If I had a Rand for every promising rugby talent that left Cape Town to pursue a career elsewhere in SA, I would certainly not be blogging on a cramped economy class flight to Jozi. No Siree Bob, I would have bought that property on the beachfront in De Kelders, the missus has had her eye on since who knows when. If for some reason this comparison escapes you, I’m attempting to explain that a huge amount of players leave Western Province and excel at other unions! I’m well aware that this scenario has been flogged to death on social media platforms, in rugby circles and around braais for ages, but I don’t care, I’m a staunch Province supporter and I want to rant and rave some more. So now you know what I’m about to ramble on about and I know that navigating away from this blog becomes an option, but I would urge you not to, as you might read something interesting after all.
If we allow ourselves to think back to 1995 when we secured our first RWC trophy, we are filled with elation, but this is not the case for Dr Louis Luyt, unfortunately. He might have been as exuberant immediately after the Stransky drop-goal, but nothing prepared him for what Francois Pienaar and Hennie Le Roux (amongst others) were cooking up for him and the entire amateur rugby world. That’s right folks rugga was an amateur sport, with players still largely holding down 9am-5pm jobs to bring home the bacon. (more…)
And not in your usual would-you-look-at-the-price-of-beer-and-cigarettes-after-the-annual-budget-speech kind of way, but in a more fundamental (and mildly offended) my-girlfriend-has-become-a-lesbian-and-says-it’s-all-my-fault kind of way.
You see, in the midst of sifting through the mountains of statistics and reading the countless weekly interviews with players and coaches that goes into accurately (or not, as was the case last week again…) producing sportblog.co.za’s weekly Kerrie Beker preview, I came across this gem from Western Province’s embattled coach Allister Coetzee, bemoaning the injury toll on his team so far this season:
“Imagine what’s it like at the start of the week when your biggest concern is whether you’ll have 22 players fully fit for a match in a few days’ time.”
No, really, he said it – just go check for yourselves on SuperSport.com.
OK, I see you don’t share my outrage here. Let me explain: the Western Province Rugby Union has about 10 000 registered senior rugby players. Stellenbosch University alone has 1500 registered players, which is more than one quarter of all the registered players in the whole of Namibia – and they made it to the World Cup! There are about 90 rugby clubs in the Western Cape feeding the provincial team. Granted, not all of them are anywhere near the size of Stellenbosch, but you get the idea. Surely finding a player or 3 to replace the walking wounded missing out of the provincial team’s ranks shouldn’t be that hard, right?
Last week I made myself guilty of giving the Sharks a bit too much credit and the Cheetahs way too little credit, and as a result sat watching in horror as my pick of the Sharks over the Cheetahs in Bloem turned farcical as the boys from the Free State pumped 50-odd onto the Durbanites. I’m blaming this bad pick on being distracted by the World Cup, an excuse I believe the Griquas would’ve been using after surprisingly coughing up the win points at home to give the Pumas their first victory of the Kerrie Beker campaign.
In fact, now that I think about it, given my other bad pick of Province over the Bulls, last week was either a week of upsets or a week of amateurish crystal ball-gazing. It takes a big man to admit that he is wrong. I, unfortunately, am not a big man, so I’ll continue to tell myself (and all of you as a consequence) that last week was a week of upsets – at least then I can continue picking this week without developing what golfers call the “yips”…
SHARKS vs GRIQUAS (Mr. Price King’s Park. Friday 7.10pm)
Although both teams should be smarting from losses last week, on paper the Sharks should have the goods on the Griquas, particularly since they have the comfort of bouncing back from last week’s pumping at home in the Shark Tank. As they say in the classics though, rugby is played on grass, not on paper, and the leaky Shark defence (as exposed by the Cheetahs last week) versus the Griquas’ potency on attack may yet deliver a surprise result. The Griquas have been consistently inconsistent this season, and if they decide to show up half-cocked in Durban this week the result could be very one-sided.
Sharks by 12.
PUMAS vs LEOPARDS (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit. Friday 7.10pm)
Oh dear. What to say about a game that not even SuperSport could be bothered to broadcast? Nothing really.
Pumas by 20.
LIONS vs BULLS (Coca-Cola Park, Joburg. Saturday 3pm)
Let me just say at this point that if you are still avidly watching the Currie Cup at this stage of this particular year, you have my respect. What with about 12 or 15 World Cup matches screened per week, along with the usual collection of Aviva Premiership games from the UK, Top 14 from France and enough RWC magazine shows to make sure that even the opinions of Afrikaans singers and heavily made-up winners of Supersport lady commentator competitions are ours to pick from, something’s got to give right? So if you are feeling a bit of couch-fatigue and you’re shirking a bit on your Currie Cup commitment, it’s ok – no hard feelings…
I must be honest, I’m struggling a bit myself – I’m usually only good for about 6 or 7 games a week – but I refuse to let go of the Kerrie Beker, particularly now that we’re so close to the business end of the competition. So for the sake of my marriage and my job then I’ve decided that I’ll pick up on the fortunes of Saracens and co in November again, and mostly avoid those 3am kick-off times in games involving powerhouses like Georgia, Russia and Scotland in favour of sparing myself for the Currie Cup games. I highly suggest you do the same if you’re also struggling with the glut of rugby being aired at the moment: the Bulls-Province match-up this weekend tops anything that Argentina and Romania might have to offer…
LEPPIDS vs LIONS (Profert Olen Park, Potch. Friday 7.10pm)
Although the Lions are making all the right noises about travelling down the N12 to take on the piss-poor Leopards – you know, all the usual “it’s-going-to-be-a-tough-game-and-we can’t-afford-to-slip”-stuff – but let’s be honest here and call an arse-kicking an arse-kicking. (more…)
Since Western Province are lining up the Leopards at Newlands this week I thought I’d go scratching through the highlights of the corresponding fixture between these 2 teams in the first round of the Currie Cup Premier Division in the hope of finding something redeeming to say about the Leppids in my weekly Currie Cup review. And I found this gem:
In what is probably their best passage of play in the whole match, watch in slomo horror as Leppids number 8 Morné Hanekom pins WP flanker Siya Kolisi with a casual lob of the rugby ball for an eye-watering bull’s-eye.
Even better is the quality work from commentator Andy Capastagno right at the end of the video, who nails this one on the, erm, head with his memorable “land owner” quip. If he wasn’t such a biased Sharks supporter I might actually start liking him.
Having managed to pick 4 out of 4 last week – and what else would you expect from us here at sportblog.co.za? – there’s a strong possibility of me extending the streak to 8 out of 8 come Sunday morning if this weekend’s match-ups are anything to go by. Effectively, the bottom half of the log travels away from home to take on the top half in Saturday’s games, and as a result the current top 4 are presented a chance to further secure their semi-final claims by putting a buffer between themselves and the other 4 teams in the Currie Cup Premier Division.
The only team reasonably capable of an upset this week is probably the hapless Bulls, who find themselves up against the Cheetahs in Bloem, but given their current form I’m not so sure. If the Bulls fail to collect even a bonus point from the Cheetahs this week I would imagine that the last sniff of a chance to contest a semi-final would be gone as well, cueing much soul-searching and introspection from the Bulls camp for the rest of the year, and much wailing, gnashing of teeth and random acts of public violence from their supporters in the streets of Pretoria. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many kids who were deliriously named “Victor” or “Bakkies” two years ago suddenly find themselves the subject of a flood of name-change applications at the Home Affairs offices come Monday morning.
The Kerrie Beker keeps rolling on in the midst of all the World Cup hype (only 6 days 23 hours 42 minutes and 10 seconds to go, kids!) and this week sees the start of the 2nd half of the competition commence as the Premier Division teams start facing each other again for their return fixtures. With half of the round robin phase of the competition already accounted for, the mad scramble to end in the top 6 on the log begins in earnest as the spectre of possible relegation looms ever larger in the wake of a more streamlined strength versus strength Premier Division format coming in 2012.
At least two teams currently playing in the Premier Division have got to go, and there’s a distinct possibility that a third might find themselves in a promotion-relegation game against the winners of the First Division – that decision still pending from the administrators of first class rugby in South Africa. With this in mind, all the Currie Cup teams will be wanting to finish in at least 5th spot on the log to avoid any relegation issues. In order to do that, away wins and bonus points suddenly become gold, and any away game against a minnow should be targeted by the bigger unions as an opportunity to help secure a top 5 finish. (Sorry for you, Leppids…)
PUMAS vs LIONS (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit. Friday 7.10pm)