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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Super 14: The ghost of relegation - who will be visited

Article by Gavin Rich
- Pressure on Sharks and Cheetahs

There were no real surprises when the South African Vodacom Super 14 squads were announced on Monday evening, which generally confirmed the view that the Sharks and the Central Cheetahs will be the squads most under pressure to avoid being relegated from the competition at the end of the season.

At the same time, the Bulls are clearly the team with the most depth in key positions and should be the South African flag-bearers in the competition.

While the Cheetahs are the reigning Currie Cup champions, a look at their squad shows that they do perhaps the necessary depth which is required if you are to consistently challenge through a Super 14 season which invariably has a high attrition rate because of the physical demands of the world's toughest competition.

The Cheetahs have plenty of fire-power in the front-row, and it was this area where they fronted up so impressively to the Blue Bulls when they won the Currie Cup last year. However, they look a little thin at the back, where much will depend on how youngster Ronnie Cooke adapts to this level of rugby as well as the form of New Zealander Keith Lowen.

The Cheetahs will also miss the experience and presence of big lock Boela du Plooy, who has left to play rugby overseas. The retirement of last season's captain, Naka Drotske, also leaves a large hole that will be difficult to fill.

Apart from Lowen, the Cheetahs' gains from last season include Springbok utility back Gaffie du Toit, who has now become a well-travelled professional rugby player in South Africa after representing the Sharks, the Cats and the Stormers earlier in his career.

He is listed as a fullback, which is his best position, but his utilility value will come in handy to help coach Rassie Erasmus shore up other areas in the backline.

If there are injuries at the back, Erasmus could also become indebted to national coach Jake White for giving the young but promising and talented Meyer Bosman the experience of playing for the Springboks on the last tour.

For the Sharks, much hinges on how their injured players come through. When you look at the squad you can see what coach Dick Muir means when he hints that he will field two separate teams during the course of the Super 14 in an attempt to keep players sharp.

But a lot of his players form into either the young and up-and-coming or the journeyman category, which means that potential stars like the newly recruited Tony Brown or maybe Butch James have to come through and deliver the goods.

Neither of those two players have been included in the squad at this stage - Brown because he is still in Japan playing for his club and is now only expected in Durban at the end of the month at the earliest. Muir has agreed to this arrangement, but it will not have pleased him as the New Zealander is an important cog in his machine.

So will James be - if he recovers full fitness after last year's operation. James, considered something of a talisman by the Sharks and definitely a steadying influence when he is present, is expected back in full training at the end of the month. Like Brown, he will be added to the squad at a later stage.

Where the Sharks may battle is in the midfield, where there is a lot of young promise in the form of players like Waylon Murray, Grant Rees and new recruit from the Cheetahs, Andries Strauss, but where someone like Trevor Halstead (now playing overseas) will be missed for his experience.

Why the prophets of doom in Durban might need to hold back on penning the epitaphs prematurely, however, is because there is still enough depth in key areas to suggest the Sharks might be more competitive than expected. AJ Venter is back to bolster the tight forwards, where he has been joined by Johan Ackermann, while even in the absence initially of the injured John Smit there is plenty of experience in the front-row.

Experience is something that may be lacking from the Stormers front-row, who start the season in a similar position to seasons past - they know they have the backs, but do they have the tight five? The departure of Pat Barnard has left a big hole to fill in the front-row.

The Stormers have come up with the one big omission from the group of players down to play Super 14 rugby this year. Gus Theron, a regular in the team for the past few seasons, has been left out in favour of the Boland wingers Rayno Benjamin and Jonghi Nokwe. It will be interesting to see how the latter develops in his first Super 14 season as there is no denying he is a great talent.

The Bulls squad is also predictable - they have by far the greatest depth at forward, even without Kees Lensing, the departed Danie Coetzee and Richard Bands, who apparently still has a couple of weeks to go before he can be considered fit enough for Super 14.

They have a massive midfield, which has been boosted by the return of Dries Scholtz from Griquas, they have two decent flyhalves in Derrick Hougaard and Morne Steyn, but it is also noticeable that they have most of their black talent on the wings, which is also not new.

In the past Heyneke Meyer has been able to get away with this, but what is he going to do this season, where the coaches have been directed to have at least four black players in the starting lineup? Presumably someone like scrumhalf Heini Adams may get a lot more game-time this season...

An interesting ommission from the Bulls team was Chilliboy Rampele, the outstanding South African under-19 hooker from last year who according to some newspaper reports was in good form in a friendly this past weekend. The Cats, like the Stormers, are well served by black talent. The Cats also have arguably the pick of the young talent in the country. They have Earl Rose listed at fullback after his recent move up to Johannesburg from the Cape, but no place for Rose's young flyhalf brother, Jody.

Enrico Januarie is back in the fray after recovering from the injury which kept him from touring with the Boks last November, but perhaps the most welcome returnee is Jannes Labuschagne. The lock has not really seen much action since being sent off early in the Twickenham test in 2002. Hopefully his injury problems are now a thing of the past as both the Cats and the country need his kind of lock.

Many of the notable ommissions from the squads are because of injury and these players will be in the mix when they recover. These players include John Smit (Sharks), Andre Pretorius (Cats) and Joe van Niekerk (Stormers). Now that the squads are announced, the various coaches will be looking at what is available to them on the draft.

I hope the Sharks trip and fall. It would be pretty ironic if they make way for the Spears after the raw deal they gave EP and Border a couple of years ago. They mos thought they were better than us. Who laughs last.......  
In honesty Gav

This is fluff.
It would be poetic justice anon  
Well then it can be said that key to survival in the S14 will come down to a good pack of forwards supported by depth in the tight five and competent flyhalves.

No matter how good your backs are, if you don't have the forwards you won't last entire comp.

Based on this criteria I am more inclined to think it will be between the Stormers and Sharks, with the Sharks eventually losing out.
Some humour on the Tuesday

A guy is browsing in a pet shop and sees a parrot sitting on a little perch. It doesn't have any feet or legs. The guy says aloud, "Jeesh,
I wonder what happened to this parrot?"

The parrot says, "I was born this way. I'm a defective parrot."

"Holy crap," the guy replies. "You actually understood and answered me!"

"I got every word," says the parrot. "I happen to be a highly intelligent thoroughly educated bird."

"Oh yeah?" the guy asks, "Then answer this -- how do you hang onto your perch without any feet?"

"Well," the parrot says, "this is very embarrassing but since you asked, I wrap my weenie around this wooden bar like a little hook. You
can't see it because of my feathers."

"Wow," says the guy. "You really can understand and speak English can't you?"

"Actually, I speak both Spanish and English, and I can converse with reasonable competence on almost any topic: politics, religion,
sports, physics, philosophy. I'm especially good at ornithology. You really ought to buy me. I'd be a great companion."

The guy looks at the $20000 price tag. "Sorry, but I just can't afford that."

"Pssssssst," says the parrot, "I'm defective, so the truth is, nobody wants me cause I don't have any feet. You can probably get me for
$20; just make the guy an offer!"

The guy offers $20 and walks out with the parrot.

Weeks go by. The parrot is sensational. He has a great sense of humor, he's interesting, he's a great pal, he understands everything, he
sympathizes, and he's insightful. The guy is delighted.

One day the guy comes home from work and the parrot goes, "Psssssssssssst," and motions him over with one wing. "I don't know if I
should tell you this or not, but it's about your wife and the postman."

"What are you talking about?" asks the guy.

"When the postman delivered the mail today, your wife greeted him at the door in a sheer black nightie."

"WHAT???" the guy asks incredulously. "THEN what happened?"

"Well, then the postman came into the house and lifted up her nightie and began petting her all over," reported the parrot.

"NO!" he exclaims. "And she let him?"

"Yes. Then he continued taking off the nightie! , got down on his knees and began to kiss her all over...."

Then the frantic guy demands, "THEN WHAT HAPPENED?"

"Damned if I know. I fell off my perch!"
Thanks Donner

That something to do with your wife and Kandas?
I don't have a parrot. :-D

Rottweiler though.

Hoe weet ek dan nie van die hond nie???
mmm.... so gedink.

Donner raak bang.

Of vir wat??

Dog jy is die een wat moet bang wees
Bang vir wat?  
Het julle ouens niks better om te sĂȘ nie. Gee ons liewers nog iets oor die Spears.  
Wie is anonymous? Sit jou naam by man. Selfs al is dit net aan die onderkant van jou post!  
Have a good time  
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