The Alternative Rugby Review | 19 October 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.

New Zealand v Australia

Aaron Cruden’s first penalty attempt was so pathetic it barely cleared his own kicking tee. To his credit, though, he showed tremendous ball to come back and successfully slot his next kick from the touchline.

cruden1

Will Genia milked a penalty out of referee Joubert by ‘passing’ quick ball into a lazy runner at an Australian ruck. The commentators were quick to compliment Genia’s ‘fast thinking’ and ‘clever play’, all down to his ‘experience’.

It’s sad to see Genia resort to cynical, cheap tricks like that, but I suppose it’s a consequence of his own terrible form and a lack of confidence in his side’s ability to find a seven-pointer. Very sad.

Ma’a Nonu has developed into a kicking inside centre. He easily kicks more than he breaks tackles these days. And not, as far as I can tell, because he’s a good kicker. (Must be because he’s even worse at breaking tackles these days…)

nonu2

The Ben Smith 13 experiment wasn’t a success, and New Zealand may have to deal with playing the best player in Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship in his best position.

So if you’re a young backline player in New Zealand, tell your coach you want to play centre, because the best team in world rugby needs one (and will need another when Conrad “Oupa” Smith retires.

But the most embarrassing moment by a centre award has to go to Tevita Kuridrani who snatched an intercept away from the All Blacks and was then caught from behind by Ma’a Nonu of all carthorses.

kuridrani

Western Province v Golden Lions

Jean de Villiers also failed to make it to the tryline after intercepting in midfield, but at least he was caught by Anthony Volmink (who runs like a young Joe Rococoko).

I only had one eye open for most of the game, but I just think you have to give the sort of tries that Gio Aplon wasn’t allowed in the first half.

It looks forward because Schreuder is running across and dropping off as he makes the pass, and Aplon is rushing past and hitting the ball at speed. But you have to give those, surely.

aplon

Cheslin Kolbe is only 19 years old! N-n-n-n-nineteen! How is he possibly as quick and strong and composed as he is at that age?

It probably helps that he’s already been to a Junior World Champs and a Sevens World Cup. And he was born and raised in Kraaifontein. If they make them tough anywhere, it’s there.

Eben Etzebeth stands 10 metres in front of the opposition kicker at every penalty – the old line of sight distraction – but at his height he’s bound to cop a falcon one of these days.

Check out Demetri Catrakilis running the perfect Werner Greeff line to score his try. The kid is getting better and better and The Stormers would do well to get his autograph.

The Newlands crowd is historically the best and biggest in South Africa, at least in pure numbers terms, so what the hell happened that only 31,000 showed up for this semi-final?

The Newlands crowd is also the best in South Africa in terms of Mexican waves per game. It doesn’t matter what’s happening on the field, you’ll never talk WP fans out of getting out their seats and putting up their hands.

Unfortunately, the Newlands crowd is also the worst in South Africa when it comes to booing the opposition kicker. Cut it out, idiots.

Did you see Michael Rhodes and Schalk Burger preparing to come on as second-half substitutes? Rhodes was doing all sorts of stretches to get himself ready for battle, while Schalk just stood maar with his hands behind his back calmer than a Hindu cow.

schalkburger

I guess that’s the kind of calm and perspective that comes from 18 months on the sidelines with an injured knee, then an injured calf, then a cyst pressing on his spine, and finally a little bit of bacterial meningitis. All after coming back from a broken neck in 2006.

Scarra Ntubeni just about pulled out of fully committing to that spear tackle, and that’s what got him a yellow instead of a red card. So, he’s 90% an idiot, but that might not be enough to save him being suspended for the final.

Natal Sharks v Free State Cheetahs

Hugh Bladen can’t actually say “scrumhalf” without first saying “nuggety”. Just like he can’t tell us that a player is on debut without telling us where he was born, what school he went to, and what that school’s famous war cry is.

“He’ll normally kick that nine and a half times out of ten,’ said Blades. I’m not sure how he’ll do that, but shame we know what you mean old timer.

Adriaan Strauss absolutely loves the squeeze ball (you know, when you squeeze the ball back between your legs when tackled). I bet he squeezes more balls than anybody else in the Currie Cup.

adriaanstrauss

It was bad enough seeing 40% of seats empty at Newlands, but how the hell were there only 17,000 people in the stands at Kings Park? John Smit has shown he knows how to bring quality people onto his staff, but it looks like he needs to focus on putting bums on seats if he wants to be able to pay his stars.

With TMOs looking out for foul play these days (generally I’m in favour of this), I get the feeling players are being puss1es a bit more than they used to, because they know that referees are more likely to refer an incident if a massive guy is lying ‘injured’ on the ground holding his head or throat. Don’t let rugby become soccer, don’t.

Keegan Daniel is one of my favourite sh1t players. He is so sh1t! Like when he tried to end the game after the hooter but couldn’t even kick the ball directly into touch, backwards.

The Alternative Review | Currie Cup

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.

Free State Cheetahs v Blue Bulls | 12 October 2013

Commentator Gavin Cowley has called Elgar Watts “a most underrated kicker” before, and just like before Watts went on to miss the first simple kick he lined up on Saturday. Maybe it’s time for a different description, Gav. Maybe try “an overrated kicker” next time?

wattskick

Having said that, and after he missed a further sitter, Watts did set up the Cheetahs’ first try with a classic flyhalf break (around a fattie).

What is it about the Currie Cup that we see so many “highly regarded” loose forwards, as captains of their sides nogal, who are mediocre rugby players at best.

Boom Prinsloo and Jono Ross from this game fit that description, while both Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes fit the bill at the Sharks.

boomross

I couldn’t stop laughing when Akona Ndungane tried to go round Raymond Rhule. He actually saw Rhule, lined him up, and tried to out-pace him. It was hilarious… I can only think he somehow mistook Rhule for Trevor Nyakane.

Perhaps Ndungane was somehow blinded by the reflection off his own incredible forehead. Peter Ndoro would be proud.

shinyheads

Gavin Cowley then got some sun in his eye, as he credited Trevor Nyakane with a lineout win. God help Cowley if the actual lineout winner, Oupa Mohoje, ever hears about the confusion…

Because Oupa Mohoje is tough. He cleans out rucks like my oupa used to clean his tool shed – seriously f&cking hard, all the time, and with a satisfied smile on his face.

The facts are these: Adriaan Strauss scored a try at the end by beating JJ Engelbrecht to a ball that had been kicked through; he had a head-start; the ball bounced kindly for him; and he’s a f&cking hard guy to get around in less than 25 metres.

strausstry

It was a fine try, but I’d love to hear him describe it in 20 years time…

There wasn’t much that Engelbrecht could do about that try, but then there wasn’t much he did all day. Both he and Jan Serfontein were quiet, with the latter wasted on crash-ball duty while JJ got cold outside him.

Coverage concluded with the #humanspirit moment, that try by Strauss in fact, which I gather is part of some competition being run by Supersport. God that’s lame… Even Oprah would vom in her mouth at the thought.

supersport

Tweets from the game…

@tricyclebear Cheetahs penalty, Goosen kicks to touch, breaks arm.

@ThalaMsutu77 I still say the Bulls have been playing crap since the lineout calls have been in English.

And from the WP v Sharks game, that I hardly saw any of…

@WykaSpies Steven Kitshoff se hare kan nie nat word nie. #ssrugby

== FULL TIME ==

The Alternative Rugby Review | 13/14 Sept 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 Golden Lions

According to the first graphic we saw, the combined age of the Cheetahs front row was 75, and that of the Lions was nine. It struck me as an error immediately, given that I know for a fact that CJ van der Linde is older than that himself because I watched him play for South Africa back in 2002.

I recall CJ’s debut in particular because I remember commenting at the time that I thought he looked like an only slightly more mannish Natalie du Toit.

CJnatalie

Commentator Gareth Wright attributed the Lions elevated position on the log to Elton Jantjies’ willingness and ability to take the ball flat. Entirely to that, and only that. The Old Flyhalves Club is a real thing.

This game featured, for the first time that I’ve seen, a “shadow referee”. From what I could tell, this is a teenage poppie who takes the ref his water bottle when he’s thirsty.

Gavin Cowley, bless him he was there at the World Cup final back in ’95, has turned into our grandfathers. I get the impression he’s just sitting back in the comms box letting Shimmie do the hard work, until he thinks he sees something to complain about. Often mistakenly.

gavincowley

Like when Jantjies was given a yellow card, he ranted on about how it was just a little push and he didn’t even start it, when the penalty was actually for the cynical and professional foul of throwing the ball away.

Or when he couldn’t understand what Minnie did wrong, despite us all hearing the ref say Minnie was fine, it was from a “previous advantage” three separate times.

I also enjoyed how he wondered whether this game was going to be a “game of two halves”, because the curtain raiser before it was a “game of two halves”, apparently. I suspect it will.

Towards the end of the match the ref called “Use it!” to the Lions scrumhalf, but he clearly didn’t hear because he made no move to do so. But CJ van der Linde standing at first receiver heard him, and was then clearly heard himself passing the message on to his scrummie: “Use it! Use it! Use die fokkin’ ding!”

Rugby Championship | New Zealand v South Africa

I didn’t see this game live because I was away enjoying the last of the British summer, but I managed to not hear the result until I got home on Sunday night. At which point, entering my home, I announced to my housemate, “I don’t know what happened in the rugby, don’t tell me the score.” And she replied, “Oh you don’t want to know!”

So I killed her, and I don’t believe there’s a judge or jury in the world that would convict me.

I used to love the Haka. I used to really get into it and get a thrill watching the challenge laid down and accepted.

haka

But it’s hard these days to get excited by it when there are three cameramen and their sound guys between the two teams, when one of those cameramen is giving me a view right up Kieran Read’s nose, and when some cheesy fireworks go off at the end. #betterinmyday

Zane Kirchner is picked at fullback largely because it’s thought that he’s “good out the air”. So then how come every bomb that went up, ours or theirs, either ended in New Zealand winning it back or Kirchner knocking it on?

In one damning example Ben Smith will be credited with winning the ball out of the air even though he was lying on the ground. That’s how bad we were at kick and catch on Saturday.

Sam Cane left about a pint of blood on Eden Park on Saturday, and nobody even offered him tea and a biscuit afterwards.

samkane

I don’t mean to be insensitive, I know many have suffered as a result of the earthquakes that have struck New Zealand, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the collision between Coenie Oosthuizen and Charlie Faumuina registered on a Richter scale somewhere.

A lot has been said about Bismarck du Plessis’ yellow and red cards, by some people who speak more sense than me and a lot who don’t. It is what it is. But what I wonder is whether he was more severely punished or whether those instances were more closely scrutinised because in both cases a New Zealander was left injured on the ground.

Victor Matfield went into every tackle he ever took leading with his elbow. Pierre Spies does a similar thing and indeed several others in world rugby do the same. And all of them should be penalised every time they do, but they aren’t. It just looks a lot worse when a guy the size of Liam Messam goes down clutching his throat as a result.

Despite everything, New Zealand were better on the day. They were more clinical and more composed. But I’ll put my alternative reputation on a South African victory in Johannesburg in three weeks time.

Rugby Championship | Australia v Argentina

They call Nick Cummins “The Honey Badger”, presumably because he’s all energy and aggression and what not. And he is. But on current form and evidence it looks like an actual honey badger would have better ball skills.

badger

I didn’t see much else in this game worth commenting on. I mainly watched it on fast forward so I didn’t hear the gems and gaffes that I presume the Australian commentators came up with. But I trust they were there and you enjoyed them nonetheless.

Tell me what you think

Did I get something right? Or wrong? Was I too harsh, or not harsh enough? Do you agree CJ and Natalie could be the same person? Tweet me at @tricyclebear and let me know.

The Alternative Rugby Review | 7 September 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.

Rugby Championship | New Zealand v Argentina

At the setting of the first scrum, the TV told us that New Zealand’s pack weighed 922kg and Argentina’s only 858kg. That’s a whole Gio Aplon difference. But El Bajada proceeded to shunt the All Black pack into their own boots because fatties don’t scrum so good.

The Argentinian scrum has never bothered with something so silly as hooking the ball. They just think “the ball comes in and we walk forward until it comes neatly out the back”. Of course they think it in Spanish.

bajada

Francis Saili c0cked up single-handedly to give Argentina their opening try. The only consolation that I can offer him is that somehow – I don’t know how, but somehow – Ma’a Nonu would’ve c0cked it up worse.

Despite what you’ve heard, Sonny Bill Williams isn’t playing rugby league for the Sydney Roosters in Australia. He’s actually still playing rugby union for New Zealand, at number eight, wearing a Kieran Read mask.

Dan Carter broke the line cleaner than Charlie Faumuina’s plate at Christmas time, but he only had the same Faumuina for support. For about three metres, before the big guy had to stop for a rest and a snack. Fatties are no better at running than scrumming.

charlie

You’ve got to love Juan Martín Hernández throwing a 20 metre pass one-handed, when under pressure in his own 22. Against New Zealand, in the rain. I guess that’s part of why they call him El Mago. (It doesn’t mean “stupid”, but maybe it should.)

The only way I’d expect Nicolás Sánchez to knock Wyatt Crockett to the floor would be with a six-shooter at high noon in the wild west. But the little flyhalf somehow managed to bounce Crockett in a fashion more befitting a rag doll cowboy than a burly New Zealand prop.

crockett

When Crockett went down one of the commentators observed that his legs had turned to jelly. What he didn’t notice, and what almost certainly didn’t help Crockett against falling over, was that as soon as his legs became pudding they were eaten by Charlie Faumuina.

Argentinian flank and captain Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe is a fine player, but he’s also a victim of patronising commentators who (like with Sergio Parisse) insist on swooning over how world class he is (implying that the rest of his side is not).

It’s unfair and it’s unfair on Fernández Lobbe, because he’s not actually that good. He wouldn’t make the New Zealand side, for a start. Nor the South African. He might start for Australia, given their injuries at the moment. But then I’d pick any of the loose forwards in the Grey Bloem first and second side ahead of Scott Fardy.

What the he1l was Luis Figo doing in the Argentinian coaches box?

luisfigo

Rugby Championship | Australia v South Africa

Advance Australia Fair hasn’t been sung worse than that since it was performed by Indecent Obsession in the late 1980s.*

obsession

It didn’t take long before both teams realised that George Clancy likes penalties. It was classic “stamp my authority on the game” stuff, which is about as insecure as a squeaky-voiced teenager with acne and bright orange hair.

From a kick off, James O’Connor tried to do that thing where you catch the ball with a foot in touch which means the kick was effectively directly out. But he mistimed it and put his foot out after catching the ball, which means it should’ve been South Africa’s lineout.

The ref and his assistant had already made the decision, so I bet they felt pretty stupid when the evidence was replayed on the big screen.

facepalm

Luckily referee Clancy had awarded Australia a scrum, so he could very easily give South Africa a free kick for [make up and insert any reason here] to, you know, make things right. Which he did.

I didn’t think much of the way the Australian fans rang out a chorus of “Bullsh1t, bullsh1t, bullsh1t” while Morne Steyn lined up the penalty that came from Michael Hooper’s (entirely warranted) yellow card. You stay classy, Brisbane.

Eben Etzebeth got an early birthday present when he got hold of Quade Cooper midway between Quade having the ball and Quade passing it, which meant he was completely within his rights to sling rugby’s most hated man to the ground like a rag doll cowgirl .

cooperjessie

Rod Kafer needs to be careful screaming things like, “Give it to Israel!” What sounds like an innocent (albeit anguished) piece of rugby advice to one set of ears could quite easily come across as inciting political violence to another.

Kafe continued his line of potentially risky political commentary by calling for the Aussies to run that famous German backline move, “Putting the ball through the Hans”. It sounds like “hands” when Kafe says it.

rodkafer

What the c0ck was Niknaks doing diving in for his try like that. I would’ve gone ghost pops on him if he’d spilled the ball on landing or had it knocked out of his hands by either of the Australians trying to do just that.

Kirchner got his try (though he tried very hard not to) off what by my count is Willie le Roux’s seventh direct pass assist. Also by my count, that already makes him the most prolific pass assist Springbok of all time after only six Tests.

So shell-shocked were the usually parochial Australian commentators, that they appeared to call time of death on this game after about 68 minutes.

timeofdeath

As a South African fan who has endured getting more than one victory stuck in my throat, I didn’t pay my respects until the 80 minutes were up, but I thoroughly enjoyed the disconsolate commentary of the last 12 minutes.

*This report has discovered previously that the Australian anthem was originally written as a pop song for a girl group, but Indecent Obsession’s cover in 1989 was called the worst thing to happen to music until The Kings of Leon’s “early stuff”.

Currie Cup | Griquas v Golden Lions

We’re halfway through the season and we have our first candidate for token crazy beard guy. I can’t find any photographic evidence yet, but if he keeps it up then Golden Lions scrumhalf Tian Meyer (and his beard) will be all over the Internet by the end of the year.

We’ve already found our token crazy hair guy.

I’ll be disappointed if Griquas centre Jean Stemmet doesn’t get a lot of kak from his teammates about his dad, who I presume is Johan Stemmet from the popular Afrikaans music game show Noot vir Noot.

nootvirnoot

Anthony Volmink went over in the corner in exactly the same way that Mark Cueto went into touch in the 2007 Rugby World Cup final, except referee Jason Jaftha and his assistant forgot about technology and awarded the blatantly un-try-like try.

Hugh Bladen has entertained us over the years, oh yes he has. And he’s still got it. Here are some actual comments from him from Saturday:

“Elton Jantjies is lying very flat and deep.”

“You have to be careful when the ball hits the ground, it can bounce.”

“Another fantastic no he’s missed it.”

Gcobani Bobo wasn’t doing much better, unfortunately. Not only did he describe Marnitz Boshoff as “as calm as a cucumber”, but his interview with JP Nel was as painful as a Kimberley grass burn.

Griquas fullback PJ Vermeulen is the most surprisingly very fast big guy since Albert van den Berg. Despite that similarity, he also looks like a very good player.

What was going on with the field in Kimberley. Those were either crop circles or a pair of Picasso-inspired breasts.

circles

Currie Cup | Blue Bulls v Free State Cheetahs

Whoever left Owen Nkumane as the adult in charge of this commentary box deserves worse than I can imagine, but he clearly had Commentary by Blades in front of him because every kick was struck well and we weren’t left wondering which school everybody went to.

That was a great try from Elgar Watts, but he still used to play for Boland.

When the Blue Bulls scored in the 78th minute, the try scorer was named as starting flank Wiaan Liebenberg. Remember that name, because if this game is anything to go by you don’t hear it very often.

Currie Cup | Western Province v Sharks

Scarra Ntubeni should’ve taken that delicious lob pass to set up Cheslin Kolbe’s try to the bank. Instead he went on to try a chip kick, a back flick pass in his own 22 and a ‘tweener into touch. I’d be surprised if he wasn’t the most wasted guy at the fines meeting.

scarra

I almost felt bad for the Sharks forwards. They were mauled in the scrums like I haven’t seen since Australia in the 90s.

Western Province like picking little guys, but they only pick little guys who like to tackle. Admittedly it took both of Gio Aplon and Cheslin Kolbe to bundle Jean Deysel into touch but you could see they kakking loved it.

Previously, on Alternative Rugby…

“He’s like your ears is Os, he never stops growing.” Read the rest

“… 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

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:

Continue reading

The Alternative Rugby Review | 16/17 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 | Sharks v Golden Lions

I’ve heard of Anthony Volmink before, but I remember him as a skinny guy that I didn’t think much of. But that first try of his was special, in a Joe Rokocoko kind of way. He’s fast, he’s bulked up, and later in the game he showed some real skill. I hope I hear more about him.

What I didn’t need to hear was Andy Capostagno saying that Sharks centre Heimar Williams has “Nice hips.” Regardless of whether he does or doesn’t, Andy, there’s absolutely no need to say so.

heimar

For most of the first half it sounded like the main broadcast microphone was in the children’s section. The only thing worse than hearing high-pitched voices in the background is hearing them boo when a shot is being taken at goal. Be better, Durban kids.

Chris van Zyl made his debut at lock for the Golden Lions. The brother of Anton and Nick, son of Mike, and a kid I remember from Rondebosch Boys’ High, he seems to have followed in the van Zyl tradition of doubling in size after leaving high school.

Elton Jantjies just looks better in a Golden Lions jersey. And as a Stormers supporter, I feel like I’m very well qualified to say that.

Willie Britz could be this year’s token crazy hair guy. No sign yet of token crazy beard guy (come back Josh Strauss, we miss you), but it’s still early in the season I suppose.

williebritz

Golden Lions flank Jaco Kriel should’ve been denied his try because the pass he received from Deon Helberg was forward. The commentators trotted out the usual “backwards out the hands” line, but just saying it doesn’t make it true. It was a clumsy shovel, and it was forward from the day it was born. Hell of a chip and chase, though.

 Rugby Championship | Australia v New Zealand

Have you noticed how the Australians always get a strong male voice to sing their national anthem? It’s a good idea, because Advance Australia Fair sounds more like a girl group pop song than an inspiring and intimidating anthem.

lilmix

Having Hore and Woodcock in the same front row is enough to make any grown man giggle. In funny names terms, there hasn’t been a better front row combination since Jonas Bigg, Phillip Scabby and Colin Pooper packed down for England in the 1940s.

How does Ma’a Nonu keep making the All Blacks starting XV? He wasn’t even a regular for the Highlanders this season, and when he did play he was poor.

Matt Toomua got his first cap on Saturday, but the way the Aussies played – shifting every ball two channels away from the breakdown, every time – they could’ve picked anybody to stand at 10 and just catch and pass. Anybody except Quade, obviously.

There have been and are faster wings than Ben Smith, and bigger ones too, but his balance and intelligence make him one of the most dangerous outside backs in the world right now. Then again, it’s always been pretty easy being an All Black wing.

bensmith

There was a lot of chat between the teams after the game, with players just hanging around on the field chatting to the opposition. That’s nice to see, from an old-fashioned amateur’s point of view, but what would Allan Border think?!

Of the English opposition, Border said: “Don’t talk to them at all as they go by.”
And: “I am not talking to anyone in the British media … They are all pr1cks.”

More than 68,000 people watched the game at Stadium Australia, an impressive effort and an indication that there’s no hangover after the Lions tour. Imagine how many would show up if Australia started winning.

Rugby Championship | South Africa v Argentina

I like the Zulu warrior that leads the Springboks out onto the field before home games. They must have been a fearsome sight in battle, the Zulus, what with fireworks shooting off their shields and out their assegais like that.

When it comes to pre-match ceremony there’s an unwritten rule that there should never be more dignitaries than players. That rule was broken on Saturday as everybody who has ever been in politics in South Africa shook hands with the two teams.

The only things more abundantly present than dignitaries were vuvuzelas.

vuvuzela

And don’t tell me vuvuzelas add atmosphere, they do exactly the opposite. It’s impossible to get any sense of atmosphere, any rise or fall in the crowd, any rousing crescendo or hushed anticipation, when all you can hear is a constant drone of noise.

I’m glad to see Willie le Roux in the starting XV, but I’m worried he’s struggling to come to terms with his new popular profile. Take his hair, for example. His latest ‘do’ is somewhere between farm boy and Backstreet Boy, and that’s a terrible place to be.

After and despite 51 tries in 87 Test matches, Bryan Habana still hasn’t learned to side step. He is awesome in a straight line, but he changes direction like somebody is steering him using the arrow keys on a keyboard.

By 10 minutes into the second half the game was won and I could switch to the men’s 200m final from the World Champs in Moscow. Where things were even more one-sided.

bolt200

Pierre Spies is nursing a bicep injury (sustained during his usual 2000 curls before breakfast) but the stats still show he made 37 tackles and 467 running metres during the game.

Fourie du Preez put his incredible return to Springbok duty down to the special water he’s been drinking in Japan. “From the foothills of Fukushima,” he said, “I’ve never felt better.”

A new Mayan manuscript has been discovered, predicting that the world will end the day Jean de Villiers retires and Heyneke Meyer makes Adriaan Strauss captain. It says, “One man will burn so bright with rage that all humanity will be destroyed.”