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Friday, December 30, 2005

 

Rugby Administration: Sail shareholding becomes a target

Border Rugby Football Union has its eye on 24,9% stake

By EDDIE BOTHA

Business Editor - Daily Dispatch

THE MINORITY shareholding of Border Rugby's commercial arm has become a target in the union's leadership struggle.

Border Rugby Football Union (BRFU) interim chairman Cliffie Pringle confirmed yesterday that his management committee was eyeing the 24,9 percent stake which is held by the Sail sports and entertainment group.

Pringle said that the committee, who replaced the former administration under former BRFU president Monwabisi Yako during a vote of no confidence at a special meeting in October, wants to approach TV pay-channel SuperSport to make an offer for the Sail shares.

Last week the Daily Dispatch reported that Yako has served summonses on Pringle and his committee in an effort to convince the Grahamstown High Court to reinstate him as the union president and a director of Border Rugby (Pty) Ltd.

Pringle said the committee last week discussed the matter with its Pretoria attorney Brandon Foot, who represents BRFU in the Yako matter.

"Mr Foot is a director of SuperSport and we have asked him to speak to SuperSport."

Pringle said that Yako was at this stage unaware that SuperSport would be approached.

He said according to a company search which had been done by Foot, Yako was also not listed as a director of Border Rugby (Pty) Ltd.

"Mr Yako believes he is a company (director) and in his capacity as president of the BRFU he should have been one but his executive has neglected to register him as such," said Pringle.

Sail's Barend van Graan, whose group also holds shares in other unions such as the Blue Bulls, said he was also not aware of the latest developments.

Asked to comment, Van Graan said, as a shareholder, Sail's view was that it would not comment about the purchase or sale of shares in the media.

"It is a private shareholders' issue," he added.

Van Graan would also not comment on Yako's status as director.

Pringle said there were rumours Yako was involved with a black economic empowerment group, which had an interest in the Sail shareholding.

"I have been told that the group comprises Yako, (SA Rugby Football Union president) Brian van Rooyen, (former acting chairman of the board of SA Rugby) Gideon Sam and (former SA Rugby chief executive) Rian Oberholzer," said Pringle.

Yako is known to be close to Van Rooyen. After a special Saru meeting in Johannesburg, which Sports Minister Makhenkesi Stofile attended, Saru vice-president Mike Stofile condemned Yako and the BRFU's reluctance to support a motion that Van Rooyen stand down.

Sam, also a supporter of Van Rooyen, featured in the infamous secret Van Rooyen dossier, which has now become a subject of an inquiry to be chaired by Judge Edwin King into the rugby administration.

Sam is chairman of Oberholzer's In-Site Sport (Pty) Ltd, which was heavily involved in the negotiations with Van Rooyen to get competitions such as the Anglo-SA Cup and the Rainbow Cup off the ground.

Pringle said he had discussed the rumours with Yako, who had denied it.

The cellphones of Yako, Van Rooyen and his spokesperson, Andre Bester, were all on voice mail and they did not return the Dispatch's calls.
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Other Unions/ Teams: Leicester's search for a successor to Howard drags on


By Mark Souster
www.timesonline.co.uk


LEICESTER have put back a decision on finding a successor to Pat Howard as head coach until after the new year. The news is an indication of the club’s determination not only to ensure that they get the right man for probably the biggest and most demanding job in English rugby, but also a tacit admission that they may not be entirely convinced of the merits of the three candidates in the frame.

Scott Johnson, the Wales assistant coach, John Kirwan, the former New Zealand wing and Italy coach, and Jim Mallinder, now with the England Academy, have been interviewed, with Johnson seen as the favourite. Kirwan, though, would seem to have the best credentials and pedigree.

The club had expected to make an announcement before Christmas, but that an appointment has not been made a month after the shortlist was drawn up suggests that Leicester could be ready to expand their search.

“That is a possibility, but I am not suggesting that at this stage,” Simon Cohen, the club’s operations manager, said yesterday. “But we have to make sure we have everybody in the net. It is such an important appointment for the club. We are not going to rush this. The whole process takes time.”

With Howard returning to Australia at the end of the season, the club need a period of stability. Whoever takes over will become the fourth coach in three years, a period of upheaval reflected in their comparative lack of success.

Since winning four successive titles between 1998-99 and 2001-02 and two Heineken Cups, Leicester have finished sixth, seventh and first in the Premiership but were beaten in the Grand Final by London Wasps last season. There have also been reports of political factions vying for supremacy at Welford Road, which is understood to have had a bearing on the decision by John Wells, Howard’s predecessor, to leave. He was a huge loss.

While it would be wrong to suggest that Leicester have fundamental problems, by their own high standards cracks are showing. At the top, not everyone would appear to be pulling in the same direction. Certainly they do not have the cloak of invincibility they once did. Like Manchester United they are no longer feared by opponents.

Howard was scathing about the performance of some players in the 15-3 defeat away to Bristol on Tuesday, saying that there were individuals not worthy of the Leicester shirt. While also accepting that he had to take the blame, having picked the team, he intimated that there would be casualties, with some players departing. “I want to leave this club in better shape than when I arrived,” he said.

The away form is poor; the defeat by Bristol was the tenth in their past 13 outings in all competitions. Off the field, the proposal to move to the Walkers Stadium in a joint venture with Leicester City last season never got off the ground. But everything is relative. With their phenomenal support and sound finances, Leicester remain one of the big beasts, if not the biggest, in the Guinness Premiership jungle. They just need a sure hand on the tiller.

Philippe Saint-Andre is certainly providing that at Sale Sharks. They go into 2006 top of the Premiership, on the verge of the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup for the first time and with a squad that is the envy of most clubs. Credit goes to Saint-Andre, who took over as head coach at the start of the 2004-05 season, and Brian Kennedy, the owner, for backing him.

Saint-Andre’s first game was the defeat of Leicester at Edgeley Park, when Sébastien Chabal announced his arrival, one of a clutch of astute signings by the Frenchman, who has proved his coaching credentials time and again with Gloucester, Bourgoin and now Sale. No doubt Leicester would love someone of his calibre at the helm. Maybe even England, too, should consider him as and when Andy Robinson moves on. Pourquoi pas?

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Other Sport: RIP Eddie Barlow

Picture: www.sporting-heroes.net
Source: www.news24.com

Johannesburg - The former CEO of the United Cricket Board, Dr Ali Bacher, on Friday mourned the death of the second great South African cricketer in a month.

South African all-rounder Edgar (Eddie) John Barlow passed away on Friday, December 30 after a long illness.


Barlow suffered a stroke a few years ago and it reduced him to a wheelchair. On Friday he suffered another stroke.

His teammate from the Springbok cricket team of the late Sixties, wicketkeeper Denis Lindsay, died of cancer on November 30.

"If you look at the Sixties - including the 1969/70 tour of South Africa by Australia, it was the most successful decade in South African cricket history," said Bacher, who captained South Africa in the late Sixties. "We beat Australia eight times, here and in Australia.

"In an era that was blessed with some brilliant cricketers - Graeme and Peter Pollock, Barry Richards, Mike Proctor, to name but a few - Eddie's role was probably the most significant, not only because of his outstanding all-round ability, but because of his positive attitude, which permeated throughout the team. It instilled in all of us a feeling of confidence in our own ability, and in the team, and a belief that we could compete with, and beat, the best in the world."

Bacher added that Barlow had played for South Africa under four captains - Jackie McGlew, Trevor Goddard, Peter van der Merwe and himself. "We would get together from time to time, at various cricket functions, and we all agreed that Eddie was a person who gave his captain one hundred percent, every time."

Really rub it in


Bacher recounted a story about the second Test against Australia in Durban during the 1969/70 tour. "We were 622 for nine in the first innings. I wanted to carry on and make 700, and really rub it in, but Peter Pollock and Eddie prevailed on me to declare. I still don't know how he did it, but at tea I received a telegram. It said 'Dear Doc, please give me a bowl. Eddie.' So after tea, I threw him the ball, and in no time at all, he had taken three wickets."

South Africa won the Test by an innings and 129 runs, and Barlow took three for 24 in the first innings, and three for 63 in the second.

Barlow, who was born on August 12, 1940, represented his country from 1961 to 1970, and also played for Transvaal (now known as Gauteng), Western Province and Derbyshire in England during his distinguished career that spanned 21 years.

Nicknamed "Bunter", the bespectacled, slightly chubby Barlow played 30 Tests and scored 2 561 runs which included six centuries and 15 half-centuries. He also took 40 wickets for an average 34.05 runs with the best figures of five for 85.

Superb athlete


Barlow's superb knowledge of the game was recognised when he was appointed to coach Bangladesh in 1999.

"He was a superb athlete," said Bacher. "He played rugby for Transvaal, and if he had continued playing rugby, he may well have gone on to play for South Africa. As a cricketer, he was very successful as player, captain and coach."

He expressed his sadness that two of his teammates, Barlow and Lindsay, had died within a short space of time. "We were a very happy team," he said. "There was a great sense of camaraderie, and a self-belief that we could beat the best, and be the best."

After the cancellation of South Africa's 1970 tour of England, Barlow and Richards joined the replacement Rest of the World side, under the captaincy of Gary Sobers. The Rest of the World beat England four-one in the unofficial Test series. Barlow made 119 at Lords, and 142 at Trent Bridge. He also topped the visitors' bowling averages with 20 wickets at 19.80. At Headingley, he took four wickets in five balls, including a hat-trick.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

 

Brannasnacht: The New Year's Edition


Well, well, well. I don't know if we will have any visitors tonight - except, obviously the couple of die-hards - but we can not go into Brannasnacht without a thread now can we!?

From all of us here at Rugga World, may you all have a wonderful, prosperous, healthy 2006. May all your wishes come true and, of course, may the Springboks destroy everything in their path in 2006.

Although Brannasnacht will start, as usual, at 21h00 CET, we are opening the thread now already for comments for those of you who wish to leave your New Year's wishes here. See you tonight. Hopefully. There must be somebody out there. Somewhere. Please.

Cheers boys and girls.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

 

International Teams: Hopes spring from annus horribilis

www.rugbyheaven.smh.com.au

If in 2007 the Wallabies claim their third World Cup, 2005 will be remembered as the year Australian rugby had to have.

Until then it can only be viewed as a year of turmoil, unsatisfactory results and ultimately upheaval in the upper echelons of the game.

Eight losses in the past nine Tests, the sacking of national coach Eddie Jones and the decline of two of Australia's three Super 12 sides suggest as much.

Yet as unflattering as the picture is, it remains incomplete.

Who takes over the Australian side is the big question of 2006; what that person can do for the Wallabies in about 18 months before the World Cup, more pertinent still.

For a new coach the quandaries are many.

Finding the right halfback to replace the out of sorts George Gregan and unleashing the real potential of the Wallaby backline should be high on the list.

Higher still is the need to find two props.

As it turns out the responsibility for all this may end up on the shoulders of a former quality frontrower.

Auckland's David Nucifora and former Reds mentor John Connolly are both in the frame for the vacant Australian coaching role but it's Ewen McKenzie who'll start as favourite for the position.

The NSW coach and former Australian prop took the Waratahs to their first Super 12 final in 2005 and he has worked as an assistant coach in the Australian set-up previously.

Test rugby

It had all started routinely enough for the Wallabies in 2005.

Home victories against minnows Samoa and Italy were followed by a scratchy win over France and a rousing defeat of the Springboks.

The Wallabies went to South Africa with their chins up looking for a first win on the Highvelt since 1963 but came home with their tails between their legs.

There were consecutive Test defeats and a nightclub fracas, which resulted in back-up halfback Matt Henjak being sent home and fines being handed out to Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri and Matt Dunning.

Worse was to come.

As the Tri-Nations unravelled the Australians' injury toll began to mount - at one stage 17 players were unavailable for selection - and the Wallabies went on to lose two more Tests against New Zealand and another against the South Africans to suffer their first whitewash in the competition.

The spring tour to Europe brought with it no relief, three losses in four Tests including the ultimate indignity for a forward pack - the declaration of non-contestable scrums during the loss to England - left Jones in an untenable position.

His abysmal record playing the top four nations overseas - two wins from 15 since he took over from Rod Macqueen in 2001 - left many wondering how he could possibly lead Australia to World Cup glory in France.

Jones was subsequently sacked by ARU chief executive Gary Flowers before the coach had a chance to present to the board.

While many reputations were savaged on and off the field in 2005 with the likes of Gregan, props Bill Young and Al Baxter and centre Stirling Mortlock expected to struggle to crack future national teams, a few will be at the vanguard of Australia's push towards 2007.

Fullback Chris Latham had his second consecutive outstanding season, outside back Drew Mitchell showed poise and promise in his first international season and Tatafu Polota-Nau may well find himself wearing the Australian No. 2 jumper by the World Cup.

And Nathan Sharpe's reputation was enhanced with his second Rugby Medal for Excellence, voted on by his peers.

But Australia's minor achievements paled next to the success of New Zealand this year.

The cynics might suggest the All Blacks are again peaking superbly midway through a World Cup cycle but with such irresistible form and the deepest of squads, New Zealand will be the team to beat in 2006.

Their Tri-Nations series victory was capped with Grand Slam success over the home countries in Europe in a year that included just the one loss - to South Africa in Cape Town.

The cream for the Kiwis was the surprise November 17 announcement that they'd beaten warm favourite South Africa and Japan to be named host of the 2011 World Cup.

That vote in turn played its part in further upheaval for Australia with ARU chairman Dilip Kumar resigning after backing Japan, earning the wrath of the Kiwis and then subsequently a number of his board members. He was replaced at the helm by Former Wallaby Ron Graham.

With a monster forward pack, the Springboks (eight wins, one draw, three losses in 2005 Tests) showed they could mount a serious challenge for the 2007 version of the event; Wales had their moments with a 2005 Six Nations triumph and France recorded wins over the last three World Cup winners in England, Australia and South Africa.

Super 12

The new season brings with it a new competition as Super 12 moves to a 14-team format in 2006.

Perth-based Western Force and South Africa's Central Cheetahs fill the two new spots but may struggle initially against the established franchises.

The Force have at least recruited well in the coaching ranks with former All Black mentor John Mitchell steering the nascent team while the Bloemfontein based Cheetahs had to deal with the wranglings of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and only got full confirmation of their inclusion in the competition in June.

They'll be up against the established order in 2006 and of that group it is hard to go past the NSW Waratahs after their breakthrough 2005 season.

Under the stewardship of McKenzie the perennial underachievers reached the Super 12 final, going down to the dominant southern hemisphere team of the past decade, the Crusaders, 35-25.

With Dan Vickerman and the now departed Justin Harrison ruling the lineout, first year wing sensation Peter Hewat finishing the top point scorer and the likes of Tuqiri and Mat Rogers there to add the final touches the Waratahs at last converted promise to results.

But for a bizarre decision to go for a penalty goal instead of having a tilt at a fourth try and bonus point in the ultimate round of competition, the Waratahs may have found themselves hosting a home final against the all-conquering Crusaders.

Instead they travelled to Christchurch and went down to a team that claimed its fifth Super 12 title and sent champion halfback Justin Marshall out a winner.

For the other two Australian franchises, life was a lot tougher.

Laurie Fisher may have inherited the 2004 champion Brumbies but it was a dual-edged endowment.

The names such as Gregan, Stephen Larkham and George Smith may have still been there and injuries were always a factor but they still looked and played like a team past their best as the competition unfolded.

Five wins saw them finish in fifth and they may struggle to do much better next year.

It was a horrid year for the Queenslanders who finished 10th, suffered their first Super 12 loss to NSW and got in early to tell coach Jeff Miller he wasn't required after his contract expires at the end of 2006.

Among others they lose captain Nathan Sharpe to the Force and Sailor to NSW and with them it seems any real prospect of the Reds being amongst the achievers of the new competition.

Of the other teams South Africa's Bulls continued their steady rise to finish third in 2005 and the Hurricanes showed great depth to make the semifinals.

With Nucifora in charge the uber-talented Auckland Blues should be up there battling with them for a finals tilt next year.

AAP
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Other Unions: Bold Gloucester push Wasps all the way

Source: www.timesonline.co.uk

London Wasps 32 Gloucester 25

LONDON Wasps continued their good form with a deserved, if hard-fought, win over Gloucester at the Causeway Stadium yesterday to keep the pressure on Sale Sharks at the top of the table.

Gloucester have never won away to Wasps in the Premiership and again they headed home with just a bonus point. The visiting team took the game to the champions in the second half but Lawrence Dallaglio, the Wasps captain, was quick to play down an apparent “gouging” incident by Andy Hazell, the Gloucester flanker.

Dallaglio was left with bruising to his face, but he dismissed any suggestion of foul play. Last week Wasps players were accused by the Llanelli coaching staff of targeting the face of Simon Easterby, the Llanelli flanker. “I don’t know what happened,” Dallaglio said. “I can still see and I am not going to worry about it. Rather like I didn’t gouge anyone last week, I suspect no one gouged me this week.”

Wasps got the flying start they wanted as John Hart went over from close range and surfaced with the ball and the five points. Peter Richards, the Gloucester scrum half, had already been sent to the sin-bin for deliberate offside.

Quick hands from Eoin Reddan and Alex King gave Paul Sackey the freedom of the Gloucester defence and he took full advantage to glide through and score. Sackey showed more of his pace down the right wing before the ball found its way into the safe hands of Simon Shaw, who ran in the third try.

Gloucester fought back, showing heart and skill, to send Ludovic Mercier over for a try under the posts. Josh Lewsey, though, restored the gap with a try that earned a bonus point at the end of the half. Gloucester came out much the brighter in the second half, and once Tim Payne had been sent to the sin-bin for taking out Alex Brown in the lineout, they made the most of it.

Pressure from Gloucester at a scrum five metres out forced Wasps into conceding a penalty try and at 29-20 it was game on again. Mark van Gisbergen slotted his first penalty of the game to extend the lead to 12 points, but good work from Olly Morgan, finished off by Paul Bailey, put Gloucester within a converted try of securing a draw. It was frenetic stuff in the closing stages, but Wasps stood firm. Dean Ryan , the Gloucester head coach, said: “I’m proud of a side that pushed Wasps all the way. I think we showed what we were about in the second half.”

SCORERS: London Wasps: Tries: Hart (7min), Sackey (10), Shaw (19), Lewsey (40+1). Conversions: King 3. Penalty goals: King (14), Van Gisbergen (67). Gloucester: Tries: Mercier (23), Bailey (74). Conversions: Mercier 1. Penalty goals: Mercier 2 (9, 40+5) .

SCORING SEQUENCE (Wasps first): 7-0, 7-3, 12-3, 22-3, 22-10, 29-10, 29-13 (half-time), 29-20, 32-20, 32-25.

LONDON WASPS: M van Gisbergen; P Sackey, J Lewsey, S Abbott (rep: R Hoadley, 68min), T Voyce; A King (rep: A Erinle, 55), E Reddan (rep: M Dawson, 40); A McKenzie (rep: J Dawson, 80+2), R Ibañez (rep: J Ward), T Payne (sin-bin, 45-57), S Shaw, G Skivington, J Hart, L Dallaglio, J O’Connor (rep: J Dawson 49-57).

GLOUCESTER: O Morgan; M Foster, J Simpson-Daniel, M Tindall, J Bailey; L Mercier, P Richards (sin-bin, 5-15); P Collazo (rep: T Sigley, 58), M Davies, P Vickery, J Pendlebury, A Brown, A Balding (rep: J Boer, 47), J Forrester (rep: A Eustace, 62), A Hazell.

Referee: R Maybanks.

Attendance: 10,000.

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Rugby Administration: Johan Prinsloo reviews 2005 & looks forward to 2006


Rugby 365's Jan de Koning spoke to the CEO of SARU, Johan Prinsloo. Visit www.rugby365.com for comprehensive SA rugby news.

The Springboks finished the year at No.2 on the International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings. But in the boardroom things did not always go as well. It was indeed a year of mixed emotions, absolute highs and lows.

Rugby365 spoke to Johan Prinsloo, the CEO of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and asked him about his five biggest highlights and five biggest disappointments for 2005, as well as his 2006 wish-list.

Here are Prinsloo's views!


Highlights:
1. The commercial programme of SA Rugby/SARU is on a sound footing and working effectively. It is important that things go well in this department.

2. Our relationship with our sponsors is also on a sound footing and we have forged a very close working relationship. There is still room for improvement, but generally I am happy.

3. I am very proud of what our Under-19, Under-21, Sevens and Springbok teams achieved on the field this year. The results talk for themselves.

4. If we are truly honest with ourselves and look at the development of young players, then we can be very happy. We just have to ensure that development in its totality is just as successful. We must continue to identify the young talent and develop them into equally good senior players ... bring them through the ranks.

5. If we look at head office in Cape Town, then I am very happy with what we have achieved throughout the year. Our marketing strategy is solid and financially things look good. Yes, there were problems, but the last couple of months things really looked up. A lot of people worked really hard. We now also have a very good relationship with the department of sport.

Disappointments:
1. The absolutely negative publicity we received in the media all year (justified or not). It is very disappointing and not the kind of media coverage we would like to see. This kind of publicity does serious damage to rugby, both locally and on the international front. Yes, rugby is a high profile sport and we must do things the right way. We must look at our communication if we want to ensure rugby is the leading light in South African sport.

2. The loss of our bid to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup. I read about what people had to say afterwards and the reasons given for why we lost out to New Zealand. I just wish those people who express their opinions so strongly after the events, would put in more of an effort to help before the event. We had too much talk and too little action.

3. The development of talented black players and other young players. If we look at our development of these, we can certainly ask a few questions. I would like to see more black schools take part in rugby and see more people show an intense and passionate commitment to proper development.

4. The performances of our teams in the Super 12. It is bitterly disappointing to always see our teams at the bottom of the standings. For a country with the number of players we have and the structures that we have, we should perform a lot better. We are spending too much time making up excuses afterwards and not enough time putting structures in place to ensure we win.

5. Those provincial unions that struggle financially. It is a big worry to me that so many unions are not making ends meet. We want rugby to be played everywhere in the country , but we have to look at ways to serve the game so that it is financially viable and that those unions don't go under. We need more people to get involved in running and serving the game, people who make a contribution and not just standing on the side pointing fingers.

Wish-list for 2006:
1. It is time to clear the archives, wipe the slate clean. We must stop riding on a wave of other people's mistakes and put our shoulder to the wheel. It is time we stop fighting with each other and work together.

2. I would like to see the game grow, but not just on the field. I would like to see significant growth among the black communities. I don't see those people at the stadiums watching the games. We are asking for full stadiums, but we want all communities there.

3. It is important that Jake White and his team do well in all aspects of the game, especially as we start looking towards the 2007 RWC. The players know where they stand and how they have performed, they know when they play badly. It is vital that every person gives his all for the team and make a contribution. We want the country to be behind the team and its management. We don't want the team to be a political pawn in other people's games.

4. I want our teams to do well in the Super 14. I feel it was the right decision to expand to 14 teams. The opportunities are there now for more players and we must take these opportunities. It is important, with a view to our contract with Newscorp, that we produce performances on the field that will make the country and the rest of the world proud of our teams.

5. I hope that we do not appear on the front pages of the newspapers and other media outlets for all the wrong reasons. We must allow the game, the on-field action, to do the talking in the media. The supporters want to hear about rugby, the action on the field. People don't want to hear about of-the-field action.

By Jan de Koning
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SA Unions: Highs and lows of a topsy-turvey rugby year


The Independent Online's Andrew Hollely reviews the South African rugby year, visit the Independent at www.iol.co.za

December 27 2005 at 12:35PM

By Andrew Hollely

A brief overview of some of the major highs and lows of South African rugby in 2005:

Highs:

South Africa beat New Zealand 22-16 in an epic Tri-Nations Test in Cape Town. A superb defensive display takes the wind out of the All Blacks' sails and sees captain John Smit's side become just the third Bok outfit to defeat the All Blacks in Cape Town and the first since 1976. It ends up being the All Blacks' only defeat of the year.

Springbok fullback Percy Montgomery becomes the first South African to pass 500 points in Tests during the match Australia at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. The former Western Province No 15 finishes the season with 573 points in all matches for the Springboks.
Habana emerges as the most potent attacking weapon in world rugby

The Free State Cheetahs beat the Blue Bulls 29-25 in the Currie Cup final at a packed Loftus with a stunning come-from-behind performance to deny retiring Blue Bulls captain Anton Leonard a fairy-tale send-off with a fourth win in a row. Veteran Bok and Cheetahs loosehead prop Os du Randt later described the win as more satisfying than the 1995 Rugby World Cup victory.

Records tumble as the Boks crush hapless amateurs Uruguay 134-3 in East London in the year's opening Test. The 131 points represents the greatest margin of victory by the Boks ever, eclipsing the 101 points difference against Italy in Durban in 1999. The 21 tries also beat the record 15 scored against Italy. Wing Tonderai Chavhanga scored six tries, the most ever by a Springbok in Tests and the most ever by any player on International debut.

The Blue Bulls charge to third spot on the log in the final Super 12 series (before the Super 14 kicks-off in 2006), flying the South African flag high with some memorable performances, especially at fortress Loftus.

Bryan Habana emerges as the most potent attacking weapon in world rugby and lock Victor Matfield dominates especially in the lineouts where he is without a doubt the best in the world at securing the ball at throw-ins.

The Springbok Under-19 and Under-21 teams are crowned World Champions to show the future of the sport is in capable hands. The Under-19s beat New Zealand 20-15 at King's Park in Durban, while the Under-21s overcome the Wallabies 24-20 in their final in Argentina.

Lows:

The Springboks lose their Tri-Nations title in the dying minutes of the Test in Dunedin, going down 31-27 to New Zealand. With just minutes on the clock, the All Blacks conjure up a late try by hooker Keven Mealamu to turn a 24-27 deficit into a nail-biting victory and Tri-Nations glory.

Defeats to Australia in Sydney (12-30) and to France in Paris (20-16) are a blight on an otherwise satisfying second year for coach Jake White and Smit. The first a complete aberration as the Wallabies go on to an eight-game losing streak. The latter attributable to exhaustion at the end of a long season.

Flyhalf problems. Injuries to first choice No 10s Jaco van der Westhuyzen and Andre Pretorius show the glaring deficiency in quality backup in the pivot position. Van der Westhuyzen lacks an educated boot. Pretorius is far too injury-prone a player to pin the Boks' World Cup hopes on. Who else?

The Cats, Sharks and Stormers' performance in the Super 12. The Cats and Sharks manage just one win each. The Stormers obtain a paltry three victories.

The SA Rugby Union Presidents' Council's perpetual mood swings and odd decisions constantly played out in the media. Chief among them was the treatment of the hallowed Currie Cup competition.

The embarrassing first-round exit of South Africa's 2011 World Cup bid. The anticipated victory champagne is left on ice as New Zealand shocks Japan and clinches the event.

The death of star Blue Bulls centre Ettienne Botha in the early hours of Wednesday, September 7 shocks the rugby-playing world and robs South Africa of one of its most naturally gifted ball players of the modern era. Some said he was among the finest players to never have donned the green and gold. - Sapa

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