What a bizarre weekend of rugby it was. The Aussies felt the wrath of the rugby gods, the All Blacks came within 10 meters of losing to Scotland and the Springboks actually managed to win a test away from home. Crazy times indeed.
I have always been quite vocal of my dislike for all things Aussie. Yet nothing gives this couch critic more of a moral dilemma than when the men from down under clash with the English in the name of sport. In the one corner you have the bashful, rude, over-the-top, load mouthed kangaroo huggers but opposing them are the cocky, nose in the air, stiff upper lip, pompous Poms who walk around with a chip on their shoulder because they “civilised” the rest of us and brought rugby and cricket to our shores. Picking which one to cheer is like having to choose between flat draught beer or warm beer – either one sucks.
There are a few common quotes which just crawl up my spine in the wrong direction.
- “They won because they wanted it more”– seriously if results in sport were determined purely be one’s desire I would have enjoyed more success than Don Bradman on the cricket field, Michael Phelps in the pool and Tiger Woods on the golf course (and Hugh Hefner in the bedroom).
- A cricket commentator chirping in when a batsman is dismissed for a duck: “he didn’t bother the scorers”. You still have to write down the zero, any balls the batsman faced, method of dismissal, time at the wicket, etc. The fact that the batsman is dismissed is in fact already a “bother” to a scorer as it involves a heck of a lot more writing than a dot ball!
- The one side “didn’t deserve to win”. If you scored more runs/goals/points you deserve it I tell you, and so does the scoreboard.
- “The bounce of the ball just didn’t go our way”. This was one of my all-time bugbears in rugby. But on Saturday at Twickenham I finally came to realise that this can in fact ring very true.
With less than a dozen minutes to play at Twickenham the Aussies finally produced a moment of razzle-dazzle to break open the English defence and cross the whitewash for a try which would surely leave the game all square with ten minutes left to play. And having overcome two yellow cards and one of the strangest moments of a rugby ball refusing to do what 99.9% of anyone watching was expecting, the Wallabies very much deserved (yes, yes I know refer to point number 3) to be back at level pegging after some miserably unlucky moments earlier in the game.
But alas it was not to be for the visitors from the Southern Hemisphere. The officials deemed Steven Moore to have gotten in the way and the potential try was disallowed. Ten minutes later the final whistle went and unfathomably the hosts had stretched away to a record margin win over the men from Down Under. It is not in my nature, and I am loathed to admit this, but this critic (in a moment of weakness) briefly felt sorry for the digeridoo playing dingoes. For all the times the likes of Moore, Gregan, White, Hooper and company had nagged at referees and whinged at things not going their way there was probably a good dose of karma due to the men in yellow but the symbolic middle finger that the rugby gods threw their way on Saturday more than balanced out the books.
This critic cannot remember a sporting match where the “rub of the green” went more in favour of one team over another than what the Wallabies experienced against England. Had it not been for the fact that it was another Aussie sitting in the coaching box who was profiting it might actually have been enjoyable seeing Cheika and his gang strike out so spectacularly as the cards just refused to fall their way even once.
SCOTLAND THE BRAVE
In Edinburgh the Scots made the rugby world sit up and take notice. The match should however not only grab the attention because of how close the home side were able to keep the scores but rather the respect and admiration should go to Gregor Townsend’s side for how they played. Not for one moment did the Scots pitch up to try and keep things tight, respectable against the mighty world champions. Instead of “parking the bus”, as the football term puts it, Scotland stuck to their principles of playing attacking rugby. They chanced their arm and had the visitors on the back foot early on somewhat struggling to get to grips with the seemingly unexpected fast attacking play dished up by the hosts.
The All Black defence is almost impenetrable and it certainly needed to be on the night as the local team threw the kitchen sink at the south islanders on attack. In the end their was again enough moments of silky skill and effective execution from the Kiwis combined with that stellar defensive system which saw them able to sneak away with a win. Clearly that Braveheart movie is based on a true story as these Scotsmen put up a brave fight and so nearly made history at Murrayfield with the final play bringing the home side merely meters from what would have been a match winning try.
BUMBLING BOKS BETTER THAN THE CHICKENS
Lastly we had the Boks in Paris. Most South Africans must have wondered whether this game would be worth staying awake for and even after the win there might have been those who felt an extra hour of shut-eye might have been a better option.
For a team determined to right the wrongs of the previous week and possibly giving their all to help save their coach from walking the plank there was still slightly less intensity and ferocity in the performance dished up by the men in green and gold than expected. A high-ball was left to bounce as no one seemed to want to claim it and there was a pathetically soft run past a week Jesse Kriel defensive effort.
But the pack had a decent outing and the loose trio of Kolisi, Louw and Vermeulen was a big improvement from what had gone before them. Pollard was piss poor of the kicking tee but at least offered a bit more with ball in hand than Jantjies. Malcolm Marx is now without a doubt the best hooker on the planet as he put in another monumental effort.
Like the 30 minute max limit notice on the rowing machine at the gym the Springbok wingers are quite often only there for show (seriously who rows for more than 30 minutes??!). On the night Skosan and Leyds did decently when they were fortunate enough to get some ball in hand. Kriel put in a good run or two but the backline as a whole just seems to stutter with him and there must surely be a better outside centre option in South Africa. Francois Venter had a lively game at 12.
In the end it was a clash of two desperate teams with the one more fearful of losing than the other. It was no advertisement for rugby and the Springboks know that they didn’t really win because of a good performance but rather due to the fact that they were slightly less kak than their opponents on the night – excuse my French.
Who is Couch Critic?
Hein Diemont is the resident “Couch Critic” in the Goodforthegame Forum and he shares his weekly Super Rugby Blog the “Post Match Scuffle” or “PMS” with us.
In his blog Couch Critic channels his usual weekend swearing, ranting, cheering, whinging and bickering to the written word. Brutally honest opinions of how the Super Rugby action went down from his perspective – no punches pulled, it’s PMS time…
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