The cat leapt off the sofa in horror – seeking a place of solace whilst my mother looked on wide eyed and in a state of semi-shock. This couch critic travelled to KZN to visit the family home whilst on leave but clearly the old lady was not quite used to my “interactive” manner of watching a rugby game…!
The moment causing this outburst was barely five minutes into the Springbok clash as the All Blacks turned the ball over and had the Boks grasping at thin air as they launched one of their lethal counter attacks starting with their bums very close to their own tryline but as Milner-Skudder pulled off a breath-taking behind the back pass it seemed the first try Kiwi try was on the cards at the opposite end of the field. Fortunately desperate defence kept the South African line in tact but it was a as if the home side was living on the edge for the opening half hour as the world’s best seemed intent on punishing any error to the harshest degree.
It was an opening half filled with the type of superlatives and up and down jumping that my host was certainly not accustomed to. I have learnt over the years to tone down my passionate couch partaking when in the company of friends – especially the female kind for fear of chasing them off. But this was the home I grew up in and it was a team in green in gold in desperate need of a nation unifying performance. I was in full passion mode and the poor cat would not be joining the living room gathering again for the rest of the evening.
THE MARX MISSLE
In Uli Schmidt, Jon Smit and Bismarck du Plessis South African has been blessed with some immense hookers since this critic started watching the beautiful game (yes this is the real beautiful one not that other kicking only version). Without wanting to blow my own horn I have been of the opinion that Marx could not only follow in the footsteps of these heroes but even raise the bar. He has it all; size and power, good in the scrum and an impressive work rate to boot. Having played some rugby away from the frontrow he has great skill for a hooker and on Saturday the Lions man showed his ability at the breakdown with a handful of critical steals.
Marx’s heroics at Newlands was one of the best individual efforts I’ve seen from one single player in a Bok jersey in a very long time. His throwing was spot on and after that his carries were immense. He also did more effective fetching than Francois Louw, Kolisi and Pieter-Step combined. It truly was a one man demolition job and regardless of the fact that he came out on the losing end of things it was a crying shame that the monstrous Marx did not walk away with the man of the match award. It is only consistent perfection at lineout time that stands between Malcolm and being the world’s very best at present. Watch this space people – we have a great in the making here.
In terms of the result let’s get a few things out of the way right now. The All Blacks already had the Rugby Championship crown wrapped up. The Kiwis landed in Cape Town off the back of having done a considerable amount of traveling over the course of the week having played in Argentina the week before. They were also missing one or two regulars like Brodie Retallick and ArdieSavea from the match day squad. Thus lets not quite bring out the champagne just yet – the end of year tour will give greater clarity on where SA rugby is at present. Was this just a desperate fight for survival from a wounded animal backed into a corner or was there some signs of an improved game plan and better execution?
PLEASE TAKE IT FLAT ELTON
Regardless of your opinion on the above matter any South African must have been happy to see the men in green and gold pitch up and play with pride and passion. There was the traditional physicality that is an ingrained part of our makeup and the odd exciting moment at the back.
Talking about the backs it can be said that the South African halfbacks were responsible for gifting the visitors all three their tries. Janjtiesfluffed his line with a poor kick that was charged down, Ross Cronje couldn’t find Skosan with a well weighted pass when needed which resulted in an intercept try and finally it was a Cronje box kicked that missed the mark which saw Damian McKenzie ghost through for the crucial score.
Critics will point fingers but in all honesty – does Toetie really have other potions at present? Cronje has proven himself the best no.9 not only in the country but in general. The only option is to give him time to settle into his international role. At flyhalf Pollard is apparently in need of another patch up job from the Doc (after five minutes on the park!) and it could be detrimental to the bright future of Curwin Bosch to throw him in at the deep-end right now. And please don’t even talk to me about the yo‑yo fat kid Frans Steyn. Don’t get me wrong Jantjies has not converted me just yet but Pollard seems the only viable candidate and first he needs a continued stint on the field. From where I’m sitting the biggest problem with Elton is that it is against his nature to be playing from deep – where the Boks clearly want him – as he is most effective when taking the ball flat and challenging the defensive line.
After the excitement of having a team hosting the Super Rugby final and then the interest (and concerns) with regards to the national side in the Rugby Championships there has been the general feeling that the Currie Cup has been very low key this year (the 40 odd people who seemingly pitched up for the Pumas v Griquas game proved this). However the action hots up this coming weekend as playoff spots are up for grabs in the last round of pool matches.
The Lions came roaring back into contention by dramatically overcoming Province at Ellis Park. The young side from Johannesburg is a different animal in Currie Cup mode but they are slowly starting to find their feet in the comp after a slow start. Surprisingly they could even be sliding into second spot if they are able to overcome the Free Staters this coming weekend.
An interesting sub note to this clash is which side the men from Bloem will be rolling out. With no Pro14 responsibilities until the 28th of the month one expects the Cheetah “A” team to be thrown into domestic action. With the Cheetahs and Lions facing off the road has been cleared for the Bulls to snatch fourth spot – all they need to do is beat the Pumas at Loftus.
Lastly Western Province are certain of continuing on in the competition but will need to travel to Durban and stop the high-flying Sharks to ensure they book a home semi final at Newlands. This will be a monumental task for John Dobson’s chargers since the Natalians have gone 10 in a row after losing in the very first match of the tournament. The Sharks will be in no mood to give up any of their momentum by losing focus for this clash and should approach the game fully switched on. On the topic of the table toppers it does seem a touch unfair to the KZN side that they still need to play a semi-final in a few weeks’ time considering their total dominance with a 15 log point lead on the table. In a seven team, home and away format there should at most surely only be a final played.
Shark fans will be nervously hoping that a John Mitchell led Bulls, a flamboyant young Province team or the Lions on a perfect day don’t trip them up in one of the knock out games after the supreme season they have enjoyed thus far in Currie Cup 2017.
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…
This Blog is brought to you by leading South African bookmaker World Sports Betting – click here to “Bet with the Best”
Don’t miss the trademark Goodforthegame Betting Previews for this coming weekend