Pat Lambie sets his 2012 goal: the ability to grow facial hair

Our usually reliable source in Durban (the same one who said that Suarez was a nice guy, actually) has reliably informed us that young Patrick Lambie has been on a gruelling off season training routine trying to grow something resembling facial hair.  He has set himself the 2012 goal of a little pencil moustache before the end of the year and a career goal of trying to emulate the “grizzly bear on crack” look from Josh Strauss’ 2011 season.

Lambo’s motivation to achieve this 2012 goal came from a party after the World Cup, where he was openly mocked by several Stellenbosch groupies at the Acapulco Spur.  Insults like “Hey… Clean Shirt” and “Gillette Boy” were bandied about with much regularlarity until Lambie was seen bursting into tears only to be rescued by Victor Matfield who proceeded to stop the taunting by repeatedly smashing Bismark Du Plessis’ face into the bar counter.  Lambie spent the rest of the evening crouched in the fetal position in the corner of the bar, whispering to himself and sobbing gently every now and then.  Out of this dark evening was born Pat’s hunger to grow facial hair and to one day be able to imitate the two heroes in his life: Victor Matfield and Mark Lawrence.

His rigorous off season of “manning up” has included his first taste of alchohol, learning “lines” to use on girls at bars, a weekend camping at the Cedarberg without his Playstation 3 and his first trip to Mavericks (which ended badly, but he has vowed to try again).  Bismark has had to make things up to Lambie by helping him with his dress sense (no more Bugs Bunny ties at Springbok sporting functions Lambo!) and also by teaching him how to eye-gouge and apply the “one-incher” at the bottom of the ruck.  If things don’t improve before season end we understand he will be hiring Mike Tindale…

Lambie has been known to hide his shame by surrounding himself with complete knobs in a desparate attempt to appear likeable.

2012 and Big Daddy Rugby

As you may have noticed, things have been kind of quiet on Big Daddy Rugby.  We’ve taken a few days off for the holidays while we think about the way ahead for this site in 2012.  If you have any suggestions for what you’d like to see from us (or less of) in 2012, please feel free to send them to bigdaddyrugby@gmail.com or comment below.

South African rugby’s first openly gay player

On a trip to the states recently, it struck me that Cape Town isn’t nearly as liberal as it likes to pretend it is.  Sure the old timers who hail from Cape Town liked to pretend they were either all part of the struggle secretly, or voted Progressive with some subversive Rodriguez tapes in their stereos, or did whatever they needed to while maintaining the status quo back in the bad old days.  Cape Townians like to pretend we’re very inclusive and embrace diversity and all that. So how come there are no openly gay players in the Western Province and Stormers set up?  Not to mention South African rugby as a whole.

So we have a liberal constitution, but I call bulls–t on our supposed liberality until we have an openly gay rugby player.  I mean, come on, it’s not like out of that squad of thirty or so, there couldn’t be one player who stares a moment longer than needed at Pierre Spies’s shorts or Wynand Oliver’s latest avant-garde hairdo.  There’s a lot of short shorts wearing and doing weights while staring into the mirror in the rugby community is all I am saying…

Actually, that’s not all I am saying.  Let’s face it, SA rugby has a pretty despicable legacy that many of us are trying to overturn.  There’s a perception out there that the master plan of apartheid was conceived during some  rugby team bonding breakaway training camp with Henrik Verwoed and few other tight forwards.  Just another example of bad ideas conceived by front rowers after a few beers.  Back in the day, that conception of SA rugby probably wasn’t far off from the truth, but now most rugby fans are very much “with it” and are a part of the new SA.  It’s time to radically change the image of SA rugby.

So how about extending that inclusiveness to the gay community?  I mean think of the marketing opportunities.  Those shower gel and anti-dandruff ads the Proteas do are pretty much 98% of the way there.  I am sure SA rugby could take it across the finish line.

Besides… could you imagine how it would freak some of the northern players the f–k out to have to scrum against a Stormers pack consisting of a few bad boys?  Now that would be intimidating…

So Big Daddy Rugby is sending out a call out to South Africa’s first openly gay player.  Show yourself dude… there’s a lot of homophobic bullying that you could help us put an end to.

The English rugby team is English after all…

The Daily Mash with a great take on the Twikileaks scandal – it turns out the English Rugby team is English after all:

“The whole campaign mirrored exactly what you’d expect when a load of English blokes go abroad. Meticulous planning that’s immediately ignored as soon as the plane hits the tarmac and at least one of them getting into trouble with his missus for motorboating a skank.”The Rugby Football Union is investigating how the report was leaked but admits that, because its staff are English, somebody probably left their computer unlocked during a 45-minute cigarette break or left it on a bus.

They are eager to restore the image of rugby players as seven-foot celibate philosopher kings who pursue their sport to enrich the sum of human understanding, rather than men who were too stupid to do cricket at school.

But Hayes said the revelation that England’s rugby players are just like the rest of us but with thicker necks could make the sport more accessible to people who are not called ‘Ollie’.

He added: “Going on an important business trip, pissing the expense account up the wall and jumping off things for a bet is as English as not winning anything.”

The full article is available here.

Port Elizabeth Sevens roll on…

So… it’s about that time of the year when summer kicks in South Africa. And this year things are looking good.  Juju is on his way out, our neighbourhood dictator Mugabe is on his last legs and Gary Kirsten is coaching the Proteas.  All signs point to a summer of love…

The smell of freshly cut grass, cheap sun-screen and the opportunity to haul out some old moldy cricket gear to so if it is possible that somehow you magically acquired the ability to become a vicious pace bowler over the winter while you were chinning pints at the Local.

Of course, all of this means that it is 7s rugby time too.  And this year, the carnival moves away from the Garden Route and rolls into Port Elizabeth.

Hell.. I’d love to be there this weekend.  Booze, good weather and a decent stadium that doesn’t look like it was made a mad Stalinist dictator during the concrete revival era of architecture.  Nope, instead the PE locals will be savoring beer and good rugby, while turning a brighter shade of pink.  As for me… I’ll be in airports queues.

When watching 7s do you ever the idea that these guys would absolutely smoke a Super 15 rugby team given half the chance?  The average Super 15 rugby player is so unfit from having been overplayed on top of still feeling the effects of the big night out throwing dwarves and harassing local waitresses they just wouldn’t be able to hold a flame to 7s team.

Cecil Afrika, Branco du Preez… hell… I’d take these guys in the bok squad any day over the over-the-hill out of shape fatties that pass for Springboks.

Enjoy the rugby ladies and gents. It only rolls around once a year.

TwikiLeaks – the shocking English rugby revelations continue

The revelations from the leaked English rugby report are continuing to shake the English rugby world. Far more disturbing than the original revelations that the English coaching setup was a complete mess going into the World Cup, it has now also been confirmed that the rot runs even deeper.

The latest revelations from the English inquiry have shown that:

  • Moody insisted on wearing white socks when dressed in black suits, despite Martin Johnson severely reprimanding him at a post-match function.
  • Forwards coach John Mills “actually liked the 2nd and 3rd Matrix films better than the first one”.
  • Lewis Moody lost the respect of all his team mates at the first training camp when he asked for a Hunters Gold as his drink at the pub in full view of the entire front row.
  • English Rugby Director Rob Andrews’ “hasn’t really gotten into the Wire”.
  • Martin Johnson was seen reading the Twilight series in the hotel lobby one night after the players had come home early from a night out on the town.
  • The English forwards coach wished to be paid in Smarties and jellybabies rather than in cash.
  • Toby Flood when upon being told by Martin Johnson he was about to put on the field to replace Johnny Wilkinson, asked his coach how much a good performance was worth to him and threatened not to take the field unless Martin Johnson gave him 2,000 pounds in unmarked bills and the entire first season of the Sopranos.  During the later stages of the tournament, Flood’s demands increased to include Bob Dylan bootleg albums and the new Fleet Foxes album.

RIP Solly Tyibilika

Former Bok Solly Tyibilika was murdered in Gugs this weekend.  Rest in Peace Solly, I’ll remember you for a particularly cracking game you had against the Ozzies in Oz and for having a quiet temperament no matter what grandstanding was being done by coaches and administrators around you. I don’t know what was happening in those final days but I hope you find some peace now.  Here’s to you Solly, a Springbok and a fighter.

 

PdV announces he will reapply for Bok job: bloggers and comedians announce they are out of PdV jokes

It was inevitable.  Peter de Villiers just couldn’t leave his Bok position with even a little scrap of dignity.  After the Boks exited the World Cup at the quarter final stage, he realised that the right thing to do was to step down. A quarter final exit is unacceptable in any Bok era.  But of course, a man known for acting like a clown throughout his reign as a coach couldn’t go on to leave with a bit of a class.   He had to go and announce last week that he “has unfinished business” and will be re-applying for the Bok position.

Sure, he won twice in New Zealand, beat the British Lions and won a Tri-Nations title.  All good things compared to Straeuli.  But seriously… you are judged by your World Cup performance and by those standards his era was a failure. It is not as though he lost a World Cup final when his flyhalf sliced a drop goal in the dying seconds of a close fought final.  This is the guy who was “90% sure the Boks would win the World Cup”.

Seriously… it is time to wonder off into the wilderness and make the occasional appearance at the pub where locals will by you a round when you remind them that you were coach when Ricky Januarie scored “that try” in New Zealand to win the game.

In related news, SA comedians, bloggers and satirists announced a joint statement that they are “out of Peter de Villiers” materials.   There’s nothing more to said, according to Mark Lottering, Trevor Noah and five rugby bloggers who were polled after Peter de Villiers announced his comeback.

“We were already working on our Alistair Coetzee material… this just sends us back into the past”, Big Daddy Rugby has gone on record to say.

Sigh... this is like a bad dream.

Lions fans can rub it in

Elton Jantjies brought down the house at the Four Ways mall Eagle Falls Spur restaurant after the Lions won the Currie Cup

Lions fans countrywide will be packing their middle finger for work on Monday after they smashed the Sharks to take home the Currie Cup.  In winning in emphatic fashion they have overcome all the criticism and cheap shots directed at them this season.

There were many who said the absence of the Boks during the World Cup favoured the Lions and for a while it looked like the early Springbok exit of the World Cup would be bad news for their supporters, but the Lions silenced their critics by putting away to teams laden with Boks in both the semi-finals and the final.

The Lions have had a shocking decade.  For a team that plays in the financial heart of South Africa, you’d expect them to be put out a team that conquers everything in front of it, New York Yankees style.  Sadly, instead, long-suffering Lions fans have been tortured with poor coaching, poor management and poor squads.

So seeing Elton Jantjies flaying the Sharks on Saturday evening must be sweet comfort to Lions supporters.  Elton was written off by many early in the season who tend to forget the basic rule of talent: that it needs to be nurtured with some experience. Jantjies looked the genuine article on Saturday getting his backs away and slotting his kicks – even with the disturbing spectre of having Hugh Bladen refer to him as a “boy” during the broadcast.  Clearly Hugh never took lessons on class and taste in the new South Africa. Elton looked on form and the future of Bok rugby looks good when you consider that we have Lambo, Jantjies and Steyn with years left in them all pushing for the Bok flyhalf spot.

Rumour has it, Elton was seen celebrating at the Eagle Falls Spur restaurant until all hours of the night.

Well done Lions fans, bring your coffee mugs, smug grins and your middle fingers to work and show them proudly all week. You deserve it.

Congratulations New Zealand

The Rugby World Cup trophy - the William Webb ...

The Kiwis were worthy champs. Nobody can argue with that. Image via Wikipedia

Well done All Blacks. They were the best team in the Rugby World Cup by a long, long way and deserved the Webb Ellis trophy.  Some may argue about the quality of the refereeing in this tournament, but it has been pretty clear from the start that the Kiwis were the best team in the tournament and it stayed that way throughout.

France put on a massive performance this weekend to make the final so close – most of us had written them off completely (again) and were worried that the final would be a washout. But France stepped up big time and made the All Blacks sweat for their glory.  Had France got that final kick over, they would have been 10-8 up with just a few minutes to play and all the pressure would have been on the All Blacks.  For a side that was in complete disarray after the Tonga loss it was immense to play that well in the final.

You have to wonder though, if France had won, what would that say about coaching and strategy in general?

What could other coaches and teams looking to emulate the French do?  Go on massive booze-ups during the tournament? Rebel against the coach mid-tournament? Spend more time fashioning your ‘staches and sideburns than working on your set pieces? Sack the coach before the tournament starts but keep him on anyway, knowing as a lame duck he has no authority to enforce discipline?

New Zealand almost boggled this one.  One intercept or one penalty deep in their own half and the schadenfreude could have been cut with a knife . But it was not to be.  Well done Kiwis, worthy winners and all that.

Maybe it was the fact that the final was between two teams that I don’t mind winning the cup, maybe it is getting older, but somehow when my team got knocked out I wasn’t all that gutted. Life carries on.  Maybe all the rugby that is played these days devalues rugby overall or maybe it is just that you don’t stay fifteen forever.

If your team didn’t win the World Cup, the best thing about waking up the morning after the final is the thought that it is time to start a new era. It’s time to get rid of the dead wood. For the Springboks the theory that experience is everything can be put to rest and hopefully they can focus on putting the best team available on the park.  For the Wallabies, they have an exciting squad but need to focus on building up a tight five that can hold their own against other top nations. Wales look like they have a team to build on for the future, while Ireland are staring down the gun barrel of some pretty important retirement.

On Monday, the rugby world will look a little different. Old story lines have come to ending, some neatly tied up, some left unanswered.  But the chapter is closed on those tales.   And that’s not a bad thing.  The show must go on…

Rugby World Cup 2011 Drinking Game

It’s that time of the tournament when the stories are running thin and BDR turns to cheap gimmicks to keep our immense traffic volumes up.  In the spirit of commercialism and with no tip of the hat to our own journalistic integrity we present the World Cup Rugby Drinking Game 2011 edition:

The rules are very simple: Take a sip every time one of the common ‘take a sip” events happens in the game, take a chug when one of the unlikely “chug” actions occurs.   Keep yourself armed at all times with a six-pack of beer, some hard tack and a few pink drinks.  Girls, guys and people of all persuasions are welcome.

  • Take a sip if the one of the Pacific Island teams (Tonga, Fiji, Samoa) hits an opposition player, late, high and without the ball
  • Chug if the aforementioned late hit is actually criticised by a New Zealand commentator as foul play.
  • Sip every time you think it is possible, that this time – just this once, one of the minnows is actually going to beat one of the fancied team.
  • Chug if you called it on Superbru.
  • Sip every time a Bok player mentions Jesus in a post match interview.
  • Chug if the same player doesn’t have a track record of being one of the dirtiest players in the game.
  • Take a sip if you switch to Xhosa commentary because you’re afraid of hearing Bobby Skinstad mispronounce the word “Bok”.  It’s only three letters Bobby… how can you get it wrong?
  • Take a sip every time you’re confused as to whether the Supersport “kick-off time” refers to the actual kick off time or the time that the pre-match drivel begins in studio.
  • Sip for the closeup of the hottie in the stands.
  • Chug if her boyfriend/husband isn’t as ugly as a lorry.
  • Sip if you are more concerned with what is being said on Twitter about the game than the game itself.
  • Take a sip every time Bryce Lawrence overlooks a ruck infringement.
  • Chug if Richie McCaw is pinged for hands in the ruck.
  • Sip if a prop forward is passed the ball at first receiver and ignores the three man overlap on his outside by clattering straight back into the ruck.
  • Sip if the highlight of your Saturday consisted of watching Currie Cup rugby after the big match and convincing yourself that the future of SA rugby is golden, if only they’d get selection right – and the coach of course.
  • Take a sip each time one of the Supersport studio guests’ insight into the game consists of discussing “who wants it the most”.
  • Take a sip if you saw too much of the moon when the Maori blew that trumpet thingy before kick-off.
  • Sip every time you see an offensive sign or banner “disguised” by being written in Afrikaans.
  • Sip if Quade Cooper flubs a kick at goal, chip, up and under or reverse pass.
  • Chug if Jannie Du Plessis somehow doesn’t have gel in his hair.
  • Sip if Habana is introduced as being “due for a return to form”.
  • Sip if you consider changing your hairstyle or growing facial hair after the pre-match close-ups of the French backline.
  • Sip every time an Argentinian shrugs off an injury by simply pouring water on it and hobbling back to the next ruck.
  • Sip if a politician suddenly makes an appearance as a “true fan” just as his or her team makes the World Cup final.
  • Sip every time the French players rebel against their coach.
  • Sip if an England player sexually harasses a local or throws a dwarf.
  • Chug if you find yourself agreeing with Peter de Villiers.

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.

Replacing love with hate: finding a reason to stay passionate about the World Cup

Many of us are licking in wounds after our team was knocked out the World Cup either in the group stages (poor Scotland) or last weekend in the quarters.  At times like this, it can be tough to stay motivated to get up and drink beer at 7 am in South Africa / go to the local pub in London and have to put up with the ex-pats still in the tournament / face Joseph the Saint’s surly demeanor and blood puddings in Greenwich Village’s Red Lion because it is the only place in New York City with a great vibe showing the game.  Here’s a tip I learned early on in kindergarten when you need to stay motivated:

If you can’t find something to love, find something to hate.

Hate is a pretty good substitute for love.  And it will keep you interested in the World Cup.  So instead of finding reasons to try and support a team that is still in the World Cup, I say, screw ’em.  Let’s find a team to hate and have our rugby viewing fueled by an intense irrational hatred for a country you’ve never been to.  Who will be your team to hate?  Do you need a few good reasons for each team?

New Zealand:

Damn, I hate them. They’re so good.  So damn good.  Why does my wife seem strangely aroused every time Dan Carter is on screen?   (Him and that werewolf guy from Twilight). What’s up with that little biscuit Weepu leading the haka?  Are they trying to turn the haka into a comedy routine?  Because it really isn’t scary when Weepu leads it.  Damn, did I mention they’re too good for my liking?  Also, it would be pretty sweet to see an Aussie run up to Richie McCaw at the full time whistle, middle fingers extended, shouting “four more years, fellas, four more years”.  One more thing Graham Henry is a sour, sour man who reminds me of my high school physics teacher.  I didn’t like that guy.

France:

You know you hate them, because they just get your hopes up. They’re everything you want to them to be one week, and then the next they’re cold and woeful, leaving you feeling like you just got a lap-dance from a stripper who was crying.  You feel ashamed for believing in their promise.  And just when you’ve fully given up on them – they totally redeem themselves with a bit of magic in the backline.  The kind of magic you used to dream about when you were running barefoot in the back garden, rugby ball tucked under your little shoulder, picturing yourself covered in glory on a rugby field somewhere, someday.  Then they spit you out into the gutter.

Wales:

Yeah, yeah, they’re the plucky underdogs who’ve never made it to a final.  Still.  I don’t like them.  They’re too arrogant for a side that hasn’t done anything since the 1970s.   That’s forty years since you did anything of substance. You’ve beaten the Boks once in over a hundred years.  Once!  Wipe that smug smile off your face, Welsh rugby team.

Australia:

Quade Cooper. Enough said.  Also, teams with crap scrums should never win World Cups.  That’s just wrong.

The team at Big Daddy Rugby were very careful to padlock and secure their laptops for the Quade Cooper interview.

Finding a reason to get up in the morning

Tin foil hat 2

It's not all doom and gloom. You might be able to find a positive ray of sunshine somewhere on the horizon. Image via Wikipedia

The first version of this post was simply one word that began with an F and ended with a K.  The second version of this post added the words Bryce Lawrence to it.  But I decided that complaining excessively about the ref is not a good place to be. It’s the kind of thing that ends up in you wearing a tin foil hat and reading David Icke.  Besides I’ve said everything I need to say about Bryce when became the first legally blind man to ref at a test match level. If you’re like me you need a better reason than that to drag yourself to work today.  Especially if you were one of those wearing a Bok shirt on Friday talking up a good game.

So here are some positives you can take out of the fact that the Boks crashed out of the World Cup:

  • your suspicions about Peter de Villiers being a crap coach were proven right, the only statistic that matters is the scoreboard in the knockouts and by that measure, PdV ends up in with Straueli, minus the public shame of having dragged the Bok name to new lows (people forget that however embarrassing it may have been to have had PdV as coach – it was nothing compared to Straueli)
  • You won’t have to listen to the “expert insights” of your coworkers as they explain to you why they think Bismarck du Plessis is a better hooker than Smittie for the 10th time.
  • PdV did the honorable thing and resigned before he was pushed. He’s no Syrian/Libyan/Egyptian/ANCYL/Zimbabwean despot.
  • Heinrich Brussouw is one step closer to getting the Bok captaincy
  • The squad that is left behind has a lot of promise. Francois Steyn, Gio Aplon, Andries Bekker, Bismarck du Plessis, Frankie Hougaard, Schalk Burger and the Lambo all look they will flourish under the right coaching setup
  • Even the good doctor Jannie looked solid at tight-head
  • No more Darren Scott at Supersport
  • New coaches always clean house after a poor World Cup showing. Pierre Spies, Bryan Habana and Fourie du Preez can now be honestly compared to their rivals.
  • You won’t have to listen to Bobby Skinstad justifying Habana’s place in the team by saying “he’ll peak at the World Cup”
  • SA Rugby management tends to go in cycles when they respond to a failure. An inspiriational/visionary type coach like Carel du Plessis or Peter de Villiers is likely to be followed by a technical coach.  Sure vision and passion and all of that fluffy stuff is important, but you also need to understand that if you kick the ball aimlessly upfield a good team will hurt you. SA rugby picked Mallet last time they were in this position. There are a lot of good coaches out there.

Well that’s about all I can muster. If that doesn’t quite get me back, I’ll be returning to position I found myself in for most of Sunday. In the fetal position, clutching a bottle of Johnnie Walker, crying incessantly, looking at old photos of my under 10 rugby team wondering where it all went wrong.

The Crazy Man’s strategy will be tested – SA vs Aus QF preview

Peter de Villiers’ big gamble will be finally tested this weekend.   Upon being selected as Bok coach four years ago, Peter adopted a pretty bold strategy.  Go and find all the old timers who won the World Cup, convince them to play for you, and pretty much ride the coat tails of Jake White’s 2007 team for as long as humanly possible.

This is the Bok team PdV announced and you can see the marks of Jake White all over it.

15. Pat Lambie, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Jaque Fourie, 12. Jean de Villiers, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Fourie du Preez, 8. Pierre Spies, 7. Schalk Burger, 6. Heinrich Brüssow, 5. Victor Matfield, 4. Danie Rossouw, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. John Smit (c), 1. Gurthrö Steenkamp.

This is exactly the team Jake White had going into the World Cup final in 2007 with only enforced changes for injuries and retirements. At 15 Percy Montgomery is now retired, enter Pat Lambie.  At 12 Jean de Villiers was unavailable in the World Cup final due to injury, but was in fact Jake’s first choice centre at the start of the World Cup.  At 8 Spies was in fact Jake’s first choice, but was also unavailable due to injury in the final.   In fact, all of the other changes to the team that ran on in the final follow the same pattern, with one exception.  PdV has switched Butch James for the kicking machine autobot 3000 nicknamed Morne Steyn.

That’s it.

Pretty genius.  I could have come up with same strategy after 6 pints at Rafiki’s with Silas Voon.  The only actual change is a conservative one – get the Braam Van Straaten of our day to bang over the kicks from anywhere inside our own half.

Well, PdV, your pub strategy comes to a head this weekend.  If you lose to the Wallabies – the jig is up.  You will go down in the annals of Bok coaching history with the palookas and clowns of the early 2000s.   With the Harry Viljoens and Rudolf Straeuli’s.  But if your strategy pays off… and this team squeaks into the semis, you’ll have qualified as a somewhat passable coach who earned themselves a Mallet-like decent return.

The Crazy Man has locked and secured his laptop and is ready for anything Quade Cooper can bring on Sunday.

For the Wallabies on the other side of the equation, Robbie Deans, a proven coach and a damn good one at that has had a an absolutely miserable time coaching the Wallabies and has one of the lowest win-ratios of a Wallaby coach in recent times.  But something changed this year for Deans – namely young talent. Brand o’Connor, Will Genia and Digby Ioane have all shone as bright talents and even Pocock has emerged as a world-class scavenger. Dean has got a talented squad, but there are massive egos in that squad and they don’t look like the closest knit bunch.  That’s tough for any coach to manage.  They’ve got talent, but there is also that uncomfortable matter of someone not yet having the courage to tell Kurtley Beale to his face that his moustache is quite unseemly and that his ‘tache distracts from team morale as a whole.

Geez… it’s too close too call.  An ageing, one last rage-against-the-dying-of-the-light squad versus an insane-young-laptop-stealing-talented-but-shaky squad.  50/50.  I can’t call it.

Why it’s always safe to write off France: England v France QF preview

Marc Lièvremont

No one to share a beer with... Lievremont picked up an expensive tab this weekend. Image via Wikipedia

The French rugby team is in complete disarray ahead of their quarterfinal showdown with the English.  “That’s so French…” we can all say to ourselves as we pour over the latest accounts of squad mutinies, broken down relationships and absurdist outbursts – but nothing quite sums it up the state of titsupness in the French camp like hearing the coach Marc Lievremont tear into his own players after their loss to Tonga:

“I thought I had experienced everything in terms of shame. But this time round, it’s been an extremely violent feeling again. Each missed pass, each missed tackle, I took them as a deep personal failure.”

“We live in a society where image matters,” Lievremont said. “I saw players with their agent on the eve and after the game instead of regrouping as a team”.

“I believe in the men, in a group who hopefully know how to pick themselves up,” he said. “I have got experienced and talented players. But maybe not as talented as I thought.

Nice one.  That’s classy Marc.  About as classy as a South African government employee handling a visa application from the Dalai Lama.  Yip, and further confirming Lièvremont status as a first class plank, he managed to channel his inner Rudolf Straueli when he suggested his solution for getting his team back on track to win the World Cup.  His idea? For the players to have a piss up, presumably followed by some sort of intimate bonding at a cross-dressing Japanese karaoke bar (because that’s how those kinds of evenings usually end):

“I’ve never been against sharing a few beers together, in order to get things out in the open, and that’s a possible option for us.”

Unfortunately for Lièvremont his hoped for post match bonding session didn’t materialise – it turns out his own players don’t like him much. The players took their beers and simply buggered off:

“I would have preferred it if we had shared a glass, spoken about it and just agreed that it is still a fine adventure,” he said.

Oh well. So much for that theory.  I would have loved to have seen CCTV footage of Lièvremont signing the credit card slip at the end of the night – having to pay for all the booze and no-one around to share the moment with him.

Speaking of CCTV footage, the English preparation is not a heck of a lot better.  Between dwarf-tossing, sexually harrassing waitresses and switching rugby balls (in other words a typical on week on tour with the English squad) there is much talk of the wheels coming off of English rugby.

The match is lining up to a clash of playing styles.  Wilkinson’s boot and versus French flair.  The English forwards rumble versus the French backs unpredictability.

So where should you be putting your money this weekend?  Well… if there is one thing I have learned from watching years of World Cup Rugby it is that you can safely and reliably write the French off.  If they have absolutely noooo chance of winning – you can bank on that.  In fact, I’d go so far to say that the French are so predictable, you can put your money down against them, not even bother to watch the game and head straight to your local bookie to collect your winnings.

France have neeeeeverrrrrrrrr surprised anybody…

Mark “Lone Wolf” Lawrence: A Farewell Tribute

Mark Lawrence, South African referee and ladies man, announced his retirement from the game last month in order to focus on coaching new emerging referees.   In our Big Daddy Rugby tribute to Mark Lawrence, we thought we’d take  a trip down memory lane in our Moments with Mark photo gallery:
Mark’s first season of refereeing was tough going as he found that his questionable peroxide highlights  and lack of facial hair held him back in Super Rugby.  International rugby players were far more aesthetically demanding than the college crowd he was used to.
A complete rework of his 5 o’clock shadow and a careful styling job rescued his career in 1999 after Naas Botha had criticized his looks as “made for SABC radio”.  He took the criticism to heart and emerged with a new flair that won over many housewives and even a few Player 23s.  An edition of Huisgenoot featuring a Mark Lawrence spread notched record sales and he was known as “the man who could do no wrong”.
In 2000, Mark re-invented his look and his star was on the rise as he became known for his trademark ‘Blue Steel’ pose during test matches.  He became a popular guest judge on Project Runway and had to turn down SA Pop Idols due to “creative differences”.
Last season, just as he had perfected his beard and the world was at his feet, a scandal after a Tri-Nations test match involving a hotel jacuzzi, three Victoria Secret models and a litre of Ultra Mel custard almost meant early retirement for our dapper whistle blower. He emerged from his dark night of the soul stronger, quieter and with a steely resolve.
So here’s to you Mark.  Enjoy retirement.
And as scooped by Silas’ earlier in the year, here are five facts you probably didn’t know about Mark Lawrence:
  • Mark Lawrence has never eaten at the Spur
  • Mark Lawrence’s favourite album is “If you can’t stand the heat” by Status Quo
  • Mark Lawrence auditioned for the role of Dr Gregory House for the hit TV show “House”
  • Mark Lawrence had his heart broken by a girl named “Florine” in Brussels back in ’93
  • Mark Lawrence has the phrase “Courage doesn’t always roar” tattooed on his left shoulder

Scotland’s two reactions to losing to England

For a brief and glorious 77 minutes it looked like Scotland might just have a day sweeter than winning the World Cup itself.  For 77 minutes it looked as though Scotland, in one swoop, were going to beat England, knock them out of the World Cup and do all of this with a coach that had been recently sacked by the English rugby union.  All of this was theirs, waiting on the table until Ashton scored in the 77th minute.  There were two reactions in Scotland at that moment.

Reaction A:

A Scottish aristocrat reacts violently to the sight of Ashton heading for the line.

or… you could just have the more traditional Scottish mindset, summed up by this text message I received from a Scottish fan during the game:

Reaction B:

“Don’t get your hopes up. I’m waiting for that traditional Scottish bad luck to show up.”

God bless ’em.

The Beard of Josh Strauss Speaks – World Cup Update

We are three games in to the world cup and it’s time to catch up with our special correspondent – the beard of Josh Strauss (note: for legal and financial reasons we were unable to attain the services of Josh Strauss himself, we could only afford his beard).

BDR: Josh’s beard, there have been a few close games and one or two upsets. Who has impressed you?

The Beard: Of course – everyone’s favourite at this stage is the All Blacks. How they will bottle yet another World Cup from here remains a mystery to even me.  The Wallabies in the semis?  The Boks?  The French again in the final would be a very funny if unoriginal way of choking this one though.  There are so many options available to Henry to once again let down his entire nation.

Ireland are looking to be the surprise package for me. I’m thinking it may very well be a good thing that South Africa will get to avoid them in the quarterfinals.  Taking on Australia is not as daunting as it looked four weeks ago.  I’ve spoken to Dick Muir and the Boks are taking plenty of precautions in their preparation for the Wallaby Match.  It looks as though Robbie Deans will keep faith in his selection of Quade Cooper, so all the Bok players have been issued cable locks to prevent their laptops from being stolen.

BDR: Any heartbreakers for you?

The Beard: Scotland.  What were they thinking?  I’ve seen Braveheart a few times, I know that the world is a cold cruel place but Dan Parks… eesshhh…  How could his team shaft him like that? They set him up to fail by transferring all the pressure onto him for that final drop goal attempt.  A shovelled pass with no protection from the loosies.  I was just gutted to see Scotland through that game away.

BDR: Any minnows that you have taken a shining to?

The Beard: For me the USA have been plucky in all their outings thus far. Having the Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels, I mean Todd Cleaver, as their captain has allowed them a certain insight into southern hemisphere rugby they’ve lacked in the past.  They have show steady improvement over the last few tournaments.

BDR: And the Boks chances?

The Beard: Hmmm…. (a strand of hair reaches into the beard and thoughtfully and disturbingly strokes the beard).  I’m not optimistic. We looked good in patches against Fiji. But that’s Fiji, we have a tough road to the trophy and it will require consistently playing to the best of our ability.  Consistency has not been a feature of this current Bok squad and that’s going to bite us.   The replacements for our injuries have done well and have made a strong case for keeping the original players out of the starting line up.  But I just don’t think we are consistently playing at the level required to win World Cups.  That being said, I must give credit to the coaches – De Villiers’ management of Bismark has been pure genius.

BDR: Really?  He has come in for a lot of stick for selecting Smit ahead of him. Why do you say that?

The Beard: Don’t you see…?  It is part of the master strategy.  By selecting Smit ahead of Bismark they’re just making Bismark really, really, really angry. And you wouldn’t want to see him when he’s really, really, really angry…

Zinzan Brooke: “Them’s fighting words!”

Zinzan – you’ll always be a legend in South Africa because of your audacious drop-goal, but I’m not sure how to intepret this Twitter bio:

Zinzan proving that real New Zealander's can be knobs too - not just the supporters at Newlands.

Is this tribute to the greatness of the Bok team in that “we only hate players and teams who are truly epic” vibe, or are you still gutted that the closest your nation has gotten to the Webb Ellis trophy since 1987 is the day when you watched Francois Pienaar carrying it past you in the tunnel at Ellis Park?

It must sting just a little knowing that had you scored one more point on that fateful day you might have had Clint Eastwood making a moving about you starring Matt Damon.

Geez dude… it was one drop goal, even Joel Stransky doesn’t go on about his that much.  Seriously, get a life.

Things you didn’t know about the Welsh squad

Not many people know that Peter Jackson first conceived of his Lord of the Rings Trilogy project while on tour with the Welsh squad to New Zealand in the mid-90s.  In between filling in at tight-head, Peter Jackson was able to scope out locations, meet with special effects studios and generally sketch out his blue print for the trilogy that would go on to break box office records.

In order to prevent being harassed by Lord of The Rings fanboys, Peter goes by his stage name "Adam Jones" when playing for Wales.

 

Should the Boks throw a game to get the easier final route?

Would you want this man taking responsibility for your team's goal kicks?

The Irish upset of the more fancied Wallabies has caused a significant change the shape of the knockout finals.  On current form – it looks like the Southern Hemisphere teams are now all lining up on one (tougher) side of the knockout draw with the Northern Hemisphere sides lining up on the other.

As of today, it looks like we can expect the following results from the pool stages:

  • Pool A: 1st New Zealand 2nd France
  • Pool B: 1st England 2nd Argentina
  • Pool C: 1st Ireland 2nd Australia
  • Pool D: 1st South Africa 2nd Wales (though Fiji can still squeak in 2nd)

Which means that we can expect the following draw in the knockout stages

  • New Zealand v Argentina
  • South Africa v Australia
  • England v France
  • Ireland v Wales

The winner of SA vs Aus game will face the winner of NZ vs Arg (i.e. New Zealand).  Hell… what a road to take for South Africa to get to the final.

Ireland and Wales on the other hand have secured themselves an all “6-Nations” route to the final.  Right now, Wales’ one point loss to the Boks is looking like  a stroke of genius if there ever was one.  So should the Boks strategically lose the game against Namibia to secure the “easier route” to the Final?

I can see how this could be very easily done.  Bakkies Botha can be given the goal kicking responsibilities, they can pick Ruan Pienaar and Adi Jacobs as props and give as much ball as possible to Bryan Habana (in space preferably).

There’s only one flaw with this system – that the World Cup always throws the proverbial “box of tarantulas” into the mix in the final round of pool matches. There’s no guarantee that results will go according to the form book. Just ask anyone who has left a World Cup match between France and New Zealand with the Kiwi’s up at half time.

If you ask me, the Boks are most likely better taking the advice of Tom Beringer in Major League:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMCaHxZuf94?rel=0&w=420&h=315]

So Bryan Habana – it looks like you’re going to have to stay “injured” after all.