category: rugby news

Please Springboks end this nightmare

Chris Rattue17/10/07

Come on South Africa. Please, please, please.

If there is any justice in this world, the Springboks will annihilate England in the Rugby World Cup final on Sunday morning and strike a blow for southern hemisphere rugby's mad, crazy obsession with providing a bit of entertainment.

England are in the World Cup final. England are in the World Cup final. England are in the World Cup final. You can repeat these words over and over again, and they still sound like a crazy nightmare.

Boring and hopeless England are in the World Cup final ... it doesn't get any better.

How about England are the world champions, England are the world champions, England are the world champions. That might be next week's real live nightmare, featuring a cast of characters all scoffing at what takes place in southern hemisphere rugby. How on earth did this tournament come to such a hellish state?

Looking on the positive side, if there is one, it was a great relief to see Argentina shoved out of the tournament by South Africa, whose pack was shoved all over the place by the Puma scrum.

England's semifinal meandering against a very average French team at least provided a close and therefore gripping contest, thanks largely to the brilliant Paris crowd and stadium.

But once again, the delights of Argentinian rugby escaped me, to be honest.

Surely Argentina weren't the darlings of the tournament, as some made out.

The darlings of sporting world cups are actually teams like the Ghanian soccer outfit whose adventure and skill blossoms from out of impoverished ground.

Mini-me England rugby teams like Argentina aren't darlings. They are dullards and it's very difficult to work out why anyone would think the Sanzar tournaments would be enhanced by continually flying our players all the way to Buenos Aires so they can get mown down by a load of life-sized bowling balls. It would take years off the players' careers, not to mention their lives.

Yes, the Pumas face obstacles and don't get the respect they deserve and blah blah blah but could there have been a more tragic Rugby World Cup final than the sight of Argentinian beef barging into British bulldog for 80 minutes? It would have been rugby's answer to barking mad cow disease.

Just imagine. Had that final ended at say two penalties and three drop kicks all, it would have led to extra time consisting of more of the same, followed by the most appropriate ending of all - a goalkicking contest.

There is actually an even more appropriate deadlock-breaking system the IRB should institute, having witnessed the kick-orientated game plans employed by most teams at this World Cup.

That would be force back, the one-tactic schoolyard kicking game in which most of the combatants are too slow or disinterested to get involved, and a couple of clever clogs take over because they can punt the ball a country mile.

This World Cup should actually have been played on a grassy reserve, with a cluster of feijoa trees at one end, a slippery bank at the other, with a jungle gym and tuck shop nearby. The conclusion to all the games should have been signalled with a bell.

In fact, what is needed in Paris is for a school kid to run out on to the field during the final and invent a new World Cup by picking up the ball and running with it.

So, a tournament of fascinating upsets and endless kicking is near its end. This final isn't just a game between two teams we don't care about, however.

It was an eerie and deeply disturbing experience being at an English friend's place on Sunday morning, as Ashton's Army bludgeoned France with an array of blunt instruments.

Never, in a month of Sundays, did I think the price to pay for a superb English semifinal breakfast during this World Cup tournament would be watching a grown man wriggling on the floor while singing "Swing low, swing chariot".

What the heck is that song about anyway?

"I can't wait to get to work this week," the friend announced, positively oozing a new-found Jonny Wilkinson work ethic as I swung my chariot at speed out of his drive.

"Must get to work myself," I yelled back, while catching a glimpse of an over-sized Union Jack tea mug in the rear vision mirror. England's march must be brought to a halt before the world wakes up to find it has a Sir Brian Ashton in its midst.

For the sake of this final, the Springboks represent all that is right in rugby, sport, and the universe, even though in reality they aren't much more inventive than Argentina and live off mistakes like a fourth term politician.

At least the Springboks have an element of talent in their backline, and when their halfback Fourie du Preez is on song, it is hard to recall a better player wearing a test No 9 jersey. Du Preez and the lineout king Victor Matfield should be the major difference between the sides in the final.

Even more importantly than South Africa's small nod to a running game, they are now the de facto representatives of New Zealand and Australian rugby. It's now up to Jake White and Eddie Jones to set things right on behalf of Tri-Nations frivolity.

We can't share in South African glory should they lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for a second time, but we can sleep a lot easier if they do. A lot easier.

CHRIS RATTUE | The NZ Herald | Wednesday, 17 October , 2007 | Comment on this article

Chris Rattue

Please Springboks end this nightmare 17/10/07
France pose absolutely no threat to the All Blacks 3/10/07
World Cup wallowing but for ankle biters 19/9/07
Bring on the upsets 17/9/07
Paris warms to RWC 8/9/07
Beating the bookies 29/8/07
Forward casualties 15/8/07
Village idiots part II 8/8/07

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