another intercept and running perfectly for and onto Jantjies’ chip kick.

Who are the Golden Lions centres? I watched the game, and I don’t know either. Ever since they let Jaque Fourie go, this has been the advertised job description for 12 and 13 at the Golden Lions:

Must know how to tackle and be tackled; passing, kicking and running not necessary; only purpose is to set up breakdowns in midfield for our loose forwards to run off.

There was a moment in the second half when a Golden Lions player pointed at a Blue Bulls player taking the ball away after conceding a penalty. Fair enough. But it was just a little too close to Jonathan Kaplan, who got a surprise and tried to slap the player’s hand like a young girl swatting an irritating fly (just how I imagine every small man in history would’ve done).

kaplandoos

Rugby Championship | Argentina v South Africa

All season Steve Walsh has referred every try that he has seen (or not seen) to the TMO. He likes the close-up camera time. Except when there’s actually a good reason to refer, like blatantly obstructing Andries Strauss, perhaps.

South Africa’s try was the result of some great decision-making and execution from several of their backline players. That’s not the sort of sentence I’m often able to write, but it’s true on this occasion.

Two-ball to Etzebeth at lineout time is fast becoming one of the surest things in rugby. I think the call is actually “This one’s going to Eben.”

ebenlineout

In the 58th minute, I don’t know why, we very clearly heard Steve Walsh say, “Ooh sh1t!” like he just lost control of a fart and accidentally shat his pants a little.

Then later in the game we heard Walsh say to one of his assistants, while pointing to his ear and in an admonishing tone, “Language…” You just know that Walsh is the kind of guy who blames his dog for his own farts.

Having said that, Walsh is definitely the most apologetic referee in world rugby – I counted him saying “Sorry” no less than 32 times during the match. It’s frightening to think he only apologises for about half the mistakes he makes.

I don’t like how one-dimensional Willem Alberts is – picking him is like emailing our game plan to the opposition – but I have to admit it really can’t be fun to have to tackle him and be tackled by him all day long.

willema

I read a tweet during the game along the lines of, “The polar ice caps are melting faster than Ruan Pienaar can pass.” It’s not his fault, though, it’s those mining and construction companies and people having lots of babies that you want to blame.

I hope everyone else enjoyed how Jean de Villiers made Walsh look like a fool with simple, well-delivered logic after Etzebeth had allegedly been bitten. And I don’t like to believe this, but I think from that moment on all the 50-50 calls went South Africa’s way.

With South Africa two points up and two minutes left to play, Morne Steyn kicked a penalty into touch instead of at the poles, prompting commentators Skinstad and Pearce to accuse the Boks of a lack of confidence. It was an easy finger to point, but a stupid thing to say.

The lineout was by far the better percentage play, and I’m glad Jean de Villiers agreed there was no reason to give Argentina a chance just to show how confident the Springboks are. Stupid commentators…

Previously, on Alternative Rugby…

“… there hasn’t been a better front row combination since Jonas Bigg, Phillip Scabby and Colin Pooper packed down for England in the 1940s.” Read the rest

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