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.

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…

Sam Warburton sees red….a nation continues to mourn

So it looks like this little talking point has not quite been put to rest…and I completely understand why.

I for one didn’t agree with the decision to send Warburton off in Saturday’s semi-final. Quite frankly I’ve seen worse tackles in football – and that’s a game played mostly by purse-snatchers and people who don’t know how to tie shoelaces.

But that’s just my opinion, and that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

On the other hand…the opinion of the British public does  (let’s remember the Poms did invent the game – even if they don’t play it very well) and they appear to agree with me for a change.

In a recent online opinion poll conducted by the Telegraph, their readers were asked if the Welsh captain deserved to be sent off for the offending tackle:

60% of people didn’t know what the question meant, 20% thought his performance as a paraplegic in Avatar was commendable, BUT more importantly, the remainder thought that the World Wrestling Federation’s loss was rugby union’s gain.

Pity that none of this changes the result though. Now we are left to watch a final in which the Kiwi’s will most likely make pate of the French.

Viva Alain Rolland!

Sam Warburton's tackle...the camera angle that the Welsh don't want you to see.

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.

Wales vs France Semi Final Preview

I really want Wales to win the whole damn thing now…but ever since Lievremont started sporting his fabulous ‘tache I’m finding myself rather confused…and now he’s gone and shaved his head! Merde Marc, merde!

I shudder to think what he’s got in store for us if France reach the final…

Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?

 Wales by 10.

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.

Tuilagi ferry jump…the catalogue of shame continues

Anyone following England’s world cup campaign could easily be forgiven for mistaking it with the most recent series of Big Brother.

What with the drunken tomfoolery, cheap pick-up lines, cavorting with local blonde floozies and even a bit of ball switching for good measure. Let’s not even get into the dwarf-tossing escapade!

Now that the team’s campaign has come to an end, the English tabloids are going to have to look elsewhere for their ingenious headlines. Well not just yet…as Manu Tuilagi has come to the rescue and shown the world he’s no fish out of water with a daring ferry jump in Auckland harbour.

Hooray! That’s the spirit Manu! You may be out of the World Cup but you can still ferry jump with the best of them! Go down fighting like a true British bulldog and give the great English public something to cheer about – even if it does get you fined £3000 and a nasty icecream headache.

Oh well…it’s just £3000 less you’ll have to spend at Spearmint Rhino when you get back to Blighty!

Manu earns his stripes (Image courtesy of Mail Online)

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.

Wales v Ireland QF preview: You may as well just toss a coin…

Of all the quarter final matches this weekend I reckon the Wales v Ireland game is the toughest to call.

Quite simply both teams have looked “fecking great” so far, something I wasn’t expecting to being saying at this stage of the tournament.

I mean, before the first ball was kicked, how many of you would have put money on:

                    a) Ireland beating Australia?

                    b) Wales beating Fiji 66 – 0?

I’m guessing not a lot. I certainly didn’t.

To be honest Ireland looked fairly hopeless in their warm up games. They lost 4 from 4 remember? Seems a long way away from the rugby they’re playing now.

And what about the Welsh…well they did beat a somewhat experimental English team in Cardiff, but the question marks about their ability to mix it with the “Big Boys” and maybe more accurately, to mix it with “Big Boys” when it mattered still remained.

Fast forward a few weeks and what we have is an Irish team who basically “bitch slapped” the Aussies into submission (yes Aussie fans I realise there was no Pocock or Moore!!) and a Welsh side who have not only stepped up to the plate in terms of physicality (within 1 point of the Boks) but who have also managed to combine that with, gasp!, a little bit of attacking flair. Sexy Rugby, if you like.

These two sides are just so evenly matched and both have that not so insignificant factor the pros like to call “momentum”, that I just can’t decide which way I think it’s going to go.

What I can say though is that in Sean O’Brien and in Sam Warburton, in Brian O’Driscoll and in Jamie Roberts, in Tommy Bowe and in Shane Williams there are going to be some rather special players out on the field. Game of the weekend I reckon.

Is it too much of a cop-out to say that whatever the result, at end of the day as long as “rugby is the real winner” I’ll be happy? 😉

(Off the record: if I had a gun to my head and was forced to pick a winner I’d go with Ireland…only because my mate Mike is Irish and he’d be pissed if I tipped the Welsh).

It'll be tears for one of these two on Saturday...(don't let the Brazilian flag on her bosom fool you...she's a massive O'gara fan!)

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…

Berlusconi promises to ‘treat’ Azzurri

Italian Prime Minister and self-confessed playboy Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly promised to throw an extravagant party for the Azzurri if they beat Ireland in their crunch match this Sunday – a gesture that seems particularly ill-timed in light of the current state of the Italian economy.

The eternally bronzed PM was overjoyed with the recent victory over the USA and despite his ‘special relationship’ with Vladimir Putin, he was particularly pleased with the result against Russia last week, saying:

 “I would’ve watched the match if only the plasma screen in the Jacuzzi room had been working, but the twins spilt some bubbly on it during a particularly frantic mud-fight.”

By promising the team a shindig that they won’t forget (or possibly remember) Berlusconi will be hoping to inspire them to secure a place in the quarter finals. There are even rumours that his wingman Putin may put in an appearance so the two can perform their infamous ‘Jagerbomb run’ routine, which is generally followed-up with his favourite ‘cook the cannelloni’ party-trick.

Berlusconi and 'friends'...air stewardess just out of shot

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…

Big Daddy’s guide to a replacement Haka

Bok coach Peter de Villiers caused a bit of a stir this week by suggesting that the Haka was losing its respect due to its being performed too often.

Well, the Kiwis have no need to worry as here’s BDR’s guide to other potential pre-match challenges that could be just as effective.

The Macarena

Everybody’s favourite Latin dance sensation that allowed even geeks a chance to look good on the dance-floor.

Pros: Optional maracas could be a nice touch (we’re looking at you Sonny Bill!)

Cons: Opposing team are likely to join in, which would just get plain awkward

The Hokey-Pokey (Cokey)

Old school participation song-cum-dance that set the benchmark for others to follow.

Pros: So easy (the words are the moves) that even the most uncoordinated can do it…Colin ‘butter fingers’  Slade take note!

Cons: The ‘shake it all about’ section may not set the right tone for the match

The Time Warp

The indie S&M version of the Hokey Pokey featured in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

 

Pros: More edgy than the others, but just as addictive and the All-Black kit fits the mood perfectly

Cons: Tricky to sing and perform with some high vocal register parts – so lots of warm-up required

Y.M.C.A

Who doesn’t know the Y.M.C.A? The ultimate party dance made famous by the sports bar-loving Village People.

Pros: The element of surprise and a good excuse to be more adventurous with facial hair

Cons: Too many to mention

So there you have it…something for Graham Henry’s successor to mull over.

If BDR readers have any of their own suggestions  please feel free to try these out in the privacy of your own home.

Ronan O’Gara tells it like it is

Are you tired of clichéd post match interviews?                                                                  Tired of hearing the same old regurgitated lines match after match?

Well then click away and allow Ronan O’Gara to change your perception of how moving and honest a post match interview can actually be.

Fantastic display by the Irish on Saturday morning! Those boys pretty much made my weekend, even taking the Boks clinical performance against the Fijians into account.

High Five to you Ronan for letting your guard down and allowing yourself to come across like an actual human being instead of just another media trained, PR managed, vacuous sports playing bore.

I’ll have some more of this please…

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXt6GtMxOI8]

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.

Interview with ‘Grizzly’ Adam Kleeberger

In keeping with our (un)healthy obsession with facial hair, Big Daddy Rugby decided it was time to put a few questions to Canada’s Adam Kleeberger.

The first thing you notice about Kleeberger is the size of the man’s hands. My gosh they’re huge – like giant paddles. I was fortunate enough to track him down at the team’s hotel in Napier ahead of their big match against France.

Kleeberger has caused quite a stir at the tournament, with his ‘wild-man’ beard trending almost as much as Jay-Z’s love-child. The big man also had a massive game against the Tongans, with the Canucks having edged the Pacific Islanders by a whisker.

On entering the hotel lobby, Kleeberger was immediately noticeable by being shoe-less and sitting in the double lotus position. This was going to be interesting…

Big Daddy Rugby: Hi Adam, thanks for taking the time to meet with BDR today.

Adam Kleeberger: Don’t mention it. By the way, you made a lot of noise on your approach. I could hear you a mile off.

BDR: Oh right….is that a bad thing?

AK: If you want to last one night in the Canadian wilds it is. Your smell gives you away too.

BDR: Thanks, I guess…if I could ask you about the Tongan match. Was that more of a scare than you were hoping for?

AK: I don’t believe in fear. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

BDR: That’s interesting. Didn’t Yoda say that?

AK: No.

BDR: Okay.

At this point in the interview Kleeberger closed his eyes and took a number of deep breaths

AK: Okay, I’m back!

BDR: Great. Will the team be trying a different approach in the match against the French?

AK: As a team we don’t believe in trying. Do or do not, there is no try.

BDR: Err..Isn’t that something else that….never mind. So the ‘growth’ is getting quite a bit of coverage at the moment? Do you…

AK: Don’t move! Stay perfectly still! A wasp has just landed on your shoulder and if you move he will strike you dead compadre!

BDR: I’m not so sure they’re THAT lethal…

AK: You weren’t THERE man!

BDR: Vietnam??

AK: British Columbia…1998. Swarm of wasps as thick as mud. I had to go to ground for three days straight.

Kleeberger springs from his seated position and swipes the wasp with one of  his mighty paws

BDR: Geez..thanks Adam! Close shave huh?!

AK: (Chuckles) I wouldn’t know my friend. I wouldn’t know.

BDR: Well anyway, enjoy the rest of the tournament and may the force be with you!

Swift exit BDR

'Grizzly' Adam Kleeberger....he knows what you did last summer!

Signs of reincarnation in the Bok squad…literally

At Big Daddy we take pride in asking the ‘big questions’ that matter, the questions that challenge the norm, and that others just don’t have the balls to ask.

  • is the ‘war on terror’ merely a smokescreen for a new wave of Western imperialism?
  • has the world financial crisis been stage managed for the benefit of a wealthy elite?
  • is Gurthro Steenkamp the reincarnation of ancient Egyptian high priest and polymath Imhotep?

Gurthro's response to the Fijian haka had Ancient Egyptian mythology written all over it

The real Mike Tindall scandal

As I’m sure you all know, we here at Big Daddy Rugby pride ourselves on journalistic integrity and only cover stories that we know to be 100% factually true.

We’re more than happy to leave the sensationalism and mud-slinging to the tabloids and to rather just focus on delivering you, our readers, with accurate, informative rugby related articles.

That’s why we’re not doing a piece on how Mike Tindall had a few “sherberts” and then entertained himself with a little bit of harmless dwarf tossing in Queenstown the other night.  We see no point in mentioning that the recently royal wedded English Captain was also spotted deep in “conversation” with a rather fetching, young, busty blonde on that very same night. (And no, it wasn’t Lewis Moody).

We’re really not interested. Our standards are higher than that. Much higher.

Instead we’d like to focus on the state of his nose. Have you seen that conker?! My word! That’s a real “deal breaker” right there. I’m guessing it’ll be “touched up” when his rugby playing days finally come to an end? Surely?

Watch out you Georgians, that thing could do some serious damage out on the field!

Is that a nose on your face or are you just happy to see me?

Russia versus America – the cold war is back!

"It's suicide. You've seen him, you know how strong he is. You can't win."

Thursday’s match between Russia and the USA is shaping up to be one of the epic contests in this year’s World Cup. It’s the stuff of cold war fantasies and for a generation who grew up watching Rambo III, Miracle on Ice and Weekend at Bernies 2, it is a chance to rekindle the greatest rivalry of the late 20th century: the cold war.

America and Russia are not known as traditional rugby playing nations, so some readers may not be familiar with back story to this grudge match and why so much is at stake in this encounter.  We thought we’d bring you up to speed:

The build up to Thursday’s game began two years ago during the campaign to qualify for the World Cup, when star Russian player, Alexey Travkin, first arrived in the USA. Travkin who at 6 foot 5 and 261 pounds bears an uncanny resemblance to Dolph Lundgren, arrived with his coach Nicolay Nerush and a team of trainers to challenge the best American rugby players.  At their first training session the Russians showed off plenty of high-tech training equipment to a mesmerised American public.

Motivated by a misguided sense of American patriotism and too many DSTV reruns, former heavyweight champion and USA Eagles rugby player, Apollo Creed, emerged from retirement to take on Travkin at a game of touch rugby at San Diego beach. Despite his reservations,  Eagles captain Todd Cleaver agreed to train Apollo for the match “one last time” only to see him savagely torn apart by Travkin. Travkin was heard muttering “if he dies… he dies” at the press conference later that evening.

Driven by a deep sense of guilt Todd Cleaver and the rest of the USA Eagles team decided to avenge Apollo Creed’s death by agreeing to make their World Cup clash with Russia a “match of honour” . To prepare for the encounter, the Russians have been extensively evaluated and coached by a team of trainers and doctors with scientific instruments. The Americans however have used a Spartan approach: they threw heavy logs, chopped wood and jogged in heavy snow past icicles in the cold tundra of the Northern Hemisphere.

It all comes down to this Thursday.  Russia versus America. Who will prevail?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8xHjC27YvM?rel=0]

In the words of Survivor: “Is it East versus West or Man versus Man?”

John “Comandante” Smit: My people love me…

After the roller-coaster ride that was Sundays’ game Big Daddy Rugby was fortunate enough to be granted a private audience with none other than the Springbok Captain, John “Comandante” Smit.

The informal chat took place in a bunker deep below the Wellington “Cake Tin” stadium where the beleaguered Captain was holed up with a few of his bodyguards and a couple of bottles of his favourite Old Brown Sherry.

The atmosphere in the room was tense and we were instructed beforehand that eye contact was to be kept to an absolute minimum and to ensure that we addressed him as “Comandante” at all times.

It’s been a tough last few months for the 2007 World Cup winning Captain, with a growing number of fans back home becoming more and more disgruntled with the state of the national team, and in particular his dismissal of mounting global pressure to step down from the team and head off into exile.

When asked about his suitability to lead the Springboks at this World Cup he laughed loudly and said “We put our fingers in the eyes of those who doubt that the Boks are ruled by anyone other than its people”.

Asked to clarify this statement he shot back: “They love me. All my people with me. They love me all. They would die to protect me”.

He seemed unconcerned about the pressure being applied by Bismarck du Plessis for a starting place in the team, and spoke of fans calling for his retirement as “It is betrayal, they have no morals! Let them be eaten by hungry dogs!”

The “Comandante” also alleged that those questioning his importance to the team “were under the influence of drugs supplied by outsiders” and that they are unable to think like “normal rational human beings”.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much all we were able to get from the “Comandante” on this occasion. As the mood lightened and the conversation started to flow so to did the Old Brown Sherry. Lots and lots of Old Brown Sherry in fact. We’re still not entirely sure if it was Smokeys’ attempt at the Macarena or Silas’s challenge to a “stare down” that tipped him over the edge, but regardless the “Comandante” was not impressed and our nice little chat came to a rather abrupt end…which is maybe something that the “Comandante” might want to consider for himself, no?

Comandante Smit: Taking half time team talks to the next level...

The Return of the Minnows

Japanese coach John Kirwan takes his star player Tomoki Yoshida through his paces in training last week.

The first weekend of the World Cup 2011 is over and it was an absolute scorcher! This is going to be a great World Cup if the opening matches are anything to go by.  There was nail-baiting tension, isolated incidents of brawling and epic victories – and we’re just talking about John Smit’s attempts to get to the food buffet ahead of Dr Jannie.

But most pleasing of all was the fact that this weekend the smaller rugby nations stood toe-to-toe with the traditional rugby powerhouses and looked all the better for it.  Two stand out minnow performances this weekend were Romania almost pulling off an upset against Scotland and Italy holding Australia 6-6 at half time.

It’s a far cry from earlier tournaments when teams like Japan and Uruguay used to get absolutely annihilated and it makes for a far better tournament.  Historically we’ve had to put up with a snooze-fest before the real contest begins with the quarters, but this World Cup looks like it is offering a lot for fans in the early stages.

Seeing the passion in the faces of the Americans before kickoff was something special – if you were a neutral and the American efforts didn’t tug on your heartstrings there is something wrong with you.  Not to be forgotten in the display of the minnows  a new and improved Japanese team set the North Harbour crowd on fire with some electric backplay.

Big Daddy Rugby was fortunate enough to gain some exclusive footage of the Japanese rugby team in training before the World Cup showpiece:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fWvub_WBho?rel=0]

So a lot will be said about special players and outrageous reffing calls but for me, the tip of the hat goes to the the minnows’ coaches who deserve credit for turning the smaller teams into giants for a few short moments – moments that will live on for years in the pubs of their respective countries.