Well whoever said rugby was boring. In one fell swoop, the Sharks were left washed up on some beach on the Jukskei, the Bulls were humbled at home, Heyneke Meyer attempts to fark with our heads and Keo is up for a bit of sex and coke. And that is all before the Queen steps onto her barge!
You just have to have a squiz at a couple of rugby blogs, facebook and twitter to see a country in complete turmoil. The last time anything like this was experienced was when Archduke Ferdinand got slapped by the Black Hand of Gavrila Principe – and that was enough to trigger a world war!
I suppose we must begin with Heyneke Meyers announcement of the Springbok squad. Just to trigger the grey matter, here it is:
Backs – Bjorn Basson, Jean de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Zane Kirchner, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Wynand Olivier, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn, Jano Vermaak.
Forwards – Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Ryan Kankowski, Juandre Kruger, Werner Kruger, Beast Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jacques Potgieter, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Pierre Spies, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Franco van der Merwe.
Now Meyer really is between a rock and a hard place. Here is a man, who has been entrusted to take our beloveled game out of a very dark place, and put it back into the limelight and our hearts. A man, who eventually got the nod after months of shilly shallying by SARU. A man, who had to try to put a coaching team together when all around him were ensconced within their various competitions. A man who was given 1 week to put together a team capable of beating the English, and a man, who had to step into the breach in a country where rugby provincialism means more to supporters than their own marriages.
When Meyer first got the job, there was a collective sigh of relief for the man seen as a saviour by so many. To his credit, he omitted the standard opening line that we have become so familiar with from new coaches, “judge me in 4 years,” but when he got up on stage and said “I believe in two types of rugby; winning rugby and losing rugby, there is nothing in between for me,” he set out his stall. This, I believe, could have been his first major mistake.
His second mistake must have been his reluctance to step in when the newspapers and hacks broke the story about Victor Matfield – not only making a comeback into the Springbok jersey, but as captain noggal. Tongues started wagging, blogs started appearing, and favoritism was a word that started rearing it’s ugly head. He should have knocked it on the head straight away. He didn’t. Then Fourie du Perez’s name popped up. HM made a comment about leaving the captaincy spot open for the likes of an experienced person, and the hacks went mad again. Rapport had a field day. Eventually we became resigned to the fact that FdP was going to be our leader………and then the bombshell.
No explanation, no comment, or no statement, just the stark omission from the squad announcement.
What has happened? Where is he? Was he ommitted, or did he decide it wasn’t for him. We have no idea. Oh yes, the rumours have been flying – Only last week, HM had offered the captaincy to FdP, but at the last minute, he (FdP) changed his mind, leaving HM in a quandary – apparently!
His third mistake.
Then the team announcement. Wow, if you ever wanted to split provincialism even further, this was the way to do it. I have read comments ranging from bemusement to downright outrage at the selections. Comments regarding ommissions, inclusions and from which unions the players hail. Strangely, I am yet to read a single comment from anyone who agree’s with his selection – and that includes his staunchest supporters.
When one stands back a little from the squad, and takes a careful look at the selection, it becomes clearer as to HM’s thinking. Big boys, powerhouse stuff, and alot of kicking. This is a Bulls recipe, a recipe he knows, and one which has worked for him in the past. Using a core of players that he knows and trusts, and a system that has brought the Bulls numerous honors, with the injection of some big lads from other unions, he is hoping that this is the quick fire way to beat those dastardly Poms.
And it had better work. Mutterings of transformation, youth, ability, size and provincialism mean that nothing less than an annihilation of the England team will suffice. Trust me, some of those less than amiable hacks have started sharpening their pencils already.
Good luck, Heyneke, I too, have my reservations about your selections, but will hold off to see how you perform over the weekend.
In other news, those Guppies. If ever there was a reason never to underestimate your enemy, this was it. This match should be boxed up and sent to every school, regimental brigade and future sporting match, where all participants be made to sit through the whole horrific affair, to show you just what happens when you do.
This was a match that was a gimme. A guarantee. Hell, I don’t think even the bonus point possibility was raised. And boy, did it show. The Sharks were blinded by an opening blitzkrieg from the Lions. Four quick tries in the first half, and one seemed to sense that it would need a bollocking at halftime to get them going.
They did come out and play a bit, but just not enough. The Lions not only took the match, but denied the Sharks a bonus point as well. How did this come about. Poor captaincy in my book. If a leader should ever have stepped up to rally his troops, this was it. Daniels just didn’t cut it, and it showed. Could this be the end of their 2012 campaign? I truly hope not, but they have given themselves a mountain to climb.
Then came the Bulls. A match in which all and sundry had written off the Stormers from the previous week. This author included. But what a defensive rally from the boys in blue. Try as the Bulls may, they just couldn’t break through that impenetrable defense. Not the Bulls greatest match, but their scrums were solid, their lineouts were awesome, and their driving mauls left spectators in Monaco in awe. But that was just about it. The Stormers just absorbed wave after wave of attack. The Stormers putting in over 130 tackles, with some players who really put their bodies on the line. None more so than Siya Kolisi. A captains game by Jean de Villiers has done no harm to his chances of leading the national side when it is announced.
For the Bulls, Steyn missed 3 of his 6 kicks – 2 of them drops, and again, the weak link was at scrumhalf. Hougie is just too slow with his service. The scrum, as mentioned was solid, and did little wrong on the night. JJ Engelbrecht continues to impress at centre, CJ Stander was solid, as was Kruger.
The Stormers win elevates them back to the top of the South African conference. Oh yes, and they get a holiday!
To close, it was a shock to read, a few minutes ago, that Mark Keohane has resigned from both SASCOC and HSM in light of the accusations of cocaine use and improper sexual advances on employees. After the recent spat over the Kings/Lions issue, it is sad that this has happened, and one wonders if, perhaps there were ‘third forces at play here’
The really good news for anyone who thought that the world was about to end, is that the sun still came up this morning, and will continue to do so for a few more yet.