Great Rugby Arguments, No 4: Brendan Venter vs Everyone in England
As we all know, Saracens are very much the Newcastle United of rugby. Despite all their money, big players and delusions of importance their trophy cabinet remains as desolate as the shelf Gordon Brown put aside for "Sorry to see you go" cards.
For a long time, they simply seem to have lacked that something extra.
This year things look a little different. First of all, they are in the semi-finals of the Guinness Premiership, and having just rolled over Leicester at Welford Road their tails are up somewhat. On top of this, their manager, former Springbok and winner of 2010 David Carradine Lookalike (Southern Region) Competition, Brendan Venter, is leading the way in making them nasty.
First of all he slagged off referee David Rose in a forty-minute rant back in January, cryptically accusing him of "walking through a maze or something [at half time], and coming out another referee." This was simply because Rose gave more penalties to the opposition than in the first half. THE BASTARD!
Then, a few weeks back, he managed to enrage Northampton fans by leading Saracens in a celebration akin to the New Orleans Mardi Gras following his side's victory at Franklin's Gardens. Venter was keen to play this down, albeit in a completely solipsistic manner, by stating that "We always sing our song when we win, it was a fantastic day". Lovely.
And finally, this weekend he stood chatting to the referees assessor in front of the Tigers fans, blocking their view of the game and then waved and bowed to them as he walked off at half-time. He then used the "I love them and some of my best friends are Leicester fans" defence when asked to explain himself. Of course, everyone has missed the main issue with this little event: what was he doing talking to a refassessor? This means his is either a) trying to influence them unduly, or b) the most boring man on earth.
All that said, I'm sure Sarries fans could not give one about any of this, as it seems one side-effect of his barely-hidden madness is that they are winning.
Great Rugby Arguments: No 3, Rob Andrew vs Olivier Azam (and all of Gloucester)
December 2001. Enron is filing for bankruptcy, the Tora Bora caves are having the shit beaten out of them, and Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman are number one in the charts. In the midst of all of this misery, Gloucester had just beaten Newcastle 29-25 at Kingsholm and during the game the Falcons' Epi Taioni and Gloucester's Olivier Azam are sent off for a set to.
In yet another example of his fabulous judgement SMFT Rob Andrew decided to calm the situation down by accusing Azam and the whole Gloucester crowd of racism in the post-match press conference. "Azam called Epi a black bastard and spat in his face. It was a cracking, lively game but it pales into insignificance for me. I don't want to even talk about the game. This is about racism. It came from the crowd too. I could hear it from where I was sitting. I've never experienced anything like it before. It was disgusting. Players inciting crowds to chant racist filth has got to stop. It has got to be rooted out. This is bigger than just a game of rugby.
"Epi is not a violent man, he was just reacting. And he was in tears in the dressing room afterwards. This is a sad day for Gloucester Rugby Club and we will be looking to see if we are going to take any further action."
Azam, adopting a variation on the "some of my best friends are black" theme, denied everything, "I have never made any such remarks to another person. My mother is French and I was born in France but my father is Moroccan. In French culture, this makes me technically 'non-white' myself, so it makes the allegation even more crazy"
In the aftermath Gloucester decided to ban Andrew from the ground until he apologised, with owner Tom Walkinshaw saying, "Rob has a history of shooting off when things haven't gone his way but his remarks last week were, I believe, the most disgraceful ever made at a rugby press conference." Also, Azam threatened to sue Andrew, "I feel these accusations have damaged my reputation and character beyond repair and could have a detrimental effect on my playing career."
Andrew refused to back down - "I am acting as a representative of the player and the club, and a ban on me is effectively a ban on the club. Their action has serious ramifications for the league." - and was still banging the same drum for most of the season.
In the end, the Stupid Mouse-Faced Tit was forced to apologise in 2002 as no evidence could be found for what he had accused the Gloucester hooker of; this despite his assertion that his own Newcastle players had heard the comments. A joint statement from the clubs closed the issue with, "Although the remarks were made in good faith based on statements made to Rob Andrew before the press conference, he now accepts that there was insufficient evidence to justify the remarks."
Raking up shit-o-meter score: Mountains of effluent so fetid that it could possibly render anyone who goes within 400 metres of it infertile and blind.
b&m.com opinion: What a knobhead he is.
Great Rugby Arguments: No 2, Will Carling vs the RFU
Before he made the beast with two backs with Princess Diana (allegedly) and advertised Quorn on the TV, arse-chinned Will Carling was something of a maverick. He jacked in a career in the Army to concentrate on rugby, was made captain of his country at 22 and had a love of publicity greater than that of Mr Crabs for money.
The most infamous of his outbursts came in 1995 when he famously uttered the words, "If the game is run properly as a professional game, you do not need 57 old farts running rugby.” A reference to the fifty-odd man RFU executive committee who were in charge of the English game at the time. Carling's anger had been piqued particularly by administror Dudley Wood's pontificating about players "cheating" by abandoning the amateur principles.
The fallout was dramatic. Carling was sacked, before a huge public outcry forced the RFU to take him back (following an apology), and a sort of polite bad-boy image stuck with him for the rest of his career.
Raking up shit-o-meter score: Moderate to steaming
b&m.com opinion: Carling was right, the RFU was a bloated amateur nightmare in 1995; unlike now when it's a bloated professional nightmare.
Great Rugby Arguments: No 1, Luke Watson vs everyone in South Africa (and Adidas)
The selection of flanker Luke Watson for the SA touring team this Autumn has led to some reported ructions in the Springbok squad. As the first part of a new regular feature here on bloodandmud.com, we'll take a look at what it's all about.
You could say that a rebellious streak is probably part of Western Province's Luke Watson's make-up as his father was Cheeky Watson a famous anti-Apartheid campaigner, but even Cheeky would not have stirred up as much trouble as his youngling has these past two years. He bites so many of the hands that feed him it is amazing he has any teeth (or food) left.
Watson was first not selected for the Boks in 2006, despite some decent showings in the Super 14 of that year. Many felt the non-selection was due to a personal issue between the flanker and then coach Jake White but White denied this saying that it was basically because he thought Watson was shit at rugby (I paraphrase). Watson was finally selected in 2007, after much political meddling by the board, to play against Samoa and put in an average performance.
Watson, however, had seriously seen his arse and vented to Sports Illustrated that White "lacked integrity". Not content with rubbishing the coach in print, he also sent about captain John Smit by questioning his leadership credentials and stating that the Springboks had "lost their pride and passion".
He did not confine his arguments to the national stage. Following his substitution in a game for the Stormers he refused to turn up for a press conference with the coach, and in 2008 he was stripped of the captaincy of the province after the players had apparently lost confidence in his leadership skills. Also, I imagine the entire Stormers set-up were none to happy at the negative publicity that was constantly coming his way.
Amazingly, Watson has even managed to anger his sponsor, Adidas, by being filmed in training wearing Nike boots. This, unlike everything else in his publicly controversial life, was sorted out "internally".
Perhaps his greatest controversy has occured in the past few months, with his speech to the Ubumbo Rugby Festival in Cape Town. Among other things, Watson is reported to have said that wearing the SA jersey is "a burden" and he stuggles to "keep myself from vomiting on it"; also that SARU is "rotten to the core" and "run by Dutchmen". Cheeky claims his son has been misquoted out of context, but this has not stopped the Springbok touring squad for the forthcoming Autumn matches in Europe apparently refusing to get on the plane if Watson is in tow. Something they have now also denied saying.
Raking up shit-o-meter score: Plenty.
b&m.com opinion: No comment. Who is right and wrong in this we cannot say, much greater minds than us have tried to sort out the gargantuan race-related issues in SA Rugby.