Port Elizabeth Sevens roll on…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Cecil Afrika – pick him for the World Cup

Cecil Afrika. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Someone this talented just has got to be picked up the “ace up the sleeve” for PdV’s world cup squad.

He is the leading 7’s try scorer, a proficient tackler and has more talent in his left fingernail than any 15s Bok player (Gio excepted of course).

Come on PdV, what do you have to lose? Start him in the pool games… he could be our Jonah.

Oooerrr… Kenya dig it? Smashed by an eagle!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNTCyydpG1s?rel=0]

It’s not often you see a really big hit in a seven’s game.  But this is as good as it comes. A nice pop up of the pill after the smash makes it look even better.

No wonder the Lions signed Todd Clever after his 7s season.  I reckon one of those hits on a touring team would be worth the sign-on bonus alone.  Ouch!

Port Elizabeth gets to host the 7s piss up

Port Elizabeth's only rugby fan is already staking Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in order to find the best vantage point from which to watch the action.

In a bit of an upset, SARU announced that Port Elizabeth would be hosting the South African annual 7s rugby tournament. Although the tournament was previously held in George, there was wide speculation that Cape Town were the front runners.

In related news, shares of South African Breweries and Namibian Breweries tanked on the relevation that a combined drinking force of UCT and Stellenbosch students would not be assaulting the beverage stands at Green Point.

As Cape Town locals, the team from Big Daddy Rugby were hoping for a successful Cape Town bid, in order not only to spend all that hard earned pocket money, but also in the hopes of finding one more reason for getting inebriated and hurling abuse at other Cape Townians who choose to support the Kiwis.

We may very well have to find non-rugby reasons to stumble blindly drunk around Green Point stadium come 7’s season. Perhaps we can catch the Pirates-Chiefs derby at Rafiki’s. But we ain’t trekking to P.E. for a 7s tournament.  Why?  Too quiet!

The purists will argue that it is good for the game for 7s to move to Nelson Mandela Bay, and they are right.  It will be good to see rugby grow in an area where there has been a strong player base, if not a strong supporter base.  I can’t help but think that the alcohol breweries have missed a trick here.  They shouldn’t have let WP rugby do the bid, they should have just marched right into SARU, showed them Big Daddy Rugby’s alchohol tab from the 2007 World Cup, and the minister of finance would have intervened to ensure Cape Town got the bid.

Well, I guess it’s time for Big Daddy Rugby to put away the pirate costumes, beer hats and inflammatory signboards that were all bought prematurely. We’ll have to save that for the netball season.

Growth of the game aside, there is one other advantage for Cape Townians in losing the 7s bid – we won’t have to put up with the pseudo-Kiwis waving All Black flags at Green Point.

So when can we raid the 7s cookie jar?

After watching the carthorses Habana and Pieterson during the Stormers-Sharks derby, the worrying thought occurred to me that come the world cup one of these circus donkeys are most likely going to be wearing the Bok jersey.  That frightens me.  Despite all the PR coming out of training camps (Bryan is back to best did 100m in 7 seconds and ate Jannie Du Plessis for breakfast) every time we watch these two in the Bok jersey they look like speedboats trailing a cement anchor along False Bay. In other words… slow.

Watch the Blitzbokke 7s teams and one of the many things that you will notice is that they are all without exception fast. Very fast. In the kind of way that Habana was in 2004.  These guys would put the 15 man carthorses to shame.

Cecil Afrika is so ridiculously talented that the entire Bok backline could only get down on their knees and pray that one day they could be as talented as this guy. And the ridiculous thing about this 7s teams is that unlike ponies like Quade Cooper, they can all, to a man, tackle the hell out anything that moves.

Cecil Afrika. Warrior. Poet. Bob Marley inspiration. Destroyer of defenses. Lover of film noir.

Just look at Big Daddy’s man crush, Gio Aplon. That guy can tackle a wildebeest despite being the smallest lightie on the field. He literally looks like he was drafted in from the Sweet Valley under 10s, but he can smash back the big boys in the tackle.

So here’s Big Daddy’s request to the Bok selectors.  Oh please, please, please sneak a fast one on the rest of the world and usher in guys like Cecil Afrika and Branco du Preez into the Bok squad. Start them against the minnows, when no-one is watching, and Afrika will leave Habana and Pieterson in his wake.

Besides, look at Afrika, who wouldn’t want a warrior-poet Bob Marley in your starting 15?  As for the Blitzbokke themselves, the 15 man side can look to them. They have set the standard for the rainbow nation. It looks like a banking commercial watching all these smiling faces at the prematch huddle.  Let’s hope some of the wisdom and talent in that Blitzbokke team makes it way to the fifteen man game.

I fear however, we might have to wait until the Blitzbokke have taken their shot at the Olympic gold medal in 2012 to see these bad boys in Bok 15 jerseys, but we can always dream.

Vegas 7’s wrap – A warrior poet uncovered

Paul Treu’s team at last delivered on the promise they have shown in flashes throughout the season, with a 24-14 win over Fiji to take the USA sevens title. In Vegas the Blitzbokke demonstrated an ability to play the game not only with physical power and speed, but also with mental sharpness.

In the semi-final against England, the Blitzbokke, 17-10 up,  chose to go for posts with 40 seconds on the clock, snuffing out any remaining hope that England might have had of sneaking back into the game.  It was significant, because it showed the Blitzbokke have started to learn from the painful losses of the earlier defeats this season.  Fiji and New Zealand are formidable sevens opponents and the Blitzbokke have left it too late in the season to be able to win the series, but the squad is starting to look more like the 2008-2009 champion unit.

But  more significant than Paul Treu’s team finding their feet is the emergence of a new star for the Blitzbokke. Cecil Afrika, the young Bob Marley look-alike and team’s self appointed warrior-poet is already the series’ lead try scorer, despite missing some games with injury.

If it were up to me, I’d bring Afrika right into the 15 man Bok squad. Aside from seriously upping the coolness factor of the hairstyles in the squad and having a fantastic name, he is a complete package for a wing. He has speed, strength and a great ability to read the game. Usually newcomers to test rugby struggle with defense, but Gio Aplon has proved that sevens players will put fifteens players to shame when it comes to tackling.

Besides, the Bok squad’s hairstyle factor took a serious dent when they let Francois Hougaard in.