Questionable Grooming 2011: The Winner!

With the Super 15 season rapidly drawing to a close it’s time for us to announce the winner of our inaugural “Big Daddy Rugby-Questionable Grooming” title for the 2011 season.

For those of you who missed the original post or if you’re just after a little bit of  “alternative eye candy” you’ll find the nominations listed here.

I’d like to be able to say that this was a closely fought race but in all honesty there was really only one player whose look caused such strong feelings of both disgust and arousal amongst our judges, that the decision practically made itself.

A hearty Big Daddy “shout out”  goes to Andy Ellis for his pre-injury “General Custer” vibe,  to Ashley Johnson for his constant refusal to check the mirror and to Radike Samo for still being  able to balance with hair that big. He surely must have trouble wearing a hat?

Close...but no cigar.

Well done chaps, better luck next year.
Note to readers: In the interests of good taste and decency Zane Kirchner was automatically disqualified from entering.

So, Ladies and Gents, without anymore fuss, Big Daddy Rugby are very pleased to announce that the 2011 Questionable Grooming title goes to none other than…


Well done Josh! We salute your effort and look forward to seeing what kind of state you’re in come the 2012 season.

Josh and his lucky lady friend after hearing the good news

Josh, your Chico the Clown desert is waiting for you at any Spur restaurant in South Africa. Enjoy!

The new racists: ‘pseudo-Kiwi’ supporters at Newlands

The old SA flag waving racists have all packed their bags and moved to Perth. There’s a new racist in town: the pseudo-kiwi at Newlands.  These idiots ruining the experience for everyone are not to be confused with real New Zealand rugby fans. I’ll proudly buy a round of drinks for any Kiwi fan who has made the trip over to the Republic.  I’m not talking about the genuine articles.  I’m talking about the “pseudo-never been to New Zealand” knobs who can’t get over this country’s past.

What part of Cantebury are you from?

The Kiwi fans I’ve met on my overseas travels have been nothing but kind and good mates. My beef is with those knobs who wave the All Black flag at Newlands as a political statement like a big middle finger to the New South Africa.

We’ve gotten over the past here at Big Daddy Rugby. We’re a part of trying to build this country up and trying to turn something beautiful out of a country that was once divided, a place that overcomes its history of hatred.  But the pseudo-Kiwis are doing nothing but showing us that they still live in the past and do not want reconciliation.

Seriously dudes… It’s not 1986. Huey Lewis isn’t on the radio and Marty McFly isn’t storming up a barn in theatres everywhere.  Its a new country, its a free country – and if you don’t want to be a part of it, shut the hell up and let the rest of us try to build a country that’s worth living in.  You can join your kin at Oranje and the sleepy suburbs of certain less-than-diverse expat destinations.

For the rest of the Kiwi fans in Cape Town: You are more than welcome here, have a drink on me and enjoy the game buds.

Bryce Lawrence: the first legally blind man to officiate a Super Rugby match

Here at Big Daddy Rugby our girlfriends and wives readers often accuse us of being too cynical and mean-spirited.  So we thought we’d cover a feel good story for a change. One of those triumphs of the human spirit/overcoming the odds stories that will get you through an otherwise bleak work week.  We’re putting the spotlight on a true human inspiration – Bryce Lawrence: the first legally blind man to officiate a Super Rugby match.

Bryce Lawrence shortly before the Sharks Crusaders match

Set back as he is by his inability to actually see anything in front of him, Bryce has had to overcome more obstacles than most in order to referee at the highest level. Most people who are incapable of spotting a forward pass, late hit or foot on the touch line might decide that officiating a professional sport probably isn’t a good career choice.  But plucky Bryce has kept at it and despite his inability to penalize anything resembling a New Zealander, Bryce has been awarded the highest honours a referee can be given – officiating at both Super Rugby and Test Rugby.

On Saturday our plucky referee had the whistle for a crucial knock out game between the Sharks and Crusaders.  He put in a brave performance and his blindness was only evident for a few occasions.   Sure, he penalized the Beast for a “dangerous engagement” BEFORE the Beast actually engaged with his opposite number and he had a general disregard for New Zealand hands all over the pill at ruck time, but critical Sharks fans must remember the tremendous obstacles Bryce has had to overcome in order to officiate.

For someone who is incapable of sight, his performance with the whistle showed a lot of moxie.  For that Bryce, you’re an inspiration to us all.

Besides Sharks fans – it’s not like having a sighted official would have made a difference.

Super 15 regular season wrap – the Big Daddy verdicts

The regular Super 15 season is over.  It’s time to judge the franchises and see who is found wanting…

SA Conference

Bulls – Fortress Loftus turned into Sandcastle Loftus this year. Losing at home to the Highlanders is a pretty big low.  Especially when you consider that the Bulls also took over the reins from the Highlanders for worst mullets of the competition (I’m looking at you Francois Hougaard).  The late season running of the Bulls was too little too late this year. Is the end of Heyneke Meyer’s influence?  I suspect Loffie has been riding the coattails of his predecessor.

Cheetahs – The Cheetahs can point to arguably their best season of Super Rugby yet. When that’s an eleventh place finish you know you don’t have a lot to be proud of in your Super Rugby history.  The real issue facing the Cheetahs is how they will they be screwed by SA Rugby when it is time to make a spot for the Southern Kings next year. Always the team that plays with the most moxie – despite having the most questionable cheerleaders.

Lions – Lions fans have suffered yet again. Despite having all the right starts to the pre-season (the backing of Elton Jantjies and a genuinely scary coach in Mitchell) Ellis Park continued to be an accident scene for anyone wearing red and white in 2011. A promising display on the overseas leg of their season was a bit of a silver lining in an otherwise gloomy tournament.  Two away wins overseas is something red and white hasn’t seen hasn’t seen since the days of Francois Pienaar.

Sharks – The Sharkies started off strong and then managed to squeak into the playoffs after the usual mid tournament cock up. Maybe it is the flash in the backline that is missing, maybe it is the craziness of having John Smit marshalling things from the bench, but the Sharks just don’t have that magic from a few seasons ago.  Although they made it to the post-season they left far too much on the table.

Stormers – Despite a midseason wobble (and being written off by this website for it) the Stormers have ground out gritty wins week after week. Alistair Coetzee has certainly staked a claim for replacing the ‘stache as Bok coach post World Cup – in addition to being the cuddliest coach in the tournament. Now if only those “Kiwi” supporters would stop showing up at Newlands.

NZ Conference

Blues – Now known as “the other Crusaders” the Blues have restored their reputation this season as not only have the worst tattoos and fake tans on display in Super Rugby but as one of the toughest nuts to crack – both home and away. They have added  a more complete rugby style as they move away from an “island style” of throwing it everywhere.

Chiefs – Who? Are they still in this thing?

Crusaders – Am I the only one going to point out that the decision by SANZAR to award a tie for the game cancelled by the earthquake ended up costing the Crusaders 2nd place on the log? When you run on the field against the Crusaders make sure you have already wet yourself in the changing room – these guys will embarrass you on field. They will destroy you, rub you in the dirt, and then finish their workout off with a few unnecessary pushups for good measure.

Highlanders – The men who wear skirts were the first team to break open the bank at Fortress Loftus for many a season with an away win over the Bulls. They haven’t been able to convert the momentum of that win into a significant run, and as a result finished mid-table in a very tough conference.  Sad times may be ahead for the Highlanders, after conceding the worst mullets title to the Bulls – they also will be giving up the worst jersey title too.

Hurricanes – It’s been all downhill for the boys in yellow without a pack since the Hurricanes let Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Tana go. When you get beaten at home by the Rebels you know it’s a long cold winter.

Australian Conference

Brumbies – How the mighty have fallen.  It’s a long way down from the days of Joe Roff, George Gregan and Larkham.  What a bunch of rubbish this team dished up in 2011. Brumbies management got what they deserved, if you sack the coach before the end of the season you deserve to get your short-shorts handed to you each week.  Back in the day, you used to put out your B-team in Canberra as you never really stood a chance. Now even the Lions have scalped them at home.  Jake White has his work cut out for him next year.

Rebels – Stone last – but a surprisingly good stone last if that’s possible. Big Daddy Rugby tagged the newbies from Melbourne to be the whipping boys of the 2011 Super 15, but they finished the season with the scalps of the Force, the Hurricanes and the Brumbies. For a team whose pre-season philosophy might well have been “keep the score down boys”, they can rest on their laurels as a franchise modestly started.  If only the Eastern Cape franchise would claim three wins in their first season.

Reds – To paraphrase Phil Kearnes, a few years ago if you owned a Reds rugby jersey you were ashamed of yourself.  Now, you’re probably wearing it to work every day and sporting a Quade mullet.  Between “the Coop” and Ewen McKenzie this franchise turned 2011 into the year that they finally delivered on their promise.  The Durban of Australia awaits its first home semi in ages.

Waratahs – 2nd on the Australian log and so earned a spot in the post season, but they did not look convincing at all.  A weak pack, backline players with silly names and a loss to the Rebels mean that they are not striking fear into any visiting team’s hearts. They couldn’t even point to a Matt Dunning drop goal attempt to cheer themselves up.

Western Force – As a relatively new franchise you’d expect the Force to be dwelling somewhere near the bottom of the log, but still a few points clear of the absolute skunks. And that’s exactly where they ended up.

Bring on the post-season!

Get ready for the Computicket FAIL

Stormers fans entering the special circle of hell that is dealing with the Computicket sales experience. Abandon all hope all who enter here.

Ever tried getting tickets for the Boks at Newlands?  Ever tried lining up for U2 tickets in South Africa? Ever thought it was a good idea to watch your rugby team in a Super Rugby playoff game?  Then you’ll know the special circle of hell that is dealing with Computicket.

I think it is a safe assumption to make that the moment that the tickets for the Stormers semi-final at Newlands go on sale that Computicket will crash.  Those who have had the courage to line up outside stalls will be told “Sorry we are experiencing high volumes.” Those logging onto the Computicket website surreptitiously from work will be greeted with the “connection timed out” error message.

Why? It is so simple, they must know that there will be a surge in volume the split second the tickets go on sale, yet it is inevitable like the rising of the sun that Computicket will FAIL us on Thursday.  We can only conclude that either Computicket is not in fact a loving overlord of ticketsales as it would not allow us to suffer so if it loved us, or we are forced to conclude that Computicket is in fact powerless to stop the FAIL because of its own incompetence and stupidity.

Why Computicket, why? Why do you hate us  so much?

Crusaders can rest on their laurels… this one is in the bag.

In an absolute cracker of a knock out match between the Bulls and the Sharks, the Sharks qualified for the post-season of 2011 Super Rugby with a 26-23 away win at Loftus. I reckon the celebrations must have lasted all of ten minutes after they got into the changing room, which is the amount of time it took for them to check their Blackberries, log onto a more reputable rugby site than ours and discover that their post-season opponents were the Crusaders in Kiwiland.

Oh #$^t. Game over boys. Now I’m pretty sure that all the “serious” rugby sites will talk a good game this week about how the Sharks have a lot of confidence this week, they’re looking good and that Plumtree is some kind of a Kiwi shaman.

But anyone with a memory that extends further back than one season will remember that we’ve been here before and it ends in tears, boys and girls. Saffer teams don’t win post-season matches in Kiwiland.

Perhaps it is the drinks they serve on Air New Zealand, perhaps it is the taunts of the Newlands unfaithful carrying over the Indian Ocean, but either way by the time the Sharks run onto the pitch in New Zealand they will be reduced to tackling bags for the Crusaders.

Yip, I suspect the Sharks sympathisers at work will now be spiking my coffee this week and perhaps unfriending me from Facebook, but so be it. The Crusaders can safely rest on their laurels… this one is in the bag. All the Crusaders need to do is show up on Saturday. Now I’d love it if Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder had the balls to admit that in the pre-match interview.

It's been nice knowing you... see you next year...

It ain’t happening folks. Stop getting your hopes up.

A bag of crisps for Bryan Habana, anyone? Anyone?

Bryan Habana goes for the line.

In the words of Bob Dylan - There's a slow, slow train coming up around the bend. Image via Wikipedia

Supersport’s Brenden Nel reported earlier this week that Bryan Habana got the snub from Toulon for asking for an outrageous R21 million contract. Clearly Habana thinks it is still 2007 and that the sun still shines out of his oversized bicycle shorts. Habana seems to forgotten that since the golden days of 2007 when he stood at the tippy top of the rugby world, he has slowed down to the speed of a Telkom customer service line and added the handling skills of an eel juggling a bowl of Jello.

The Habana of pre-2007 would never have been caught from behind during last week’s Stormers’ v Bulls game. And I stand under correction, but I suspect that the pre-2007 Habana had a better haircut too. Sure, the pre-2007 Habana might actually have been worth shelling out that amount of money. But R21 million in 2011?  Bryan – what have you been smoking?

The Toulon owner who bankrolls the French rugby club was apparently big fan of Habanero but I suspect must actually have seen some footage of the slow coach since negotiation.  Chippie the Cleaner Our reliable source in the Stormers camp reports that Habana and his dad are in new negotiations with an as yet unnamed English team to bring “ol’ faithful” up North. Apparently this time Habana is being more realistic and has reduced his asking price down from R21m to a more modest offer of:

–        a packet of crisps,

–        Seasons 1 through 4 of the Wire on a DVD box set,

–        and a complete set of “Mr T from the A-team” collectors cards.

At this stage whether or not the Wire box set needs to still be in its original packaging seems to be sticking point on the negotiations.

That’s more like it Bryan.

Big Daddy Rugby Drinking Game – 2011 Super 15 edition

With weekend 18(!) of this year’s Super 15 approaching, we thought it was time to update the Big Daddy Rugby drinking game, with a special “Super 15 final week of the group stages” edition. If you’re planning on catching a case of the swine flu from the tip of an Amstel glass tomorrow and making it a four day weekend, you can start this one early. Remember to line up your drinks before kickoff and to take a swig each time on of the following happens:

  • Hugh Bladen gets the score wrong during the broadcast (double down if this is a crucial error like pointing out that they don’t have a bonus point yet, when in fact they do)
  • Butch James get a yellow for high tackle (it brings a tear to my eye to be able to bring this little gem back into our drinking game)
  • You find yourself strangely attracted to Mark Lawrence
  • Arnold Geerdts’ abnormally orange glow forces you to adjust the contrast on your tv or to put on sunglasses
  • Bryan Habana fumbles an up and under (but talks a good game about how he has rediscovered his pace)
  • Brok Harris cocks up a backline move by being at first receiver instead of clearing the ruck
  • A Bulls substitute runs onto the park sporting a mullet that would make even Quade Cooper cringe
  • Stewie Dickenson penalises a non-Aussie team on a 50/50 call
  • Bizmark throws the “one-incher” at the bottom of a ruck
  • Conrad Jantjies shanks a clearance with a kick that resembles a tee-off on the first at Royal Cape’s “open to the public” day.
  • Saffer player does a little “eye-gouging” during the game before thanking the Lord in the post-match interview
  • Wynand “Keeley Hazell” Olivier impersonates a human cannonball by running straight into the crashball instead of noticing the three man overlap on his outside
  • Supersport commentators are wearing the exact same outfits as though they are 10-year old boarders on their first day out
  • Eyeing out that brunette Sharks girl hottie pre-match was as good as it got for your rugby watching weekend
All in all, enjoy the festivities this weekend boys and girls. We have to take those guaranteed South African victories when they’re up for grabs.

Dr Evil plots his revenge on the Stormers

Somewhere deep under the Pacific Ocean Dr Evil Naka Drotske sits in his undersea lair plotting his revenge on the Stormers this weekend.  In true South African style, you can bet your bottom R5 coin that the Cheetahs are going to be raising their game this upcoming weekend in order to screw the chances of the rest of the country.

In a tradition that goes back to the earliest days of the Super 12, the minnows of South African rugby save their best games of the season in order to screw up the chances of other local teams. You can bet the Cheetahs will be on top of their game this weekend.

Hell, we could make it a double header.  The Cheetahs can screw up the Stormers season and the Bulls can be knocked out of the Super 15 by the Sharks.

Who remembers Gaffie du Toit saving his one good game of the season to eliminate the Stormers and when the Bulls were still the doormats of Super rugby to them pulling one out of the fire at Loftus to dick up another Sharks season?

You can be sure that the SA teams already eliminated from the competition will be pulling out all the stops to stuff up everyone else’s season.  Who will the new villain of SA semi-final hopes be this time around?

Geez boys, I thought we’d grown out of the “if I can’t have it – no one else can” mentality.

Dr Evil Naka Drotske will be putting it all on the line to stuff up Cape Townian dreams this weekend.

Even the Kiwis think that Dickinson is a knob

You know it is bad when even the Kiwi’s are jumping on the bandwagon and complaining about “the Dick” who blew the whistle in the match between the Reds and the Crusaders.  Hell – hasn’t any one been paying attention to Big Daddy Rugby?  Must the story be broken by to be taken seriously?

“After the shockingly inept performance by the Aussie whistle-blower in Sunday’s 17-16 defeat for the Crusaders against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane, he has again found himself at the centre of controversy.

Rugby at this level shouldn’t be about the refs. Occasionally they have big calls to make and can influence the outcome of games with their decisions at the end of tight contests – fair enough. But they shouldn’t stamp their mark all over matches the way Dickinson did on Sunday in front of a full house. And they most certainly shouldn’t get it as badly wrong as the officious Aussie did, ruining a splendid game of rugby between two of the elite teams in this competition.”

Stuart Dickinson. What a knob.

Amen,Marc Hinton. Now if you’d just admit that once in a while Richie McCaw does actually infringe at the ruck, we’d have even more in common. The full article is available from here.

What a weekend!

What a weekend for South African rugby fans.  It’s been a long long time since Saffer Super Rugby franchises played so well against their Antipodean opponents.

In the dark days of my college studies, I can still remember several weekends where the South African franchises all managed to lose against their overseas opposition and the only (relatively) bright moment was a South African win over another South African team.  I’d like to go back to my old college self and tell him things will change my friend.

All South African teams playing Aussies and Kiwis won this weekend.  Sure the Cheetahs managed to lose to the Bulls, but somebody had to, and in doing so they allowed the boys in blue shirts to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.

As if that wasn’t enough for you rugger loving Saffers out there, the Blitzbokke managed another top performance to win the 7’s in Edinburgh with a come from behind freak three tries in two minutes jail break against Australia.

If you’ve ever worn a green and gold t-shirt and tried to sing the anthemwhile simultaneously shoving biltong and Klippies down your throat, then this was your weekend! I hope you made the most of it. Heck, I hope for your sake you bought extra lottery tickets, placed money on your Superbru and even tried drunk-dialling Danica Patrick hoping for she’d remember that time you cheered for her when watching Indy on the telly.

Danica Patrick. Sometimes the sporting gods can look down upon us with favour.

On the flip side,here is a cautionary note to any girlfriends out there who have rugby loving South African boyfriends.  If he was still moody and depressed this weekend, it’s time for a change, because it doesn’t get much better than this for SA rugby fans.

Yes, it’s true that only one SA franchise is likely to make the playoffs this season, but it can’t be discounted just how significant winning in New Zealand is for South African rugby as a whole.  This is the stuff that goes into your memory banks and makes you believe you can win matches from behind. Winning is a habit as they say. Even if the Stormers don’t go on to claim the Super 15 title, the fact that the Stormers came from behind to win a match against a quality NZ team at the venue where the world cup final will be played will not be lost on the players themselves.

Just as well us South African fans had a good weekend. We’re still owed plenty from the Rudolf Straeuli era.

Danny Cipriani’s next move

Photograph of England rugby player Danny Cipri...

Danny contemplates his next bridge to burn (Image via Wikipedia)

Danny Cipriani is looking for the exit on his Melbourne Rebels contract, like a high school kid counting down the days until graduation.  Unfortunately for Danny, he has burned a few too many bridges earlier in his past for this to be an easy choice.. Let’s not forget this is the man who has the infinitely stupid move in his past of breaking up with Kelly Brook).  Even Bath don’t want him.

So where to from here Danny Boy?

[polldaddy poll=5066938]

Vintage Stuart Dickinson makes another game “about him”

Dickinson contemplating how best to screw up the game he is officiating.

Early warning to readers – I haven’t had my customary post Stormers loss “cooling off period” before I wrote this piece. Stuart Dickinson is a name that lives infamy for most South African rugby fans.  It’s fair to say he rivals Malema in unpopularity in some parts of the republic. Dickinson has been at the hands of a many a shocking call going back to the early days of Super rugby, even calling 16 consecutive penalties against the Stormers and none for them in a memorable Dickinson performance several years ago.  Dickinson has lost none of his charm since then.

Cut to the Waikato game today where the Stormers were in cruise control up 20-3 against a Chiefs team that looked tired and jaded. Aplon and Kahui were in a chase for the ball in the in-goal area, with Aplon holding his line and appearing to hold onto Kahui as he dove for the ball.

Now I am as biased as anyone out there, but even the kiwi commentators were saying it was touch and go whether or not a penalty try could be awarded.  The irritating part of this TMO decision was that when it was referred to the television ref, Dickinson practically got on his knees and begged the TMO to give him a reason to give Aplon a yellow. Not once.  Twice.  He reminded the TMO that he was looking for another incident in addition to the try.  The result was a yellow for Aplon and a penalty try (talk about double jeopardy) and even more of a points swing during the 10 minute sin-bin.

The Stormers 2nd half performance (throwing away a 20-3 lead) was dismal enough on its own to deserve the loss. Dickinson doesn’t get full credit for the choke, the halfback combination of the Stormers was also woeful. But Dickinson is the kind of guy that brings out the worst in rugby fans.

The really irritating thing about his performance was not only this incident, or that when Peter Grant received a massive “no-arms” early hit he only blew a penalty, but it is the way that Dickinson, like Wayne Barnes, needs to feel like he has made an impact on the game.  He has the look of one of those refs that isn’t happy unless the camera is on him making the big decisive calls and asserting his authority Eric Cartman-like on the game (respect-my-authoritah!).

What rubbed salt into the wounds was that, as followthebounce correctly tweeted, you could just imagine Arnold Geerts in the Supersport studio drooling at the prospect of being able to call it “a game of two halves”.  Cut to studio, hey presto and Arnold did not disappoint.  I hate to be “one of those fans”, but seriously – Dickinson cocked this game up.

Refs like this really ruin games from being a spectacle about players to a spectacle about the correctness or incorrectness of their calls.  Well done Stuart – you managed yet again to make a good game about you rather than about rugby.

For the record – the Stormers went on to lose 23-30.

Tip of the hat to the Reds

The Reds pulled of another impressive victory this season when they beat the Blues 37-31 in the “Durban of Australia”, Brisbane. Major of tip of the hat to you, Reds squad and Reds coaching team. The Bundie will be flowing copiously in that part of the world. And well deserved!

As Phil Kearns remarked the other day from the Ozzie commentary booth, if you owned a Reds jersey a few years ago you were ashamed of yourself. It wasn’t too long ago the Reds under Eddie Jones were getting their asses handed to them each week by such lowly teams as visting Saffer touring squads. The memory of the 92-3 pounding at the hands of the Bulls in 2007 would scar most franchises into a post-traumatic stress disorder. Hell the Boks still haven’t gotten over the Twickenham bashings they received during the Straeuli era.

Not only are the Reds topping the Ozzie conference, but they are doing it with an impressive attacking style of rugby. They are starting to bring back the old Queensland Red aura when Horan and Little were the centre combination. Ewan Mackenzie has done a great job in backing a young squad, Quade Cooper in particular. It makes you think, if we had a Quade Cooper in South Africa, would he get the backing that has been given to him in Australia?

The look very strong contenders for a home semi-final and given the history of this competition, a home semi is better than gold. Well done Brisbane.

Financial bail outs come to the world of rugby

The Kiwi press this week has been reporting that the New Zealand Rugby Union will be providing financial assistance to the Cantebury Rugby Union, home of the Crusaders.

While some of us may have thoughts that rush to visions of some lowly accountant in the back office of the Cantebury Rugby Union engaging in credit default swaps, naked short selling and collateralized debt obligations while simultaneously shorting the coffee futures market thus necessitating a financial bail out, the reality is far more sobering:  Christchurch is still reeling from the after effect of the massive earthquake earlier in the year.

Crusaders rugby in happier times.

The cobbled together recovery plans for Christchurch rugby, including hosting a game at Twickenham, have not had the financial impact rugby fans may have hoped for. It’s just not financially viable from a ticket sales perspective to host the mighty Crusaders in small 10,000 seater stadiums while the team waits for a stadium to be rebuilt.

It’s a pretty poor showing that SANZAR as a whole aren’t providing assistance to Crusaders rugby in their time of need. For years both Australia and South Africa have benefited from having the tv ratings boost of having the unbeatable men from Christchurch in town.

The original story is up on Fox Sports here.

So here’s to our brothers and sisters in Christchurch and on behalf of rugby fans everywhere – we are sending good vibes to the kiwis as they try to put their rugby union back together.

Midseason wrap – Newlands loss was the canary in the coal mine for SA teams

Well that’s it folks. You can plan to have your wedding on June 9 now, because the weekend of the Super 15 final sure as heck ain’t going to be a weekend to celebrate South African rugby. The Stormers’ loss this weekend is the early signal that the trophy cabinets will be empty this year.

The format of the competition gives South Africa one freebie in the post-season. By virtue of the conference system one South African team has to go through. And that will be about it. It doesn’t look likely that any South African team will be good enough to earn a home advantage for the business end of the post-season. And that will kill you.

Here’s why it will be a trophy-less Super 15 for the teams from the Republic:

Lions and Cheetahs: both teams used to be part of the old Cats franchise. And they still play like it. Despite promising starts to the season, they let you down each week with atrocious defence and an inability to grind out close games. Clearly both teams have been implementing Dick Muir’s patented “Red Sea” defence. Here’s a clue: when Kobus Wiese introduces your team as likely to be involved in an exciting match because they are “great on attack” you know it’s just a euphemism for having crap defence. Next to that defence, anything looks “great”.

Bulls: Heyneke’s influence is over and the structures he put in place are no longer supporting the new management team. When your play is based on the simple premise of stuffing up everyone up front and grinding them into the dirt it’s hard to win when your squad is made up retired bridge players and little old ladies from the church fund-raiser. This team is old, old, old.

Sharks: A win over the ship going down known as the Brumbies doesn’t save the Sharkies I am afraid. A poor overseas tour left them with a lot of hard work to do and this isn’t the same Sharks squad of a few years ago that could pull the late season comeback off. There’s no young John Smit charging up the middle of the park and no Francois Steyn banging over drop goals from the parking lot of the Shoprite-Checkers outside Kings Park stadium.

Stormers: Despite whatever Kool-Aid other SA rugby outlets were drinking, the Stormers were the best bet to bring home the title for South Africa. However, this weekend’s loss against the Crusaders exposes a cruel truth. They just don’t have a pack capable of domination. Yes, having the flash of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie will get you through the mid-table games against the Aussies, but if you want to compete against the Blues and the Crusaders you need to have some serious uglies in your front row. The Stormers have hookers, but their props are more interested in looking flash in the backline then they are in doing the hard work. Here’s a clue that you have a totally shit front row: Supersport commentators glow about how much work your props get done “around the paddock”. In other words, they aren’t scumming or mauling – they’re just looking pretty hanging out on the wing.

That’s all folks. Your June 9 weekend should open up for a round of 18 or that wedding you need to go to.

The Stormer's loss against the Crusaders signals a doomed Super 15 for SA teams.

The “Not so faithful” Newlands fans

There’s two types of South African rugby fan which makes me throw up just a little bit in my mouth, and unfortunately with the arrival of the Crusaders this week, Newlands on Saturday will not be as “Pro-Stormers” as one would like to think it would be.

I’m not about to get into the politics of our country, or our rugby teams for that matter, we’re very much a post-isolation blog here at Big Daddy Rugby, but it has to be said that the folk who come to watch rugby at Newlands purely to support the opposition are some seriously “stuck in the past” people.

I was at the Crusaders game at Newlands last season (or was it two seasons ago?) and I’m not exaggerating when I say that in certain parts of the ground the “Kiwi fans” out numbered the Stormers fans fairly comfortably. (And it didn’t take a genius to figure out that not many of them were from the Canterbury region).

There surely can’t be much joy found from hanging on to so much bitterness?

On the flip side I remember watching the Boks play the Fatties at Twickenham a few years back and being completely dumbstruck by a number of Bok “fans” who were waving the old flag about, in an attempt I assume to make some kind of statement about their dissatisfaction with the state of SA rugby.
They failed miserably and just came off looking like a bunch of ignorant goons.

I genuinely don’t understand the thought process here, or maybe I should say the lack of a thought process?

Blah, blah, blah….

Anyways, time to get off of my soap box now I suppose, but first I must mention that I’m very much looking forward to seeing my current “man crush” Israel Dagg in full flight this weekend. The kid has some crazy skills.
It really is quite amazing when you consider the amount of depth the Kiwis have at the moment, especially in the backline.

Add to that McCaw, Read, Sonny Bill, Fruen and hopefully Carter at some stage and we’re all set for a cracking game.

I’ll be shouting for the Stormers 100%.

A picture of Gio Aplon...because he's a genius.

Media fail – who predicted the Sharks to win?

Even "the Golden Child" Pat Lambie playing flyhalf at Newlands couldn't stop the Sharks from getting a shellacking

So let’s get this right. The Stormers were top of the South African conference and were unbeaten against fellow South African sides but according to a number of websites and papers in the build up to the game the Sharks were favourites to win.  At Newlands.

So how did that work out for the Sharks?  How about losing 4 tries to nil, with the bonus point for the extra try.  Spank, spank, spanked!  Ouch.

So here were the “winners’ predicting a Sharks love-fest at Newlands.

  • Mark Keohane – in his frenzied love for all things Pat Lambie predicted that even if the Stormers play well they still wouldn’t be good enough to take on the team that walks on water.
  • Supersport – Robby Kempson with the win for the Sharkies (Gavin Rich at least predicted a draw).  Instead of titling his article ‘Sharks are better up front’ it seems it would have made more sense to title this one – ‘Why you should never place money on a prediction you got from a front rower”.
  • The Cape Town newspaper The Weekend Argus (sigh)
Umm… so it’s easy to gloat on a Sunday morning – especially since Big Daddy Rugby never posted up predictions for this weekend.  But it’s not going to stop us, is it?

The end of influence for Heyneke Meyer

The sun has set on the empire of the Blue Bulls.  The Bulls 26-21 loss to the Force in Perth not only puts to an end the hopes of a 2011 Super 15 title but also foreshadowed the end of an era when the Bulls played smart powerful rugby.

Worse than the prospect of being able to rest in July while other teams are bashing the hell out of each other is the prospect that this is the end of the Heyneke Meyer influence.  There was a brainlessness to the Bulls play that went against everything that Heyneke had taught these young bucks when they were still wearing plastic studs to the training ground.

I am pretty sure that, to take a football example, with the structures put in place by Alex Ferguson, without any football coaching experience even I could coach Manchester United to a few wins in the first couple of games of my tenure. But eventually even the greatest coaches find that the structures they put in place need to be rebuilt. I have suspected for a while that a large portion of the Frans Ludeke’s success at the Bulls was based on inheriting structures put in place by Heyneke Meyer and being able to rely on the seniority of players like Fourie Du Preez, Victor Matfield and Danie Roussouw to carry this on.  Ludeke, for all intents and purposes, was standing on the shoulders of a giant.

Perhaps the Bulls loss this weekend exposed Ludeke as the coat-tail rider of the rugby coaching world?

The evidence that all the brains have left Pretoria was on display in the final minutes of the game against the force.  The Bulls were down 23-18 with ten minutes to go and were pounding the opposition 22m line when the ref awarded a penalty to the Bulls.  Anyone who has ever taken a passing interest in rugby (from the under 10 primary school kid, to the girlfriend showing a renewed interest in rugby, to the hardcore drinking enthusiast at the Boer and Brit pub), absolutely anyone with a rudimentary grasp of the game will tell you that with Morne Steyn in your side and with ten minutes to go, a five point margin is best overtaken by slotting two penalties.

Go for posts you morons. You. Have. Morne. Steyn. In. Your. Team.

What do they do?  The Bulls take the quick tap with all of the hubris of an invading American army only to knock the ball on in the first tackle.

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

Eishhhh Heyneke.  Your influence and your dream of a Bulls empire is over.

A tip of the hat to Cheetahs fans everywhere

I don’t know how they do it.  How the hell do Cheetahs fans get up every Saturday morning, pull that orange and white jersey off the shelf, slip it over their shoulders and walk out into the sun ready to face another game at Bloemfontein stadium?

As if the season wasn’t difficult enough already, the Cheetahs attack did everything they could on Saturday putting up 47 points against the Hurricanes.  But you guessed it… they still find a way to lose at home, letting through 50 points.

FFS. If I were a Cheetahs8 fan, I would have spoiled about a dozen drinks this weekend hurling them at the new flatscreen in the lounge. What were they thinking?  Apparently the defensive practice session this week consisted of Naka Drotske showing the squad his iPad and the new Angry Birds app he downloaded, because it sure as hell didn’t look like the Cheetahs knew the meaning of defence this weekend. Oy.

Just another long painful season for the boys from Bloemfontein.

It’s got to be hard to support the Cheetahs. The Cheetahs rugby union faces certain historic disadvantages every season.  While the Free State is capable of producing blue eyed blonde loose forward machines like bakkies off of an assembly line, they can’t keep any of the talent because of the lack of money in the union. They bleed talent every season when richer unions flash wallets in front of bright eyed youngsters at Craven week.

If the economic disadvantages were not enough of an obstacle, they also crippled in having the iffiest cheerleading talent out of all of the SA teams. While the Sharks have historically set the benchmark on this front, the talent this season from Bloemfontein… is not quite up to scratch to put it kindly. But this season in particular has been an especially brutal one for Cheetahs fans.

Let’s do a quick recap of the season so far. They are 14th out of a possible 15 on the combined log. They have a combined injury list for 2011 that reads like the ending credits of the Titanic, they have lost more than half of their starting fifteen through injury this season.  Yip, you read that right, MORE THAN HALF of their starting fifteen are playing Tetris on their cellphones during matches. I wonder if Naka Drotske can send his Discovery Health medical aid bill to the Super 15 administrators for the scheduling genius this season.  The injury list includes their two best players: the German U-Boat commander Juan Smith and Lobster Boy Heinrich Brussow.

And now they are starting to show that special talent of the truly cursed teams: being able to butcher games that you should never be able to lose – Proteas style.

For those Cheetahs fans, that despite all of this, will still bring the orange coffee mug to work on Monday and still find the courage to put on the orange and white next Saturday, you have earned the respect of Big Daddy Rugby. You are true supporters.

It’s all going 2003-style pear-shaped again

Oh dear.  This is starting to seem all too familiar.

The Bulls got themselves a “to nothing” ass-whooping in Christchurch. The Cheetahs turned up empty handed after a brave but outgunned performance in Kiwiland.  The Stormers looked inept and brainless throughout their match against the Reds. The only SA win of the weekend came from an SA vs SA encounter which nobody from this site could bear to watch.  The Lions and the Cheetahs are firmly dwelling in the basement of the combined Super Rugby log.  I can hear Maroon 5 playing in the background, wait a second… is this 2003?

Make it stop... I can't relive 2003. Please no. The horror... the horror...

Ladies and gents, it’s all going pear-shaped again. And when I say pear-shaped, I don’t mean the kind of “some forgot to record Curb Your Enthusiam” style pear-shaped.  I am talking Nickelback on the radio and Rudolph Straeuli in the Bok coaching blazer kind of pear-shaped.

According to Wikipedia, 2003 was South African rugby’s “lowest point in history”. I had to rely on Wikipedia for this fact, because after 2003’s rugby season I had a medical procedure done to have all my Springbok memories of 2003 erased.  Sh*t.

This is starting to feel very scary in a world cup year.  Maybe I am over-reacting.  But  the performances were dismal this weekend and not the kind of stuff that fills you with hope that having skottle braais at 4 am in the morning will be worth it come World Cup time.

Even the most optimistic Bulls fan would have planned a visit to the optometrist rather than face the music of watching his team play away at Christchurch.  Geez… it was still the 1990s when any Saffer fan last had the courage to watch his team playing away at Christchurch.  And yes, we all expect the Cheetahs to lose overseas (it’s a bit of a rite of passage, like watching the Cubs getting blown out of the post-season or having your matric dance end in tears after you discover Southern Comfort); but even Big Daddy Rugby didn’t expect the load of tripe dished up by the Stormers at Newlands.

Would somebody tell the Stormers that if you launch fifteen up and unders in a row on the Red’s back three and they punishing you each time that it’s probably time to stop kicking the ball away? On Saturday it seemed that Allister Coetzee had taken leave of absence and the top South African team was being coached by Field Marshall Hague from Blackadder Season 4.

Big Daddy is sounding the alarm bells.  We had better get this train wreck sorted out in a hurry. There is too much talent in South African rugby for us to have a repeat of 2003.

Passion and Penetration

BigDaddy was on the move this weekend during round 8 of super rugby.

The venue was the Sharks Supporters Club, Cape Town branch (SSC – CT Branch), which is tucked away on Palmyra road, Claremont, between the latest, greenest Woolworths store and a music box.

I knew my true colours would be unveiled at some during the day’s play – those colours being of the Streeptruie/Stormers, despite being groomed in the hilly suburb of Westville, Durban in my formative years.

The evening threads were neutral colours to avoid confrontation, a ploy used successfully in other hotbeds of sporting fanfare frenzies.

You can’t buy experience (Nass-ism)

I was invited to the “jol” by my friend Rich, who is an official member, so I reasoned that if the LZ went hot and the M-16’s started rocking, I’d have an emergency plan!

It is often claimed that Rich is the chameleon of the sporting world: jumping from ardent Bulls supporter when Johan Heunis retired, to a super fan of the then the old Transvaal – the Gavin “Magic” Johnson era, before finally settling on the Sharks.

But let’s get back to the focal point. Any rugby fan that has been to a game at Kings Park would have experienced the world famous post match car park braai en-masse and shin dig.

The SSC – CT Branch is a mini-me version of this, what it may lack in numbers and braai smoke, is more than made up with family orientated fun, the passion for the oval ball game, good natured spirit, and spirits consisting mostly of that dark German digestif.

The weekly attendance by the Queens of Boulevard also ensures that not only displaced Durbanites are present, but other minority groups too.

The setup is great:
a patch of lawn for the kids to run amok, a heavy duty braai facility to turn over an abattoir of meat, and a fully stocked bar, manned by a jovial and affable chap who best be described as real life version of Mr Incredible (no cape of course, that is Edna’s rule).

There is a telly outside, and a massive cinema sized screen inside. Plenty of seating is available – even more so during the curtain raiser between the Stormers and the Reds.

Gosh here’s the opportunity to throw in a few lines about the actual rugby matches. The Stormers were lacking penetration on Saturday.
However despite their loss the general consensus around the flames was the Stormers have impressed as they’ve won ugly whilst playing badly. However the overseas leg will be the true test.

Maybe Supersport should sign me up with those pearls?

I can’t really comment on the Sharks – Lions game as I attempted to view it through a haze of beer and Jagermeister.

Back to the SSC – CT branch.

It was fantastic, we were pirate sailor drunk, and there was even an impromptu karaoke mix going down at the end of the evening.

I’m glad that Rich’s wife saved us when she did, as the LZ was starting to resemble the Tet Offensive with the number of shots being fired up.

So in summation, if you’ve been ignoring Nigel at the office because of his Sharks branded screensaver, or that “Sharks Forever” coffee mug he religiously brings along to the monthly stat meeting…it’s time to change that approach.

He could potentially be the gate-keeper to a corker night out.

Go on then, give it a go!

Tumble weed during the Stormers - Reds curtain raiser

Wynand Olivier – don’t hate him because he’s beautiful

Wynand Olivier burst onto the Super rugby scene in 2005 amidst a storm of controversy about his hair.  Certain sections of the Blue Bulls fan base were in awe of his long flowing locks – while the more conservative sections of Loftus were deeply troubled at the prospect of a walking Pantene commercial putting on the faded blue jersey.  He quickly earned the nickname of “Prince Charming from Shrek”.

Early on in his career, his defensive woes relegated him to the category of “strictly eye candy only”, but 2006 saw an improved Olivier.  He sorted out his tackling and started to get the backs away with good distribution skills. This saw a call up to Jake White’s Bok team where he put in a solid, if unspectacular, season in the green and gold.  Since 2006 he has struggled to break back into the Bok line up amidst rumours that his modelling career is starting to impact on his time on the training field.

Olivier has had a stormy start to 2011.  Earlier in the year he was spotted in a trendy New York night club in some compromising photos with Kate Moss.  His much awaited album “Waiting for the Rain”  tanked on released, shattering his dream of doing the the trifecta of Bok, supermodel and pop star.

Rumours continue to abound that Wynand will have a starring role in the next Bond film.  Let’s hope he concentrates on his rugby first.

Wynand Olivier warming up in the dressing room before the Bok test at the House of Pain in Carisbrook..