With the Aussies trailing 13-7 after just over 30 minutes of play this critic left his seat to get his first amber coloured drink of the day. Surely the writing was on the wall for this contest I thought as I poured the liquid gold into my favourite mug (yes it does have a Sharks emblem on it).
Till that point the Wannabees had mustered one try and it came from an intercept. They had not had a set piece within 40 meters of their opponent’s line. The wet conditions suited the All Blacks as their superior handling skills are usually an even bigger advantage in tricky circumstances. A slightly slippery ball also often turns the game more into a forward orientated arm wrestle – and in the case of All Black forwards against the Aussie “big boys” it’s almost equivalent to a house kitten looking for trouble with a Lion.
To my disbelief the home side hung in. Their forwards weren’t quite bullied the way I was anticipating. The less than ferocious felines I was expecting were in fact scratching and clawing with everything they had in them. The conditions actually seemed to suit the men in yellow as they threw everything at their illustrious visitors at the tackle and breakdown. All of a sudden the men in black seemed to have feet of clay as they made a few errors and lacked their normal superior intensity.
Make no bones about it; the All Blacks were under strength without Beauden Barrett and Brodie Retallick. The dead-rubber Bledisloe Cup game came at the back end of a demanding international season which included three tough British Lions tests as well as a (much less tough of course) Rugby Championship campaign so a Kiwi loss can be forgiven. This critic has however been telling everyone who was willing to listen that the black clad bruisers were not unstoppable. The Lions gave them a difficult time and both the Aussies and Boks at times had NZ in tough spots. Yes there was the first half display in Sydney and the half century against the Green and Gold in Albany but these boys are beatable I tell you.
IT’S FINALLY FINALS TIME
Having traded my seat on the couch for the bushveld the last week or so I had regained my appetite for rugby and was looking forward to the local Currie Cup semi-final clashes. I had been quite vocal that the dominance of the Sharks in the regular round robin stage should have offered them the reward of not having to play a semi-final clash as well. Surely in a competition with seven sides playing each other on a home and away basis the hierarchy has been very much established and earned by the time the regular matches end. Why should the Natalians have had to play the Bulls for a third time (and a fourth or fifth in total taking into account Super Rugby as well) just to have the “right” to play in the final? If you want to include semi-finals then you need to either shorten the comp or add additional teams. The pathetic attendance numbers at games also prove that there is just way too much rugby at present.
Be this as it may the Sharkies did the business against Mitchell’s merry men. The Bulls are certainly starting to find their attacking flair under the mercurial New Zealander and one looks forward to seeing what he can do with the assets at his disposal going forward. I did however see that he stated in one Sunday paper that he thought the semi in Durban was test-match-like. Dear John, if that was a test match it was certainly not one involving the All Blacks or England. The defence from both sides was rather poor and as can be expected there were errors aplenty from some of the youngster as well.
If the Durban semi-final disappointed somewhat in terms of the quality of play then the Cape Town clash had this critic longing back to the bush! The Lions spotted in the Kruger Park gave me much more joy than the pride (not the feeling but the group name for the animals) that ran out onto Newlands on Saturday.
Swys de Bruyn’s chargers seemed a mere shell of the version we saw in Super Rugby. Jaco van der Walt at ten was poor. Outside him the likes of Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Harold Vorster, Skosan and Coetzee couldn’t get in the game. In fairness Janse van Rensburg has been a shadow of his impressive self seen earlier in the year and he certainly hasn’t knocked the Springbok door down since returning from injury. Most disappointing of all, the forward pack of the Lions came second on the day against a solid Province eight.
Wilco Louw should not only get his passport ready but go as far as getting his measurements down for tailoring the number 3 jumper to his exact specifications for the end of year tour to Europe. Ruan Dreyer is no test tighthead and the selectors should have realised that by now (one can only hope). The tall timber of Shickerling has also been a big part of WP’s success and it promises to be a battle of the skyscrapers when he goes head to head with Ruan Botha in the final next weekend.
Robert du Preez has not yet converted this critic but he is offered the platform to do so in Durban next Saturday. He has certainly proven to be a tad more steady and reliable than the freakishly talented Damian Willemse at ten. With the Province pivot on route back to KZN a brilliant side-plot will be in play for Du Preez(even more so than the family bragging rights at stake). Curwin Bosch has taken the SA rugby landscape by storm and rather than wondering whether he will become a big, special player for the Boks the more relevant question is in which position he should be making his fast strides to stardom.
Since leaving the province as a talented youngster looking to escape the shadow of Patrick Lambie there is now a new young golden boy emerging in Sharks country and he could yet again find himself down in the pecking order. The prodigal son shouldn’t expect a fireworks and a feast waiting for him but should he over-shadow the under 20 Springbok at Kingspark it will go a long way in convincing dad that Bosch is perhaps better at the back.
Relaxing in the African bush was great but the SA rugby jungle should provide enough entertainment over the next few weeks as we wait to see who is crowned local champions as well as holding thumbs that Allister Coetzee and his selectors don’t miss the opportunity of rewarding performance and harnessing potential with the selection of the next Springbok squad.
On this last note my moan of the week is aimed at SA Rugby. The Sharks preferred Franco Marais to start with Akker van der Merwe off the bench for the Currie Cup semi-final. Now people might say that the Shark’s coach opted for continuity since those two were a more permanent part of the Shark’s Currie Cup squad – yet since the signing of the impressive Van der Merwe my thought has always been how the union was going to pull off the juggling act they have created for themselves. Ralepellerecently over took Mbonambi to be seen as the “number two” number 2 in die country in the eyes of the national selectors yet he quite clearly is seen (quite rightly in my mind) as only the third best hooker in KZN! Surely this highlights the fact that something is fundamentally not right with how sides are selected to represent South Africa.
The SA game is in no small way handicapped by this situation in my view.
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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