Heyneke Meyer has the “Morne Steyn” disease

Looks like Heyneke Meyer has succumbed to the Bok coach disease of irrational loyalty to players.  This week on the interview circuit all was revealed on the DSTV tragicomedy referred to as Boots ‘n All.

As the only guest in studio not willing to kiss anyone in a bok blazer’s ass and in his “speaking truth to power” mode, Nick Mallet called out Heyneke on the continued selection of Morne Steyn at flyhalf  despite his lack of form.  Morne is in the team to kick goals, since he doesn’t exactly give you anything else.  And he isn’t exactly kicking goals is he?

Hearing Heyneke defend his selection was painful.  He mumbled something about Morne’s form not actually being that bad and that if you switched to Afrikaans commentary during the game he actually plays quite well.

This kind of irrational disease seems to overcome South African’s in positions of power.  It also has its counter in the insane refusal to pick a player who is clearly better than “coach’s favourite”.   Is the Heyneke Meyer – Morne Steyn clouded thinking going to be up there amongst the following:

  • John “Colonel Gadaffi” Smit’s stranglehold over the De Villiers coaching tenure.
  • Jake White and “the fetcher” debacle, circa 2004, 2005 and 2006.
  • Tiaan Strauss  not being selected against the touring Kiwis in post-isolation South Africa.
  • The ANC insisting that Julius Malema “wasn’t a complete shit”, at least until he turned his idiot hose onto Jacob Zuma that is.
  • Nick Mallet and the Gary Teichmann.
  • Bryan Habana and all of his coaches during 2008 to 2011.
  • Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn not beating the shit out of Jar Jar Binks in every scene in which they appear together.

Perhaps Pat Lambie needs to start showing up to coaching sessions wearing his Morne Steyn mask.  Is that what it is going to take?  Or a miracle cure for Johan Goosen?

Morne Steyn looking pretty confident now that he has that compromising photo of Heyneke Meyer with his “Sex in the City” box set.

Hail to the Chiefs: 2012 Super 15 Awards

Here’s to the Chiefs for pulling off an emphatic victory over the weekend.   Far more impressive than clubbing to death the baby seals that arrived from Durban was their semi-final win over Grim Reapers of Super Rugby.   In BDR fashion we present the annual Single Malt and Pink Smirnoff 2012 season recap.

Hold me close don’t ever let me go Sonny.

A single malt: for most intimidating semi-final opponents to the Crusaders.  What would a Super Rugby tournament be without a trip to Christchurch for your annual ass-whooping?

A pink Smirnoff: to Hugh Bladen – for once again being the tournaments worst commentator, despite a strong challenge from newcomer Victor Matfield.  Hugh… where did that drink go?  It was here just a second go?

A single malt: The biggest upset?  Most definitely the Rebels tipping over the Crusaders.

A pink Smirnoff: to the ass who designed the Bulls away strip.  You might think you’re very clever sitting in your marketing studio, but you’re not.

A single malt: to Bryan Habana for having a pretty good comeback season despite being bagged non-stop by this website.

A pink Smirnoff: to Bobby Skinstad.  For being Bobby Skinstad.

A single malt: to Nick Mallet – the first Supersport analyst to actually contribute something to the viewing experience since the days of Jake White’s tenure.  Someone please tell Arnold Geerdts to stop using the phrase “it was a game of two halves”.

A pink Smirnoff: to John Mitchell for resurrecting the Rudolf Straeuli man management method.

A single malt: to the Stormers who despite their annual silverware choke pulled off a top of the table league finish despite having a non-existent pack and Brok Harris at flyhalf.

A single malt: to the Western Force for hiring the drummer from Def Leppard to play in their backline.  Nice!

A pink Smirnoff: to the Rebels franchise for continuing the Aussie tradition of naming their teams after George Lucas movie themes.

A single malt: to Dr Jannie du Plessis for managing to pull off the greasy hair look all season long of a roadie at a Metallica concert.  You make it look so easy and classy at the same time good doctor.

A pink Smirnoff: for Pierre Spies for show ponying it up all season long.

A single malt: Best commentator?  Phil “the mighty eagle” Kearnes.

A pink Smirnoff:  to the South African rugby administrators who managed to screw both the Lions and the Kings by acting like typical Saffer politicians.

A single malt: to the Chiefs for having a prop as their leading try scorer.  And for hiring him after completing his role as Odd Job in the Connery Bond movies.

Stormers re-enact the annual traditional choke

Against all odds, the Stormers managed to pull off a fantastic 26-19 choke against the Sharks at home.  Amazingly, this choke came after finishing first on the log, breaking the record for regular season wins and after a bye week.   The Stormers really had to dig deep to find a way to restore the faith that their fans have in them, namely that they can choke a season from any position of strength.

Alistair Coetzee revealed how much work went into this game in the post match interview:

“I’m really proud of the boys today.  I know a lot of people in the media had written us off and said we weren’t capable of a choke again, but I knew all week long we could do it.  The boys put in a lot of work in the training ground making sure that Brok Harris would be first receiver in any situation where we get good quick ruck ball.  It was also drilled into the half backs that they need to kick possession aimlessly away whenever we get forward momentum.  I’m just so proud of those efforts”

The Stormer’s have a long history of choking in the Super Rugby tournament stretching back to the first famous choke against the Highlanders in their home semi-final back in 1999.   Concern mounted this year ahead of the playoffs that since getting rid of players generally concerned pivotal to the choking game, such as Nakalavuki and Naas Olivier (remember those days?) the Stormers might not be able to produce that all important choke when it was needed.  With Peter Grant in superb kicking form and even Bryan Habana looking good this season the odds were piling up against the Stormers.

A  relieved Newlands witnessed the cold fact that their beloved team still has the magic touch in the big games.

Vital to any choking strategy is the need to get Brok Harris good quality second phase ball to put him in the decision maker role in the backline.

Why the Bulls don’t have an effing prayer

During play off time it is the same story every year.  Teams travelling across the Indian Ocean to play in an away knock out game talk a good game.  You’ll heard the words “quietly confident”, “happy to be underdogs”, and “this time it feels different”.  In the words of the Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman: “Bullshit”.

There are several reasons why Bulls fans shouldn’t allow themselves to get their hopes up for this weekend’s knockout clash against the Crusaders in Christchurch:

  • They are playing the Crusaders.  In Christchurch.
  • Dan.  Fuckin’.  Carter.
  • They are playing the Crusaders.  In Christchurch.
  • Richie.  Fuckin’.  McCaw.
  • Zane “The Crazy Train” Kirchner will be wearing a Blue Bulls jersey.
  • History, science and the basic laws of physics.
  • Bjorn Basson’s evil wizard goatee hasn’t actually given him any supernatural powers at all or even a casting role in the new Harry Potter movie.
  • They are playing the Crusaders.  In Christchurch.

It can’t be done fellows.   Listening to Bulls fans talk optimistically is a little like hearing your best friend talk about how he thinks he can patch things up with his recently broken up girlfriend.  The writing is on the wall, and though it pains you  to see a fellow fan in a state of self-delusion, you haven’t the heart to quite give them the brutal bad news.  It’s why you never became a surgeon.   “But this time is different” they protest.   Soon enough, the argument starts to begin sounding like a creationist debating with an evolutionary biologist. Your heart goes out for the desparate clutching for hope, anything that will say things will be ok.

Zane “the Crazy Train” Kirchner. Is he the kakkest player to ever wear the Bulls 15 jersey?

Remember fans – if you aim low… you’ll never be disappointed.

50 Shades of Peter de Villiers

If you are the kind of reader who has his or her finger on the pulse of their generation, you may be aware that the latest rage about town is a book popularising BDSM and erotic fiction.  I’m not referring to Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James of course, but to Peter de Villiers’ authorised biography: Politically Incorrect.

Is your wife suddenly more secretive about her library collection?

Dubbed “mommy porn” by knowledgeable websites this work is the talk of happening book clubs and hip married women across the country relieved that BDSM, bondage and other forms of erotica are finally mainstream and can be spoken about in public.

Full confession here, I’ve not actually read Peter de Villiers autobiography (the NG Kerk banned it in my town), but I am told by reliable sources that it contains the following saucy chapters:

  • The End of Innocence – on tour with Bakkies Botha
  • The love that dare not speak its name – on selecting Zane Kirchner for the British and Irish Lions tour
  • Four more years of cruelty – life under John “Colonel Gadaffi” Smit (NSFW)
  • Softly, gently, tenderly – Pierre Spies’ approach to the ruck and maul

For those seeking further clarity on whether or not Politically Incorrect is a good read, it received the following glowing endorsement from Oregan Hoskins, de Villiers’ boss at SARFU during his tenure as Bok coach:

“I can confirm that Peter de Villiers was employed by the South African Rugby Football Union during the periods 2008 to 2011.  During that time he was in compliance with our absenteeism requirements and we can confirm that he was not found guilty of any category 3 offences by our Human Resources department.”

Steve Walsh: uncensored, unhinged, unleashed

Ever since Mark Lawrence and his three day stubble retired from refereeing test rugby, Steve Walsh has had his eye on rugby’s sexiest metrosexual title.  While we applaud his use of noveau-wave hair style, we were a bit concerned about some of the comments that were picked up on the on-the-field microphone and whether or not these will affect his public persona:

On 33 mins: (to De Villiers whilst showing him his tattoo) – “Can you speak Mandirin, Jean?  No?   Then shut the f^$k up!”

On 51 mins: (to Hartley) – “Who produced The Flaming Lips second album?  No, nothing?…    … Yellow card.”

On 68 mins: (at the breakdown) – “England… leave it!  I want to see if Spies will actually do anything if he is given the ball. Leave it!”

On 71 mins: (to Spies) – ‘Take that f$%king headband off your head son.  You’re not fooling anyone.  What are you pretending to be?  Someone hard?  We all know you haven’t been through a “thing”.  You’ve just been standing two paces off the ruck pretending to look involved.”

Jean de Villiers’ captain speech leaked to the press

Big Daddy Rugby managed to get a copy of the speech that Jean de Villiers gave the new Bok squad in his first training session as Bok captain.  In the spirit of journalistic integrity, we reproduce it here, unedited, in its entirety:

“Well, boys it’s the first time that we’re all together since Colonel Gadaffi was ousted from power.  Some of you may have known him better by his street name, John Smit.  As your new Bok captain, Heyneke has asked me to impart some words of wisdom to the squad.  I’d like to start by telling all the Bulls players here (and there are a lot of you) that the most important thing I have learned in my years playing in the Cape is that it is poor form to put ice cubes in your wine, especially if it is a wooded chardonnay – it really messes with the tannins.  All right, enough with the life lessons.

Now that I am skipper, things are going to change around here.  I run a pretty tight ship.  First of all, no one, I repeat, NO ONE who has played less than 10 caps is allowed to give me direct eye contact.  You earn that right.  Until you have played New Zealand in New Zealand you don’t smile or wink at me in the corridors.

Secondly, I want the whole squad, including management to refer to me as “Proposition Jean” or “Prop J”.  If you call me Jean I will ignore you.  That includes if I am put away in space and you are on my outside with only one man to beat.  I also refuse to pass to anyone who doesn’t appreciate Springsteen’s Nebraska album.   Gadaffi may have been comfortable with you experimenting with that Marron 5 stuff but that ends now.

Stay humble, remember to practice ritual purity.  As Carel Du Plessis used to say, “guilty feet have got no rhythm”.

And lastly, before we go out there, remember: Nothing lasts forever… even cold November rain.”

Don’t panic just yet: Zane is only in the squad not the starting line up

Okay, new coaches get to pick players with whom they are comfortable.  I get that.  But come on… Zane Kirchner?   When PdV picked Sideshow Bob Kirchner for the British Lions series in 2009 I was willing to put it down to the mad ramblings of an insane man – after all it was a dead rubber.

  • No Heinrich “God’s gift to rugby” Brussouw?
  • Wynand Olivier and JJ Engelbrecht (WTF is all I will say to this)
  • No Gio Aplon
  • Jano Vermaak

If we end up coughing up this series to the English there are going to be some seriously pissed off Stormers and Sharks fans in this country.  He could make this all okay by admitting he did it just to upset the Cape Town media cartel and that he will actually be picking Lambo at full back and that JJ Engelbrecht is nothing more than an alternative spelling for Heinrich Brussouw.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCCyvAwbbso?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

Heyneke.  I wanted you to be Bok coach, but not like this…

Cheetahs best season ever: the heartbreak kids come good

If this were any normal Super Rugby season when the Cheetahs go down by 14 points in the first half, you expect them to fight back only to cough it up in the last two minutes. Your pick of Coenie “sex on legs” Oosthuizen swan diving onto a ruck to give a penalty away in front of the posts or Hennie “I left my common sense with my fashion sense” Daniller with  a wild speculative pass inside his own in goal area to allow the visiting team to break Free State hearts once more.  Ear-splitting screams of “Vry-staaaat!” notwithstanding.

Not this season though.  In Saturday night’s come from behind miracle on ice last minute nail baiter the Bloemfontein boys held their nerve and clung to a desperate against the odds win over the Waratahs.  Willie Le Roux might have a name more suited to a career in the adult entertainment industry, but his ability to cross the try line this weekend meant that Cheetahs fans had something to celebrate on the drive home from the stadium this weekend.  With the win came confirmation that 2012 is the best Super Rugby season the franchise has had in its history.  Best at least in terms of wins and results – after all a few former Cheetahs front rowers will still tell you that 1999 edged this one in terms of ability to pull girls on tour…

Coenie “sex on legs” Oosthuizen set the ladies pulses racing this weekend with another sensual performance in the front row.

So tip of the hat to Cheetah’s coach Tony Soprano Naka Drotske.  The Cheetahs used to be everyone’s second favourite team simply because while they played a romantic idealist’s form of the game, they were never actually going to beat your number one team.   The Cheetahs now inspire genuine hate from anyone in a Lion’s supporters jersey and have strung together a record 5 wins against decent opponents making a trip to Bloemfontein far more nervous than it used to be.

Add to that, prospects for 2013 look even better.  While their season was ignited by uncovering wonderkid/boy genius/future flyhalf maestro/gift to mankind/anti-apartheid activist and former Robben Island struggle veteran Johan Goosen, some of these wins have been pulled off with Goosen still on the injury list.   Rumour has it he is the next Johnnie Wilkinson and not just in the looks department.   Not even the most one-eyed Lions fan could deny that the Cheetahs deserve their spot in the competition next year.

Hell… even their cheerleaders get the most improved badge of the year.

Standing up for freedom of speech

Try as I might, I couldn’t connect this painting to a story about the Lions being unable to stay up in the Super 15 competition.

Yip, this story has nothing to do with rugby.  I had a half baked attempt to write something about the Lions here… but I’ll just play it straight today.

So the ANC is legally bullying an art gallery and South African artist to  take down an unflattering portrait of president Zuma.   Apparently mocking Zuma is a violation of his human rights.

I don’t know Brett Murray from a bar of soap and I really have no opinion as to whether the “Hail to the Thief/Spear of the Nation” portrait depicted here is good art or bad art.  But I will say this.  I have huge respect and admiration for anyone who gets under the skin of the powerful.  And I have even bigger respect and admiration for someone who refuses to back down when the ruling government party starts blustering and threatening legal action.

So – to the knobs in government who don’t understand what free speech means…

Free speech isn’t about the easy stuff.  It’s easy to protect free speech when it stands up for something you believe in.  Protecting free speech is about the stuff that makes you uncomfortable, about the stuff you think is a bad idea, about the stuff that exposes what a hypocrite and a liar you may or may not be.

If you don’t like being made fun of, don’t run for public office.  If you don’t want people to mock you, don’t choose a life that puts you squarely in the public eye.  Your career has been built on the applause and adulation of the public.   You can’t have the praise without the blame.    If you’re upset about all the people who unjustly criticise you, you might also want to think about the people who unjustly praised you.

So here’s to freedom of speech and to here’s to all the artists, cartoonists, journalists and writers who annoy the powerful.

Also – anyone who makes an oblique Radiohead reference in a public art gallery is alright in my book.

Dr Jannie responds to our angry fan mail

[Editors note: We received the following feedback from a concerned bulls fan about our article on the new Bulls pink jersey.  Given the gravity of the accusations, we have requested resident medical expert Dr Jannie to respond our behalf]

“Wow, Big daddy, you sir / ma’m / Moron are obviously gay and only reached std 4 coz you cribbed off of Malema’s paper.

Seriously, You and this little band of “after church service litle gathering by the creek” people need help. non of you barring the one or two bulls supporters on here know EF_ALL about rugby. You go on about a “fashion statements” and bloody info commercials but you seem to have forgotten that the sport being played is RUGBY, not the runway walk, RUGBY. No matter what colour a team wears they al still play rugby and the last time I checked the Bulls have the most respected record in SA over the last few decades. You should rather voice your anal-retentive thought s on places like the View where someone might listen to your crap. You sir / ma’am / moron, are a tur dingbat ad deserve to be punched in the face repeatedly with your own fist.”

Concerned Bulls follower.

Dear Concerned Bulls follower

I have taken time out of my busy schedule working on the first great novel of the 21st century to respond to these  rather serious accusations levelled at the Big Daddy Rugby writing team.

You do realise that is actually is NOT an insult to call someone from Cape Town gay, right?   I often play up that card as it is very popular with the Cape Townian ladies (see picture above).

If you do an accurate fact-check on local rugby team records, you’ll discover that the Bulls as impressive as they were in the last few seasons were not in fact the dominant domestic team in terms of winning records.  Ever since they signed that freak from Boland Agricultural as their tighthead and found a way to skirt the age eligibility rules the Sweet Valley Primary School under 10 team has been dominating local teams, season in, season out, with a record that trumps any other domestic team.

Last point, it if it is wrong to look good while winning, then I don’t want to be right.  Just ask Brok Harris.

Auckland Blues and Pat Lam: Once were warriors

Remember the mid-nineties when Graham Henry coached the Auckland Blues?  Heck at Super 12 fixture against those bad boys was as a big as a Test Match and if you consider the state of Northern Hemisphere rugby back then, playing Auckland in Auckland was probably tougher than most test matches.

Those were the days if you were an Aucklander.   Seinfeld was still on tv, Biebermania hadn’t yet swept the nation and you could satisfy yourself that come Saturday whichever hapless baby seals were going to be offered up as opposition to the Blues would be clubbed to death mercilessly in front of a rabid crowd at Auckland Park.  There was even talk of visiting coaches deliberating picking understrength sides to face Auckland simply to avoid injuring key players in a game that was going to be a loss anyway.

Fast forward to 2012.  Pat Lam has already broken the franchise record for most defeats in a season and the season isn’t even half way.   Nine losses in a season?  I suspect my views will be unpopular here, but I have to say, I’ve never digged Pat Lam.  His post-match interview in the 95 World Cup after Samoa got spanked by the Boks was the stuff of complete knobs.

Pat has gone on record complaining about people criticising him on the “interwebs” and “the twitter”.   Sure, it’s over the top Pat.  Is that a surprise?  You’re the coach of a legendary franchise and during your tenure their name is being humiliated.  Didn’t you lose to the Melbourne Rebels?   You deserve to cop a lot of flack if you coach a top team and have a miserable record with them.  Just ask Harry Viljoen.   Don’t take the social media stuff personally.  You should see what they say about Barack Obama on there… dude, you’re not special in copping a bit of abuse.

p.s. Where is all the support from the railway stand at Newlands now for Auckland?

Matfield to return for Boks?

Matfield perfects his "Ice Blue" look for the new GQ Fall season.

Ahhh f$%k no.   Tell me it isn’t true.  The rumour mill is swarming this week with tales of Victor Matfield turning down his job as resident sex icon on the Supersport commentary team (a title long held by Hugh Bladen) to join Heyneke Meyer’s June Bok squad.

I like Heyneke, I want to like Heyneke more.   I love a man that crushed an Aussie side at Loftus and left them in tatters for about four seasons afterwards.  That’s a man I want coaching the Boks.  But not like this.   Not at this price.

We’ve done four years of this “loyalty to the old gaurd” horsesh%t with PdV.  Let’s not replace the Bismarck-Smit saga with a Bekker-Matfield saga and a Hougaard-Du Preez one.

A wise rugby scholar once told me, if you ever see a Bok coach pick Zane Kirchner for a test match, you know the Boks will be screwed for the next two seasons.  This has a ring of familiarity.

Please Heyneke… I know you’re one of our most loyal readers… Let’s not have the usual geriatric squad come June.

Here’s hoping the return of Matfield is limited to a role as a line out consultant and hair stylist for a squad of young deserving players.

Is Victor Matfield Supersport’s worst commentator?

Supersport’s worst commentator?   Sheez… that’s like trying to call out who exactly is the most despicable human being in a line up of serial killers.  Nothing good can come from it.

What is it with South Africans and their ridiculous obsession with concluding that because someone was a good player they automatically must be a good commentator or even worse a good coach (think of Stransky landing the lifetime tenure gig on Supersport due to one drop goal, or Carel du Plessis being given the Bok coaching)?  Come on, guys, really?  We’re not in Standard 5 any more.  You don’t give the captaincy to the guy who can kick the ball the furthest and you certainly don’t give a commentary gig to someone who can barely string a sentence together just because he was a great lineout jumper.

I know…. I know… Matfield is supposedly untouchable.  He was a god of the lineouts, a warrior poet and capable of mesmerising an Aussie line out jumper simply by winking at him.   But this is too much, he is awful.  I can literally feel the rand dollar exchange rate sliding whenever Matfield opens his mouth.  He might have all the looks you’d want out of someone as your token Nordic god – but put him in a Supersport jacket, hand him a microphone and all of sudden he is transformed into a troll who has drunk too much Windhoek.

Let me guess Victor, the Bulls lost because they "didn't want it enough"?

Ok, and for those who think I am someone back tracking about Carel du Plessis, I know I’ve gone on record before as having thought Carel was an underrated Bok coach.   That’s besides the point.  You don’t make someone a national coach if they haven’t coached at provincial or Super Rugby level, no matter how sexy their sidestep was back in the 80s.

Things you didn’t know about Wycliff Palu

Tough NSW backrower Wycliff Palu is more often known for putting in gritty performances at the base of the scrum for Super Rugby outfit the Waratahs, but not many rugby fans know that Palu once had a promising career in the music industry.

When he first debuted on the Super Rugby rugby field in the 2005 season his hard running impressed Wallaby selectors enough to give him his first test cap in the 2006 season. Not shy for a bit of a controversy, he has spent some time in the can after an assault charge and has been known to irritate his team mates with his highly offensive opinions about the critical quality of the HBO show, The Sopranos.

But back in the 1990s it looked like lil’ Wycliff (as he was known back then) was far away from the lure of a rugby field. Along with Lauren Hill and rapper Pras Michell, Palu made up part of the highly successful hip hop trio the Fugees. The bands explosive mix of personalities soon led to their breakup and lil’ Wycliff went on to launch an unsuccessful solo career. His first album, Songs for an S&M Evening, was a commercial and critical failure and he moved to Sydney to try to rebuild his career.

Wycliff Palu (pictured far right) feeling sinister in his younger more musical days.

His quest for “a new sound” led him to a Sydney night club where he met Waratahs coach Ewen Mackenzie. While Palu’s innovative drumming style that evening failed to land him a new recording contract with the suits from Sony, he was drafted in by Ewen to bring on the kicking tee for the Waratahs. A few open trial sessions later and Palu found himself trading in his gold pleather jacket for the faded blue NSW Waratahs jersey. 50 test caps says he made the right career switch.

NZ captain blames God for Hong Kong Sevens defeat

Kiwi captain DJ Forbes blamed God for a crucial knock on that led to Fiji taking the Hong Kong title.

New Zealand Sevens captain DJ Forbes has previously gone on record as thanking God for his teams’ victories in the sevens tournament.  So it came as quite a surprise (although it must be pointed out, theologically consistent) when he turned on his maker and blamed God for the Kiwi’s 35-28 loss in the Hong Kong Sevens final to Fiji.

For a player who believed at the start of the season that “God was on their side” things certainly have changed since pre-season.

After the loss during his interview, when he is customarily heard to be thanking God for allowing his rugby team to win the encounter he revealed that with ten minutes to go all was going according to plan.   They needed an important break down the blind side however God suddenly intervened on the side of the Fijians, causing DJ Forbes to inexplicably (for those of a non-religious mindset anyway) knock on.   From there on out, the Kiwi’s pact with the Almighty just seemed to be “off”.  Missed kicks, stray passes and knock ons simply had to be attributed to divine intervention.   There was no other explanation, after all.

After witnessing his post match speech blinding  the Bulls have hired a local pastor  to look into their disastrous 2002 season in attempt to clear Heyneke Meyer’s reputation.

Bulls rip out Reds’ hearts, destroy their season and date their girlfriends

Wow.  61-8.  Eight tries to one.   The Reds just got spanked.   It doesn’t matter how you try to spin that one in the post match interview but for the defending champions to get theirs a$$es handed to them to like that has got to permanently scar a team.  Sure they had injuries, sure they were thousands of miles away from the nearest XXXX or Bundies, but if you are the defending champions you simply just can’t let a team put 60 plus on you.

Ouch.   Reds coach, Knuckles, (who for the record is one of the nicest blokes you’ll meet on the Twittersphere) must be wondering how to pick up the pieces up this weekend.  At the half time mark a 16-3 lead looked comfortable enough and you’d expect Ludeke to be giving the Bulls the standard “let’s rest on our laurels boys” talk in the changing room.  But Steyn came out on fire with another 100%’er with the kicking boots and the back line seemed to grow in confidence with every passing minute.  That’s what you have to love about this Bulls side.  They bullies and they are excellent bullies. They sensed weakness and then didn’t just finish them.  They smashed them, humiliated them and dragged the Reds’ carcass all over Loftus for the second half.

Hell apparently with ten minutes to go, the Bulls front row demanded that their Reds counterparts immediately hand over the phone numbers of the Reds’ girlfriends.  Pierre Spies was heard to be dialling the phone numbers of each of the Reds forwards’ girlfriends during those last ten minutes, and after pointing out their score to the Brisbane lasses, recommending that they “hook up” on the Bulls overseas tour.

According to my sources things got really awkward after the final whistle, is all I am saying…

Wales are the champs – break out the Tom Jones!

Congrats to Wales.  With a comfortable 16-9 put down of France at Cardiff, they’ve taken the 6 Nations title and done it with a grand slam.  So while fans everywhere can bust out some Tom Jones and celebrate the Welsh coaching staff will have to get used to life without the underdog title.

As genuine northern hemisphere silverware owners, the Welsh now have a target on them.  Break out the sherbets for sure, but the southern hemisphere will now be gunning for them.

While it has been nauseating to read in the English press about losing to a “special generation” of players, a strong Welsh team really opens up the interest in that tournament.  It’s a far cry from the days of early Wilkinson when “Le Crunch” determined who would be the 6 Nations champion, or more specifically whether Le Crunch was played in England or France.

It was a pity to see Ireland get completely annihilated at scrum time against England, were it not for that pitiable forward pack you could say that four of the six nations would fancy themselves as realistic title contenders.  But for now, Wales have put on the crown and will be the new team to beat.   They’ve got three tantalising tests against Australia in June.  That’s going to be cracking.

Here’s to you Wales – worthy 6N champs.  Here’s hoping you send a full strength team to Oz this year.

Here's looking at you big guy!

Jake White unavailable to coach England, also unavailable to date Victoria Secret supermodels

Jake White announced this week that he definitely won’t be able to coach England this year due to his commitments with the Brumbies.  Umm…  that’s interesting, Jake.  Was anyone actually asking?  Or were you just worried that your name hadn’t been on Keo’s website in a few weeks?

So, he hasn’t been interviewed, the role hasn’t been formally offered, he’s not an official  candidate, but he’s “unavailable” for it?    Geez, dude.  A quiet word to the any agent from the English Rugby Union might have been enough, why did you have to make it a “Jake White in the news issue”?

In related news, Jake also announced that he is definitely unavailable to date Heidi Klum or any of the  other Victoria Secret Angels.  He is definitely, positively, unavailable to take any of them out on a date, at the very least for the next twelve months due to “current commitments”.

Delusions of grandeur much, Jake?

Errm... Jake is definitely not able to date any of these models. At least not this season...

Oh and p.s.  none of the editorial team on Big Daddy Rugby are available to coach either.  Carlos, Silas and Smokey will not be able to take over the role due to current blogging commitments.

p.p.s. You’re a World Cup winning coach.  You won’t be forgotten, you can still get a round on anyone at Forries when you walk in.

It’s all looking a bit familiar

Expect Naka to go all Tony "dead eyes" Soprano around week 5 of the competition...

We’re only two weeks into this season’s Super 15 and it’s already starting to take on a familiar ring.

The Lions are as brittle as ever and are willing to hand over rugby games to any opposition team that asks in a rather stern voice if the Lions wouldn’t mind rolling over for them.   The Shark’s look unimaginative (cheerleaders aside) with loads of potential that they somehow never live up to.   And where the Stormers should have a quality flyhalf, they have Brock “Twinkle Toes” Harris at first receiver.   Jeez, if I was inside centre for the Stormers I would have knee-capped Harris a long time ago if I wanted to have any expectation of getting the ball in open play. Things looked better for the Stormers on Saturday when Grant came on, but you suspect until that they settle their flyhalf question they’re not going to put away quality opposition in tight games.

The Bulls are throwing their weight around like a 300 pound wrestler taking on a bunch of kindergarteners armed only with popsicles, but their true mettle will only be tested on the road.  It still remains to see whether they’ll be able to step up to the legacy left by Meyer’s later squads, or if they will be one of those squads that are unbeatable at home but totally sh$t on the road in New Zealand and the land of Oz.

We’ve been here before, right?  If you’re a Lion’s or Cheetah’s supporter you’ve got that feeling that opposition cricket teams used to have when they toured Australia.  First morning of the series, first session of the day and Hayden and Langer are already carting you all over the park.  Hell… you’re not even 120 minutes into a long series and you’re hoping like hell that you can somehow ride this out and come out on the other side still looking like some sort of half decent sports outfit.  Pre-season boasts about Jantjies and Brussouw are proving very regrettable.

Until the Saffer teams cross the Atlantic we won’t really know if Bulls, Stormers and Sharks have realistic knockout hopes (because the Cheetahs and the Lions sure as hell don’t).  As someone who grew up watching rugby in the ’90s I’m a firm believer, that what you do at Newlands or Loftus doesn’t count for much until you’ve been tested on the turf in Auckland, Christchurch and Sydney.  The Cheetahs are first up for tour and it’s a formality that they will be getting their asses handed to them.  For me, I’m reserving all judgement until the top three South African teams go on tour.

Super 15 preview: SA conference

It’s that time of the year again.  Time to start skipping varsity lectures, updating your Superbru during work hours, and generally losing every bet you can because of your unreasonable faith in South African teams somehow being able to “pull of a surprise playing in Christchurch”.

STORMERS

Coach: Super Rugby’s cuddliest coach, Allister Coetzee, has a lot to prove after being passed over for the Bok coach.  His biggest problem?  A trophy cabinet as empty and hollow as the latest Maroon Five album.  If the cuddle monster can’t win trophy’s he won’t be putting on that Bok coaching jersey any time soon.

Captain: The man. The legend.  Terror of all you can eat buffet bars everywhere. Schalk Burger. Beautiful freak.

Man to watch: Andries Bekker. An 8 foot tall freak of a man, capable of two carrying basket balls in one hand (try that) while simultaneously running like a winger and calling in his stock market trades from his Bluetooth headset.  New Zealanders are in awe of him, girls love him, and fashionistas everywhere are horrified by his mullet.  With Big Vic finally leaving the Bok scene, this is Bekker’s year to shine.

Summary: Every year it is the same old story.  The Stormers look good in pre-season.  The local Cape Times and Argus report that Habana is “back to his best form” in the training facilities.  Unfortunately by that they mean his table tennis skills because they can’t possibly be referring to his rugby form can they?  Round about midway through the season the Stormers put on a display of rugby that is everything you ever want in a team.  They whip the Blues 65 to 0 in New Zealand.  People start fantasizing about a Newlands final.  Then they cock it up somehow when it really matters.  Everybody gets wasted at that really disgusting bar in the Grand Stand.  Don’t put me through that again, I just don’t think I can handle it.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune:  Your Own Worst Enemy.

BULLS

Coach: Frans Ludeke. What a career plan, follow on the coat tails of Heyneke Meyer.  Don’t change anything. Use the structures and players your predecessor put in place. Watch the trophies come rolling in.

Captain: Pierre Spies.  Underwear model.  Former hurdles champion.  The man your girlfriend really wants to have sex with when she pretends she’s into you.  But he hasn’t actually done anything remotely resembling a rugby play in the last 3 years.  But he does look good in a tight shirt. So there’s that.

Man to watch: Johann Sadie.  As is usually the case with players who transfer to the Bulls something about the setup brings out the best in them.  This promising backline player will be sorely missed by the Stormers.  Especially when they check Jean de Villiers ID document and discover that Jean is actually 82 years old.

Summary:  There’s one slight problem with Ludeke’s grand plan of not changing anything that Heyneke Meyer put in place, including allowing Victor Matfield to coach himself and be in charge of his own disciplinary hearings.  Eventually people get old and leave.  Then you’re royally screwed.  The Bulls starting line up this weekend is missing a host of the regulars.  No Bakkies, Du Preez or Matfield.   It doesn’t bode well for the season ahead.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: Wages of Sin.  You just know big ol’ Vic gave them a talking to about getting right with the Right.

CHEETAHS

Coach: Naka Drotske has been honing his Tony Soprano impersonation all summer long.  A grizzled veteran with a face straight out of New Jersey and a trophy cabinet as empty as ….

Captain: Adrian Strauss– has more syllables in his name than caps…experience isn’t everything, is it?

Man to watch: Heinrich  Brussouw.  Big Daddy Rugby’s personal hero.  The Lobster Boy is everything you want in a loose forward. Intelligent, scrappy with an unbelievable ability to sneak turnovers out of nowhere.  If you were stuck in a Shawshank Redemption prison and badly needed a nail file, a box of playing cards and two nylon guitar strings for your escape, Heinrich “Scrounger” Brussouw would be your man.

Summary: The Cheetah’s are well and truly screwed this year as they are every year.  They are a talent farm for the rest of the country with the Sharks in particular waving big coastal money in the bright eyes of promising farm boys while Cheetah’s talent scouts look on helplessly.  They can’t retain the depth needed to be an effective team, so despite the flashiness of the odd upset, they are on their way out.  They’re not politically connected enough either to keep themselves from being replaced by the Kings next season.  Enjoy it while it lasts fellows.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: I’m Goin’ Down

SHARKS

Coach: John Plumtree.  What is up with those ears John?  I can’t stop staring at them.

Captain: Keegan Daniel.  I got nothing here.  There’s not much to say about a captain who allows his coach to recruit Marius Joubert.   Marius Joubert.  Wasn’t he in his glory days before they invented the internet?

Player to watch:  Pat Lambie.  The man most rugby fans south of Pretoria want to dislodge Morne Steyn from the Green and Gold number 10 jersey.  If only he didn’t look like he just got done playing soccer for the Sweet Valley under 10s.  Maybe it’s the band-aid on his knee, or the fluffy do on his head.  He doesn’t exactly instil fear with his looks.  But he’s the closest thing South Africa have had to a complete flyhalf since the days I hacked by my Playstation and built that fake player on EA Sports Rugby.

Summary: The team known more for its cheerleaders and its slavish devotion to John Smit than for its trophy winning ability will again put out the best squad this year out of the Saffer franchises.  Oh, you meant the rugby team not the cheerleaders?  In that case, don’t get your hopes up just yet.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: My Best Was Never Good Enough.  (That one’s for you Bismarck.)

LIONS

Coach: John Mitchell.  He is scary enough that you’d probably want to play your best so that he doesn’t give you “that look” in the dressing room after the game.

Captain: Josh Strauss.  Will he? Won’t he?  Shave his beard?  Release a new four track indie-folk record?  Lions management must love having this hippie folk rocker on their payroll.  He is Google gold-dust.

Player to watch: Elton Jantjies.  Webster himself.  Mini Carlos Spencer.  Except he can kick.

Summary:  For some reason it takes years between a South African rugby team winning the Currie Cup and becoming a decent Super Rugby team.  I’ve never quite figured that out.  Like the Cheetahs, depth is a problem.  It’s all very well winning domestic trophies while the Boks are away, but you get exposed at Super Rugby level if you don’t have enough quality players to call on.  Luckily for Lions there is far too much money sloshing around Ellis Park for them to ever be allowed to be relegated.

If they had a Bruce Springsteen theme tune: Don’t Look Back.  (Best sung as you’re bulletting straight out of Ellis Park.  Whatever you do.  Don’t. Look. Back.)

The cuddle monster wants a trophy so bad he can almost taste it.

From Cricket With Balls: is it racist to hate South Africans?

Definitely not a rugby post, but there’s enough common ground between this gem of a cricket blog and BDR to merit a post.  Is it racist to hate Saffers?

This is the question I have often pondered over the years.

Sure they are evil, but to purely not like someone because they come from South Africa does have a racist slant on it.

What about if you can justify it purely on the cricket team?

Still racist, well its not monkey slur, but it’ll do.

So why do I hate South Africans, I can narrow it down to two events.

Kepler Wessels bagging Australia after going back to South Africa, even after they let the untalented pr1ck open for them.

And Brian McMillan’s hissy fit in the 92 world cup. Everyone knew it was going to rain num nuts, everyone knew the rain rule was flawed and favoured the side batting first. So why send the other side in and then sook about it.

These are trivial events that won’t sway a neutral person, so now I’ll use the big cannons.

South Africa’s opening bowler, and most popular sportsmen, Ntini, is a convicted rapist. Not alleged, but convicted, who was only let out of jail, after being found not guilty on a technicality.

Hansie Cronje ran over a small child and killed it. He says it was an accident, but he was heard to say ‘what were the odds of that happening” shortly afterwards.

Graham Smith is an @sshole. That is all.

Herchelle Gibbs accepted money to throw his innings, and sell out his country. Then he didn’t even do that right. You can’t trust him if youre a bookie or a cricket fan.

KP is South African.

Andre Nel is a serial killer. I have no proof, but look at his eyes.

Their ex coach, and a nice guy, Bob Woolmer was found dead in a hotel room. Coincidence that the South Africans were in the region at the same time, I’ll let you be the judge.

Tony Greig is South African, and a pervert.

Hansie Cronje was a match fixer, who then became a born again Christian (a worse crime?), before he faked his own death and is now living in a ménage a trois with Princess Di and 2pac.

Jacques Kallis is really boring.

And between you and I, an ex Victorian Legend suspects one of their players is a terrorist.

To top all this off, this week they beat an Australian domestic team savagely. New Zealand is the least populated state of Australia, they only have 300 residents, and so to embarrass them like that is quite unnecessary.

I think they made Daniel Vettori cry.

Cricket with Ball’s most excellent blog can be found here.

The Bulls Pink Jersey – another fashion nightmare in Pretoria

When I first saw the Bulls new pink away strip, after choking back the nausea, I had a moment’s thought.  Well… at least it is for a worthy cause.  I guess the Bulls must be following the lead of university rugby clubs like UCT and making a stand against violence against women and are donning pink for the cause.  Or perhaps they’ve had a touch of the JP Duminy and would like to draw the attention of the Loftus faithful to the advantages of early screening in detecting breast cancer.  Hell, maybe they’ve gone all out and would like the rugby world to stop being such a homophobic place.  I had visions of Wynand Olivier, donning pink and going on Supersport challenging the conventions of most of the Darren Scott brigade.   But… the truth of the matter is, that the Blue Bulls rugby union are wearing this ghastly pink monstrosity to serve the cause of their sponsors Puma.  Puma had some vague mention about pink jacarandas, but the pinkness is about getting people to talk about Puma.  The concept behind the new strip was apparently “Bull in a china shop”.  I can just picture the stupid f^%k at some ad house in Cape Town who came up with this one.

Bull in a china shop?  More like 7 year old eats too many strawberry energy bars and throws up over himself.

Do the suits at Loftus not know that SA is in the midst of a fashion crisis? Not only are Croc sandles all over the suburbs, but worse, Die Antwoord are making a name for themselves in the United States and Americans are looking at those mullets and wondering just how representative Die Antwoord are of the general SA population.  Can I just remind SA rugby, that English football has David Beckham?  David Beckham for pete’s sake.  This guy models Calvin Klein underwear.  What do we have?  We have Jacques Kallis selling anti-dandruff shampoo on tv.  *sigh*

So, in the spirit of accepting our new-found status as pole-cats of the fashion world, the away strip jerseys of the other SA franchises will be revealed as:

  • Cheetahs – puke yellow, inspired by an Ollie le Roux night-out in Bloemfontein
  • Lions – A “fake gunshot spray” of red splattering over white, a tribute to all the fallen car highjack victims Ellis Park has accounted for over the years
  • Stormers – As an ode to glory gone by, the Stormers rugby union will be getting an x-ray of Bobby Skinstads knee the night after his traffic accident blown up and put on their shirts.
  • Sharks – let’s just be honest, the only reason anyone cares about the Sharks is those Sharks girls.  So just put the damn cheerleaders on your shirt and be done with it.  Also, change your franchise name to “the one with the hot cheerleaders”.

You can just hear the laughter coming from the French rugby supporters.  How can I show my face at Pastis again?

Another Scottish torture scene

Not again... not again...

FFS. This was the year for Scotland to take that English rugby jersey, rip it off the uncapped 12 year olds England had picked for this test, drag it through the mud of Murrayfield and send it back to Twickenham with the head of an crushed “London2012” stuffed toy.   England looked rubbish before the match, heck they even looked rubbish throughout the game.  Scotland dominated both territory and possession – but managed to absolutely hose this one anyway in true Scottish style.  I suppose that is what happen when Dan Parks is your flyhalf.

Every year I fall for it.  There is a rousing rendition of Flower of Scotland.  The Scottish rugby jersey is looking particularly sexy.  The English are looking weak and vulnerable, and I tell myself… this time, this time will be different.  Scotland can’t possibly ham it up again.  Surely everything that came before was simply to lull them into a false sense of security waiting for this moment.  But I tend to always forgot that special skill Scotland have of pulling defeat out of a certain win.  No credit to England (other than limiting the penalty count) this was a game entirely lost through Scotland’s own efforts. You can’t win test matches if you can’t clear the ball from your own tryline (Andre Pretorius anyone?).  You can’t win test matches if you don’t find touch with “pressure relieving” penalty touch kicks.  You can’t win test matches when you hose a three on one overlap because your big fella is going for glory against the English fullback.

Whenever the tv camera turned towards Andy Robinson I could feel my sympathetic pains rising.  Heck, I think I even had some kind of a spasm on his behalf when the tv ref wouldn’t award what probably should have been the decisive Scotland score.  But geez, Dan Parks had yet another shocker (missed World Cup drop goal anyone?) and that fella supporting him at number 9 must be the worst player to fill the scrumhalf position since Ollie Le Roux decided to wear Joost’s jersey at his own bachelor party.  You can’t win test matches if 9 and 10 are playing a shocker boys.  It doesn’t matter how much you’ve psyched the boys up in the changing room before hand with Mel Gibson clips.

It’s going to be another long cold year of Scotland getting savaged and plundered by their less incomprehensible neighbors.  Sigh.

BDR’s wishlist for Heyneke Meyer

The Springboks have a new coach and there’s that familiar feeling that comes with clearing out the rubbish (by rubbish I mean you PdV).  Every time there is a new coach, the whole country gets that insane optimism that things are never going to be bad again.  So in the spirit of eternal hope and new starts, here are a few things we’d like to ask of the Springbok coach:

  • No more Bryan Habana.  Geez that guy is kak.  So unbelievably kak.  He is sooo kak.  Please don’t pick him again. ever. It’s not even funny kak like the days of Jorrie Muller when Rudolf used to pick his backline based on comedic impact.  Habana is just kak.  Only if he actually top the try scoring table should he be considered.  None of this, he has found his form “’cause he looked in the training facility playing ping-pong against Fourie du Preez”.
  • More Lambo, less Morne.  That could be tough for you, I know.
  • Get a restraining order on Earl Rose please.
  • Let’s not have three Bulls hookers in the squad.
  • Can you do something about that hair thingy you’ve got going on at the top of your head?  You represent me, I’m from Cape Town and we don’t do our hair like that.  I don’t know what you’re trying to achieve with that thing, but its embarrassing me son.
  • I don’t mind ugly rugby, I really don’t.  Heck, I’ll take a 6-5 scoreless victory over the All Blacks every Saturday, even if those 6 points were scored by two droppies from inside our own half.  I really don’t mind that sort of thing, just don’t talk about “passion”.  I like my rugby players cold, merciless and cruel.  Like Hannibal Lecter.  If I hear you say that the reason we lost on a particular Saturday is because our players “didn’t want it enough” I’m going to personally jump over the sponsors boards and embarrass you by weeping tears of blood at your next press conference.
  • Pick players based on the overall game, not just that one thing they really do well.  I know Wynand Olivier is hot with the girls and the metrosexuals, but he can’t tackle to save his life.  So there’s that.
  • I want you to swear at least one Supersport presenter.  To his face.  Call him f–king stupid or something like that when he asks you if you were disappointed to lose a game you lost in the dying seconds.  I’d love that.  Really, you can pick any of the presenters, but I’d really like it if it was Darren or Joel.  That would be great.  While you’re at it, you should tell Joel that he’s been milking that one drop kick for over fifteen years now.  Even Vanilla Ice has moved on from his one hit wonder.  Sure, there was coke and heroine involved… but still.  Also, ask Joel if he is the one paying DSTV to keep showing footage of that drop goal.  We get it, Joel.  Everyone has f–king seen it now.  I promise you, you’ll be recognized at the local Mugg & Bean.  You don’t have to worry about some oke in a Bok jersey not picking up your drinks tab.
  • Can you do something about those Cheetahs cheerleaders while you’re at it?
  • I’d really like to dominate the All Blacks – ever.  Despite them winning the World Cup they are still the weakest All Black side I’ve seen in a while.  Finish them Heyneke..

Heyneke Meyer: New Bok Coach (uhoh’s already heard in Cape Town)

Heyneke Meyer - the former Bond Villain of SA rugby who coached the Bulls across space and time from his undersea lair deep in the Pacific Ocean.

Heyneke is the new man in the Springbok coach hotseat.  Victor Matfield’s wildest dreams just came true (too late for Vic though) and the man who built the Bulls powerhouse of the early 21st century is in now in charge of the green and gold Jersey.

So what does that mean for the Boks?  A few thoughts…

A return from international isolation isolation for Liefling?  Probably.  Helluva boring rugby consisting of drop goals from anywhere under 70 metres out and outside backs who are hired for their ability to take up and unders rather than then break the line should be the order of the day.

In other words, Morne Steyn’s stock just went up.  Lambo’s just went down.

All the young promising talent of other regions will suddenly find the move up north a lot more promising.  If you get in the good books of that oke with the funny haircut in the tracksuit who has been on the Bulls bench since apartheid, I am pretty sure he will put in a good word with Heyneke for you.

Low risk rugby? As they say in Wisconsin, “you betcha!”.  Hell, I’m probably okay with that, although the audible sighs are already eminating from Forries (and not just because the keg is broken again). The purists are already arguing about abolishing the drop goal and wanting “beautiful rugby”.

A Bulls quota system again *sigh*.  A minimum of three Bulls hookers in each Bok squad before any other team’s hooker gets a look in.

Oy, Western Province and the romantics… PeedeeVee set you back a century my friends.  It’s time for the anti-Snor.

The Rassie Erasmus rumours

Yip – it is true.  Rassie Erasmus has left the Western Province building and is off to presumably greener pastures than the 70-inspired cement decor of the Newlands back offices.  Interestingly enough, he hasn’t said where he is going.  As a man with a family, it is unlikely he is just “winging it”.  He’s got a plan in place.  So why is he keeping mum about it?

Here are latest theories doing the rounds as to what his career holds for him after Western Province:

  • The bok coaching job is in the bag. He is trying to do the right thing by Western Province by letting them know to start looking for a new Director sooner rather than later.
  • A coaching stint in France with Biarritz. He’s trading in the funny money in his Saffer wallet for that nice steady smell of the freshly printed Euro and talk of Eurozone fiscal policy rather than Malema and the colour of your wings’ skin.
  • Lil’ Rassie (as his family calls him) was given an iPhone this Christmas and he’s not looking back.  After making a little amusing movie involving his Jack Russell wearing a silly hat and sunglasses, Rassie decided rugby coaching was just not his passion anymore.  He will be off to Paris first to immerse himself in French theatre before he searches the depths of German Existentialist drama.  Young Rassie, cap in hand, iPhone in pocket and recently downloaded iPhone Movie Maker app has big dreams, little ears and a plan to rock the indie cinema world.
  • After a few heated discussions with Alistair Coetzee in the Stormers pre-season camp it became obvious that one of them was going to have to go.  Coetzee is holding Erasmus back from pursuing his dancing talent as was made oh so clear at the staff party at Forries pub.
  • Rassie has been working on a script and is off to Hollywood to float it. It involves two Americans, one a former cop who left the service under disgrace, the other a beautiful scientist, in a race against time to uncover massive corruption at the European Union Statistics Office and the manner in which they report debt to GDP ratios.