The best of ’em, the worst of ’em

The best team in the tournament made it to the final.  I can’t argue with that. Even at the quarter final stage New Zealand were the only undefeated team in the World Cup.

So how do we explain how that miserable French team are still in this thing? They delivered total rubbish in the pool stages losing to New Zealand and Tonga.  They are in full scale rebellion against their coach (this week’s rebellion takes the form of defying the coach’s orders not to go out drinking after the semi-final win).  France managed to completely outnumbered playing against a 14 man Welsh team.  Yet they still found a way to scrape into the final.

You have to admire them. They won ugly.  As a Bok fan, I respect that.  Big tournaments require finding a way to win ugly. Even the All Blacks tried two drop goals this weekend.  France were easily the team to make it out of the pool stages yet this weekend they’ll be in the final.  That’s somehow like that unattractive guy with the beer belly and the mediocre job who somehow happens to pull off bringing the hottest date to the wedding.  You scratch your head, but ultimately you just have to admire someone who achieves what everyone else just talks about.

I’m not one of those who subscribe to the theory that France is only in the final because Wales got screwed this weekend. The referee Roland was there to apply the law. The UK press is bitching about how a “technical” application of the law ruined a good game.  That is rubbish.  Can you imagine what the UK press would be saying if the circumstances were a little different and Roland instead of applying the letter of law decided “in the spirit of the game” not to penalise the French in a phase that was the turning point in the semi-final?  It would be insane.  The law is the law.

The truth is that Wales screwed themselves.   If there is any anger to be directed, it should be at the young 23 year old Welsh captain, Sam Warburton, who got himself into a position to allow the ref to send him off in the most important game of his career.  When your young captain gets himself sent off early in World Cup semi-final, suddenly the “go with experience” arguments makes a lot more sense.  Sadly for Wales, they are learning that hard lesson that every promising young team has to learn.  Winning is a habit.  Great teams find ways to get wins that they don’t deserve.  The All Black team of the mid-2000s were famous for winning games in the 79th minute with that inevitable Rococoko try.  Winning is a habit that Wales haven’t learned yet.

There was a little comfort to be had in watching Quade Cooper have yet another bad game.  It made me feel more human as a Bok fan.  South Africa is not the only country in the world that persists with players who are badly out of form in the hopes that they will come right when it matters.  You get the sense that in sticking with out of form players, Peter de Villiers and Robbie Deans are like gambling addicts at the Grand West Casino.  Each time they lose, they get more and more convinced that they are due for a win and so they increase the stakes.  Well, they’ve each been put out of their misery, and we can focus on watching the best team in the tournament take on their own personal demons wearing French jerseys.  If you think the All Blacks are capable of choking, they’ve given themselves every chance by playing Australia in the semis and France in the final.

So looking ahead to the final, I guess we can once again safely say… that France have absolutely no chance whatsoever this weekend.  New Zealand have this one in the bag, there’s absolutely no chance that the All Blacks will stuff it up from here.  Heck, don’t even bother to watch the game, go to the pub early and start the drinking.  You can record the game and watch it later, I’m sure there will be no surprises.

Welsh captain Sam Warburton's lack of experience showed in the big match.

Smokey the Bowler

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