Afrika fit for Aus …

November 23, 2011

Player of the Year Cecil Afrika has been included in the final squad of 12 Blitzbok players for round one of the HSBC Sevens World Series to be held on Friday and Saturday at the Gold Coast in Australia.

Afrika has recovered fully from a broken jaw he suffered during the pre-season and will be in action at Skilled Park, the new home of Australian Sevens.

Branco du Preez and William Small-Smith are the two players who miss out.

“The new seeding and points format will bring a new dimension to how you approach each tournament and teams will simply have to be at their best if they want to stay in the hunt,” said coach Paul Treu.

The winners and runners up from each event will automatically be placed in Pool A and B respectively for the following tournament, before the draw for each pool is made.

Last season South Africa ended the Series as the in-form team when they claimed back-to-back Cups in Scotland and England, which enabled the team to secure second spot on the Series standings behind New Zealand.

Robert Ebersohn is back after a two-year absence while Chase Minnaar and Renfred Dazel have shrugged off their injuries which kept them on the sidelines for most of last season.

Kyle Brown and Frankie Horne form the core of an experienced forward division while Boom Prinsloo will be keen to add to his impressive performances of last year.

The last time Treu’s side faced Australia was in the Cup final in Edinburgh, one of the most pulsating matches of the 2010/11 Series. South Africa came from 28-7 and 35-19 behind to snatch a dramatic 36-35 victory.

The Blitzbokke for round 1 of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Australia:

1. Chris Dry
2. Kyle Brown (captain)
3. Frankie Horne
4. Boom Prinsloo
5. Chase Minnaar
6. Paul Delport
7. Renfred Dazel
8. Mark Richards
9. Steven Hunt
10. Bernado Botha
11. Robert Ebersohn
12. Cecil Afrika

The fixtures on day one (to be televised live on SuperSport, with SA times):

06h47:   SA vs. USA
09h53:   SA vs. Japan
13h36:   SA vs. Australia

Bok coaching options ….

November 23, 2011

SARU’s mission to appoint a Springbok coach is set to take centre stage in the build up to Christmas …

Incumbent coach Peter de Villiers’ contract runs out at the end of December, and should he not stay on (please, oh please), negotiations with other candidates will have to be concluded before the end of the year.

In what I believe to be a good move, a decision was made not to open the position for public application. The man to lead the Boks will instead be identified and approached by the relevant stakeholders.

This will take centre stage at Saru’s executive general council meeting, scheduled for December 1 and 2, where the next steps will be taken in their search for a new Bok coach.

The position is expected to be filled as early as January, provided they can find a suitable candidate willing to take the job.

Michael Mentz of Sapa put together the following profiles of the likely candidates for Bok coach:

Heyneke Meyer:

The most decorated rugby coach in the country, Heyneke Meyer has achieved success at all levels of the game.

More importantly, he has a proven track record of identifying and producing world-class players.

That could all amount to nothing, though, as Meyer has shown a lack of interest in coaching the national team after he was snubbed four years ago when, as the most likely man for the job, the SA Rugby Union went for Peter de Villiers instead.

Retired Springbok legend Victor Matfield wrote in his autobiography that Meyer was the best coach he had ever played under, even though Jake White had led the team to glory at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.

Some of the players who grew into world beaters under Meyer’s watchful eye include Bok stalwarts Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Bryan Habana.

Meyer’s key strength lies in his knowledge of sports psychology.

He is a pragmatic coach who ensures he is surrounded by experts, or specialists, in every aspect of the game, but he also has the courage to be innovative when necessary.

Meyer excels in player management, and with his ability to lay down plans, and stick to them, he is in a league of his own.

Peter de Villiers:

The decision to employ Peter de Villiers ahead of Bulls expert Heyneke Meyer in 2007 outraged most South African rugby fans.

With his experience — much like his predecessor, Jake White — limited to the SA Rugby Union’s junior structures, De Villiers took charge of the most experienced Springbok squad of all time, and subsequently decided that a player driven coaching system would be the most effective.

This would come back to haunt him at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand where the Boks were dumped out in the quarterfinals.

During his tenure, the Boks secured a series victory over the British and Irish Lions, and they won the Tri-Nations.

Most of the criticism De Villiers endured at the helm of the natiunal team was a direct result of controversial and often misinterpreted public statements.

When Saru hired Andy Colquhoun as the team’s media manager, De Villiers turned a new page, and he surprised the world with some insightful comments at the World Cup.

He is the only coach confirmed on Saru’s shortlist of candidates, and with a number of others making themselves unavailable, he could either be re-appointed or hired as a caretaker coach until a more suitable candidate is found.

Frans Ludeke:

The only South African coach to have won back-to-back Super Rugby titles, Frans Ludeke has shown, during his time at the helm of Bulls rugby, that he has the aptitude to coach at the highest level.

His well documented philosophy on the importance of focussing only on the team’s next match has been adopted by many other sides in the country.

That same week-by-week dedication contributed to his team’s Currie Cup success in 2009, while at the same time highlighting that he kept abreast of developments on the local front.

Ludeke’s leave of absence was felt during the Blue Bulls’ 2011 season, with Pine Pienaar given a chance to coach at a higher level after the union was restructured.

Ludeke was approached by incumbent Springbok coach Peter de Villiers to join him prior to this year’s Rugby World Cup, and if he is not included in the national team’s immediate plans, he could be a called upon in an advisory capacity.

Allister Coetzee:

A former Springbok backline coach, Allister Coetzee has the right credentials, having formed part of the SA rugby scene at provincial and national level.

Coetzee has a 2007 World Cup winner’s medal, which he won as an assistant to Jake White, but has yet to win silverware at provincial level.

He was also on the four-man shortlist for the Springbok coaching position after White’s departure, when Peter de Villiers was handed the post.

Coetzee has guided Western Province and the Stormers to the finals of both the Currie Cup and Super Rugby competitions.

Toetie, as he is affectionately known, has the respect of fellow coaches and players.

His experience within the successful 2007 World Cup setup, and his ability to handle a critical media fraternity, will hold him in good stead.

Rassie Erasmus:

Regarded as a mastermind in SA rugby, Erasmus is respected as one of the country’s greatest tacticians.

He was famously brought in to help the Springboks as a technical advisor before the start of this year’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.

Erasmus won the Currie Cup as head coach of the Cheetahs in 2005 and played a major role in a turnaround for Western Province and the Stormers in recent years in his capacity as director of rugby at the union.

While Western Province have made massive strides, however, becoming a force in Super Rugby and in the Currie Cup, they still don’t have any trophies to show for it.

Erasmus has played down speculation that he will be available to take over the reins of the national side.

Brendan Venter:

A former Springbok centre, Brendan Venter has distinguished himself as one of the leading coaches on the English club rugby scene in recent years.

Venter made an instant impact at London Irish when he coached the side to their first major trophy in 2002.

He had a stint with Saracens as director of rugby, where he was responsible for a resurgence in the club’s fortunes since taking charge in 2009.

Venter coached the team to a Premiership final which ended in defeat in 2010.

He left the club at the end of last year but is still involved as technical director and, combined with Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu, he guided the SA Premier XV to victory over the EP Kings earlier this year.

A controversial figure during his tenure with Saracens, Venter had a number of run-ins with rugby authorities in England.

It is not clear whether he is available for the Springbok coach’s position, but his rebellious attitude towards authority is likely to make him unpopular with the SA Rugby Union.

Gary Gold:

A former Western Province and London Irish coach, Gary Gold has over the past four years formed part of the Springbok management team as scrum assistant under Peter de Villiers.

While Gold is viewed as one of the most astute rugby brains in the country, his involvement with the recent management setup could be seen as a blemish behind his name.

Gold was forwards coach under Brendan Venter at London Irish when the English club won their first major trophy in 2002.

He later took over the reins of the club, until he accepted a coaching job in 2005, and was also part of the Bok setup as a defensive consultant in 2004 and 2005.

Gold’s experience and knowledge of the Springbok structures could count in his favour.

Pundits, however, might argue that the new Springbok management team should start with a clean slate.

Gert Smal:

A former Springbok forwards coach and World Cup winner, under Jake White in 2007, Gert Smal has deflected to Ireland and is well respected internationally.

Smal has a wealth of international experience as an assistant coach and understands the pressures of rugby at the highest levels.

He also worked under Springbok coaches Carel du Plessis in 1997 and Rudolf Strauli in 2003.

The former Springbok flanker discerned himself as a provincial coach when Western Province won the Currie Cup in 2000 and 2001, and he led the Stomers in four Super Rugby campaigns.

Smal has yet to take up a job as head coach of a national side, and returning to his homeland may appeal to him.

He is, however, still under contract with Ireland until the end of the 2013 season, and it is not clear if he will be keen on taking charge of the Springboks.

John Mitchell:

His recent success with the Lions has made John Mitchell the fans’ favourite to become the Springbok mentor, despite joining the chorus of coaches that have said they are not interested in the job.

His record as All Blacks coach was exemplary and the experience he has gained over the last nine years — after was fired as New Zealand coach following the team’s defeat to Australia in the 2003 World Cup semi-finals — would be to the advantage of any international outfit.

Mitchell is, however, unlikely to abandon a group of players that have completed only two thirds of the three-year programme he and his fellow Kiwi coaches have devised at the Lions.

He might, though, be available in an advisory capacity by the time the Springboks travel to London for the next World Cup.

Ewen McKenzie:

Robbie Deans’ decision to extend his contract as Australia’s head coach for another two years could make the prospect of coaching a foreign international team that much more appealing to current Reds coach Ewen McKenzie.

McKenzie had already proved his worth while in charge of the Waratahs, and went on to transform the Reds into a world-class outfit within two seasons.

Though the chances are minimal that he will take over from Peter de Villiers, it would be interesting to know whether such a bold move was discussed by the decision makers at SA Rugby.

EP player wins Unfair Dismissal Case

November 22, 2011

An interesting snippet of information snuck into my in-box from  the South African Rugby Players Association (SARPA) last night …

Private Arbitrator Louis Vermaak has ruled that the dismissal of former EP Kings flyhalf Regardt van Eyck was unlawful and unfair. Van Eyck, whose contract was terminated after just 3 months of playing at the EP Kings due to poor performance, approached the SARPA to challenge this matter on his behalf.

Formerly with Spanish outfit El Salvador, Van Eyck returned to South Africa and signed a two- year contract with the Port Elizabeth based union. After playing a total of around 160 minutes of rugby at his new team, he was brought in front of the provinces’ Performance Review Committee and advised that his services would no longer be required.

Van Eyck then contacted SARPA and the matter was referred to private arbitration. After a lengthy process (starting in June 2010) which required testimonies from the player, coach and prominent rugby analysts the arbitrator ruled in favour of the player.

The arbitrator ruled that the dismissal was NOT fair and also UNLAWFUL. A further ruling included compensation of an amount of R575 000 is to be paid to Mr Van Eyck by the EP Kings within two weeks of the date of the final ruling.

“This is a land mark ruling confirming that a rugby player is entitled to a fair process and procedure when dealing with his performance just like any other employee in the workplace. Hopefully rugby bodies will take note of this decision and we can avoid similar cases”, says Piet Heymans CEO of SARPA.

I have never heard of Van Eyck, let alone seen him play, but an obvious question would have to be why the hell were the Kings fishing for players in El Salvador in the first place? As a union being touted as the rugby development capital of South Africa, the do seem to have spent a fair amount of time fishing outside that much talked about pool of talent …

Regardt van Eyck

Regardt van Eyck

Signed Bok jersey on auction

November 21, 2011

I had the pleasure of being involved in two excellent causes on the weekend …

As the MC/auctioneer, I am very proud to have played a small part in raising over R 43 000.00 for the Chris Burger Petro Jackson fund on Saturday. The men who deserve the shout out though, are the Players4Players team, who put together the barefoot bowls day for this cause … And we had the most awesome time doing it! Seriously – Put it in the diary for next year – www.player4players.co.za … Barefoot bowls with a beer in your hand while raising money for guys who suffer spinal injuries playing our great game.

One auction item will only be finalised this week though … So perhaps we can take the amount raised to over R 50 000.00! Bok forward coach Gary Gold gave us a Bok jersey signed by all the RWC Boks (minus John Smit, as it was signed at the SARU Awards evening when Smit was already at Saracens). And we have decided to keep the bids for this incredibly special item open for the week. SMS your bid through to 083 415 3950. Bids close at 12h00 on Friday, and very single cent raised will go to the Chris Burger Petro Jackson fund …

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Legendary for your bar?

 

And on Friday evening MC’d a very special function … Niall Mellon, a successful Irish businessman, changed his life in 2002 to focus full time on the Niall Mellon Township Trust – http://www.nmtownshiptrust.com, and they are now a significant provider of housing for the poor in South Africa. Better known as the “Irish Builders”, 650 Irish folk raised 4750 Euros each in order to come out to South Africa and build houses in Atlantis. This despite the seriously tough economic climate in the land of the black beer – And they seemed to have a bloody good time doing it. Thank you …

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It's not for sissies ...

 

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Kareoke practice at lunch time ...

 

New varsity Cup points system

November 18, 2011

Varsity Cup are experimenting again … Next year they will be trialing a new points-scoring system.

Thanks to a special dispensation from the International Rugby Board, conversions will be worth three points and penalties and drop-goals will be worth just two points.

So four penalties or four drop-goals will equal one converted try on the scoreboard, the intention being to put the emphasis back on scoring tries to win matches.

Andre Watson makes pretty good observation: “One would think this experiment would definitely lead to more tries… but you’d also imagine that a few more penalties will be conceded on purpose.”

So will this lead to referees getting grumpy and handing out more yellow cards?

I am also struggling to see why so much emphasis was put on the conversion? Would it not have been simpler to have increased the value of the try to six points? Varsity Cup’s Duitser Bosman says they don’t want to downplay the value of having a good kicker … But the reality is that teams will only see the true value of the new points system by scoring tries close to the poles.

If the aim is to see more attacking rugby, and to see more time with ball in hand, perhaps it would have made more sense to reward tries scored out wide the same way tries scored close to the poles will be?

But I like the fact that they are at least trying to encourage try scoring …

The 2012 Varsity Cup Rugby season gets underway on Monday, January 30 with the Varsity Shield, followed by the Cup and Young Guns the following Monday (February 6) and the Steinhoff Koshuisrugby Championships on February 13.

The fixtures for all 2012 Varsity Cup Rugby tournaments can be found on www.varsitycup.co.za.


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