Stormers re-enact the annual traditional choke

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

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

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

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

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

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

Super 15 preview: SA conference

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tendai “the Beast” Mtawarira: From Hegelian to Existentialist

Tendai Mtawarira

Tendai "the Beast" Mtwarira brought a strong Hegelian influence to the Sharks scrumming technique. Image via Wikipedia

On the eve of the World Cup, Tendai Mtawarira gave Big Daddy Rugby an exclusive interview covering his rise in test match rugby, the challenges of adapting to the Sharks culture and the influences of Hegelianism and Kierkegaardian Existentialism on his playing style.

Nicknamed ‘the Beast’ by his family for his precocious ability to finish off four Big Macs in one sitting as a toddler – Tendai has made a name for himself in South African rugby with his signature run down the side lines: tree trunk legs pumping, ball in hand, a lock of Wynand Olivier’s hair in his mouth and the crowd bellowing: “Beeeaaaassssst!’

Big Daddy Rugby  caught up with him before the squad left for New Zealand to gauge his mood before the big tournament.

BDR: Tendai, how does it feel to be a part of the squad going to New Zealand?

TM: It’s a great honour, not only to represent South Africa, but to also to be able to take on the New Zealanders in their back yard. There’s no bigger challenge for a rugby player.

BDR: Other than having to navigate the bizarre inefficient bureaucracy of our Home Affairs Department, what has been the biggest challenge you have had in adapting to South Africa?

TM: Well to be honest, I found the Sharks playing culture radically different from what I was used to. Growing up in Zimbabwe, I had been enormously influenced by Joey Muwadzuri – who  as a coach had strongly Hegelian leanings.

BDR: I’m not familiar with Hegelian rugby philosophies. Can you elaborate?

TM: I’d love to.  You see, Hegel wrote that history has a direction. We are going somewhere. For example, there is a trend to be more and more liberated as a people. We have liberated ourselves from slavery, from apartheid. Women’s rights and gay rights are advancing across the world.  Look at the Arab Spring for example – history is going somewhere. It has an ultimate purpose.

BDR: I’m still not sure how this relates to rugby.

TM:  Well when you draw on this strong continental tradition as a front-rower – you tend to play a certain way. You are more comfortable scrumming in, keeping your back straight and making sure that your fly-half gets good front foot ball from a solid right shoulder.

BDR: So how was playing at the Sharks any different? Those qualities you mentioned seem like the kind of thing that any squad would want in their front rowers.

TM: I know, right? That’s why you can just imagine my surprise when in my first training camp Dick Muir and John Plumtree pulled me aside and started telling me about this crazy Danish cat from the 19th century named Soren Kierkegaard. In some ways Kierkegaard was the total negation of everything that Hegel taught. Kierkegaard was about radical freedom, about the accountability of the individual to make free choices in the face an uncaring universe.  I was completely blown away.  And for a while, I questioned everything I had been taught about how to scrum as a front rower.

It seemed like all the other Sharks players like Keegan , Stefan and Kankowski were all existentialists too.  There was little support for the ideas of Georg Hegel in the Sharks camp.  The players seemed a little crazy if you came into the squad with a strong continental philosophy.  For example, in my early days with the Sharks, I was often called into team meetings to describe a plausible theory of free will in a post-scientific world.  Once, when we trailing Griquas in Kimberly at half time, John Plumtree made me give a pep talk in the locker room where I had to describe what it would be like if we woke up to find ourselves transformed into giant insects.  What would this do for our strategy at ruck and maul time, would we have to change the structure of our drift defence into something more like an umbrella defence?  I managed to give the team, especially Freddie Michalak a lot to chew on during that talk.  It was then that I knew I was going to fit in with the Sharks culture.

BDR: Well, Tendai, you’ve given us lots to think about today. We wish you all the best for your trip to New Zealand. We know that the whole country is behind you.  Except of course for Buthana Komphela – chairperson of the political sports committee who wanted to deport you last year- but politicians are knobs anyway.  So good luck!

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.

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.