category: rugby news

Time of the Galácticos

Dan Retief23/9/07

The Springboks, even after the near disaster against Tonga, shape up pretty well when subjected to one of the measures used to determine whether a team can win the World Cup.

It is said that to be successful at the tournament a team needs to have a good quotient of world-class players – i.e. players that would be included in a World XV.

This was certainly the case with Martin Johnson’s England, John Eales’s Australia, Francois Pienaar’s Springboks, Nick Farr-Jones’s Wallabies and David Kirk’s All Blacks.

Take a look at the winning sides, the era they played in and the quality of the individuals in their line-ups, and you realise that all five triumphant countries had the benefit of the confluence of a number of outstanding players at the same time.

And by this yardstick the Boks of 2007 don’t do at all badly.

Fourie du Preez is now acknowledged as the best scrumhalf in the game, Bryan Habana would edge into most anyone’s team as the left wing, Victor Matfield is considered the best “aerial” lock in the game and Schalk Burger’s exceptional work rate has him right up there among the loose forwards.

The lock combination of Matfield with Bakkies Botha, in spite of the latter’s lack of consistency and volatile temperament, would add another to the list of World XV contenders and when you factor in the like of John Smit, Juan Smith, Jaque Fourie, Percy Montgomery (especially for his goal-kicking) and the fearless young Francois Steyn, who seems to have found his best position at inside centre, you have confirmation that South Africa does have a concentration of individuals which can be matched by only the All Blacks.

In the great scheme of the tournament the wobble against Tonga, which nevertheless produced a bonus point and win, will be irrelevant once the knockout stages (remember just three games) get under way.

That will be the time of the “galácticos,” when, as has been shown before, world-class individuals, playing at the top of their form will inspire those around them and make the difference.

Le Journal de la Coupe de Monde

Tommy Tourist: That’s what the Boks are calling Smiling Bryan Habana. Habana has charmed and enchanted the French and his star status is confirmed every time he gets anywhere near the fans – literally being mobbed by youngsters attending the Springboks’ training sessions at Noisy le Grand wanting autographs or just to touch him. He always tries to respond by saying something in French!

Enough’s enough: One of the down sides of being on tour in this refined and stylish country is not being able to speak or read the language – so when you do find an English paper your spirits rise only to have any joy quickly swamped by the assumed angst, pompous pontifications and gnashing of endless words about the state of England rugby. And it’s obviously gotten to (as the Americans would say) England coach Brian Ashton. When he named his side to play Samoa in their must-win Pool A match, one reporter asked if the defending champions' tight five were up to the task against their powerful Polynesian opponents. Ashton calmly replied: "Maybe you should come into the dressing room before the game and ask them that yourself."

Slainte. Here's tae ye: A dry spell lasting a quarter of a century came to an end when Scotland played Romania at Murrayfield. Legislation banning the sale of alcohol in the ground had been relaxed which was quite surprising to those of us who have been to Edinburgh a few times and come to the, obviously erroneous, conclusion that a good few “wee drams” have always been in circulation!

As good as gold?: Not on yer life mate! There can be little doubt that Adidas, who kit out the All Blacks, have won the marketing battle hands down at Planet Rugby. Their massive illuminated ads on the sides of buildings and bold advertising have left the other apparel sponsors in the dark, but they got the game against Scotland horribly wrong by not checking what sins Canterbury were visiting upon Scotland’s navy blue. The upshot was that the two teams played in jerseys that were almost indistinguishable on television while another thing the ABs got wrong is telling the world they would be playing in silver jerseys – just like the match they looked like grey to me.

Two strikes and you’re out: Brian Lima has every reason to be aggrieved and Samoa would be in their rights to lodge an appeal against his citing for a dangerous tackle on Jonny Wilkinson on the grounds that it was no more dangerous than the tackle he was trying to make when André Pretorius knocked him cold!

Celebrate the World of Rugby: A weekly magazine, “Hebdo Rugby,” edited by Benoit Pensivy and distributed by “L’Equipe” urges us all to obey rugby’s Ten Commandments:

1. Thou shalt watch all matches, whether at the stadium, the corner bar, or at home.

2. Even if thou look ridiculous, thy country’s colours thou shalt wear.

3. Thy anthem thou shalt sing, thou opponent’s anthem thou shalt respect.

4. Thou shalt not boo thy opponent’s goal kicker.

5. Thou shalt refrain from making a Mexican wave during the match and, verily, thou shalt receive looks that kill.

6. Thy team thou shalt encourage, whether playing well or not. 7. Like the venerable players, thou shalt accept the referee’s decisions.

8. Thou shalt accept the score, no matter what it is.

9. Arm in arm with thy buddies, thou shalt replay the match.

10. Thou shalt buy a round for thy opposing team’s fan.

French flair? The French have a picturesque turn of phrase that becomes even more colourful in translation. Here are some of “Hebdo’s” player descriptions:

Bryan Habana (South Africa): Fiery support, lightening speed and breathtaking dives, the Habana show is about to begin! And, as always, with a smile.

Jonny Wilkinson: Like a true fashion victim, before contending for a second consecration, he went for a complete overhaul: shoulders, knees, ankles, elbows. The brand new Jonny is up and running.

Brian O’Driscoll: He’s the Clark Kent of world rugby. In town, he’s the geeky intellectual with a straight part in his hair, on the field he’s Superman only without the red BVD’s.

Frédéric Michalak: Will the darling of French women replace singer Patrick Bruel? The groupies are warming up and waiting on the sidelines. The word “Freeeed!!!!!!” is about to resound throughout France.

Daniel Carter: The finest player on the planet has already won everything there is to win. On October 20th he could down in history by raising the Webb Ellis Cup. He has to put New Zealand in orbit.

Richie McCaw: He looks like a cowboy, talks like a cowboy, and word has it he even learned to tackle sheep instead of women. The All Black captain is one helluva he-man!

Sébastian Chabal: Not recommended for children under 10. Send the kids to bed! Because beneath a physique like Jesus lurks the Dentist, who redid Ali Williams’s jaw with his head.

DAN RETIEF - | Sunday, 23 September 2007 | Comment on this article

Dan Retief

The Jonny Factor 17/10/07
Time of the Galácticos 23/9/07
Average JO must go 17/9/07
Can history repeat itself? 6/9/07
Who will win the World Cup? 22/8/07
The spy in from the Reds 31/7/07
Painting it All Black 24/7/07

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