Rugby is becoming so ho-hum

Anyone who follows my blog and knows me, knows that rugby is a large part of who I am. I am a Sharks supporter and I am a Springbok supporter. But 2012 has really changed for me and by that I mean that life has got so busy that there isn’t enough time to do anything which doesn’t add value or provide some sort of entertainment or relief. I will always enjoy my sport but sometimes it is important to separate oneself from constantly watching and to define your own identity without the tag of Sharks/Springbok supporter. If your team loses it doesn’t mean that you are a loser.

The Sharks started 2012 off rather badly and lost several of their matches before they finally turned the corner and started to win and they started to win with the kind of excitement that made rugby entertaining. Keegan Daniel would flick back passes to Paul Jordaan who would cut back through the defence to score a try under the posts. That’s just one example of the kind of entertainment you would get while watching their rugby toward the end of the Super Rugby season. At the end of the season they made it all the way to the Super Rugby Final having to fly back and forth between the Antipodes and South Africa three times to reach that final. If they had won the final it would have been a fairy tale ending because no one had ever been able to do it before.

Did they win? No. They were beaten (and well beaten) by a team that had been the form team of the whole competition at home – The Chiefs. The Chiefs deserved to win and congratulations to them and their fans for the victory. We had just moved into our new house and there was a load of work to do to get everything ready so when it became obvious the Sharks weren’t going to win, I switched off the TV and got to work. There’s just not enough time any more to do anything that doesn’t pay off in the end or entertain.

Besides the Springboks were going to be playing a week or two and if anyone would be able to win, it would be the Springboks. Heyneke Meyer selected the best from the options that he had (well most of the best, but fans are always going to differ with the national selector on who should play) and gave them a game plan. The Springboks won the first match of the new Rugby Championship in Cape Town against the Argentineans 27 – 6. A good decisive win although they only scored three tries and missed out on the fourth try for a bonus point. The game plan was the most sterile, dull game plan possible. Good bye to the adventure and skill from the franchises and hello to the game plan of kick the ball as far and as hard as possible and hope the other team makes more mistakes. The Springboks didn’t deserve to score four tries. And not scoring four tries against an Argentinean team in South Africa was close to sacrilege. Keegan Daniel the creative flanker/eighth man for the Sharks was forced to try and play a bash-it-up, no brain game plan and he doesn’t suit that sort of Neanderthal tactic. Patrick Lambie, one of the most creative and attacking players in South Africa, was forced to sit on the bench and watch the whole fiasco without getting a single minute on the field.

After that game, I resolved that I would not care if I missed the next game against the same Argentineans in Argentina the following week. We had friends over for a braai (barbeque) the next week and I ended up missing most of the game which ended in a 16 – 16 draw and I was fine with it. The coach complained that the players hadn’t followed through with the game plan although it was the same one from the previous week. Patrick Lambie again got to ride the bench for the whole game without setting foot on the field. Keegan Daniel was dropped to the bench before the game to make place for a mediocre crash baller who was average at best I hear. The Argentineans had come ready for the same tired game plan as Cape Town and only a charge down try to Francois Steyn saved the Boks from actually losing.

This weekend the Springboks take on the Australians in Perth, no doubt with the same limp game plan and tired back line. Keegan Daniel was dropped from the Springboks and was instrumental to help the Sharks win in their Currie Cup match against the Cheetahs. Patrick Lambie will no doubt be confined to the best seat in the stadium and watch the sideline while valuable position is hoofed away.

And me? I’ll tape the game while I help my dad build a dining room table and if I hear that the game was worthwhile I might watch it. If I hear that the Wallabies anticipated the game plan and blunted our grunt and beat us, then I can delete it and carry on with my life and not worry that I had just wasted about 100 minutes of my life.


Chilliboy – real player or political pawn?

Lawrence Sephaka (left) and Chilliboy Ralapelle (right).

In some corners, Chilliboy has been touted as the next Springbok captain while in others he is seen as only a political pawn to ensure the Springboks have a certain quota of players of colour. And to be honest, there are moments when the question cannot help but he asked. He is seen as the second choice hooker at the Bulls, behind Gary Botha, who had been in the Springbok frame and gone to the 2007 World Cup but was ousted by Bismarck du Plessis when he was selected as the replacement in the squad for Pierre Spies, the 8th man. Gary Botha signed on for London Harlequins and moved on after the World Cup but Chilliboy was still seen as the number 2 and was pushed back at the Bulls by a converted flank, Derick Kuhn.

Chilliboy is now in the void somewhere between the 2nd or 3rd choice hooker in the Springboks, depending on where John Smit will be playing. But then John Smit himself is an enigma as he is the most capped Springbok captain of all time and can play in all three of the front row (the only player in the world at the moment who holds the distinction – it’s an important fact that not many people seem to grasp). John Smit’s ‘understudy at the Sharks is Bismarck du Plessis, who is seen as being the best hooker in the world at the moment.

John Smit barrelling over a helpless British and Irish Lion

It’s difficult not to believe that Chilliboy shouldn’t start for the Springboks. However, the fact that he doesn’t even start in the Bulls makes it difficult to even believe he should be in the Springbok squad at all. The sad fact is that I believe that Chilliboy can be one of the best in the world if he could get regular game time instead of warming the bench for 99% of the season. There is even some history between John Smit and Chilliboy, who is sometimes seen as the heir-apparent to the Springbok captaincy in the near future. Chilliboy, like John Smit, went to Pretoria Boys High School to play his rugby. But if the rumours are believed, John Smit sponsored his school fees while he was there so he could get a proper education. There is another hooker who learned his rugby at PBHS in the Bulls Squad, Henry Bandjies, so it would appear as though, Pretoria Boys is the school which produces hookers.

Anyone who knows school rugby will know there is a proud tradition of rivalry between Pretoria Boys High and Affies which is basically across the street. As a schoolboy at PBHS you hear of the tradition of rivalry and raids performed by the pupils on the other schools in years gone by. So by the time the big derby comes around, there is a vibe around the school which can only be compared to the week before the Final in the World Cup or Currie Cup. Everyone in the school in psyched up for the confrontation. When John captained the team against Affies, his team lost by record score 63 – 10 or something along that line. When Chilliboy captained the team (in Standard 9), his team was the first team from PBHS to beat Affies since 1981 or somewhere in that vicinity. It was huge and one only had to watch the game to know that Chilliboy was destined for great things.

There were rumours at the end of last year that the Lions were keen on signing Chilliboy and I hoped he would sign and move across the Jukskei. But for some reason he didn’t sign or the Lions never did offer him the position, the hooker behind Chilliboy, Bandise Maku, moved across to the Lions. It wouldn’t surprise me if Maku leapfrogged over Chilliboy into the Springboks while Chilliboy has to be content with sitting on the sidelines.

Unfortunately, at the moment he is only a political pawn but if he could get more consistent game time, he would be able to say he deserved to be wearing the green and gold.

This smacks of double standards…

Over the weekend, the All Blacks (New Zealand) managed to beat the Azurri (Italy) by the smallest of margins 20 – 14. It looks impressing but if you think that a converted try counts 7 points then it is not at all too impressive. Especially if you consider that for the last five minutes the Azurri were camped in the AB twenty-two with reset scrum after reset scrum after numerous penalties were awarded to Italy for the All Black’s deliberately collapsing the scrum.

Nick Mallet, Italy’s coach, was understandably upset that a penalty try was not awarded to Italy and the game won by Italy. But Paddy O’Brien, high-poobah of all referees in the world and a New Zealander (remember that, it’s important) comes out and declares that the Italians were the ones who were transgressing and that the All Blacks should have been awarded the penalties. He even went so far as to criticise the referee for the game, Stuart Dickinson. However, when Eddie Jones the coach of Australia a few years ago came out and publicly lambasted the referee in one game he was fined for speaking his mind.

Roll back to the Tri-Nations. South Africa are in dominance and pummel the New Zealanders into submission with their mauls and are awarded numerous penalties for collapsing the mauls. A week later, the self-same banana declares that South Africa are in the wrong with their mauls.

Or what about the farces which have come to be known as the disciplinary committees in world Rugby. If you’re a South African expect to be banned for three times as long as a New Zealander or Aussie for the same offence. When South Africa protested the ban on Bakkies Botha for a clear-out of a Lions player in a Test back in June, we were banned. Watch a game of rugby – any game and you’ll notice that all clear-outs of a ruck are exactly how Bakkies went in but none of these players are being banned or punished.

Maybe it’s time to breakaway from the farce which is the IRB…

Here’s to starting out

Wow, so many things to say.  First of all, I have never done this before so here’s to starting out.

Shark boys
My son and I wearing the colours of our team, the Sharks

I am a massive rugby fan, particularly of the Sharks and the Springboks (from South Africa).  The Springboks are currently ranked number 1 in the world and are also the current holders of the World Cup.  The Sharks, unfortunately, not so high and mighty.  The Currie Cup final (South Africa’s domestic rugby competition) was over the last weekend and my team weren’t even involved in it.  Everyone had expected them to be there but they had been knocked out in the semis two weeks ago by the Free State Cheetahs, our hoodoo team.

The Springbok squad was also announced on Saturday after the final and there were definitely some bolters in the squad – probably the biggest being the fact that the number 2 and 3 hookers for the Bulls are considered better than the first choice hooker but it’s definitely a political choice and not a merit selection.

There are also plenty of rumors that Heinrich Brussow, the find of 2009 and the player who probably beat us twice single handedly has signed on for the Sharks for next year.  If you can’t beat them, get them to join you…  People will accuse us of buying players but they forget it’s a professional sport and money talks.

I’m the financial manager for  a company which imports the majority of all recreational fishing equipment into South Africa and have been there for almost three months and am really enjoying it so far.

The Family Stokker
Myself, my wife Tarryn and our son showing support for the Boks before they beat the All Blacks

But my real passion is after hours when I can spare the time to concentrate on my dream of becoming a writer.  I have finished my first manuscript, a novel called PECAN HILL, for which I have high hopes.  Unfortunately so far there are no bites from the agents to whom I have submitted, but I have to remind myself that I will eventually get there.  I have to remind myself that everyone struggles to break in and that both Stephen King and Dean Koontz (two of my favorite authors) had their first four books rejected before they sold their first novel.  I’m hoping I don’t need to write another three though.

I’m wrestling with the decision to publish PECAN HILL as an ebook and skip the whole trouble with finding a publisher.  I’ve been looking at what books are being sold as ebooks and they’re all non-fiction, HOW-TO books.  Maybe I’m a little old fashioned with my fiction but I like to hold my books or my ipod if I’m listening to an audiobook.  Speaking of which, I have recently finished Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box and I really enjoyed it, one of the best audiobooks I have listened to.  My next one is Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule.

Bye for now