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”.

STORMERS

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.

BULLS

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.

CHEETAHS

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

SHARKS

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.)

LIONS

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.

The secret to the Wallabies success

So, a lot is being said and written about the Wallabies at the moment with rugby journalists world-wide giving their opinions on what makes this bunch of players a seriously formidable unit.

The Reds were worthy Super 15 winners and now with the Tri-Nations in the bag I think it’s safe to say that our Aussie friends are clearly doing something right.

The thing is though I’m not in agreement with all this talk of how Robbie Deans has instilled a sense of “Kiwi discipline” in the side nor do I buy into the theory that handing the captaincy to James Horwill has somehow given the team that extra bit of mongrel that was apparently lacking under Elsom’s reign.

I think it’s a whole simpler than that.

Anyone else notice that our friends in yellow (it’s not gold guys) have stopped singing the campfire favourite that is “Waltzing Matilda” at their home games?
Gone is the fellow with the bright yellow scarf and acoustic guitar who I’m sure had the best of intentions, but unfortunately managed to suck any life and intensity out of a game just minutes before kick off.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the tune, it’s catchy, but it’s certainly not rousing or inspirational, is it? Compare it with “Ireland’s Call” and you’ll see what I mean.

“Waltzing Matilda” kind of makes me feel like putting my feet up, cracking open another beer and hanging out with some good friends, something the Aussie boys clearly love doing, but maybe not the best idea right before a game of test match rugby, no?

I don’t know, it’s clearly an Aussie thing (evidenced in the video clip below),  all I know is that they’re playing some awesome rugby at the moment, and managing to do so without the help of a little waltz before hand.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9SoCi2NJjg]

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…

JOSHUA STRAUSS!

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!

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.

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.

Allister Coetzee gets a rough deal

If you live in Cape Town you’ve probably been subjected to the intolerable whinging this week on radio stations and newspapers about the fact that the Stormers have gone two games at home without scoring a try. I am exempting Supersport from this old media smackdown, only through ignorance – I’ve been unwilling to suffer through the tripe that Supersport dishes up as post match “expert opinion” this year. One can only imagine Kobus Wiese and Bobby Skinstad making frequent mention of the phrases “who wanted it the most out there” and “a lack of passion”.

Well as a moderately loyal and appropriately jaded Stormers supporter I will not stand for the media bashing a coach who has gone three matches undefeated. What do these journos want? A bloody primary school game where everyone in the team gets to score a try so as not to feel left out? A 55-50 humdinger?

People seem to forget that try-fests devalue the significance of moments of brilliance. This the reason why no-one gives a crap about the NBA. It is boring as hell to watch a team score at one end followed by the opposing team scoring at the other end ten seconds later (please don’t point out the success of T20 cricket – I can’t explain it either).

Poor old Allister Coetzee is merely grinding home the lesson we all should have learned in our first year of rugby. Namely, that a win is a win is a win. And win ugly if you have to (for the moment let’s leave out that second SA rugby rule, i.e. if you can’t win the game, at least win the fight). The Stormers have won ugly and Coetzee deserves praise for drawing blood out of stones in his first three matches.

My advice to Allister is to shrug off the media criticism and start doing your best Jack Nicholson impersonation for the next time you are in front of a mic. I’d love to see Allister channeling Jack in A Few Good Men the next time he is on Boots and All:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very sporting victories I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I’d rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a rugby ball and get on the field. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to!

The Tao of Kitch Christie

Kitch Christie, who coached a ragtag Bok team in the mid 1990s will always be remembered as a legend in Springbok history.  He  was the only modern Bok coach to retire undefeated, he maintained a 100% win record which included the 1995 World Cup.  This tale of an encounter between a young Stormers coach and the sage Kitch Christie, comes to us from Chuang Tzu, who famously coached the Wu Wei sevens rugby team under the Chou dynasty.

Allister Coetzee spoke to Kitch Christie saying “I have a big tree, which people call useless. Its trunk is so knotted, no carpenter could work on it, while its branches are too twisted to use a square or a compass upon. So although it is close to the road, no carpenter would look at it. Now Kitch your words are like this, too big and no use, therefore everyone ignores them.”

Kitch Christie replied, “Allister, have you never seen a wild cat or a weasel?. It lies there crouching and waiting, east and west it leaps out not afraid of going high or low, until it is caught in a trap and dies in a net. Yet again there is the yak, vast like a cloud in heaven. It is big, but cannot use this fact to catch rats. Now you Allister, have a large tree and don’t know how to use it, so why not plant it in the middle of nowhere, where you can go to wander or fall asleep under its shade? No axe under heaven will attack it, nor shorten its days, for something useless will never be disturbed.”

Theres a lesson in there somewhere for the Stormers this weekend.

Habana – Ferrari turned Daihatsu

So who in Stormer’s management paid for Bryan Habana’s moved to the Cape?  The Bulls must be laughing all the way to the bank. How could a man capable of moments like this:

be turned into the old circus donkey that we’ve got down in the Cape now? I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen Habana do anything remotely resembling that try since he got his new jersey. Its a pretty sad indictment on the conditioning programming at the Stormers and WP that you can see Habana’s loss of pace visibly deteriorate over his career down here.  If I read one more tweet from the Stormers camp, or one more article from the biased Cape press about how Habana has “regained his pace in training” and is capable of running the 100m 0.4 seconds faster than Usain Bolt, I’ll gag.

Did the moment that Habana put on his Stormer’s jersey coincide with the moment he lost his pace?  He seems still capable of finishing tries, as any good finisher would – a bit like Danie Gerber at the end of his career.  Only Habana seems slower than Gerber on crutches.

In Stormer’s land we pay top dollar for a Ferrari, but get an old Daihatsu.  Ouch.

Questionable Grooming: The contenders

After 3 weeks of “Super” rugby it’s probably a good time to introduce a few of our contenders for the all important “Questionable Grooming”
title for the 2011 season.

Now this is by no means a final list as I’m sure that as the season progresses a number of new players will step up to the plate in an attempt to “out-mullet”, “out-beard” or just plain “out-ugly” the chaps we have listed below.

The only criteria for making it onto this prestigious list is that “the look” must be the current look of the player (so all those tough backs who grew beards for the start of the season only to wimp out and shave them by week 2 do not make the cut).

Without further ado I give you:

Josh Strauss – The Commune Leader

Nick Cummins – The 80’s Rocker

Adam Byrnes – The Wanted in 4 States

Jannie du Plessis – The Consistently Bad

Tatafu Polota-Nau – The Pimp Daddy

Special mention must go to the Sharks reserve lock Anton Bresler for his breathtaking mullet and to the Lions speedster James Kamana for his strangely unsettling “rat-tail”. Both will be added to the list when suitable images are found.

Feel free to comment with your nominations. There must be at least 30 Kiwis missing from the list.

WikiLeaks reveals how the Lions lost on Friday

WikiLeaks released a tape of John Mitchell’s half-time talk to the Lions on Friday – it explains a lot.  If like me, you were wondering how the Lion’s hosed a lead of 25-17 at the break against the Blues, it goes something like this:

“Right lads.  Good showing, 25-17 up, we can bank that.  There is just no way a Kiwi team is coming back from 8 points down. Believe me, I should know.

I’d say, fair enough, it’s time to rest on our laurels. I know we haven’t won a game yet this season, but it’s safe to say that this one is in the bag.

Elton?  You listening?  It’s going to be a long season, and we don’t need any big injuries.  Take the foot off the gas boys, we’re in for a long ride, no point in spending all our energy once we’ve taken the lead.

Oh… and remember, you don’t need bonus points from penalties. That stuff is for the Stormers.  If you’re less than 3 points behind and are given a shot goal bang in front of the posts, I want you to kick for the corner and set up the rolling maul.  No worries that you’ve been smashed backwards at every tackle. Taking kicks instead of tries is for wussies.

One more thing, damn, I love that we took Dick Muir’s advice and did away with defensive coaching.  As long as we have Strauss’ beard in this squad, there will be no defensive drills.”

It all makes sense now… no other explanation could given how the Lions butchered this one.

My dirty little secret

Is it ok to say that I’m not really too fussed about the new Super 15 format? I’ve got the basics down, like there are now 15 teams competing and that they’re grouped together in fancy “conferences”, but other than that it’s all a little vague to me. I did try heading over to the Super 15 site and had a look at their explanatory video clip but I got bored and zoned out.
Maybe I’ll be a little more focused once it actually starts.

One thing I am excited about though is listening to the Aussie commentators on Fox sports. The Phil Kearns / Greg Martin combo is a great laugh. Sure they’re biased but at least they’re “funny biased”. The chirp made a few years ago about Percy getting his gold boots from the Gay Mardi Gras still cracks me up.

Having said that the Kiwi commentators are not too bad either. They’re very measured and professional in their approach. The SuperSport team really needs to up their game. I can’t help but feel short-changed when the only commentary options DSTV offers for the SA based games are English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. I’d take Kearns / Martin every game if I could.

Roll on the 18th.