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Saturday, January 07, 2006

 

SA Unions / Teams: Jake White happy; James back for Sharks

Springbok coach Jake White was satisfied with the early conditioning tests when a group of 24 contracted players were put through their steps in Bloemfontein, although quite a few of his key players could not attend due to injury. Meanwhile there is some good news for the Sharks with the imminent return of a few of their stalwarts.

The forthcoming season will probably be the most demanding ever, with an extended Super 14 competition and two extra test matches added on to the Tri-Nations. White said it was therefore vital to start preparations real early.

Altogether eight players did not attend due do injury. They were Springbok captain John Smit, props CJ van der Linde and Gürhtro Steenkamp, backline players Ricky Januarie, Ashwin Willemse, Jaque Fourie and loose-forward Joe van Niekerk. Centre Marius Joubert was also absent, although Stormer's coach Kobus van der Merwe is on record that he is "back to full fitness" and will be ready to play in the first match (a pre-season friendly against the Bulls on Newlands on January 21) "if selected".

Two more assessments are scheduled for May (after completion of the Super 14) and again in July (before the start of the Tri-Nations).

James, Venter back for Sharks

Good news for Sharks fans is that Butch James, a key member of the side that made the Super 12 final five years ago, was there when his team mates got together for the first time this year. James did not take full part in the session, but the management is expecting him to be back in the fray come the end of January. James is quickly regaining full fitness after a long stint with troublesome knees.

Other significant returns from injury is former Springbok wing Dean Hall and scrumhalf Craig Davidson. Even more important is the condition of AJ Venter, who showed no ill-effects of the injury problems that kept him sidelined last year.

The Sharks' action starts on January 28 when they play the Bulls at Sun City.

Sources: Sapa and Gavin Rich in Weekend Argus.



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SA Unions / Teams: Southern Spears beat EP 38 - 5.


The first First Class game of the 2006 season kicked off to much anticipation in Port Elizabeth this afternoon with the game between the Southern Spears and Eastern Province. The Spears are leading 19 - 0 at halftime.

The Spears scored three tries in the first half with both the wings, Reinhard Gerber (R/Wing) and Luvo Shogidashe (L-Wing) scoring. Ashley Johnson, the inspirational 19 year old Captain of the Spears, scored just before half-time and Is - Maheel Dollie, the flyhalf, added two conversions.

Just after halftime, the inside centre, Basil de Donker, scored after yet another inside pass from Gerber, the one wing. Score is now 24 - 0.

Try by Tsotsobe (EP) to which Spears immediately replied with two tries by Ramazan (substitute wing) and Tewis de Bruyn (substitute Scrumhalf) and conversions by Dollie. Score is 38 - 5 with 5 minutes to go.

Final score 38 - 5. Game analysis and video streaming available off the www.thespears.co.za website Sunday 8th January at 15H00
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Other Sport: Zimbabwe suspends cricket board

This disturbing report emanating from Zimbabwe perhaps best illustrates how not to administer a national sporting body and the inherent dangers when egos are allowed to hold sway over proceedure.

Now, without having intimate knowledge of the in's and out's of Zimbabwean cricket it is hard to argue the merits or demerits of the situation. What is inescapable, however, is that, under responsible administrators who put the game before self-interest, events should never have been allowed to stoop so low.

The Zimbabweans now look in real danger of being suspended from the ICC and in that event, the total collapse of their domestic cricket is not beyond doubt.

The story, as reported by www.news24.com follows.

Harare - Zimbabwe Cricket's 12-member board has been suspended and controversial chairman Peter Chingoka retained to head an interim board.

The Zimbabwean government suspended the board on Friday.

Chairman of Zimbabwe's sports and recreation commission, Gibson Mashingaidze, has appointed an interim board of government officials until the board's elections - scheduled for July.

Mashingaidze said the Zim government would not bow to the demands of the country's 37 leading cricketers.

The players have been boycotting all national teams for a month, protesting the removal of Chingoka and ZC managing director Osias Bvute, who are accused of financial irregularities.

Mashingaidze said:"We can start afresh without you. You can all go and play in India or South America if you like."

In December, ZC vice chairman Ahmed Ebrahim led a delegation of players and administrators in a bid to persuade Zimbabwe's sports minister, Aegios Chigwedere, to appoint an interim management committee to run the game until the crisis was resolved.

The proposal was rejected. Ebrahim was among those forced from office this week.

The player strike is backed by all provincial chairmen and is set to jeopardize Zimbabwe's two-test tour of the West Indies in April-May.

Cancellation of the series could result in Zimbabwe being removed as one of the International Cricket Council's 10 test nation members.

Chingoka and Bvute are accused of "shady" financial dealings, including the purchasing of luxury homes, the disappearance of two team buses and a number of cars, soaring salaries and expenses, and outstanding debts.
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Super14: Marius Joubert ready, Joe still crocked


Springbok centre Marius Joubert has recovered from his injury problems and will be ready to start the Super 14 season for the Stormers.

According to Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe, Joubert has made excellent progress after being ruled out of the second half of the 2005 season with a shoulder injury which had been a niggling problem for much of the early part of last year.

One of the IRB’s five player’s of the year in 2004, a season in which he capped his performances with a try-scoring hattrick against the All Blacks in Johannesburg, Joubert experienced a miserable 2005.

He was one of the players most criticised when the Stormers lost form in the Super 12, and was considered fortunate to retain his place after a succession of poor performances. The Stormers coach of the time, Gert Smal, eventually dropped him towards the end of the season as Jean de Villiers made a successful switch from wing to centre.

But Bok coach Jake White showed his immense regard for and faith in Joubert when he retained him in his plans despite his poor Super 12 run. He played in the opening test of the year against Uruguay and also in the two home tests against France before eventually making way for Jaque Fourie.

Joubert, who played almost non-stop through the previous season, was perhaps showing the effects of being used too often, and some were unsurprised when he had to sit out from the end of July with his injury problem.

However, he has played a full part in the Stormers’ off-season training programme, and Van der Merwe reckons he will be available for the first Super 14 match against the Cats in Johannesburg.

“Marius has made a full recovery and there is now no reason why we should not select him to play. He will be ready for our opening game and we are extremely pleased about that,” said Van der Merwe.

The only problem worrying Van der Merwe as the new season approaches at a hectic pace is the condition of Springbok No8 Joe van Niekerk.

“Joe has not made as quick a recovery from his wrist injury (that kept him out of the last Springbok tour) as we had hoped. We anticipate now that he will only be ready for the third match of the Super 14 season at the earliest,” said Van der Merwe.

“But we are not too worried about that. We boast a lot of depth at loose-forward and someone like Adri (Badenhorst) has a lot of experience. The other players who had injury problems at the end of last year are all back in training. That includes Tonderai Chavhanga and Werner Greeff.”

The Stormers play their first warmup match on 21 January, when they will be looking to measure their off-season progress against the Bulls at Newlands. The following week they tackle the South Eastern Cape Spears in Wellington.

Source: Gavin Rich writing for SuperRugby, posted on 06 January 2006 - Log on to http://www.superrugby.co.za for more articles from Gavin Rich and rugby news from around the world.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

 

Super 14: Laurie's a Cat again


Source: Sunday News

Laurie Mains will add to his legend this week when he rejoins the coaching staff of a South African Super 14 franchise.

The former All Blacks coach left for Johannesburg this week as he prepares to take up a mentoring role for first-time Cats coach Frans Ludeke.

"It's a massive coup for us," Cats manager Mac Hendriks told Sunday News.

"Laurie Mains is one of the greatest coaches in the history of rugby.

"His experience at the highest level and his ability to get the best out of people will be invaluable.

"Laurie Mains is the perfect fit for Frans and the Cats."

Mains will spend next week in the republic helping Ludeke plan for the big kick-off to the inagural Super 14 on February 25.

And he will be "on call" to the Cats coaching staff throughout the tournament.

"Frans is someone who isn't afraid to surround himself with experience," Hendriks said.

"Too many coaches think they know it all. But we know the value of Laurie is too high to ignore."

Mains' reintroduction to top flight rugby comes less than three months after a scathing attack on him in the biography of Highlanders and All Blacks hooker Anton Oliver.

Other former Highlanders took shots at Mains from his time in charge at the franchise in 2002 and 2003.

But Hendriks laughed off Oliver's attack on the man who guided the All Blacks to the World Cup final in 1995.

"Just because certain people don't know the value of Laurie Mains doesn't mean we don't," he said.

"Laurie Mains in one of the best coaches in rugby anywhere in the world.

"What has been written means nothing to us.

"His record speaks for itself.

"Rugby is a sport where people aren't always going to get along with each other.

"Anton has chosen to attack him. That's not something I can comment on other than to say his thoughts certainly aren't reflected here."

Mains booked his place in Cats folklore when he guided them to successive Super 12 semifinals in 2000 and 2001.

In 1999, before he took the reins, the Cats had finished 11th.

Sunday News
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Other Unions / Teams: Redman tries new tricks at RFU school of learning


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/
By David Hands, Rugby Correspondent

THEY may not be in time for the 2007 World Cup but, by 2011, a generation of young England players hope to be gracing the world stage and setting an example of the art of the possible. Not every undergraduate of the RFU’s Junior National Academy will make it to the top but, by imbibing the principles they are learning there, they will understand more about rugby and, on the way, more about themselves.

“Every time someone pulls a shirt on, they go out to win,” Nigel Redman, himself a graduate of the school of hard knocks, said. “But part of our role is to put these guys under pressure, make them understand that they are accountable, that their actions and behaviour have consequences.”

Redman, the former Bath and England lock, is one of the RFU’s academy coaches poised to put his beliefs into operation. He will take an England under-19 team to play Leicester Academy next Wednesday, then repeat the exercise against Worcester on January 25, before the under-19 six nations championship gets under way against Wales on February 3.

Already his youngsters have played Leeds Academy and, at Gloucester last month, Australia Schools, who won 24-12 in appalling conditions. But Redman, controversially in some eyes, insisted that his players maintained the principles he has laid down for what he regards as training games rather than ends in themselves. The theme for the Australia game was attacking in midfield and yesterday, Redman was hard at work analysing the elements of that theme that worked and those that did not.

In addition to his work for the RFU, Redman also enjoys a role as tactical analyst for Sky Sports, maintaining a link with Stuart Barnes, his former playing colleague. Barnes has strong views on how England’s senior side should play the game; so does Simon Halliday, now an RFU council member, Jon Callard, himself an RFU academy coach, and Richard Hill, head coach to Bristol. All these players appeared for Bath during the days when they dominated the English game.

“I’m a big fan of the way we used to play at Bath, of the way Toulouse play now and how England played just before the 2003 World Cup, when they were offloading, hitting space, varying the pace and tempo of the game,” Redman said.

His work is not done exclusively at the academy training camps at Bath University, but also with the players in their club environment. Each of the RFU coaches acts as mentor to a group from the senior and junior academies. For example, David Tait, the Sale Sharks back-row forward, is one of a number of players under the wing of John Wells, the former Leicester coach.

Tait, 18, made his senior debut against Leicester in November. He is combining his rugby with a history course at the University of Manchester, making up in his own time the gym work lost to studying.

“When the opportunity to go full-time with Sale came, I snapped it up,” he said. “I structure my week so that, on heavy training days, I don’t have so much university involvement. It’s difficult when your friends are having a few late nights, but that’s OK.

“The benefits are there, you see what you can achieve, with the players at Sale and a national academy camp. It’s not just the work with one coach there but the whole level of professionalism.” The chance to put into practice what he has learnt will come in the six nations and, from April 4 to 21, the World Under-19 Championship in Dubai.

“We can’t go there with a set way of playing, we will have to be adaptable,” Redman said. “We have tried to create a scenario in which the boys are not frightened to learn, where they are allowed to make mistakes. It’s in the psyche to go out and win, but sometimes that’s at the expense of development.”
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General Discussions: 2006 Rugby Bonanza

As ever, the 'off-season', whilst most welcome to the players, has been driving us fans to distraction! Everyone is being nice to each other, it's all 'hail fellow, well met' and handshakes! Well, RugRats, that's about to change and we have yet another bumper year of rugby ahead.

Take a look at the schedule of provisional fixtures and start girding your loins, it's going to be a cracker. Fixtures provided courtesy of the Bulls website, www.bluebull.co.za


The powers that be at Saru have listened to the people and in 2006 the Currie Cup will revert back to a strength vs. strength competition.

The five teams who play host to the five Super 14 franchises will be entrenched in the competition, namely the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Lions, Sharks, WP and Cheetahs. For 2006 only, the SEC franchise will also be part of the competition to prepare for their first Super 14 the following year.

The final two teams in the competition will be the two finalists in the Vodacom Cup. As the Griquas and Cavaliers have proven in this year’s competition, they are capable of throwing a few spanners in the works. Ironically, the Griquas might be hard-pressed to repeat this year’s victory in the Vodacom Cup due to call-ups to the Central Unions team.

The remaining seven teams will compete in the 1st Division. Both competitions will be contested on a home and away basis.

The Vodacom Cup will consist of a single round robin section and will further Saru’s quest to bring the game to the people. All 14 provincial teams will play against each other, with the entrenched teams as mentioned above playing all their matches against the non-entrenched teams away.

Good news for the development of young players is that the strength vs. strength format will also be in place for both the under-21 and under-19 competitions.

Below are all the provisional fixtures:

Fri 10 Feb 08:35 Blues vs Hurricanes Vodacom Super 14 Auckland
13:05 Western Force vs Brumbies Vodacom Super 14 Perth
19:10 Cheetahs vs Bulls Vodacom Super 14 Bloemfontein

Sat 11 Feb 08:35 Crusaders vs Highlanders Vodacom Super 14 Christchurch
11:40 Reds vs Waratahs Vodacom Super 14 Brisbane
17:00 Cats vs Stormers Vodacom Super 14 Johannesburg
19:10 Sharks vs Chiefs Vodacom Super 14 Durban
Free State vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Leopards vs Pumas Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Griffons vs Falcons Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs Griquas Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington
SWD vs Sharks Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Western Province Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Fri 17 Feb 08:35 Highlanders vs Blues Vodacom Super 14 Dunedin
18:00 Cats vs Chiefs Vodacom Super 14 Johannesburg
20:00 Bulls vs Brumbies Vodacom Super 14 Pretoria

Sat 18 Feb 08:35 Hurricanes vs Western Force Vodacom Super 14 TBC
11:00 Reds vs Crusaders Vodacom Super 14 Brisbane
17:00 Sharks vs Cheetahs Vodacom Super 14 Durban
19:10 Stormers vs Waratahs Vodacom Super 14 Cape Town
Western Province vs Lions Vodacom Cup Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Sharks vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, Durban
Griffons vs Border Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs Pumas Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington
SWD vs Falcons Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Griquas Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Fri 24 Feb 08:35 Hurricanes vs Cats Vodacom Super 14 TBC
13:05 Western Force vs Chiefs Vodacom Super 14 Perth
19:10 Stormers vs Brumbies Vodacom Super 14 Cape Town

Sat 25 Feb 06:30 Crusaders vs Sharks Vodacom Super 14 Timaru
11:35 Reds vs Blues Vodacom Super 14 Brisbane
17:00 Bulls vs Waratahs Vodacom Super 14 Pretoria
19:10 Cheetahs vs Highlanders Vodacom Super 14 Bloemfontein
Griquas vs Western Province Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Falcons vs Free State Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Pumas vs Lions Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Border vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
SWD vs Griffons Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Leopards Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Fri 3 Mar 08:35 Chiefs vs Reds Vodacom Super 14 TBC
10:40 Brumbies vs Cats Vodacom Super 14 Canberra

Sat 4 Mar 06:30 Waratahs vs Sharks Vodacom Super 14 Sydney
08:35 Crusaders vs Blues Vodacom Super 14 Christchurch
17:00 Stormers vs Highlanders Vodacom Super 14 Cape Town
19:10 Cheetahs vs Hurricanes Vodacom Super 14 De Beers Diamond Oval, Kimberly
Western Province vs Sharks Vodacom Cup Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Griquas vs Free State Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Falcons vs Lions Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Pumas vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Border vs E.P. Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
Leopards vs SWD Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Griffons vs Boland Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom

Fri 10 Mar 08:35 Chiefs vs Crusaders Vodacom Super 14 TBC
10:40 Waratahs vs Cats Vodacom Super 14 Sydney

Sat 11 Mar 10:00 Brumbies vs Sharks Vodacom Super 14 Canberra
12:05 Reds vs Western Force Vodacom Super 14 Brisbane
17:00 Bulls vs Highlanders Vodacom Super 14 Pretoria
19:10 Stormers vs Hurricanes Vodacom Super 14 Cape Town
Griquas vs Sharks Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Falcons vs Western Province Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Pumas vs Free State Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Border vs Lions Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
Leopards vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Griffons vs E.P. Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs SWD Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington

Fri 17 Mar 08:35 Crusaders vs Cats Vodacom Super 14 Christchurch
13:00 Western Force vs Waratahs Vodacom Super 14 Perth
19:10 Bulls vs Hurricanes Vodacom Super 14 Pretoria

Sat 18 Mar 06:30 Blues vs Brumbies Vodacom Super 14 Auckland
08:35 Highlanders vs Sharks Vodacom Super 14 Dunedin
17:00 Stormers vs Cheetahs Vodacom Super 14 Cape Town
Falcons vs Sharks Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Pumas vs Western Province Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Border vs Free State Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
Leopards vs Lions Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Griffons vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom
E.P. vs Boland Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Fri 24 Mar 09:00 Hurricanes vs Sharks Vodacom Super 14 TBC
11:05 Waratahs vs Blues Vodacom Super 14 Sydney
19:10 Cheetahs vs Reds Vodacom Super 14 Bloemfontein

Sat 25 Mar 07:30 Brumbies vs Chiefs Vodacom Super 14 Canberra
09:00 Highlanders vs Cats Vodacom Super 14 Invercargill
14:05 Western Force vs Bulls Vodacom Super 14 Perth
Falcons vs Griquas Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Pumas vs Sharks Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Border vs Western Province Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
Leopards vs Free State Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Griffons vs Lions Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington
SWD vs E.P. Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George

Fri 31 Mar 09:00 Blues vs Bulls Vodacom Super 14 Auckland
11:05 Waratahs vs Cheetahs Vodacom Super 14 Sydney
13:00 Western Force vs Stormers Vodacom Super 14 Perth

Sat 1 Apr 07:30 Hurricanes vs Crusaders Vodacom Super 14 TBC
09:35 Chiefs vs Highlanders Vodacom Super 14 TBC
17:00 Sharks vs Reds Vodacom Super 14 Durban
Sharks vs Free State Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, Durban
Griquas vs Lions Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Falcons vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Boland vs Leopards Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington
SWD vs Border Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Pumas Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Fri 7 Apr 09:35 Crusaders vs Waratahs Vodacom Super 14 Christchurch

Sat 8 Apr 04:35 Highlanders vs Western Force Vodacom Super 14 Dunedin
07:30 Chiefs vs Bulls Vodacom Super 14 TBC
09:35 Blues vs Stormers Vodacom Super 14 Auckland
11:40 Brumbies vs Cheetahs Vodacom Super 14 Canberra
17:00 Cats vs Reds Vodacom Super 14 Johannesburg
Griquas vs Pumas Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Border vs Sharks Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
Leopards vs Western Province Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Griffons vs Free State Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs Lions Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington
SWD vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George

Fri 14 Apr 09:35 Blues vs Western Force Vodacom Super 14 Auckland

Sat 15 Apr 07:30 Crusaders vs Cheetahs Vodacom Super 14 Christchurch
09:35 Chiefs vs Stormers Vodacom Super 14 TBC
11:40 Reds vs Bulls Vodacom Super 14 Brisbane
17:00 Cats vs Sharks Vodacom Super 14 Johannesburg
Pumas vs Falcons Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Border vs Griquas Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
Leopards vs Sharks Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Griffons vs Western Province Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs Free State Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington
SWD vs Lions Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Sun 16 Apr 04:35 Highlanders vs Hurricanes Vodacom Super 14 Dunedin
11:40 Waratahs vs Brumbies Vodacom Super 14 Sydney

Fri 21 Apr 09:35 Chiefs vs Cheetahs Vodacom Super 14 TBC
11:40 Reds vs Stormers Vodacom Super 14 Brisbane
13:40 Western Force vs Crusaders Vodacom Super 14 Perth

Sat 22 Apr 11:40 Brumbies vs Hurricanes Vodacom Super 14 Canberra
15:00 Sharks vs Blues Vodacom Super 14 Durban
17:00 Bulls vs Cats Vodacom Super 14 Pretoria
Blue Bulls vs Lions Vodacom Cup Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Griquas vs Griffons Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Pumas vs Border Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Leopards vs falcons Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Boland vs Sharks Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington
SWD vs Western Province Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Free State Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Fri 28 Apr 09:35 Highlanders vs Waratahs Vodacom Super 14 Dunedin
19:10 Cats vs Western force Vodacom Super 14 Johannesburg

Sat 29 Apr 09:35 Hurricanes vs Chiefs Vodacom Super 14 TBC
11:40 Brumbies vs Reds Vodacom Super 14 Canberra
15:00 Cheetahs vs Blues Vodacom Super 14 Bloemfontein
17:00 Bulls vs Sharks Vodacom Super 14 Pretoria
19:00 Stormers vs Crusaders Vodacom Super 14 Cape Town
Blue Bulls vs Western Province Vodacom Cup Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Lions vs Free State Vodacom Cup Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
Griquas vs SWD Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Falcons vs Boland Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Pumas vs Griffons Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Border vs Leopards Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
E.P. vs Sharks Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Fri 5 May 09:35 Hurricanes vs Reds Vodacom Super 14 TBC
19:10 Bulls vs Crusaders Vodacom Super 14 Pretoria

Sat 6 May 09:35 Chiefs vs Waratahs Vodacom Super 14 TBC
11:40 Brumbies vs Highlanders Vodacom Super 14 Canberra
15:00 Cheetahs vs Western Force Vodacom Super 14 ABSA Park, Kimberley
17:00 Sharks vs Stormers Vodacom Super 14 Durban
19:10 Cats vs Blues Vodacom Super 14 Johannesburg
Lions vs Sharks Vodacom Cup Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
Free State vs Western Province Vodacom Cup Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Griquas vs Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Falcons vs E.P. Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Pumas vs SWD Vodacom Cup @lantic Park, Witbank
Border vs Boland Vodacom Cup ABSA Stadium, East London
Leopards vs Griffons Vodacom Cup Olën Park, Potchefstroom

Fri 12 May 09:35 Crusaders vs Brumbies Vodacom Super 14 Christchurch
11:40 Reds vs Highlanders Vodacom Super 14 Brisbane
19:10 Sharks vs Western Force Vodacom Super 14 Durban

Sat 13 May 09:35 Blues vs Chiefs Vodacom Super 14 Auckland
11:40 Waratahs vs Hurricanes Vodacom Super 14 Sydney
15:00 Cheetahs vs Cats Vodacom Super 14 Bloemfontein
17:00 Stormers vs Bulls Vodacom Super 14 Cape Town
Griquas vs Leopards Vodacom Cup Absa Park, Kimberley
Falcons vs Border Vodacom Cup Bosman Stadium, Brakpan
Griffons vs Sharks Vodacom Cup North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs Western Province Vodacom Cup Boland Stadium, Wellington
SWD vs Free State Vodacom Cup Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Lions Vodacom Cup EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

Fri 19 May Semi 1 Vodacom Super 14

19/20 May FINAL Vodacom Cup

Sat 20 May Semi 2 Vodacom Super 14

Sat 27 May Final Vodacom Super 14

10 Jun South Africa vs Scotland Incoming Test TO BE CONFIRMED

16/17 June First E vs First D ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First F vs First C ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First G vs First B ABSA Currie CUP - First Div

17 June South Africa vs Scotland Incoming Test TO BE CONFIRMED

23/24 June Free State vs SEC ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Qualify 1 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Qualify 2 vs Western Province ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Natal vs Lions ABSA Currie CUP - Premier ABSA Stadium, Durban
First A vs First G ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First B vs First F ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First C vs First E ABSA Currie CUP - First Div

24 Jun South Africa vs France Incoming Test TO BE CONFIRMED

26 - 29 June U-16 Coca Cola Grant Khomo Week Wellington

26 - 29 June U-18 National Academy Week TBC

25 June - 1 July U-18 Special Schools Craven Week TBC

1/2 July Western Province vs Natal ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Lions vs Blue Bulls ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
Qualify 1 vs Free Sate ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
SEC vs Qualify 2 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First D vs First C ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First E vs First B ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First F vs First A ABSA Currie CUP - First Div

3 - 7 July U-13 Coca Cola Craven Week Oudtshoorn

7/8 July Free Sate vs Lions ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Western Province ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Natal vs Qualify 2 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier ABSA Stadium, Durban
Qualify 1 vs SEC ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First A vs First E ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First B vs First D ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First G vs First F ABSA Currie CUP - First Div

9 - 15 July U-18 Coca Cola Craven Week Johannesburg

14/15 July Lions vs Qualify 1 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
SEC vs Natal ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Qualify 2 vs Blue Bulls ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Western Province vs Free State ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
First C vs First B ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First D vs First A ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First E vs First G ABSA Currie CUP - First Div

21/22 July Free State vs Qualify 2 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Natal ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Lions vs SEC ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
Qualify 1 vs Western Province ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First A vs First C ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First F vs First E ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First G vs First D ABSA Currie CUP - First Div

28/29 July Blue Bulls vs SEC ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Western Province vs Lions ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Qualify 1 vs Qualify 2 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Natal vs Free State ABSA Currie CUP - Premier ABSA Stadium, Durban
First C vs First G ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First D vs First F ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First B vs First A ABSA Currie CUP - First Div

4/5 Aug Free State vs Blue Bulls ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Lions vs Qualify 2 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
SEC vs Western Province ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Qualify 1 vs Natal ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC

11/12 Aug First B vs First G ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First C vs First F ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First D vs First E ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
SWD vs Falcons Under 21 + Under 19 B Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Pumas Under 21 + Under 19 B EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Griffons vs Boland Under 21 + Under 19 B North West Stadium, Welkom

18/19 Aug Lions vs Natal ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
Western Province vs Qualify 2 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Qualify 1 vs Blue Bulls ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
SEC vs Free State ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First E vs First C ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First F vs First B ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First G vs First A ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
Lions vs Natal Under 21 + Under 19 A Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
Western Province vs Griquas Under 21 + Under 19 A Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Leopards vs Blue Bulls Under 21 + Under 19 A Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Boland vs E.P. Under 21 + Under 19 B Boland Stadium, Wellington
Pumas vs SWD Under 21 + Under 19 B @lantic Park, Witbank
Falcons vs Border Under 21 + Under 19 B Bosman Stadium, Brakpan

25/26 Aug Free State vs Qualify 1 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Lions ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Natal vs Western Province ABSA Currie CUP - Premier ABSA Stadium, Durban
Qualify 2 vs SEC ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First A vs First F ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First B vs First E ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First C vs First D ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
Free State vs Leopards Under 21 + Under 19 A Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Lions Under 21 + Under 19 A Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Natal vs Western Province Under 21 + Under 19 A ABSA Stadium, Durban
Border vs Pumas Under 21 + Under 19 B ABSA Stadium, East London
SWD vs Boland Under 21 + Under 19 B Outeniqua Stadium, George
E.P. vs Griffons Under 21 + Under 19 B EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth

1/2 Sep Western Province vs Blue Bulls ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Qualify 2 vs Natal ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Lions vs Free State ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
SEC vs Qualify 1 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First D vs First B ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First E vs First A ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First F vs First G ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
Western Province vs Blue Bulls Under 21 + Under 19 A Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Griquas vs Natal Under 21 + Under 19 A Absa Park, Kimberley
Lions vs Free State Under 21 + Under 19 A Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
Griffons vs SWD Under 21 + Under 19 B North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs Border Under 21 + Under 19 B Boland Stadium, Wellington
Pumas vs Falcons Under 21 + Under 19 B @lantic Park, Witbank

8/9 Sep Free State vs Western Province ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Qualify 2 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Natal vs SEC ABSA Currie CUP - Premier ABSA Stadium, Durban
Qualify 1 vs Lions ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First A vs First D ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First B vs First C ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First G vs First E ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
Free State vs Western Province Under 21 + Under 19 A Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Griquas Under 21 + Under 19 A Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Leopards vs Lions Under 21 + Under 19 A Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Border vs Griffons Under 21 + Under 19 B ABSA Stadium, East London
SWD vs E.P. Under 21 + Under 19 B Outeniqua Stadium, George
Falcons vs Boland Under 21 + Under 19 B Bosman Stadium, Brakpan

15/16 Sep Western Province vs Qualify 1 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Qualify 2 vs Free State ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Natal vs Blue Bulls ABSA Currie CUP - Premier ABSA Stadium, Durban
SEC vs Lions ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First C vs First A ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First D vs First G ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First E vs First F ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
Western Province vs Leopards Under 21 + Under 19 A Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Griquas vs Free State Under 21 + Under 19 A Absa Park, Kimberley
Natal vs Blue Bulls Under 21 + Under 19 A ABSA Stadium, Durban
E.P. vs Border Under 21 + Under 19 B EPRU Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Griffons vs Falcons Under 21 + Under 19 B North West Stadium, Welkom
Boland vs Pumas Under 21 + Under 19 B Boland Stadium, Wellington

22/23 Sep Free State vs Natal ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Qualify 1 vs Qualify 2 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Lions vs Western Province ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
SEC vs Blue Bulls ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
First A vs First B ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First F vs First D ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
First G vs First C ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
Free State vs Natal Under 21 + Under 19 A Vodacom Park, Bloemfontein
Leopards vs Griquas Under 21 + Under 19 A Olën Park, Potchefstroom
Lions vs Western Province Under 21 + Under 19 A Ellis Park stadium, Johannesburg
Border vs SWD Under 21 + Under 19 B ABSA Stadium, East London
Pumas vs Griffons Under 21 + Under 19 B @lantic Park, Witbank
Falcons vs E.P. Under 21 + Under 19 B Bosman Stadium, Brakpan

29/30 Sep Blue Bulls vs Free State ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Western Province vs SEC ABSA Currie CUP - Premier Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Qualify 2 vs Lions ABSA Currie CUP - Premier TBC
Natal vs Qualify 1 ABSA Currie CUP - Premier ABSA Stadium, Durban

Semi- Final ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
Blue Bulls vs Free State Under 21 + Under 19 A Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Natal vs Leopards Under 21 + Under 19 A ABSA Stadium, Durban
Griquas vs Lions Under 21 + Under 19 A Absa Park, Kimberley

6/7 Oct Semi- Final ABSA Currie CUP - Premier
Final ABSA Currie CUP - First Div
Final Under 21 + Under 19 B


13/14 Oct FINAL ABSA Currie CUP - Premier
Final Under 21 + Under 19 A
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SA Unions / Teams: Southern Spears announces team for warm-up against Eastern Province


Port Elizabeth – South Africa: 5 January 2006 18H00: Peter de Villiers this evening announced the Southern Spears squad to play Eastern Province on Saturday the 7th January 2006 at 15H00 at the Eastern Province Rugby Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

This match on Saturday will afford de Villiers the opportunity of running all 28 players in his squad as their warm up before the Southern Spears plays the Vodacom Cheetahs on Saturday the 14th January 2006.

The intensive three week schedule of “warm up” games that awaits the Southern Spears is something of a baptism of fire and resembles a Quarter Final, Semi-Final and Final in reverse, with them playing the Cheetahs on the 14th January, the Cats on the 21st January in East London and the Stormers on the 28th January in Wellington.

The long awaited debut of de Villiers Southern Spears happens this Saturday and much is expected of them.

There have been frequent questions of, ‘Where are the “names”?’ and this is all too often confused with the high profile given to players in the media, when in fact these self same “names” were themselves unknown some 18 months ago. In addition, it is an understated fact and perception, that these high profile players are injury free, when they have incurred serious injuries that makes their own mental toughness suspect, when they come up against players like the Southern Spears who have everything to gain.

SOUTHERN SPEARS TEAM against Eastern Province

Baldwin McBean (Fullback)
Rienhard Gerber (R/Wing)
Spencer Wakeling (Centre)
Basil De Donker (Centre)
Luvo Shogidashe (L-Wing)
Is-Maheel Dollie (Flyhalf)
Warren Malgas (Scrumhalf)
Ashley Johnson (no.8)
Devon Raubenheimer (Flanker)
Maurice Reed (Flanker)
Lian Combrinck (Lock)
Jaco du Toit (Lock)
Anton van der Westhuizen (Prop)
Wayne Bennett (Hooker)
Petros Methula (Prop)

On the Bench

Hein Potgieter (Lock)
Kenny Snodgrass (Lock)
Tewis De Bruyn (ScrumHalf)
Vusumzi Mbulali (Centre)
Gavin Williamson (Hooker)
Pietie Loots (no.8)
Gersham Ramazan(Wing)
Ashwin Scott (Centre)
Daniel Phillander (FlyHalf)
Lonwabo Matimka (Prop)
Kaunda Ntunja (Flanker)
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Super 14: South Africa - Super 14 under the spotlight: The Cheetahs


In what might be a surprise to some, my third team I am taking a closer look at are the Vodacom Cheetahs, and not as most would expect, the Stormers. Many of you know my provincial affiliation, and believe me nothing pains me more than accepting the fact that this might be the worst season yet for my beloved team.

But this article is not about the Stormers, it is about the team and coach who surprised friend and foe in 2005, the Vodacom Cheetahs. But, it is also not the Currie Cup anymore, it is arguably the toughest international club/union competition, the Super 14.

The Cheetahs probably had, and still will have, the most difficult road ahead of them out of all the South African Super 14 teams. Plagued by bad press, SARU and government mud-slinging and various other problems when the 5th South African Super 14 franchise was awarded, Rassie and his merry men had it everything but easy in the build up to probably their most important competition season in the union’s history.

The best thing that could have happened to the Cheetah franchise and specifically Rassie Erasmus was when the biggest provincial arm of the franchise, the Cheetahs, won the Currie Cup in 2005. Not only did they silence a lot of doomsayers, but they beat the best provincial team in South Africa on their home ground. What makes it even more amazing is if you take into account that the Bulls team that competed in the Currie Cup final, was almost the exact same team, which did South Africa proud in the Super 12 competition in 2005.

The reason for that upset was debated in length, and everyone has their views on why the Bulls lost that game, but to me it proved one very important thing, the Cheetahs, can take on any team on any day and in any circumstance, and beat them.

Although I seldom single out one individual when it comes to success in the game of rugby, it is extremely difficult not to attribute the success of this team to one man’s genius, Rassie Erasmus.

There are many reasons why Rassie has been so successful, but none more so for his ability and fondness for an aspect of the game I put a lot of stock in too, technical analysis.

Mr. Erasmus has been hailed by almost every rugby personality in South Africa, including the media, coaches, players, etc., as just about everything, from being a student of the game since his playing days, to the best technical brain in the business. And he deserves every single compliment. Because what he has achieved in such a short space and time is nothing short of amazing. But as I hinted in the Bulls article, he could never have done this on his own.

It is actually amazing to think that the two franchises’ structures are almost exactly the same. As highlighted in my Bulls piece, it is my belief that they were such a successful outfit in 2005 because of three main factors, and those three factors working together side by side and complimenting each other, the coach, the boss, and the captain. The only real difference being that Rassie was able to achieve his goal as coach much quicker than Heyneke did, but there are reasons for that too.

It is well documented and well known that Harold Verster is a staunch supporter of Rassie and his vision. Hell he had to be to keep on supporting him after receiving all the hate mail from Cheetah fans during the Currie Cup campaign – and by the way I did apologise and promised never to send mail like that again.

What is even more amazing is that I believe Rassie finds himself in almost exactly the same position Heyneke does with the Bulls, they both lost their respective captains who played a massive part in their teams’ success.

This, and one other factor, will be Rassie’s biggest challenge to overcome. But as our respected Cheetah supporter, Oranje Orakel, basically confirmed this morning what I have heard flying around rugby circles and the media recently, Rassie, unlike Heyneke, has the perfect replacement for Naka Drotske, Juan Smith.

Juan Smith is regarded by many of his peers to be, not only one of the best in his position, but also one of the few rugby players around that uses the muscle that matters the most more often than not.

This puts him in the same class as a Springbok that played not to long ago, and is now his coach at the Cheetahs.

So although I do believe the loss of Naka to be significant, I do not believe the impact on the team will be as huge as it will be for the Bulls. In Juan, Rassie not only has a brilliant player that will no doubt buy into his vision for the Super 14, but surprisingly, also a player that is well respected not only by his Cheetah team mates, but from players around the world. I say surprisingly because that is some achievement for a guy as young as him.

Unfortunately for Cheetah fans, there is an even bigger problem or obstacle Rassie is faced with, and one that might sink them completely.

I am a very passionate rugby supporter, and emotion to me, plays a big part in the game. I am also one of those rugby romantics that would love to believe that guts, passion and pride will overcome everything in the game I love, but in reality, in today’s day and age and the way the game has evolved, one thing is very important for any team to succeed on the international circuit, experience.

Unfortunately I had to wake up to the fact that guts, passion and pride will only get you so far in international rugby. A huge percentage of Cheetah players will find themselves in situations they have never quite experienced before in their lives, and I think that will play a major role.

This concern is highlighted by stories that came out after the Currie Cup victory last year, where some senior statesman in the Cheetah squad came out and said that although it was a nerve racking experience, it was a hell of a lot better than the previous year when they also met the Blue Bulls in the final, because they had been there before, and knew what to expect.

It is true that in the forwards the Cheetahs have a couple of old heads that has been there before, and even has national experience, but my concern is not so much with the forwards, it is more the backs.

Like the Lions, the Cheetahs has a good enough pack to mix it up with the best of them, but unfortunately for them, they don’t even come close to the Jo’burg boys when it comes to firepower in the back division.

Unlike many people out there, I do not rate Willem de Waal at all. I think he is an extremely ordinary flyhalf that offers very little to a team. I thought about pulling a Jake White on myself and go as far as saying he wont make an Argentinean 7th …………. Okay I wont be as harsh, but the fact is, to me he is the type of player that, yes you know what you have in him, but he is the type of player does the basics of flyhalf play reasonably well, but gives you nothing more to give your team even the slightest edge over your opposing team. In my view, he is a good Currie Cup player and nothing more.

I do not want to go into my suggestions on who should play where in the Cheetah backline, because I find it very unlikely that Rassie will mess around with the number 10 position, so expect Willem to be his first choice. With that view I will discuss the players around him.

In a move that I think will please our resident Cheetah supporter to some extent, I believe Rassie might be tempted in playing Meyer Bosman at inside center, I certainly would. My views on the roles of 10, 12 and 13, have been mentioned many times before, and it is with this view that I believe Meyer can develop into a world class inside center.

Meyer has all the attributes I believe you need to be a world class inside center. He has speed, vision, good distribution skills to both his left and right, and he is a big boy that should in time effectively break the defensive lines and put guys next to him in space. To add to that, he has a killer boot. The only question in my view hangs around his defensive capabilities but that is only because I have seen so little of him.

Ignoring the De Waal issue, the one area the Cheetah boys are very thin on experience are in the mid-field, partnering Meyer and overseas import Keith Lowen will be a masterstroke in my view.

With your wings being adequate but nothing spectacular, and a real talent in the making at 15 in Bevin Fortuin, picking the right center combination will be Rassie’s most important decision to make.

Gaffie, whom I would have loved to see in the number 10 jumper, can provide more than decent cover on the wing and I hope beyond all hope that Rassie does not relegate Fortuin to the bench. Gaffie’s experience combined with his prodigious boot and cover he can provide in defensive situations could help Fortuin develop into a very good fullback.

As with Ludeke and the Cats forwards, a lot will depend on who Rassie selects in certain positions in the backline. My ideal backline if I was coach will include:

9. Oelschig
10. Du Toit
11. Passens
12. Bosman
13. Lowen
14. Fredericks
15. Fortuin

It will be interesting to see what Rassie does though, but being the creative genius he is, I am sure we will see a couple of surprises.

Players to watch

I first saw this guy in 2005, and he impressed me a hell of a lot. He seems to have great anticipation and he looks to love to score tries. I am a bit concerned yet again on his defensive capabilities but this also, has a lot to do with the fact that I have seen very little of him so far. But there is no doubt in my mind Bevan Fortuin could become one of the finds for 2006. Remember this name, I think we are going to hear a lot more of him.

The experience Gaffie du Toit will bring to an otherwise green backline will be invaluable. I was one to always rate this guy, and much like Andre Pretorius, Gaffie is very much a confidence player. Moving to the Cheetahs could be his best move yet as I believe he will absolutely flourish in the environment Rassie has created for his players. The only question remains is where he will be used? I really hope Rassie does not become all conservative on this selection.

Not knowing, or actually believing that Bosman will mostly come off the bench, the role Keith Lowen has to fulfill is going to be huge. He should add quite a bit of much needed international experience and prove quite valuable to the team on tour as well.

There is nothing I would enjoy more in 2006 than to eat my words on players I criticize or believe to be not good enough to play for a 7th team Japanese ………….. – sorry, there I go again. For the good of South African Super 14 aspirations but even more for his own team, I hope Willem de Waal will prove to be one of those players, but I do not see it happening. As with any team, your flyhalf are one of the most important players in a team, and for the Cheetahs to finish anywhere close to respectable, he will need to come to the party.

In Ryno van der Merwe, Juan Smith, Henro Scholtz and Kabamba Floors, Rassie is certainly not short on talent in the loose forward department. Two players specifically will need to perform huge roles though, Ryno and Juan. Ryno’s speed to the breakdown is going to be crucial to slow down opposition’s ball to give his backline half a chance of competing against the NZ and Australian flyers. Juan will also have to do a lot more than just deliver the outstanding performances we have become used to, he, much like Wikus van Heerden of the Cats, will need to lead a relatively young and inexperienced team to greatness, or in a more realistic description, Super 14 survival.

It could also be a great opportunity for Juan to stake a claim in the Springbok setup as John Smit’s understudy. But if there is one guy I have absolutely no doubt in delivering, it is Juan Smit.

Maybe not as much through their individual performances but more through other aspects of their game they will need to bring to the team, Os Du Randt and Ollie le Roux’s influence and impact needed for this team to be successful is going to be absolutely invaluable. As mentioned before, my biggest fear for Rassie’s men, is the amount of experience his team has. I just get the feeling that if they are 15 nil down after half time in a place like Carrisbrooke, you will need to likes of these two to really step up and take charge if Rassie’s men are to stand any chance.

Logical Prediction

Before the Currie Cup final last year, not many people, including myself, gave Rassie’s men much of a chance of surviving, let alone setting the world alight in the Super 14. Strange how quickly perceptions can change.

I believe realistically their fans should not expect anything more than a mid-table finish. Rassie and his merry men will surely aim for a semifinal spot, and why not, it is not impossible, but in my view, highly unlikely.

I think they will also be measured, unfairly in my view, against the other new franchise, the Western Force. It will be quite an achievement if the Cheetahs do end up higher on the log than John Mitchell’s men, and that is something I hope they achieve, and if they do, no matter where they find themselves on the log, they can look back at a successful campaign. The reason for my view is simply because of the path both teams and coaches had to walk leading up to the competition, how everybody expects (and in some cases pray) the Cheetahs will get snotted this year, and that Rassie would prove to be an even better coach than the man I personally regard as the best in the business at the moment.

Their opening match against the Bulls in Bloemfontein is going to be a cracker, and will be vitally important for Rassie and the team, because it will set the tone for the rest of the competition for the Cheetahs. If they loose, it will have a huge impact on the team, but if they win, not only would they have beaten the best team in South Africa twice in the space of a couple of months, but it would also give the young players a huge boost which they can take into the rest of the competition. But looking at the Super 12 in 2005 and the match at Ellispark, one thing is for damn sure, Rassie has done it before, so there is no reason to believe he won’t do it again.

Lowest possible log position: 12
Highest possible log position: 7

Note: I do believe that if the Cheetahs loose one or two crucial games, like the opening match against the Bulls, everything could fall apart very quickly for the boys in white, hence the very low prediction if they fail. Again I would attribute the reason for my prediction to a lack of experience that will be needed for a team to bounce back, and something I believe the Cheetahs lack.

Personal Prediction

If there ever were two teams who I find very difficult to predict what type of season they will have, it is the Cheetahs and the Stormers. There are just so many variables that could come into play during the course of the season, and the teams’ unpredictability does not quite help either.

Personally I do believe the Cheetahs will do better than the Stormers, yet again for one reason and one reason only, Mr. Erasmus. Where the Cheetahs seem to have a very happy camp and like the Bulls, a family setup, the Stormers seem to be in disarray. It is a very close call though between these two and to stick my neck out on this one might be premature, because the Stormers do have one thing that counts in their favour, they, apart from last year, have consistently performed well in this competition whereas the Cheetahs are the new kids on the block. But, as I mentioned in my Bulls piece, I do put a lot of stock into structures, and this is something the Cheetahs have, and the Stormers, in my view, don’t.

Given Rassie displays the same courage in selections and game plans he did in the Currie Cup, the Cheetahs might just be one of the major shocks of the season.

Lowest possible log position: 10
Highest possible log position: 5
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Super 14: Stormers to lure Irishman?

It is being reported that the Stormers are in discussions with the Irish flyhalf, David Humphreys. The Stormers are also reportedly looking to lure the promising young Leopard, Naas Olivier whilst Louis Koen is back training with the hope of resuming his playing career.

Stormers Head Coach, Kobus van der Merwe has told the Independent Online, www.iol.co.za, that, "There is the possibility of Humphreys taking a sabbatical (from international rugby). Ireland are thinking of saving him for the 2007 World Cup,"

"The problem is that he has a contract with Ulster, and there are one or two complications getting him out of that. I'm positive. The talks are still alive."

He goes on to say, "We're hoping for the best. I think our chances of getting him are 50-50".

Van der Merwe is at pains to point out that Peter Grant is first choice but with the departure of Gaffie du Toit and Chris Rossouw, the Stormers are in need of sufficient back-up, as injury cover and to afford Grant a rest.

Naas Olivier is a talented youngster and a move to a bigger union like the Stormers could really launch his career.

The biggest surprise, no doubt, is the news that Louis Koen has dusted off his boots. Apparently he is being eased back into training due to the major knee injury he sustained. At 30, Koen is no spring chicken but the 34 year old Humphreys proves that rugby needn't be only for youngsters in their early 20's.
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Thursday, January 05, 2006

 

Super 14: Highlander a little lost in sudden transition


http://www.nzherald.co.nz/
By Hayden Meikle

It's A long time since Andrew Blowers felt like the new kid at school.

But yesterday, as he glanced round at the fresh-faced youngsters wearing the same colours as him, the former All Black loose forward had the distinct feeling he stuck out like a sore toe.

Blowers, 30, made an unexpected appearance at the first day of training for the Highlanders.

He was not expected back from Japan until the end of the month but flew in early when his Toyota club were dumped out of the playoffs.

"Unfortunately we got knocked out but it's lovely to be down here with the boys and have my first run as a Highlander," Blowers said.

"I missed out on the three weeks they had before Christmas and I would have loved to have been there.

"But I'm just grateful to have these five weeks rather than come in mid-February. The bright side of losing in Japan is that I'm here with the boys now."

With captain Anton Oliver not due to return from his All Black hiatus for two weeks, Blowers and fellow Auckland draft player Nick White are the senior statesmen in the squad.

There isn't much Blowers hasn't done in rugby. His resume includes 18 games (11 tests) with the All Blacks, 45 games for the Blues, 44 games for Auckland and four seasons in Britain.

Yet he arrives in Dunedin knowing barely any of his teammates and with some onlookers doubtless wondering how he will re-adapt to the pace of Southern Hemisphere rugby.

"Yeah, I feel like the new kid on the block, meeting the boys and training in a new place. I feel like it's my first time back in the Super 12 or Super 14.

"I'm here to learn, really, and to get to know the guys and the coaches, and just knuckle down and work hard and train hard.

"There are some nerves there because I just feel so new. I hardly know these guys, apart from seeing them on TV."

Blowers has been joined by wife Gina and children Samuel and Stella, and the family are looking for a house to rent during the season.

He admitted he had expected to still be in Japan at this time and had not prepared for the possibility of the powerful Toyota team stumbling at such an early stage of the playoffs.

"It was a bit of a shock. In past years we've beaten the teams we lost against.

"I hadn't even thought about packing my bags. We lost, and then we literally got things finalised straight away to get home."

When Blowers last played in New Zealand, the Super 12 (now 14) started at the end of February. Now pre-season games begin this month, and the competition on February 10.

Hopefully, by then, Blowers will feel right at home as a Highlander.

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES
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General Discussions: Closed roof stadiums best for rugby, says Marshall


No pushing in scrums? I think Justin has lost the plot! As reported by the NZPA,

Leeds halfback and former All Black Justin Marshall says closed-roof stadiums and no pushing in scrums are changes he would like to see to the game of rugby.

In an interview with British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, Marshall said he thought scrums were too weighted against the lighter or weaker pack.

"You should be able to win your own scrum and create a comfortable platform. The purists in the forwards will be going mad at that, but it is just the way I feel," Marshall said.


"You should be able to win your own scrum and create a comfortable platform. The purists in the forwards will be going mad at that, but it is just the way I feel," Marshall said.

He said his ideal future stadium was the Telstra Dome in Melbourne.

"Covered, unaffected by the weather. That is brilliant. It means you can implement your game plan, and that is how I believe top international sport should be played -- under perfect weather conditions."

Marshall said it was refreshing playing for Leeds and not being in the spotlight as much as in New Zealand where it could be difficult to find any privacy.

"I've managed to get a lot of my independence back. I'm passionate about rugby, but I realise there is not a really long-term future in the game for me. I still enjoy talking about and commentating on the game."

The former apprentice carpenter said there was a different philosophy to rugby in England and a different focus leading into games.

"The expectation in Super 12 is to move and manipulate players and get into space, letting the ball do the work. Here, it is a more physical approach, smashing the ball over the gain line."

Marshall also spoke about his biggest heroes in sport, mentioning Colin Meads, Gareth Edwards, Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Michael Jones.
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Super 14: Sharks gearing up


www.sharksrugby.co.za

The Sharks will, for the second consecutive year, take on the Bulls at Sun City in a preseason warm-up match ahead of the Super 14, and there are a limited number of packages available to fans.

The match will take place on Saturday 28 January between the Sharks and the Bulls, and not only is this the opportunity for rugby-followers to catch the action between these two foes and check early-season form, but the weekend itself will afford fans the chance of mingling with the players.


The match will also offer fans their first glimpse of the new faces in the squad, including the likes of internationals Tony Brown and Daniel Farani.

Sun City have a number of accommodation packages available, but book early to avoid disappointment.

Sun City Cabanas Hotel
Arrival : Friday 27 January 2006
Departure : Sunday 29 January 2006

Standard Twin Room
Double Occupancy : R568.00
Single Occupancy : R1046.00

Luxury / Family Rooms
Double Occupancy : R685.50
Single Occupancy : R1281.00

RATES ARE QUOTED PER PERSON SHARING PER NIGHT INCLUDING BREAKFAST

Bookings are to be made via the call center on (011) 780 7800 and please quote the following reference number SVBR2

Match Tickets
Main Grandstand : R110 per person
Free Standing : R55 per person
Free Standing (Children) : R40 per person

Tickets can be booked through Computicket with ticket sales opening on 10 January 2006 .

Tickets will be sold at the venue (Sun City Sports Field) from 11h00 on the day of the match .

No food , beverage or alcohol will be permitted in the venue .

Match Details
Game 1 : Starting at 14h15
Game 2 : Starting at 16h30
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General Discussions: What's on in 2006


www.irb.com

With memories of 2005 still fresh, it's time to look forward to another year of outstanding Rugby action around the globe.

Rugby World Cup 2007 qualifying

Last year 100 RWC qualifying matches were played. This year sees the entrance of the 'big boys' such as Argentina, Uruguay, USA and Canada in the Americas, and Italy and Portugal in Europe. It all begins with a local derby - Andorra v Spain - on 11 March.

IRB Sevens

Could this be the season that New Zealand relinquishes the IRB Sevens title? With two events already completed, they lie a lowly sixth in the overall standing, 18 points behind leaders Fiji. But, with six events to go, victory at the IRB Sevens New Zealand in Wellington on 3/4 February would put them right back in the hunt.

The circuit continues to the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore and Paris, before reaching its climax in London on 3/4 June. In March, there is also the small matter of the Commonwealth Games Sevens tournament in Melbourne, Australia.

Before the end of 2006, another IRB Sevens series will have begun.

IRB Under 19 World Championship 2006

The IRB U19 World Championship finds a new home in Dubai from 4-21 April 2006. Once again, the best young players from around the globe will compete in two 12-team divisions. The most recent addition to the team list is Chinese Taipei, who qualified after finishing third behind Japan and Korea in the recent Asian Rugby Football Union Under 19 Championships in Lahore, Pakistan.

IRB Under 21 World Championship 2006

South Africa, winners of the IRB U21 crown in Argentina last year, will be looking to retain their title this year in France. The tournament will take place in June.

IRB Women's Rugby World Cup 2006

Edmonton in Canada is the venue for the Women's Rugby World Cup from 31 August to 17 September. 12 teams, including defending champions New Zealand will be vying for the title. The tournament starts with a bang - New Zealand play home team Canada in the opening match - on the first of six exciting match days.

..and more

There will also be a growing number of regional events and tournaments around the world, which form part of the IRB's ongoing strategic development plan. For all the latest throughout the year, log on to www.irb.com.
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Other Unions / Teams: Clubs angered by RFU plan to give money to charity

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/
By David Hands, Rugby Correspondent

PEACE and goodwill remain in short supply where the Guinness Premiership clubs and the RFU are concerned. The union’s attempt this week to short-circuit the dispute between the two sides, which has been so damaging to the domestic game, has been rejected by Premier Rugby Ltd (PRL) with a degree of disdain.

In addition, Leicester will be writing a letter of complaint to the RFU over the connection made between the commercial disagreement and two charities (one the union’s own organisation, Spire, established more than ten years ago, and the other the trust fund for Matt Hampson, the young Leicester prop who broke his neck in a training accident last year).

The union’s suggestion was that half the money withheld from those clubs who played their 2005 Lions at the start of this season, in contravention of an agreed rest period, should be paid to the four clubs involved (Leicester, Sale Sharks, London Wasps and Bath). The other half would go to the charities. “Frankly that antagonised us, certainly it antagonised Leicester,” Mark McCafferty, the PRL chief executive, said.

The union, McCafferty said, had been badly advised by introducing an unrelated element to the agenda. “It’s a commercial dispute that we have here. It has nothing to do with obligations towards injured players,” he said. “To use the clubs’ money in that way, we consider, is tasteless.”

Leicester have already raised some £200,000 towards Hampson’s fund, for which a £40,000 cheque was presented to the prop’s parents at half-time during Monday’s game against Saracens, which was attended by Hampson even though he remains on a ventilator. “Anything that helps Matt is fantastic and there was great emotion at Welford Road during the presentation,” Peter Tom, the Leicester chairman, said, but his club do not believe that their efforts should become entwined with a political squabble.

Both the club and Premier Rugby believe that the only way forward is to reconstitute England Rugby Ltd (ERL), the body specifically designed to run the elite game by including representatives from both sides, which has fallen into abeyance since the departure of John Rennocks, the independent chairman, last year.

McCafferty’s hope is that, even if a short-term agreement has to be cobbled together over release dates for England players to cover this season, a longer settlement can be put in place that will give Andy Robinson, the England head coach, the preparation time he needs in 2006-07 for a successful defence of the World Cup.

“But the RFU are now asking for more than the current elite player scheme allows for, even though the High Court has ordered that both parties comply with the current agreement,” McCafferty said. He claims that the union wants to discount from the agreement the weekend when players were rested before the autumn internationals in November to leave more training days available before and during the RBS Six Nations Championship.

Although it appears that the principle of releasing England players for the Powergen Cup semi-finals on March 4, which involve Bath, Leicester and Wasps along with Llanelli Scarlets, has been conceded, McCafferty said that England sought to schedule training days during the week leading up to the semi-finals, with disruption to the three clubs. At that stage, England will have played three of their five internationals but still face a crucial away game with France on March 12, followed by a home game with Ireland six days later.

It is ironic that, in the same week, the RFU and Premier Rugby are due in the High Court to see if their differences can be settled by a legal process neither side wants. “ERL has to meet,” McCafferty said, “and there is an original date in the diary this month. We are happy to go back to the Long-Form Agreement (which the RFU has repudiated, alleging the clubs to be in breach) but that has to go alongside the proper function of ERL. That can’t be left ambiguous.

“It’s about a partnership; that is the only way through this.”
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Brannasnacht: 30 years of television in SA


Well 2005 has gone and now we start of 2006 and guess what. Brannasnacht has survived!!!!!!!!!! It has been brought to my attention that today is the 30 year anniversary of the first television broadcast in South Africa. I therefore think it appropriate that every Rugrat must choose character from their favourite television show (preferbly South African in origin) and use that as a nick for tonight. Please let us know who you choose.

There is also an hour long special on the 30 year history on SABC2 tonight at 21H00 and we will have to keep the one eye on that and the other on Brannasnacht. Should you want more info please refer to http://www.news24.com/Die_Burger/Kollig/0,,4-1511_1858498,00.html.

Welcome to the first Brannasnacht of 2006. As usual it will open at 21H00 CET. Don’t forget your drinks and friends/wifes are also welcome.
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Super 14: South Africa - Super 14 under the spotlight: The Cats


For my second installment of putting South African Super 14 teams in the spotlight, I take a closer look at the Cats. For those of you wondering if there is a reason I look at teams in a certain order, there is.

I am never one to put money on anything, let alone sport, simply because I don’t like gambling, (although Ernie Els once made me R800.00 richer when he won the British Open) but if there is one team I would put money on to come out tops in 2006 out of all South African teams, and maybe even reach the semis, it is the Cats.

The reason for the order in which I post my views on the South African team’s chances in the Super 14, is because it is the logical order I believe they will finish on the log table from a South African point of view – please note, logical, not personal.

It is a toughie between the Cats and Bulls for me, and basically a 50/50 call as to who will finish top of all SA teams. But if you are a gambling man and want to chance your arm, look no further than the Cats for reaching the semis, and/or, to end up highest out of all SA teams on the log.

There I said it! My prediction for the Super 14 for 2006, Cats to end tops of all South African teams, the Bulls a close second, and the rest to follow. Come May, I might eat my words, especially if you look back at Super 12 history, but I believe 2006 will be the year of the Cat!

The reason I am so optimistic about the Cats chances, is because I believe that all the elements that contributed to their poor performance, has largely been eliminated.

It has become as old as Van Der Merwe jokes, you know, that fact the Cats/Lions has a great team on paper, but somehow, never delivers in big competitions. Yes we heard them all, Ellispark is going to replace the grass surface with newspaper, Rapport is to sponsor the Cats, yadda, yadda, yadda.

DavidS, our only current Cats/Lions supporter, asked me to do a piece last year as to why the Lions failed in the Currie Cup, the article can be found on http://www.oranjeorakel.blogspot.com/ for those interested in reading it. But the main reasons I highlighted was the lack of structures and a game plan whenever they play the big games.

Somehow, they always seem to loose their way during the 80 minutes on the park and change their game plan to adapt to that of the opposition’s. It is almost a case of not believing enough in themselves and their style of play. They allow teams to dictate the flow and the pace of the game, and they almost never play towards their own strengths. And when the crack, man do they crack. But this year, I believe it will be different.

The Cats almost always has the most balanced team in South Africa. The forwards and specifically the tight five are not as dominant as the Bulls, but they can mix it up with the best of them. The loosies have all the skills and speed in the world to compete with the Burger’s and McCaw’s of this world. Five out of seven backline players are either first choice Springboks or Springbok squad members, and in Wikus van Heerden, they got one hell of a leader.

So why in the hell can’t they put together a dominant display for 80 minutes? Well, in my view it is simple, confidence or self belief, and having suffered from rugby’s version of multiple personality disorder.

For the Cats to have a successful campaign in 2006, they only need to do one thing, develop a game plan to play to their strengths, and stick with it for 80 minutes. For this to happen, two guys need to come to the party this year, Frans Ludeke and Wikus van Heerden.

As explained in my Bulls article, for the team to buy into a style of play, they need to first believe it is the right style for the team, and for them as individuals, and secondly, they need to play according to this style/plan for 80 minutes.

It is the coach’s job, to develop a style of play and game plan – Frans Ludeke is no muck, apart from questionable positional selections at times, he is not a bad coach. He needs to identify the team’s strength, and develop a game plan or style of play to compliment the team. If it is a good style that compliments the team and each individual, he should have no problem coaching it.

The second part is the captain’s job. He needs to ensure that during each game, every single team member sticks to the game plan no matter what happens in the 80 minutes of play, whether they trail by 15 points in 10 minutes or whether they lead by 30 points after 40 minutes. If the Cats manage to do this, they will humiliate 80% of teams in the Super 14.

A bit optimistic you might say, but I don’t think so, there are a couple of things that we can look at that supports my view.

One of the main reasons the Cats have never done this before apart from their one semi final finish under Mains, is because of their ridiculous marriage to the boys from Bloem. First off, the Cats always looked a very confused bunch in the Super 12 in the last couple of years. I believe their union with the Cheetahs had a lot to do with this. Speak to any player from both sides and you will soon realize that they were not a happy bunch.

One of the stories that did make its way to the media was that during the build up to the Super 12 and matches played at home, (which was at Ellispark most of the time) all the Lions based players could go home after training and after matches and spend time with their families and friends, and the Bloem boys where stuck in hotels and left to look after themselves. How bloody ridiculous is that? You have to spend months on end away from home and even if you are ‘at home’ (meaning home games), you are still stuck in a hotel?

I believe for this reason there was no unity amongst the players, and looking at situations like that it is not really surprising. You can’t really blame anyone though, the pressures of Super 12 was bad enough for the guys, and to worry about entertaining their mates from Bloem once in Johannesburg, was a bit much to ask. All this showed on the field as well. They were disjointed at best, there was hardly any cohesion in the way they play, nobody stood up and took the bull by the horns when the chips were down. It was almost as if the guys just pitched up to earn their weekly wages. This now, is not the case anymore.

The same squad of players doing duty for the Lions every year, now forms the base of the Cats squad. To add to that, they have the same coach, they have one home (Ellispark), and they sure as hell have enough talent.

Another fact to consider was the logistical nightmare the old franchise was faced with. I already mentioned how this must have influenced the players, but imagine how it influenced the decision makers and management of both sides. Stories that filtered through suggested there was a lot of in-fighting amongst the management and coaches, but what do you expect when hundreds and thousands of rands are involved when it came to hosting matches in either Bloemfontein or Johannesburg. Basically, it was a marriage made in hell.

But all this is behind the scenes jargon, what do the Cats have in their arsenal to realistically qualify for a semi final spot?

I mentioned earlier that they are probably the most balanced team in South Africa, and I would split that balance 60/40, or maybe a bit closer, 55/45, between backs and forwards respectively as to where their strength lies.

The Cats, and Ludeke specifically, must realize that the Cats strength lies with their back division and not the forwards. I do buy into the old saying that games are won and lost in the forwards first and foremost, but in the Cats case, I will go as far as to say that they can only loose games with their forwards, but they won’t win games with their forwards.

Let me approach or explain this from a different angle. The Cats have the forwards to contain the best in the business in all aspects of forward play such as scrums, line outs, etc., but they don’t have the forwards to completely demolish other teams, like the Bulls have for instance.

Thus, part of their focus in the forwards should be to first and foremost make sure they secure at least 85% of their own ball in the tight phases such as scrums and line outs. They have the players to do this. With tight forward options that includes the likes of Lawrence Sephaka, Lukas van Biljon, Piet van Niekerk, Marius Hurter and Baksteen Nel in the front row, and Jannes Labuschagne, Trevor Hall, Willem Stoltz and Cobus Grobler in the lock department, there is no reason to believe other teams will dominate them in the tight phases. Hell these guys are good enough to successfully challenge 60% of teams in the Super 14 in these departments, but that should be considered a bonus and only entertained as a course of action to be taken when Wikus and the boys feel they got the oppositions number in the tight phases.

An area the Cats forwards should work very hard on is in the tight loose phases. With the speed and skill they possess in the loosies department they can kill any team on the day. This area of play is going to be vital for them if they are to be competitive especially against Australian and NZ teams. If they can secure 60% of ball in this department their backline will run riot, if they don’t, it might just be another long afternoon.

The Cats may not have a Schalk Burger, or Richie McCaw, but where they lack individualistic brilliance in the loose forward department, they make up for in the collective effectiveness their loose forwards have as a combination.

How many times has it been mentioned that a guy like Schalk fought a lone battle on the day? I think teams and coaches are slowly but surely realizing the importance of loose forwards playing well as a combination, not only as individuals. The Cats have proved, through some performances of the Lions in 2005 that they have a very talented pool of loosies they can field, the trick they missed so far in my opinion, is picking the right guys in the right positions. But with players such as Wikus, Baywatch, Russel Winter, Roland Bernard, Schalk van der Merwe and Gerhard Vosloo, they are defintaly spoiled for choice. Actually, if they get the combinations spot on, they should dominate almost every team they play in this department.

If the forwards are able to provide the backs with this type of platform, there is no reason they should not reach the semis, because on ‘paper’, their backline can rip any team in the Super 14 apart. And this year I think they will – there seems to be a sense of quiet confidence surrounding this squad.

Although the Cats always had a decent backline, they performed below par more often than not. In my view, apart from the forwards providing you with decent ball, everything in the backline starts with your numbers 9 and 10.

Luckily for Frans Ludeke and the Cats, Ricky January and Andre Pretorius established themselves as the best combination in South Africa in 2005. If they carry over their form to 2006, we could see the best backline in the 2006 Super 14 being that of the Cats.

What sets Ricky apart in my view is his speed. He is damn quick around the park and has a no frills attitude when it comes to clearing out the ball quickly and effectively in most aspects of his play, but especially at ruck time where the Cats should focus most of their attention on this year in my view.

In the modern game it is almost impossible to score from first phase play these days, thus, if you want to create scoring opportunities, you would have to do that from 3rd and 4th phases. In order to do that, you need to put your opponents under pressure in broken play by not giving them time re-organize their defensive structures when you create multiple phases, and its for that reason that you need your loosies to work very hard in this area of play, and equally important, for your scrumhalf to clear his lines as quickly as possible so you rush the opposing team and upset their structures.

With the explosive attacking players the Cats have like Julies, Fourie, Jantjes, Pretorius and Willemse, the Cats just might embarrass a couple of big names and big teams.

It always amazed me that even the poorest NZ or Aussie teams somehow still manages to perform well in the Super 12, but our South African teams do not. I take a team like the Hurricanes for instance. Apart from Collins they almost always had no real forward presence or dominance to speak off, yet they are always very competitive. Why? Because although their forwards cannot compete with the big guns, they do just enough to contain them, and concentrate on moving the game to their strengths, their backs.

There are two areas that concern me about the Cats setup, and that is their defensive capabilities, and injuries to key players. If they have to loose players such as Wikus, Andre, Ricky, Fourie or Jantjes, they could find themselves in real trouble.

So, in conclusion, the Cats is my pick as the South African team you can put money on to deliver in 2006. Given the forwards can secure 85% of their own ball, the loosies dominate, or at least share the spoils 50/50 with the opposing team in broken play, and Ricky January and Andre Pretorius keep their current form and stay injury free. The most important player for them in 2006 however, will be Wikus van Heerden.

Players to watch

This guy is a complete footballer, but he did have a disappointing end of the year tour with the Boks. In my view it is not because he is not good enough for the Boks, it is simply because Conrad Jantjes is a fullback, not a wing. We all know he attacking capabilities, but I think he will be tested extensively on defense, and especially the high ball. If I was the coach of any team taking on the Cats, the first area I would identify as a potential weakness, is the back three. Although Conrad is an accomplished player, he will need his two wings to support him when the Cats are on the defensive, otherwise they might find themselves wanting.

Jacques Fourie is such a versatile player he could almost fit in anywhere. In fact, if the Cats had an outside center in the same class as Joubert, JP Nel, De Villiers and the likes, I would have played him fullback. He is incredibly strong and does an enormous amount of work around the park. What impressed me most about Fourie in 2005 was his vision he displayed, his ability to run off players and run into a gap makes him extremely dangerous if he gets good ball on the front foot with a little space.

As a combination, Wayne Julies and Jacques Fourie have the opportunity to establish themselves as the first choice center combination in South Africa. Having been a huge critic of Wayne, I had to eat my words in 2005 when he displayed his class and talent by hitting gaps in the midfield, showing us his superior distribution skills and showing what it means to put guys into space outside him. If these two fire on the day, their opposing numbers, no matter who they are, might as well pack up and go home for the rest of the afternoon to save them the embarrassment of being handed their asses.

Andre Pretorius has been branded for so long as vulnerable player when the pressure is on. But in my view, he is the most complete flyhalf I have seen in South Africa for a long time. He is definitely a confidence player, and he showed in 2005 just what he can do when he is full of confidence and brings his “A” game to the park. If he stays injury free he could prove to be the difference between a successful, or dreadful Cats 2006 season. Here is to hoping the confidence stays.

Ricky January, together with Andre Pretorius will carry a huge responsibility in 2006 if the Cats are to be successful. I believe that their backline is their area of strength, and if these two manage to successfully get the outside backs away and into space, the Cats will have a memorable season.

It is difficult to single out specific individuals in the forward pack, mainly because I believe that for them to be effective, they will need to operate as a unit to be successful. They will need to feed of each others strengths and eliminate individual weaknesses if they are to be successful.

As mentioned above, they have the guys to do this. They have a strong and mobile tight 5, and a bucket full of talented loosies to choose from, and if I had one wish as coach, it would be that after every single game when we hand out our man of the match in the change room, I could give it to all eight forwards for their contribution as a unit in the match.

There is one guy though that a lot will depend on, Wikus van Heerden. It won’t be enough for him to deliver the stand out performances we got used to in the last couple of years, he has a much more important function this year. Wikus will need to lead this new Cats team not only by example, but by instilling a believe in his team mates that they are good enough to be the best, and to stick to a damn game plan for a change!

If the Cats play to their own strengths, they will do very well this year. Wikus’ biggest tests as captain will come when the team finds itself in a sticky situation and the chips are down. If he passes the test and gets this team to gel, he will confirm what most of us believe already, that he is a dead certainty for Paris 2007, and I will even go as far as saying, the perfect guy to lead the Boks should anything happen to John Smit.

Logical Prediction

On paper…………………………………………………………

The Cats should be the second best team in South Africa. In fact, it is a very close call between them and the Bulls if you compare them man for man. They should finish in the middle or more towards the top half of the table. A semi final spot is unlikely but not impossible.

Lowest possible log position: 9
Highest possible log position: 5

Personal Prediction

Forget paper, this team has got too much talent to fail yet again. Everything that conspired towards their poor performances in the past has been largely eliminated. They have one brand under which to unite, the same coach that has been there for a couple of years, the same captain that has lead them before, the same players, one home ground and a host of Springbok players with a lot of experience. Failing again in 2006 will be nothing short of a tragedy, but I cannot see that happen.

The year 2006 will be remembered as: “The Year of the Cat”

Lowest possible log position: 7
Highest Possible log position: 3
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