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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

 

Bermuda Rugby World Classic


The tiny nation of Bermuda sits perched upon the top of a 15 000 foot atoll, it's pink beaches lapped by azure and turquoise waters. The temperate year round weather has ensured it has become a magnet for the well heeled tourist to indulge in snorkelling, diving, golf or spending lazy days on secluded beaches. Or, indeed, to participate in what has become unofficially regarded as the Senior's Rugby World Cup! A group of islands off the east coast of the United States that remained uninhabited from it's discovery in 1503 until 1609 then becomes a mecca for rabid rugby fans in search of yesterday's heroes and the opportunity to sink a few pints with like minded hedonists from around the world.

The 2005 Bermuda World Rugby Classic didn't disappoint! From the return of the defending world champions, yes, our very own beloved GreyBokke, to the mighty All Blacks, they came flooding in from all corners of the globe.

The tournament, costing $900 000 to stage, was held from November 6th to the 13th and the fans were not to be disappointed with the quality of players on offer.

The line from the country song 'I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once as I ever was' is very fitting for the World Rugby Classic.

With the likes of Kenny Logan, Philippe Bernat-Salles, Raphael Ibanez, Deon Kayser, Naka Drotske, Werner 'Smiley' Swanepoel, Rassie Erasmus etc. taking part this year they were never likely to disgrace the past greats who have participated in their time.

Names such as Willie John McBride, Clive Woodward, Olivier Roumat, Matt Dawson, David Campese, Mike Gibson, Rob Andrews, Jeremy Guscott, Andy Irvine, Jonathan Davies, Gareth Edwards, Fergus Slattery, JPR Williams, Danie Gerber, Francois Pienaar, Joost Van Der Westhuizen, Phil Kearns, Phillippe Sella, Jean Luc Sadiurney and Andy Haden are just some of the great players who have appeared from a total of over five hundred internationals from seventeen countries over the years.

Francois Pienaar captained a star studded Springbok team to victory last year and it was going to be interesting to see if the 2005 vintage could emulate their predecesors.

The tournament kicked off with the reigning champs, with player/coach Rassie Erasmus, facing up to the mighty Cannucks. As we have come to expect, Canada were physical and threw everything into the match upfront but with the Boks willing to spin the ball out wide at every opportunity, and with genuine pace merchants in the back three, the pace of the game eventually took it's toll on Canada with the Boks running out 33-0 winners.

The other opening round matches featured France facing an extremely fit and physical Argentinian team, the Lions taking on the USA and the All Blacks facing their old foes, Australia.

There was to be no lack of tactical acumen running around considering the AB's are coached by Andy Hadyn, the Lions by JPR Williams, the Australians by Mark Ella and the Boks by Rassie Erasmus.

THe Pumas/Les Blues affair was every bit as bruising as when their contemporaries play but the fitness of the Pumas saw them prevail in the end. The US put up a mighty struggle but failed to subdue the Lions and the Wallabies were visibly jubilant in beating their Trans-Tasman cousins.

It should be noted though that the All Blacks are the only team that really still play to the old ethos of the tournament, they never kick for posts and they field some players well past their prime. Had they chosen to go for goals they would have snuck through. A jaw clenched Andy Hadyn left little doubt what he thought of the trend towards taking the tournament seriously but acknowledged that it is the way of the world. Mark Ella couldn't hide the satisfaction he felt on once more putting one over his illustrious rivals.

The opening round results then matched up South Africa with the Lions and the very impressive Argentinian team against the Wallabies.

Your correspondent was nervous, the Lions had arrived the night before their first game and were clearly intent on enjoying the post prandial entertainment available but still looked formidable and the lightening fast Kenny Logan, with 70+ caps had just joined them. Logan, it will be remembered, had featured in a star studded all conquering Wasps team last year, led by Lawrence Dallaglio.

My nerves were unneccessary and the mighty Boks were simply too strong for the tiring Lions but it was an intensely physical match with no quarter asked or given.

It should be noted at this stage that one player had already broken his leg, another his hand and the doctors were getting plenty of stitching practise. As Rassie said, "I ran out planning to just be a link in the backs but within 5 minutes the old competitive juices were flowing and you can't help yourself".

In the other semi-final the awesome Pumas were too strong for a star studded Australian outfit and their superior fitness and preparation saw them through to a fine victory.

Naka Drotske was visibly excited about making the final, "I can't believe it, what a year, first the Currie Cup and now this".

THe evening of the final was attended by a sell-out crowd in somewhat inclement weather with a strong wind blowing straight down the pitch. The Boks had no hesitation in playing with the wind on winning the toss from Derek Bevan and proceeded to put a five pointer up quite quickly. Any thoughts of a runaway victory were soon to be banished however as a strongly mauling Pumas team rolled over for a classic pushover try.

With South Africa constantly attacking the Pumas line to no avail one started to feel a tad uneasy as half time drew near. The wind had made it impossible for the Pumas to get out of the their halffor the majority of the first 30 minutes. Would the Boks fare any better?

The rules of the tournament are fairly basic;

Must be over 33 years old.
Uncontested scrums.
No penalty kicks for goal.
Unlimited reserves and substitutions.

Rassie, who was unavailable through a hand injury, rang the changes at half time and Naka gave the boys a stern talking to and they looked determined as they ran out into the teeth of a strong gale for the second half.

Most pundits in the crowd, whilst acknowledging the strength of the Boks, were inclined to favour the fit Pumas taking the match.

Well,it was not to be and the Boks tackled the wind with classic tactics, standing close and running the ball out at every opportunity. Stretched nerves were alleviated by a Deon Kayser intercept who promptly fed out to his supporting players with a resultant length of field score under the sticks.

This seemed to enervate the Boks who went on to score twice more and put the game out of doubt although the Pumas did score a well deserved consolation try towards the death.

So the mighty Springboks achieved a fabulous back to back tournament victory, a feat last achieved by the Lions in 1997/98!

Well done Rassie, well done Naka, well done Springboks!!!

Previous winners of the Classic:

1988 Wales
1989 New Zealand
1990 New Zealand
1991 New Zealand
1992 New Zealand
1993 Classic Barbarians (Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
1994 New Zealand
1995 New Zealand
1996 New Zealand
1997 Classic Lions (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales)
1998 Classic Lions
1999 Argentina
2000 South Africa
2001 Classic Lions
2002 Classic Barbarians
2003 France
2004 South Africa

Comments:
wpw loves souped up citi golfs

Damn what a quaint story this is.

Brilliant.
 
I recall a few years back, the 1995 Boks played a game against the 2000 Lions team

Anyway, thye older guys really showed up for the game and one could see that although they lacked the pace of the full strength Lions, thye old Boks still had all the street smarts.


My friend Carel and I followed this up by watching my video of the final again and getting snot flying drunk, recelebrating.

We should make it a Ruggaworld imperative that we attend this festival. It sounds as hedonistic as one of StP's cruise ship stops in Brazil!!!!
 
Mnnmm

Ras- this is not a cut & paste jobbie- so youactually attended?

the plot thickens-
 
davidS
whats wrong with a car being souped up?
i dont really dig golf's but Opel and Toyota...
 
ah what a brilliant article. i love stories like this, like naka said, what a year for the states!!!

well done to our boys!

tx for the story Ras.
 
OO,

Nope, it's not a cut and paste.

It's the fruits of your correspondent's hand!
 
Rasp

Did you attend?
 
As much as I'd love to say I was, I wasn't!

I did catch the tournament on Sky last night though, wasn't sure how much you guys would have known about it so decided to post.
 
I've heard of it before.

I understand it's actually just aget together of the old players to a massive piss up of note
 
Nope, David, that's why I was trying to kill that impression somewhat.

The trend is towards taking it more seriously. That's partly our 'fault'.

This is vigorous, no holds barred rugby, it's not soft old men out for a runaround.

There were hand-off's to the jugular, punch ups, broken limbs, stitches galore and entering the ruck with aggression.

Believe me, we wouldn't want to play.

I suspect it is moving more and more towards a kind of after life for the world's best. They lowered the age limit from 35 to 33 to improve the quality.

They had record corporate interest this year.

It's a not-for-profit company and it is a jol for players and fans alike but make no mistake, they go out to win.

That's why I mentioned the AB's manager bewailing the changing nature of the tournament.

Put it this way, it's bloody absorbing to watch.
 
Oh, by the way, the Australian player/manager was...*drum roll*..none other than our very own Tiaan Strauss.  
It's actually sad that what started off as a piss up get together for the world's greats has now become serious again....


Tiaan should have been turning out for us.
 
When I say 'our fault', I mean the Golden Boks.

They took it very seriously last year and won.

Okay, this year they did include Etieene Fynn....;-), who did an admirable Buddha impression but they still took it seriously.

Even the guy who started the tournament 20 odd years ago reckons the possibility is strong that it will keep evolving.
 
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