A personal appreciation of the former Springbok captain, […]
The Boks enter the tournament off the back of an awful Rugbyampionship, losing against Argentina and generally looking terrible for large swathes of matches. Heynecke Mayer has a lot to deal with in his job; race issues being bombarded from political figures inside and outside the game, an ageing squad and in Pat Lambie and Hanre Pollard two fly halves that often have all the composure of a two legged barstool. But, he also has the likes of Willie Le Roux, Eben Etsebeth and arguably the most exciting centre in world rugby in young Jessie Kriel.
Will top the group only to then face England or Australia come the last eight. Could realistically be going home at that stage. However, their traditional ability to keep it very tight and smash people into submission could serve them well as the English autumn weather begins to bite in the latter stages.
Key Player – Whoever plays scrum-half, be it Ruan Pienaar or Fourie Du Preez will need to play a large part in composing whoever plays 10.
Headline on Exit – "Mayer The Force Be With You"
Traditionally, many people would talk about how much natural ability Samoa have and then pat them on the head and say how they have a lack of know-how to do well, poor things; it's what's commonly known as the African Football Condescension Lecture. However this is very much not the case any longer, as the Samoans have a glut of players in the top divisions of the to leagues allied to their formidable physical presence, and perhaps most importantly there is now a relationship agreement signed between the players and their union, so the the issues that have haunted previous campaigns won't be in the way.
Conrad Smith – made to look completely ordinary by a 21-year-old. Now, that 21-year-old is Jesse Kriel, who if not the real deal looks a great deal like it, but still the experience Kiwi should've put in a better showing that this.
Argentina's gameplan – The Pumas have a tried and trusted way of working: assemble a pack of men that look like they eat live wolves by choice as a hobby, let them slowly squeeze the dignity out of their opposition and hope that the backs can do just about enough. However, vs Australia this was not in evidence as the players threw the ball about as if they were so terrified of holding it tat it was covered in marmite and tarantulas. It didn't end well.
The logo – It must be tricky to come up with anything decent that involves the name The Rugby Championship because it's a completely awful moniker that sounds so downmarket it should be sponsored by Poundland. However, they have managed to make this cowpat of a brand even worse by creating a logo that looks like it should be on the letterhead of a mid-range business hotel in Slough.
Will Skelton – Albert Einstein said, and I'm paraphrasing a great theory here, that time slows down when you travel at lightspeed, this is essentially what relativity is, or something. Anyway, I've always struggled to understand this, but that was until I saw Will Skelton. Just as time slows the faster you go, it seems that Skelton's impressive 140kg mass gets lighter the faster he goes. There's no point in being giant if you don't run your weight, old son.
Week two of the Autumn and it's joy for some and misery for plenty more, let's see what the computer made of it. Who was either side of the judgement line for you this week?
Owen Farrell – The Saracen is not the most mercurial player in the world, in fact he has the creative instincts of a cauliflower; but this could be let go as he was building towards being a decent functional organiser at this level, a St Jonny Of Wilkinson lite to do the necessary with a cool head. This week he couldn't do that either, which basically means he's a cauliflower and no-one wants that.
Billy Vunipola – All the carrying power and breakdown tenacity of a marshmallow on a roller skate. The computer has come to the conclusion that he's a better impact player off the bench, running at tired legs and shoulders and also that he needs to improve his conditioning as he looks like he's no stranger to the Bargain Bucket at the minute. The entire England back row could be in here, by the way.