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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 -
SuperRugby.co.za | Sunday, 23 September
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