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Armand van Zyl

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Springboks, All Blacks, Wallabies: That's all that really matters.

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The point is that our handling was poor, not our attack. Our attack beat Japan’s defence relatively easily, meaning that it worked. Our handling, on the other hand, did not.

It wasn’t that our attack made no progress, otherwise there would be no missed opportunities to bemoan. The fact that we are lamenting a possible 4 tries that were butchered indicates that the problem lies with finishing opportunities, not creating them.

Six talking points from Japan vs Springboks

Hey Corne

I’m going to have to disagree with our attack being nowhere 😛

I was surprised by how easily we beat the Japanese defence on multiple occasions, finding overlaps seemingly at will. Throughout the game I counted about 5 opportunities, 3 of which were easy tries were it not for horrendous handling errors. And here I’m not even counting de Allende’s (correctly) overruled crossing.

The stats pretty much backed it up. In the first half Japan made only 40 meters more than we did for about the same number of defenders beaten. Difference being that they only had about one real opportunity to score where I counted 5 for us.

In my view our attack wasn’t the problem. Our handling was. Had Etzebeth not knocked on 5 meters from their line, we had a 4 on 2 overlap. Had de Allende released the ball, we would’ve had a try. Had Am given a proper pass to Mapimpi we would’ve had a try. Had Willie caught the ball and given it to Mapimpi we would’ve had a try. Had Willie’s pass to Pieter-Steph du Toit not been forward we would’ve had a try. Had our handling been sufficient the general consensus would’ve been that our attack was good.

I don’t subscribe to the belief that butchering try-scoring opportunties equals bad attack. Our attacking structure beat Japan easily. Attack was not the problem. Our handling was the problem. Had we not created all those unfinished opportunities at all then I would agree that we showed nothing. The problem is that we showed enough without cashing in on it.

Six talking points from Japan vs Springboks

Aye!

We’ve been winging it for years… Why stop now?

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

Thanks mzilikazi. Used to be a regular contributor, wrote a few pieces where I pretended to know something. Oom Harry and Biltongbek took good care of me. Then took a hiatus.

Look forward to chatting with you in the numerous threads down the line.

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

Thank you, sir. It’s been a while since I commented here. Never used to have that problem, but at least now I know.

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

And again, no spaces between paragraphs despite my best efforts. I’ll have to man the PC instean of my phone next time.

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

Great stuff as always, Nick.

There is, quite rightly, a lot of talk going around concerning the contrast of styles that will be on offer. The consensus is that Japan will play a fast running game with a superior skill set while the Springboks will play the “usual boring brand of 10-man rugby”. Needless to say, this is most probably what we’re going to see, and for very good reason.

Japan cannot beat South Africa in the trenches and South Africa can’t beat Japan by throwing the ball around. This much is obvious. But something I haven’t seen mentioned is that we’ve already seen this movie before.

Now, granted this is a World Cup quarterfinal, I think the pre-World Cup match between these two sides can give us a little more insight regarding these two philosophies at play.

I’d like to highlight that South Africa intentionally played with as little possession as possible against Japan, and they seemed to be quite comfortable doing it. So, it would seem that the battle for possession might not be as important as we were led to believe.

As for the Springbok backline attack being stale, they seemed to be scoring tries for fun against Japan. Two of them I believe were from set-phases, one on a turnover, another from a contestable kick and the last from an intercept from Kolbe.

Traditionally the Springboks score the second most tries of all the teams in World Rugby, with New Zealand obviously taking top spot. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t rare to see South Africa scoring four tries or more a game. They scored 5 against Australia in Joburg, 1 against New Zealand in Wellington, 5 again against Argentina in Argentina, then 3 against Argentina in South Africa. Against Japan they scored 5. In the World Cup, they’re among the top try-scoring nations in the competition. Lastly, of all the games played in 2019, more than half of South Africa’s try tally comes from the backline.

The backline can be predictable, but in a way they compliment the pack. When the backline gets good front-foot ball, they score lots of tries despite not scoring any “miraculous” tries in the vein of Japan and New Zealand. The Springboks’ stale and creatively bankrupt backline is, in my view anyway, not as big of a drawback as they might seem. Not because they’re at all spectacular, but because their performance solely depends on how the pack’s going.

That is true of all rugby sides, but it’s especially true for us. So the only way Japan can win is if they reach parity with us on a physical level. If they don’t I’d even be as bold as to say that the South African backline will be scoring tries for fun again, just like they did last time.

Nevertheless, I am worried about this game. Japan can win it. But I’ll go with South Africa.

Can Japan repeat the Brighton Miracle at the 2019 Rugby World Cup?

I’ve been around, Oom. Holding my peace while the grownups talk.

And crying over my Stormers jersey.

Ireland vs New Zealand: Betting against the greenback

My apologies in advance for the lack of spaces between each paragraph. For some reason it keeps coming out like that, despite me trying to change it.

Ireland vs New Zealand: Betting against the greenback

Difficult game to call. Depending on Ireland’s mindset heading into it, I can see the result varying to multiple potential outcomes.
Ireland has not shown much thus far in the World Cup, although I definitely wouldn’t hold up the result against Japan as a clear indication of ineptitude on their part. Japan has been on the rise for the last few years, and sooner or later all the big teams will have to come to terms with the fact that, more often than not, Japan will be a much greater threat than they traditionally always have been. Add into that the massive boost the home supporters are giving them. In all likelihood, the Springboks will face them in the quarters, and I for one won’t be taking that as a done deal for a victory. The Springboks losing is a very tangible possibility.
Anyway, all that comes down to is the loss against Japan wasn’t as disgraceful as many would think. Not in my view, anyway. That Ireland haven’t been convincing since then to me would be a much bigger worry.
There is a chance, however, that the prospect of facing New Zealand will bring out the best of them. Might not be as probable as them following recent form, but it’s possible. If Ireland plays at 100%, comparable to the wins (and even the loss) in 2016 and 2018, then we’ll have a game on our hands. New Zealand won’t have it all their way. I’m not saying that they won’t win if Ireland comes at them — they certainly have a good chance of winning — but it won’t be as easy as some supporters might think.
If Ireland don’t find that little spark then, quite frankly, they’re good as gone already. Might even end up with a huge blowout a la France in 2015.
I’ll still back New Zealand for the win regardless. But as of now it’s just a question of which Ireland will pitch up. Does Joe Schmidt have one last card up his sleeve? The plot thickens.
As for me, I’ll much rather spend my time worrying whether the Springboks are going to get it done over Japan or if we’re booking an early flight back home.

Ireland vs New Zealand: Betting against the greenback

Great read, Geoff.

For the life of me I cannot understand the Irish, Italian and (very recently) Scottish quips and accusations toward New Zealand — especially the Irish ones, since they’ll most likely meet the men in black in the quarterfinal.

It’s rarely a good idea to get on New Zealand’s bad side so close to playing them. All it does is ensure that they’ll be geared up for a massacre. History has shown that it’s a terrible idea. Cheika’s done it a fair number of times and it never ends up well for him. Granted these are Irish pundits and not the Irish team themselves, but that’s what makes it even worse. The team will suffer for comments coming from outside the camp.

Thankfully South Africa (the team) rarely get involved with stuff like that. I wasn’t very happy with Rassie and his staff’s comments before the opening game either, but at least it’s a once in a blue moon kind of deal with us.

Anyway, the playoff matches should be very interesting. Let’s see what happens from here.

Week 3 World Cup reflections: How rugby's crazy Cup just got crazier

Damian de Allende finding good form.

Stormers vs Rebels: Super Rugby live scores

You’re going to give me headaches with this stuff, ser Jones. My brain checked out halfway through.

My take on it though: I personally wouldn’t go for either Siya Kolisi or Kwagga Smith at openside for the Springboks. Kolisi because he really doesn’t deserve it given his current form and Kwagga because I really don’t get the hype. He’s more like a Jaco Kriel junior — I’d take Kriel over him every day and twice on a Saturday.

Big fan of Francois Louw, but I’m not sure whether we should try to move on. The Bulls have a few good fetchers running around. I like Roelof Smit. He’s far from being world class at this point, but I do like what I see so far. What we really need is Marcell Coetzee. He’s just got the full package. He fetches well, he tackles well and he carries very well, and his workrate used to be phenomenal.

Of course, I’m more concerned with the overall balance of our back row. Marx more than helps out with ball on the ground. The balance is something we haven’t gotten right since 2015. We’re in a limbo of trying to be lightweight and mobile while still having that brutish defensive punch at the same time.

Super Rugby stats deep dive: Which tacklers are carrying and passing the best and most?

I’d still rather have Engelbrecht and Leyds with Marais at fullback.

But Rhule’s got heart. I’ll give him that.

Stormers vs Reds: Super Rugby live scores, blog

I have to say that I can’t find it within myself to be overly critical of Raymond Rhule. Yes, he is still an exceptionally weak defender, but you can’t fault him for heart. He does a lot on attack, and he always lends a hand in the rucks, chasing kicks.

I suppose that it’s better to have a player who actually cares about playing.

Stormers vs Reds: Super Rugby live scores, blog

Nick Mallett is very unhappy about the shoulder to Barry’s head by the Reds tighthead. But the ref apparently said he checked it with the TMO.

Stormers vs Reds: Super Rugby live scores, blog

Don’t you have it marked on your calendar, mate? Tends to be the best time of the year for you guys. We call it the South African version of Thanksgiving.

Rebels vs Sharks: Super Rugby live scores, blog

Bad weekend for the SA teams again I suppose. Hopefully the Lions and the Stormers will be able to pull it back for us if the Sharks lose.

Rebels vs Sharks: Super Rugby live scores, blog

Unfortunately I’m not able to watch the game.

How are the Sharks doing? Still trying to find their way to the field, or are they actually playing?

Rebels vs Sharks: Super Rugby live scores, blog

All good points. I don’t actually have any problems with Whiteley personally, but I do find the romantic notions of him particularly disturbing.

For instance, Vermeulen was far and away our best player for the better part of 4 years. It took only 2 below par games against Ireland for the public to turn on him and worship Whiteley. With this came an adoration that comes close to being obsessive. Due to his efforts with the Lions, everyone finds it to be just dandy to mask his limitations, of which he has plenty.

He’s been marked as the messiah, but as I previously pointed out, he was about as anonymous as Spies was in 2016. Much is said of his leadership, and although he was not officially the captain, none of it showed that year. Etzebeth was crucified for the 57-0 loss and the loss against Ireland, but Whiteley also enjoyed 180 minutes of a 57-15 drubbing by New Zealand and a horrible defeat to Italy. Neither his play nor his leadership showed in any capacity.

The 2016 end of year tour was another indication. He was nowhere to be found against the Barbarians. Parisse had a field day against him in Padova. Apart from Goosen’s consolation try at the end, he was nowhere against England. Finally, I hardly think that Wales felt him in Cardiff.

Neither his leadership, pace, handling, nor his smarts helped him. He conceded metres in contact like clockwork despite completing the tackle. You might say that he can’t be judged on 2016 performances because the whole team went belly-up, but then that would also concede that we shouldn’t hold 2016 against anyone else either, which would include Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana and Damian de Allende.

Finally, if I had to choose any Lions players for the loose trio, I’d much rather have Jaco Kriel.

Five things we learned from Super Rugby Round 5

That doesn’t necessarily translate to him being a world class captain though. Being the best at anything in South Africa doesn’t mean as much as it once did.

Then there is also the question of whether he’s actually the best of all our options. I don’t believe that he is. He’s been around since 2015 and I’ve yet to see him put in a standout performance. He was fairly anonymous in 2016 despite playing most of the year.

Five things we learned from Super Rugby Round 5

Aye, that be true.

Five things we learned from Super Rugby Round 5

From a South African perspective I’ve learned a couple of things.

1. The Sharks have done right in recruiting a host of highly promising players, but it boggles the mind how they’re all made to look so decidedly average in their new team.

Based on potential, this Sharks team has to be giving the Lions a full go for the top of the conference. Based on potential, they should be in the run for the title.

I get the feeling that all is not well in Natal. Rumours have it that there is a certain sense of discontentment regarding Robert du Preez junior just showing up and taking the reigns from Bosch, who had a good season last year (in Super Rugby).

I’ve learned that the Sharks will never realise this potential until a very competent coach gets a hold of them.

2. I’ve learned that the Bulls are vastly improving. Yes, they were well beaten by the Lions, and yes, they absolutely blew it against the Chiefs, but when you compare this version of the Bulls against the version of 2017, there’s already a 100% improvement.

It might take a season or two for them to become a team capable of challenging for the title, but fair is fair. They’re showing improvement. It’s not ideal, but an upward curve is always welcome.

3. The Lions have regressed.

That is not to say that they’ve suddenly become a mediocre team, or that their days of qualifying for the grand final are over, but it is plain to see that they’re not at 2016 or 2017 levels.

In 2016, the Lions had New Zealand opposition sweating bullets whenever a Johannesburg fixture came up. They beat the Chiefs in Hamilton before going down quite badly against the Highlanders in Dunedin. They made short work of the Blues at Ellis Park. They lost against the Crusaders, and they were well thumped by the Hurricanes at Ellis Park.

The Lions would come back to rectify this in the playoffs, where the Crusaders and the Highlanders were never really in it before losing to the Canes in the final.

This year the Lions struggled to beat the Sunwolves. The first game against the Sharks was made to look better than it was by virtue of their dominant scrum. The game against the Jaguares wasn’t as convincing as the score might suggest. The game against the Bulls was their best effort, but even then they didn’t have it all their way.

I think the biggest problem for the Lions is that their strengths have become too familiar, and teams are now doing proper analysis in order to negate it. As was shown against the Blues and the Sunwolves, if you negate their scrum and their maul, the game immediately becomes 50/50. They rely on those two facets too much in my opinion.

Still, they have the goods to go far, and will in most likelihood end up tops of the SA Conference.

4. My Stormers suffer from the same coastal malady as the Sharks do. Same story. Have great potential, but are a long shot from realising it.

In the past 2 years they’ve shown that they can tango with New Zealand teams, and tango in style against them — provided the match is at Newlands, and provided the game is not in the knockout stages.

They’ve always shown the ability to beat New Zealand sides. In their prime they were perhaps the best SA side to do it. They beat all New Zealand sides in 2010 (the only SA side to have ever done it), have the biggest ever win against the Crusaders of any SA or AUS side (42 – 14 in 2010). In 2012 they beat 4/5 Kiwi teams. In 2013 they beat all the qualifying sides (bar the Saders) despite not making the playoffs themselves, including that year’s finalists, the Chiefs and the Brumbies, both wins pretty handily. They beat the Chiefs and the Blues last year at Newlands.

Basically, they can beat anything thay anyone throws at them on their day, provided it’s at Newlands and that it’s not a knockout game.

Except, these good wins during the season just don’t cut it anymore. They’re currently playing a great style of rugby, but they still fold worse than Elton Jantjies when the big ones come.

Can’t see us going far this year. That won’t change until, like the Sharks, we get ourselves a decent coach.

Five things we learned from Super Rugby Round 5

I’m not sure I can agree with number 5. The Boks didn’t become rudderless without Whiteley. Whiteley captained the team in the first 2 tests against a very, very, very horrible French team, and in the following 3 tests against that same French team and against Argentina under Eben Etzebeth they looked pretty much the same as when Whiteley was there. Whiteley was also present in almost the whole of 2016 and didn’t have any magical effects on the team despite being vice captain.

He’s a talisman for the Lions. Hasn’t proven to be for the Springboks as of yet.

Five things we learned from Super Rugby Round 5

“Ireland should start as favourites against South Africa”

I don’t think they should start as favourites, they will start as favourites. The game is in Ireland, where Ireland have a good record against the Springboks. Ireland is currently ranked number 4 in the world while South Africa is ranked number 5. Of the last 10 encounters between Ireland and South Africa, the results read 5 wins to each. Plus the Springboks of 2015-2017 are most likely the worst in history over a sustained period. Ireland on the other hand have developed into a very impressive team with heaps of potential.

The smart money will be on Ireland and rightfully so.

No matter which way you want to slice it, the Springboks have become a “middle team” of the top order, capable of a solid performance here and there but not to be taken seriously on a consistent basis. New Zealand (or at least a good part of it) will talk us up because we have history and share probably the best relationship of all international teams in the game, but even they know that England, Ireland and Australia offer a much greater challenge than we do.

So we gave them a good run in Cape Town, so what? The Wallabies managed to beat them in Bledisloe 3. Ireland have recently beaten them and have given them a good run in all games played since 2013. If New Zealand played against England this weekend, I’d imagine most neutrals could see either side winning.

Can South Africa beat Ireland? Maybe if we play like we played in Cape Town, but if history’s anything to go by we’ll most likely not exhibit that same kind of energy since we only play that way when we have a point to prove.

It isn’t about claiming the underdog tag. I’ll honestly just be surprised if we win on Saturday.

Ireland should start as favourites against South Africa

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