110-cap Springbok, Victor Matfield is on the campaign trail and he’s just full to the brim with pearls of wisdom. First Big Vic spoke about the absolute faith he had in our local coaches and that ANY international intervention on this front would be a waste of time. Then the bearded bookseller came out firing against the “robots” in SA Rugby – those players who follow blindly and never ask or understand WHY!
In my honest opinion, what the ex-Bulls player is saying is layered with merit and I’m sure quite a few people would agree with this. What boggles the mind is how neatly he, the Bulls brains trust of the last decade and (for that matter) the whole Springbok squad danced around these types of issues when he was still plying his trade on grass as opposed to behind a table in the foyer of Exclusive Books. The issue of “robot-like” behavior is particularly close to Matfield’s heart as it has been a trademark of Bulls rugby from the days of Naas Botha. The ex-Springbok vice-captain cleverly disguises his old franchise’s ask-no-questions-hear-no-lies tactics as carefully thought-up structures that in no way resemble a programmed android. Furthermore, Peter de Villiers jumped onto this ideology as well and blindly instructed his troops to do whatever it is he felt was the trend at the time. I’m sure Matfield, Smit, Burger and du Preez will argue that they were consulted before the three Stooges (PDivvy, Muir and Gold) charged-off into a course set for disaster and stupidity, but I’m pretty sure they followed without asking – ala Robocop himself.
Imagine watching sport for the recreational appeal alone. Now your thinking, “it’s not incredibly difficult you muppet, it’s what I do with so much fervor every day of the week and all weekend”. Sure, this was my immediate response as well, but try and imagine when last you’ve really relaxed while a game (involving your chosen team) was being played. There’s always something on the line and I know that I certainly can’t unwind wholly until a favourable result has been achieved.
It wasn’t something that I realized instantly, seeing as I’m constantly consumed with an unrealistic desire for positive results and therefore relaxation and stress-free viewing doesn’t feature high on my list of priorities. It started with me thinking back to how many years have been taken off my already waning life-expectancy by the Springboks, Proteas and Western Province, my spine chills considerably and not in a good way. They’ve sapped me with their careless approach to game plans and serious lack of selection policies.
This awareness or epiphany I refer to took place gradually as I was watching re-runs of weekend sports action. I was suddenly amazed at the amount of genuinely electrifying action I missed due to my closed-minded, goal-oriented frame of mind. No other game interested me other than the one my team was playing, except possibly the ones who’s outcomes could positively influence “our” campaign. Enter the “armchair enthusiast”. The dude filled to the brim with a little piece of entitlement regarding his views on sport, athletes and administrators.
If we are serious for a moment gents, how many of us are of the opinion that most things sport-related are manly and therefore exclusively masculine? If your answer to this question was an unequivocal NOT ME, I salute you, as you are truly liberated from the shackles of chauvinism. You unfortunately also belong to a select group of gentlemen who find themselves vastly outnumbered; yet (surprisingly) chicks seem to dig where they’re coming from.
Sport and the enjoyment thereof has through centuries largely, though unfortunately, been a privilege set aside for men. It would stand to reason that women were excluded at first due to fierce prejudice that stemmed either from anthropological misconceptions (women are weak and will get hurt) or simply general male ignorance (women belong in the kitchen or at least in the part of the cave designated for cooking). We may have come a tremendously long way from the days of hunting, gathering and seeking refuge from dinosaurs in cave dwellings, but regrettably those seemingly extinct reptiles still walk among us today. I refer of course to these relics who cling to the notion of SPORT= MEN ONLY!! These very individuals who stand proud in most societies and claim to be ultra modern in their outlook on worldly aspects such as politics and religion, yet seem to have to bite their tongue when the issue of women in sport arises. Gender equality should be a fairly simple concept to grasp, but it certainly seems to be reminiscent of an island surrounded by shark-infested waters! It would be commercial suicide for male, public figures, who dream of staying in the limelight, to voice reservations relating to the fairer sex and sport.
A term that has lately been getting as much mileage as Kim Kardashian’s posterior has been rush-defence. The term was coined by defensive gurus around the time Jake White made a name for himself as the Bok coach. Coincidence – I think not! Old Jakey has made his meteoric rise up the ladder of brilliant coaches by borrowing more than his fair share from other pedigree rugby and rugby league brains. None of what he brought to Springbok back line play has wintered as well as the rush defence system though.
Seemingly simple in its execution, this defensive manuver requires defenders to literally rush up onto the ball carriers so as to prevent the ball from being spread wide. The idea is to unsettle and smother a planned attack by creating an abnormal amount of pressure. The inception of the strategy caused quite a stir back in 2005-2006 when the Boks started doing it with relatively big success, but it has since been countered effectively. The traditional 13-man code of league rugby started emphasizing the effect a well-worked defensive system has as a bonus to a well-structured plan of attack. The problem though with defending the way that this technique requires, is that it creates gaps when defenders are not aligned as contact is made with the ball carriers. A simple step out of the defender’s channel or a lightning quick pass inside creates havoc with this defensive system. (more…)