SHIT/GOOD™ Ratings: Rugby Championship, Final Round
It's been a while, so let's turn on the SG Computer to run its beady, lifeless eye over the Rugby Championship weekend. Let's have yours in the comments.
The dawning realisation that you won't see as good a game as Boks vs NZ for a long time - Arse.
Morne Steyn - Predictable in his kick-run-pass options, resolutely sticking to the pass most of the time when a bit of his trademark tactical approach would've perhaps one better for his team. Missed a couple of kicks as well.
Ben Alexander - Still rubbish
Nigel Owens - Easy to give the players all the credit for that wondrous spectacle of a match on saturday, but respect is also due to the ref and his team, who had a superb day.
Jean de Villiers - Unlike his Point Break haircut, the Springbok captain was a powerful and welcome presence in the midfield. Credit to him also for not making a big deal of the "wrong name on the teamsheet" incident.
Israel Folau - If anyone was in any doubt about his best position, the ludicrously talented outside back proved beyond any doubt that it is fullback.
Kieran Read - Like a plains buffalo fed on genetically modified grass that has been pissed on by a t-rex.
Preview: South Africa vs New Zealand, Rugby Championship, Saturday
This is about a big as it gets really. The top two teams in the world, playing each other to decide the victor of the southern hemisphere's crappily-monikered premier rugby competition, The Rugby Championship. It's a bit like Wales vs England in the final round of this year's Six Nations, except this one is likely to look like two teams are actually playing, rather the one playing musical statues while the other runs around them taking the piss and inducing orgasmic spasms in the crowd.
South Africa have this year returned to their bludgeoning best; fully utilising the output from the Bok Forwards Factory of Power & Doom to great effect, crushing all before them in tight and at the set piece. This physical prowess, at home and at altitude, just be enough to snatch them a win in the game, but as bwin sport will tell you, it will not be enough to get them the four tries and denial of losing bonus point they need to win the whole tournament. And they probably won't win the game either.
New Zealand on the other hand, blah blah, best in the world, waffle waffle, unstoppable, blah, Richie McCaw back in team, blah blah, will win probably, zzzzzzzzzzzzz.
Still, should be a blinding match.
B&M Prediction: Love to see the Boks do it by 5, but it's likely to be All Blacks by sev..zzzzzzzzzzzzz
Spotter's Badge: The universe folds in on itself and everything turns to dark matter when Tendai Mtawarira and Charlie Faumuina run into each other full pelt at exactly the same time as Richie McCaw stands in an onside position at ruck for once.
South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Willie le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Eztebeth, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Franco van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein/ Juan de Jongh
Replacements: Dane Coles, Wyatt Crockett, Ben Franks, Steven Luatua, Sam Cane, Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Beauden Barrett, Charles Piutau.
Scrum-halves fall victim to one of science's most difficult concepts: a straight line
Following the first proper outing for the new scrum laws at the weekend, it is clear that every international scrum half has no idea what a straight line is. As one coach said after the game, "Once we get that sorted out and the half-backs put the ball in straight we're sure the free kicks and penalties awarded will decrease".
This patience from coaches is understandable because, as we all know, a straight line is one of the most difficult things to fathom in the the history of science. Only last year, Stephen Hawking admitted that he was happy with his grasp on how the universe began, but if you asked him to drive his special chair in a straight line he would be utterly baffled by the mind-pickling complexity of it.
So, to assist those poor nines who are trying to get their heads around this most difficult of concepts here is some help to grasp it
1. A straight line is what Jamie Noon always ran. Always.
2. A straight line is what David Lemi never runs. Ever
3. Still confused? See the below diagram:
Still confused? You are Andy Powell, and I claim my £5 prize.
The obvious flaw in the new scrum laws for The Rugby Championship
The new scrum laws that are to be used in The Rugby Championship (the SHITtest name for an international tournament ever, even The Intercontinental Spangle Chalice Of Triumph would've been better than that), have been outlined in superb detail by our friends over at the always excellent Green & Gold Rugby. And it seems to me there is an inherent flaw.
The details are all in the GAGR link, but the only law chang really is a change to the pre-engagement process to 'crouch-bind-SET' as demonstrated by the below video.
The rest of the "new" laws are essentially instructing refs to enforce old ones by telling the scrum not to push before the ball is in and the scrum-half to put the bloody ball in straight. Why these two things required a full trial before they could be enforced is beyond me, but that's a whole other rant.
Now, these things are all good news, but there is a flaw.
As you can see from the video, even with binding before the 'set' there is still a hit, and one of the teams in the video is still doing the "Hit, one, two, three", so therefore still hitting and still pushing before the ball. The ref in the video seems unconcerned with this.
This hitting and push drill does not cause an issue here as this is a demo, featuring two packs at exhibition intensity, and the editors no doubt chose the best examples. I fear that there still being this hit and push will still cause collapses before the ball comes in, and that is what we are hoping to eradicate.
These changes will make a positive difference, no doubt, but they could've gone a step further by getting to them to bind properly, without pushing, before the ball comes in. But that just my view, let's have your thoughts.
New Zealand Fall One Short of Record Winning Run
by Jack Hamshaw
New Zealand have produced some great times in their history but this current side must surely be up their with the best. Recently the All Blacks had the chance to equal the longest winning run in test history of 17 consecutive matches when they played Australia at Suncorp Stadium. New Zealand’s previous loss, 16 test matches ago, came at the same stadium.Live Rugby Scores
It was not meant to be for New Zealand and the irony came with Dan Carter, a player for the ages, missing a last-minute drop-goal from right in front of the posts, 20 metres out. The match ended in an 18-18 draw, in what was a super-human effort from an Australia side that were missing 10 first-team players and were down to their fourth choice captain.Rugby Odds
In the recent era New Zealand have been the outstanding team and it has been astonishing that they won their first world cup in 24 years in Auckland, last October. Having gone through the tournament not only undefeated but not even challenged until they almost bottled in the final, New Zealand have gone from strength to strength and won all 6 matches in the new Rugby Championship with alarming ease. It would have been fitting for them to reach and overtake the record for the longest winning run in world rugby. Currently in top tier rugby, the All Blacks side from 1969 and South Africans from 1998 hold the record but few would have argued that this side were not worthy.
Had they beaten Australia, they would have then marched to Europe looking to break the record before their captain Richie McCaw takes a 6-month sabbatical from the game. Early this season McCaw brought up his 100th test match victory. Not only is this a phenomenal effort but it is all the more staggering that it was achieved from 112 matches. McCaw is a true leader, one of the best players ever and a player 100% committed to his country. McCaw is not swayed by money as after being granted a 6-month sabbatical, he has not decided to take up lucrative offers in Japan or France but to take time out of the game to do his upmost to make sure that he is around to help the Kiwis defend their World Cup title in 2015. Whether McCaw makes it that far before his body gives in is anybody’s guess and a fair amount of luck but one cannot take away how much he has done for the game and for New Zealand rugby.
New Zealand are currently playing a level of rugby, which is so beyond anyone else in the world. The Crusaders got closest to this level a couple of years ago as did Leinster in winning back to back Heineken Cup’s. As good as the players are that New Zealand produce, their coaches are even better. Every successful side of recent years has had a Kiwi coach and it is no coincidence. The Crusaders side that won 7 Super Rugby titles in 10 years with Robbie Deans, Steve Hansen and Verb Cotter in charge. Wales won grand slams with Steve Hansen and Graham Henry in charge, Leinster have won 3 of the last 4 Heineken Cup’s with Kiwi Joe Schmidt in charge and Clermont won the Top 14 and look the greatest threat to the European Cup with Vern Cotter in charge. All these coaches bar Schmidt stem from the Crusaders and Canterbury region, without them the rugby seen today around the world would surely be totally different.
New Zealand are at a level with their game that no side has reached in recent history, they can play many styles and I know that they put in a poor performance against Australia but they didn’t lose. They will surely dominate World Rugby for years to come as besides McCaw, Mealamu and Andrew Hore none of their players are on the crisp of retiring and imagine if they had the world most talented player, Sonny-Bill Williams in the their side every week, scary isn’t it!
And another thing
by Richard O'Hagan
And to think you thought I'd stopped griping along about Saturday's Tri-Nations opener.
To put it bluntly, when the bloody hell are the IRB going to do something about injury stoppages and blood replacements during games? When I was first introduced to the game, one of the selling points of rugby was that you played on irrespective of the number of dead and dying on the pitch. Not all grinding to a halt every time someone broke a fingernail was one of the things that distinguished rugby from those wimps that play soccer and I loved it.
On Saturday, we had the game being halted after about three minutes so that Adam Ashley-Cooper could have treatment on a hand that was already bandaged up. Stopping the game because someone has a sort pinkie is madness enough, but when it is to have treatment on a pre-existing problem then, frankly, the player should leave the pitch altogether.
And then there are the blood replacements. Once upon a time they didn't exist. Either you bled onto the pitch, or you left it and your team soldiered on with fourteen men until you'd had a few stitches. At the weekend, CJ van der Linde was on and off the pitch so often I wondered if he was on a bungee rope. At least two of those occasions were because the Springbok medics had failed to stitch up Grayling properly. In wendyball you don't get a blood replacement at all and I'm astonished that rugby is allowing itself to be in a less grown up position than that bunch of prima donnas.
More seriously, no blood replacements would mean that we never saw something as ridiculous as Bloodgate again.
In short, there's a World Cup coming up and I don't want to have to endure ten minutes of stoppages in every Wales game because someone scratches a bit of fake tan off of Gavin Henson, so get a grip, IRB, before it is too late.
And after that hospital pass...
by Richard O'Hagan
It's always nice when your editor goes on holiday and leaves you with a piece on masturbation and a message which effectively says 'Ha! Follow that, sucker'. In fact, it is a hospital pass on a par with those thrown by Austin Healey in his less 'focussed' moments.
Notwithstanding that, I do have to disagree with the learned editor. Saturday's Tri-Nations opener was nothing like having a quick one off of the wrist. It was, in fact, like the worst sex you have ever had, the kind of sex where one of you peaks far too soon and then loses interest, whilst the other one only actually wakes up 3/4 of the way through. As a game, it was that bad. It did make me think the following things, though:
The future of South African rugby doesn't exactly look rosy - even if this was pretty much their 'B' team against the Australian (almost) first XV, you would have expected them to run and tackle their socks off. At one point in the game they had missed almost nine times as many tackles as their opponents. And then I stopped counting.
This would be a decent Australian team if they had forwards who could handle the ball - Will Genia was pretty much the difference between this side and the one which lost to Samoa last week, but for long parts of this match every time he passed the ball it seemed to end up going in the general direction of a forward. Who would drop it. Australia actually had more turnovers that South Africa and I reckon 95% of them came from the tight five.
You can't win a game if it takes 57 minutes for you to launch a meaningful attack - which is exactly what the Springboks did. They scored from that attack, but by that stage they were 33 points down and Australia had stopped caring. Earlier in the game they had a breakaway from the inevitable Aussie turnover. The breakaway group of seven had so little support that, by the time the ball went to ground, I counted at least 12 Australians back behind the ball.
You can't win a game if your back row don't win any ball and your half-backs don't do anything with the ball they have - It is a long while since I've seen a half back pairing do so little with so little ball, and I've watched the last half dozen Scotland games.
I have no idea if this Aussie midfield can defend - because they were never really tested. They went backwards the one time the 'Boks properly ran the ball at them in the first half, but then they scored almost immediately after and the visitors stopped trying that tactic, as if the two events were somehow connected.
When was the last time you saw two front row forwards run tries in? - Not crash over from a maul or tap penalty, or not do that prop thing where you take the ball on the line and then almost trip over it, but run in from ten metres out (or thereabouts). I can't remember one such occasion since the last World Cup, which is another savage indictment of the South African defence.
South Africa have a big problem with John Smit - One of the problems with playing your old and soon to be retired captain amid a team of youngsters is that they tend to look a bit old, fat and slow. Which, when your side is a bit slow anyway, is something of a problem. Smit's only significant contribution to the day was to flollop into a post for his side's final try. As a hooker he was outplayed by replacement Chilliboy Rallepelle, who also has a much better name. I never thought I'd regard Smit as the weak link in any South African front row, but it seems that the day has come.
James O'Connor's run up - How long before the Johnny Wilkinson 'arms outstretched whilst taking a dump' pose is replaced by O'Connor's toy soldier march to the ball. It was like watching an episode of Camberwick Green.
Patrick Lambie - He looks like Fotherington-Thomas. You don't win anything at this level if your fly half looks like Fotherington-Thomas.
Why this year's Tri Nations is a little bit like masturbating
There's a scene in There's Something About Mary, one of the two Farrelly Brothers films that actually make you laugh, in which Ben Stiller's character Tom's best friend Dom 'Woogie' Woganowski scolds him for not masturbating before going out for a night with the eponymous Mary - "Oh my God, he doesn't flog the dolphin before a big date. Are you crazy? That's like going out there with a loaded gun!" says Dom, leading to the famous scene when Ted does just that.
This is an example of when unleashing such potential and possible performance destroying, er, energy before a major event is perhaps a good idea. This year's Tri Nations, starting on Saturday, is not, as surely each team involves desperately wants to go out with a loaded gun come September.
So close to the Rugby World Cup and at the end of a long season this tournament is something of one off the wrist at the wrong time. Maintaining intensity in the run up to the RWC is no doubt a good thing, and maintaining the balance between being optimised or spent is one of the greatest challenges in modern professional rugby, but giving the tournament a swerve this year would have been better for everyone but the money men at the three national unions.
In this aspect, the timing of the Tri Nations reflects the unique attitude men have to self-pleasure (I just won't leave this alone will I?): we don't really do it because there's a emotional or physical catalyst prompting us, we do it when we have a spare ten minutes.
It could have been worse
Not a whole lot worse, admittedly, but it could have been worse for South Africa. After last week's drubbing by Australia, coming up against an All Black side at almost full strength could've been terminal for the Springboks. The last minute positional switch that saw Morne Steyn move to fullback and Patrick Lambie take his place at fly half belied their concern and lack of clear tactical thinking, and they failed to compete in any aspect of the game, but at least they only lost by 33 points.
On the other hand, that's exactly the sort of thing that we used to say about Italy and, frankly, the current Italian side would give these second-rate Springboks a shellacking, too.
For what it is worth, then,this is what we learned this weekend:
History really does repeat
How appropriate that the 'Boks decided to visit the homeland of Split Enz in order to prove this. Just like last week, they held out for ten minutes, then conceded a try wide out on the right to a prop forward, and then were totally surprised when, from the ensuing kick-off, their opponents ran the ball back at them and their left winger scored. It was as if the entire team had thought "That's not going to happen again, we can switch off for five minutes or so".
It doesn't matter how many fly halves you play
South Africa tried to get around the fact that one of their fly halves can't kick and the other one can't run by playing both of them. This doesn't work because (a) your opponents know what is going to happen depending upon which of them is standing in the fly half position (b) there's a risk that you leave a great big hole where the full-back should be (c) Morne Steyn forgot his kicking boots (d) neither Steyn nor Lambie are any good. Butch James, your stage awaits.
It should have been 51-7
Have you ever seen Daniel Carter miss four kicks in a game? Me neither.
Cory Jane might not even make it to the World Cup
This was Jane's tryout for a place in the final thirty and, frankly, he muffed it. He might have scored two tries, but apart from that all he proved is that he can run very fast in a straight line. The Springboks were so disorganised that he could have done anything, including running backwards in high heels, and still scored. This was a chance to show what else he could do - and he didn't.
It is still a numbers game
It rapidly became clear why there was all of the secrecy around the All Black shirts. Clearly, someone had forgotten that they needed numbers on the back, resulting in someone constructing them out of masking tape. That's what it looked like, at least. Unlike the South African shirts, upon which the numbers are so small and embarrassed looking, it is as if they were hoping to make them so small so that no-one could single out any one culprit for the performances on this tour. They failed.
The Nonu hair
Without the highlights, Ma'a Nonu definitely looks like one of Milli Vanilli
Alain Rolland won't be refereeing the next World Cup final
Not if he keeps penalising Ritchie McCaw, not on his home turf.
The Ryder Cup of rugby?
Robert Kitson has used his blog in Guardian today to mull the idea of a Ryder Cup of rugby, where the Northern Hemisphere would take on the Southern in an epic battle. Obviously this will never happen, mainly because there is no need as Rugby has a plethora of international competition already.
Golf on the other hand has none. It is mostly about individual middle-class blokes travelling the world in dodgy leisurewear getting overexcited about club technology, making money that would dwarf the national debt of Malawi and boring us all rigid in press conferences. Golf had to create the Ryder Cup to get its protagonists out of their Stepford bubble once every two years and expand its media appeal beyond men who like to talk about cars.
However I digress, as the reason I have brought this up here is because of the teams that Kitson has nominated: