Posts Tagged ‘Schalk Burger’

Give Allister and Stick a sporting chance

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THE appointment of Allister Coetzee and Mzwandile Stick to the Springbok team represents an opportunity to align rugby with contemporary SA. Let’s not blow it.

Both bring considerable social and political capital. Each has proved himself to be a game-changer. At Western Province, Coetzee showed that you could field a team with eight or nine players of colour and still be the best in the country. In his eight years at the helm, he led the Stormers to the top of the South African conference three times, and won the Currie Cup twice.

Almost half the players in Stick’s Under-19 team, which went on to win the Under-19 Currie Cup, were black, most of them from the Eastern Cape.

Neither came from a culture that privileged whiteness, and they gave the lie to the prevailing wisdom in parts of South African rugby: that black players weaken a team and are the tax you pay to appease the politicians.

Stick grew up in a Port Elizabeth township with a mother who frequently struggled to put food on the table. He attended the local township school, and yet still managed to make it to the top, captaining the Sevens team that won the World Series title in 2008-09.

Coetzee grew up in Grahamstown. He has a vivid memory of watching white boys at nearby Kingswood College play rugby with the best equipment, while he had to walk to the much poorer coloured school down the road. His father died while he was very young and his mother struggled to provide for him and his three siblings.

 

 

ALTHOUGH a talented and ambitious scrumhalf, his race precluded him from playing for SA.

Stick and Coetzee reflect the tough life experiences common to the majority of South Africans, and their elevation to the upper echelons of the game must make it seem much more accessible than it has in the past.

Neither has a chip on the shoulder, or sees himself as a victim. Their victory against the odds they were born into shows character and emotional resilience.

These qualities came in handy when dealing with their respective managements.

Stick answered to the deeply dysfunctional Eastern Province Rugby Union, and Coetzee endured eight years of frequently erratic and interfering management under the Western Province Rugby Union.

But the pressures on the Springbok coach, in particular, are way more intense and, without proper support, Coetzee will struggle.

The South African Rugby Union (Saru) has done well to appoint Coetzee and Stick. But it now needs to prove that this is not window-dressing. It needs to give their new Bok coach all the resources he needs to succeed. Otherwise, his appointment will be seen to be a cynical one, setting him up to fail.

Similar privileges to those accorded to Heyneke Meyer would be a good start.

Saru forked out substantial sums at the start of Meyer’s tenure to enable him to bring his own management team from the Bulls. He was then allowed to add more coaches, such as breakdown specialist, Richie Gray.

As yet, Coetzee does not appear to be similarly indulged. There is no evidence that he has picked any members of the team announced on Tuesday.

Given that he has already been disadvantaged by being appointed three-and-a-half months late, Saru needs to do all it can to help him, otherwise it risks being accused of not giving the same opportunities to a black coach as it gave to a white, Afrikaans one.

The corporate world should come to the party: any new sponsorship deals should be predicated on better governance, which would include equal opportunity for all employees, regardless of colour.

There has been talk of the Super Rugby coaches forming a Bok “selection committee”. This must be rapidly scotched. Meyer fought for — and won — the right to have ultimate say over selection. Rightly, he argued that if he were to be held responsible for winning every game, he needed to be able to pick his team.

The Super Rugby franchises need to play their part and put petty provincial rivalry aside.

The initiative introduced in Meyer’s term of systematically resting key Springbok players during Super Rugby must be continued.

Super Rugby coaches should also give more players of colour some proper game time to increase the pool available to Coetzee.

Fans need to give the new coaching team the benefit of the doubt. A bit of generosity of spirit would go a long way. Fans, particularly those who flock to Ellis Park for the iconic All Black derbies, should learn the first verses of the national anthem so that we are no longer subjected to the dramatic amplification of sound when English and Afrikaans verses are sung. It’s not that difficult. Make an effort.

 

 

DESPITE the autumn chill in the air, there is a sense of spring-time, of new beginnings, about rugby. Unlike Meyer, who looked to seasoned troops right from the start of his campaign, Coetzee will have to start afresh. Most of last year’s team have either retired, are approaching retirement, or are playing abroad.

This should not be a problem for Coetzee, who has proved that he is happy to trust youngsters.

Stick is something of a specialist in turning rookies into stars, given his track record with the Eastern Province Under-19s.

Transformation, which is viewed as a burden by Meyer, will come naturally to Coetzee.

At the Stormers, Coetzee displayed the ability effortlessly to forge racially and culturally diverse teams. Boys of colour were given every opportunity, but so were white players. Schalk Burger, Jean de Villiers, Eben Etzebeth flourished in his time, as did Siya Kolisi, Scarra Ntubeni, and Nizaam Carr.

There is a good chance that, with Coetzee and Stick at the helm, the sense of marginalisation that has plagued black Springboks will be a thing of the past. Under Meyer, Afrikaans was used for team talks, which was alienating for black players. The new Bok set-up hopefully will better reflect our diversity of languages.

Stick’s Under-19s also brought a vibrant culture from their Eastern Cape schools — with traditional isiXhosa war and struggle songs borrowed from their elders.

Some infusion of this into Bok culture could only enrich it.

• McGregor is author of Springbok Factory: What it Takes to be a Bok, and a visiting researcher at the Institute for the Humanities in Africa at the University of Cape Town.

* This column first appeared in Business Day

 

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THE appointment of Allister Coetzee and Mzwandile Stick to the Springbok team represents an opportunity to align rugby with contemporary SA. Let’s not blow it. Both bring considerable social and political capital. Each has proved himself to be a game-changer. At Western Province, Coetzee showed that you could field a team with eight or nine […]

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Boks v All Blacks: it’s all in the margins

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Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and young Master Kolisi at their Guildford, Surrey, team hotel ahead of the Boks' semi-final clash against the All Blacks

Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and little Master Kolisi at the team hotel before the Boks’ semi-final against the All Blacks

KEY to the Springboks’ chances of beating the All Blacks in the World Cup semifinal will be the message they are giving themselves. If they were to amass the evidence or listen to an objective third party, they wouldn’t be able to get out of bed on Saturday morning.

The most recent reminder came a few days ago, when the Boks looked in mortal danger for much of the game of repeating their ignominious 2011 quarterfinal exit. A couple of hours later, the All Blacks danced through their own quarterfinal test against France, in total control.

They put in a sublime performance, showing equal mastery of defence and attack. There was never a second’s doubt as to who would rule the night.

Even more dispiriting is a glance of the Boks’ recent record against the All Blacks. In the past five encounters, they have only beaten them once.

In an attempt to counter this, they have come up with a new narrative. The key word is “margin”. We heard it first from Heyneke Meyer in the euphoria last Saturday evening.

“The margins are so small because most of the players play in Europe. There is a lot of IP (intellectual property) going around. Most of the coaches are world-class. We all study each other. Any one of the top eight countries can make it.”

This explanation nullifies the All Blacks’ exceptionalism and makes the field appear relatively even.

On Monday, the new narrative was reinforced by assistant defence coach, John MacFarland: “The last three games we’ve had with them have all come down to one score and one moment, so it’s up to us to produce that on Saturday as well,” he said.

And again by Pat Lambie: “The margins are so small at this level, particularly when you play against the All Blacks.”

I suspect Lambie was trotted out for an interview precisely because he personified the one occasion when the Boks reversed the margin in their favour with his penalty kick from 55m when the Boks were 24-25 down with two minutes left on the clock.

In fact, that win against the All Blacks — last year — was the only one in which the margin really was slim: the final score was 27-25. The other encounters, in which the All Blacks triumphed, were wider: 27-20 at Ellis Park last year: 14-10 in Wellington last year; 27-38 at Ellis Park in 2013; 29-15 in Auckland in 2013.

Reinterpreting these losses as close contests that could have gone either way will boost Bok morale and make the All Blacks appear less daunting.

At Wednesday’s news conference, Meyer repeated the margin mantra. “The margins over the couple of years have been small.”

But he was frank about the reason for stressing this: “We have to believe we can beat them, otherwise we’ll be wasting our time on Saturday.”

There is another subtle emotional shift that is cheering Meyer up. Having Fourie du Preez as captain is taking him back to a happy space.

It was with Du Preez at his side that he built the Bulls from a bunch of losers, languishing at the bottom of what was then the Super 12, into the best team in SA and the first (and only) South African team to win the Super Rugby trophy.

With Fourie, Meyer has experienced winning against all expectations and that is the emotional memory he appears to be invoking now.

“I have worked with Fourie since he was 19,” said Meyer at the post-game news conference on Saturday. “We were in desperation mode.

“Fourie is so driven, probably even more than me! He really wants to win. And his desperation rubs off on the team.”

As with the Bulls of yesteryear, the Boks have experienced a series of humiliating defeats but, phoenix-like, they appear to be rising from the ashes. On Wednesday, Meyer articulated it thus: “We had a very bad start at the beginning of this season. These 23 guys (who will make up Saturday’s squad) have been together under a huge amount of pressure since the beginning of the year.

“We stick together, coming through that adversity.”

It appears that, just at the crucial time, Meyer has found the chemistry he has been hankering after for the past four years: the recreation of the Bulls’ dynamic during the past decade.

Most of his coaching staff are from that era and now his key lieutenant is as well. And the Japan game has given them the excuse to revert to the game that served the Bulls so well: bash, barge and kick.

It helps the Boks’ chances, though, that Fourie du Preez has had international experience since he left the Bulls at the end of 2011.

Since then he has taken charge of his own career, refusing to rejoin a South African club in between Springbok and Japanese commitments. He has the confidence now to experiment, as was evident in the wonderful last-minute try he and Duane Vermeulen engineered, which took the Boks into the semifinals.

Lost (or found) in translation: English commentators call Lood de Jager “Lewd de Jaeger”. Schalk Burger becomes “Shulk”. But the most amusing was probably a Fourie du Preez response to a laboured question by a French reporter after the Wales win. Had the team come up with a name for this brilliantly innovative move so that they would more easily be able to repeat it, asked the Frenchman. No, said Du Preez, I just shouted: Duane, gaan links!

• This column first appeared in Business Day

 

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KEY to the Springboks’ chances of beating the All Blacks in the World Cup semifinal will be the message they are giving themselves. If they were to amass the evidence or listen to an objective third party, they wouldn’t be able to get out of bed on Saturday morning. The most recent reminder came a […]

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All Bok games for 2015 RWC are sold out

News | Non Fiction | South Africa | Uncategorized Comments Off

TICKETS for the 2015 Rugby World Cup will go on general sale tomorrow, but the bad news for South Africans is that every Springbok game is already sold out.

However, some of these tickets will have been block-booked by travel agents for hospitality packages and those that remain unsold will come back onto the market next autumn.

If you want to be guaranteed a ticket, you could opt for one of these packages now, but they are not cheap. SA Rugby Travel, for instance, are still offering packages to pool games and the knockout games.

But just going to the Springboks’ first pool game against Japan in Brighton on September 19 will cost almost R20,000 and to that you have to add airport taxes, which will probably bring it to about R26,000. That covers only the flight and ticket. You still have to fork out for accommodation and travel within the UK.

Packages include tickets to the “bronze final” (the match between the runners-up) and the final, which are going for about R40,000, including airport tax. Again, that is just for a match ticket and a flight.

Meanwhile, the team that will carry our hopes and dreams in September and October next year is being crystallised. This Saturday’s game against Wales will be Heyneke Meyer’s last chance to assess individual players’ capacity to adapt to playing in northern conditions. The contenders for several Rugby World Cup positions look pretty settled but, in others, the competition is still fierce.

Some World Cup veterans currently playing in Japan — including JP Pietersen and Fourie du Preez  — are expected to return to SA next year, which will guarantee them selection.

European-based players such as Francois Louw and Schalk Britz have an edge because they will be familiar with northern playing conditions and the way the laws are applied.

Next year, for the first time, Rugby World Cup squads have been expanded from 30 to 31 to include an extra prop. Judging on previous selections, this is likely to boil down to a 17/14 split between forwards and backs.

The squad will probably include two each in the loosehead and tighthead positions and three hookers. Five players are likely to be chosen to cover the three loose-forward positions.

There are several old-timers and newcomers who could do the numbers six, seven and eight jerseys proud and Meyer will find it hard to choose between them. These positions tend to carry a high attrition rate in terms of injury, so a player’s ability to switch between them would come in useful. Versatility is also important in the back line, which means utility backs are favoured.

Another position that requires plenty of back-up is scrum-half, and usually three are included in the squad.

If the 2015 Rugby World Cup 31 were to be chosen now, this is what it would probably look like:

Loosehead props: Tendai Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane, the latter having earmarked a place after his performance against Italy’s Martin Castrogiovanni.

Hookers: Bismarck du Plessis; Adriaan Strauss and Schalk Britz, largely because of the latter’s experience in playing in the north.

Tighthead props: Jannie du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen, with Frans Malherbe as an outside contender.

Locks: Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and Flip van der Merwe and/or Pieter-Steph du Toit.

Loose-forwards:Incumbents are Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen. But Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee, Teboho Mohoje, Nizaam Carr and Siya Kolisi are all serious contenders. Mohoje can also cover lock.

Scrumhalves: Fourie du Preez, Cobus Reinach and Francois Hougaard.

Flyhalves: Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard.

Left wings: Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo/Seabelo Senatla.

Inside centres: Jean de Villiers, who has also proved himself over the past three years to be the best man to lead the team through the World Cup; and Damian de Allende.

Outside centres: Jaque Fourie and Jan Serfontein.

Right wing: JP Pietersen, and Cornal Hendricks.

Fullback: Willie le Roux and Johan Goosen.

Several of the back line players can cover a number of positions, which increases their value. For instance, JP Pietersen is both wing and centre. Lambie can cover both fly-half and fullback, as can Johan Goosen. Lwazi Mvovo can cover both No 11 and No 15.

Our four pool games are fairly easy. Japan first, which should be a doddle.

Then Samoa in Birmingham, which is dangerous in terms of brutal play. Scotland comes next and a passionate home crowd in the gutsy northern city of Newcastle could spur the Scots on.

And, finally, the US — mighty in the real world but a pushover on the rugby field.

On October 17 come the quarterfinals, when everything could change.

 

*This column first appeared in Business Day

 

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TICKETS for the 2015 Rugby World Cup will go on general sale tomorrow, but the bad news for South Africans is that every Springbok game is already sold out. However, some of these tickets will have been block-booked by travel agents for hospitality packages and those that remain unsold will come back onto the market […]

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