Congratulations to the All Blacks (and Conspiracy Theories)

Well, Rugby World Cup 2011 came to an end on Sunday when the All Blacks defeated the brave French 8 – 7.  The only difference being a penalty that Stephen Donald got over.  Or did he?

Before we go any further – let me say congratulations to the All Blacks for winning the World Cup.  The New Zealand public had been building the pressure on their team for 24 years since the last time they won it.  But then I’m going to add a caviate to my congratulations and say they deserved to win, but maybe they had a hand from the referees in being able to win.

People can say that the South African public like to believe there is a conspiracy theory against the Boks all they want but this game didn’t involve the Springboks. The referee was South African though but reports to a New Zealand boss.

There have been so many games in this Rugby World Cup where the referee had a direct influence on the result of the match that there are many people questioning whether the whole result was rigged right from the beginning.

The Springboks came into the World Cup on the back of a victory against the All Blacks.  Their first game was against the Welsh which we narrowly won by 1 point.  I can’t remember the score but the game was close.  Many people wrote the Springboks off as a team that wouldn’t trouble the All Blacks when the time came.  But then the games against Fiji and Namibia came and going into the last week of round robin play in the pools arrived and the Springboks had a better points difference than the might All Blacks and the All Blacks messiah, Dan Carter, was ruled out of the rest of the tournament with a groin injury.  The last game against Samoa was a scrappy, niggly affair where the referee turned a blind eye to the intimidation and off-the-ball tactics of the Samoans who were more interested in picking a fight than playing rugby.

The Springboks lost their biggest asset in the backline, Francois Steyn, to injury from the game for the rest of the tournament.  Due to Australia losing to Ireland in their pool, they were destined to meet South Africa in the quarter finals.  Many said that Australia had lost due to the incompetent handling of the scrum by Bryce Lawrence (remember the name).  Bryce even came out after the game and admitted that he had been poor in his handling of the game.

Bryce’s father, Keith Lawrence, had a bit of a brain fart in the nineties when as a referee he sent an e-mail to the Australian referee association (and copied in the South African referee association) saying they needed to “teach the Japies (South Africans)” a lesson. Bryce comes from such brilliant stock, doesn’t he?

Funnily enough, Bryce Lawrence was appointed to the South Africa/Australia game.  Why would a referee who admitted to being poor be elevated to referreeing one of the biggest games in the tournament?

The South African quarter-final was another poor referreeing performance by the same Bryce Lawrence who allowed the Australian’s David Pocock to spoil and break every rule in the book. Now I don’t blame Pocock – as the fetcher his task is to bend the rules as far as the referee will allow.  Bryce just let him bend them until they were completely broken.  Something he didn’t allow the South Africans to do.

South Africa lost 9 – 11 and were on their way home.  Admittedly, we could have avoided this fate, if we’d only taken one of two penalties in the first half instead of kicking to the corner.

If South Africa was viewed at such a fate, the only other team which had beat the Boks (other than the Australians) would be just as dangerous and that was Wales.  Wales had beaten Ireland to advance to the semi-finals against France.  France, their opposition, had been viewed as a weaker team as they had already lost to New Zealand as well as Tonga.

The referee for the Wales/France semi-final was Nigel Owens. Nigel Owens – the same tosspot who had made such a hash of the South Africa/Samoa game.  He went into the game trying to make amends for a showing which had been too lenient by being far too pedantic.  Eighteen minutes into the game the Welsh Captain, Sam Warburton, carried out a “tip tackle” on French winger, Vincent Clerc.  Did it deserve a card?  Yes.  Did it deserve a red card?  I’m not so sure.

France went on to win the semi-final by a single point and there is no doubt that if Warburton hadn’t been sent off they would have been in the final and viewed as a much harder opponent than France.

The IRB, in my opinion, are a bunch of stuck-up snobs who have different rules for different teams.

England was guilty (and admitted to it) of swopping balls when former wunderkind Johnny Wilkinson was kicking for posts against Romania.  It’s an actual rule in the law book that teams aren’t allowed to do this.  The punishment?  Absolutely nothing.  Why would you punish the country which is really your home base? In the same week, a Samoan player wore a branded mouth guard – his punishment?  A $10,000.  It seems as though the IRB favour money over following their own rules.

The same IRB have also turned the All Blacks into a protected species better than any other team playing the game.  It’s a rule (although God only knows why) that the opposition team has to line up at least 20 metres away from the All Blacks as they perform their dance, the haka.  The French broke this rule when they advanced to the halfway line (10m) during the haka and they were fined  £ 10,000 (that’s £ 1,000 a metre).

So congratulations to the All Blacks for winning the RWC 2011 FINALLY.

And congratulations to Paddy O’Brein and the rest of the referees in ensuring they did.



Ban the Haka?

The 2011 Rugby World Cup is a mere 27 days away (at the time of writing) and excitement levels are building. People in the North might like you to believe that teams like England and France have a chance of actually winning it this time around but let’s be honest: there are only three teams capable of lifting the William Web Ellis trophy on 22 October 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand and that’s the Tri-Nations countries of New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

The SANZAR deal has provided South Africa and Australia the opportunity of regularly playing in New Zealand for the last 15 years. Both teams know how to play in the Land of the Long White Cloud and win there.  Northern Hemisphere teams have a torrid time of it down in the Antipodes. South Africa has beaten New Zealand (the All Blacks) in New Zealand in 2008 and 2009. What are the chances of the Boks pulling off another infamous victory?

But this isn’t about the World Cup (yet), this is about the suggestion of ex-Wallaby Greg Martin to ban the All Blacks haka (pictured right). His reasoning is that it provides the All Blacks with physical superiority because of the war dance. I don’t believe for one instant it provides them with a physical advantage. My belief is that it provides the ABs with a psychological advantage over their opponents. Especially since rulings which started last year that teams are not allowed to do anything else other than simply stand and watch the haka. Opposition teams who have turned their backs on the haka have been fined for their disrespect.

This smacks of favouritism in my eyes. Altering rule books to allow one team to have to face a challenge in a certain way is an abuse of power [Psst, the person who passed such judgement is the head of referees, one New Zealander named Paddy O’Brien]. Conspiracy theory? Maybe.

Under the current “legislation”, the Springboks facing down of the Haka at the 1995 World Cup Final as a team while the ABs performed the war dance would have been fined.

Do I agree with Mr Martin?


BUT, I believe that if the haka is allowed then every team facing it should be allowed to face it as they wish, even if it means the Scots wearing kilts and mooning the ABs at the end.

The ruling to allow the haka and favour one team over all others is pure discrimination.

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