Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tri – Nations – first Bledisloe Cup match of 2010

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Etihad Stadium, Melbourne 11.00 am UK/Irish time is the setting as the Wallabies and the All Blacks start the contest for the Bledisloe Cup 2010. New Zealand have retained it for 7 years in a row now, are they going to make it 8? On the face of it, yes, but not much is going to plan this Tri Nations so far.

Pre tournament tips were for a another Springbok title, with the Aussies making up the numbers. But the Springboks have proved to be the joker in the pack this year, with three losses on the trot. And as they lost by pretty much the same margin in each match, does that mean New Zealand and Australia are fairly evenly matched? Before the Wallabies turned over the Boks I’m sure the AB’s had this weeknd down as a glorified training run.

The All Blacks are on a serious rebound after a poor middle of last year, they have haven’t put a foot wrong, starting with their overseas tour. Their pack is awesome again, the backs aggressive and incisive, and the whole team seems to be brimming with confidence. Dan Carter is back on song, he didn’t look himself in the Super 14 but is back to near his best.

The Wallabies had a terrible Tri-Nations last year, an up and down overseas tour, and ended with a loss to England in their last warm up, where in particular their scrum was demolished by the English. And as any Southern fan will tell you, the last Northern team you want to lose to is England. They’ve also last their star man Quade Cooper to suspension, and with a rejigged back line they could be exposed by Smith and Nonu.

The Boks showed briefly that the Aussie scrum isn’t fixed yet even if they weren’t smart or competent enough to exploit it. Benn Robinson looks about half fit and Stephen Moore about half of that again. So it could be a tough day at the office for the Aussie front row.

The All Blacks and the Wallabies have to be two smartest sides in the world. Smart is not a common accusation made against their Tri Nations partner, the Springboks, but the Boks usually have their own effective style of ruthless physicality to bring to the party. One major drawback of not having the South Africans involved this weekend is we don’t have any more fascinating post match interviews with Pieter de Villiers, the most quotable man in rugby. There’s the obligatory talking the opposition up going on:,25883,16024_6281221,00.html which is as much of the pre match tradition now as the haka.

So what’s it going to be? The Wallabies always raise their game for the All Blacks, and some of the finest Tri Nations matches have been between these two sides. I just think the All Blacks are smart enough to know how to exploit the Aussies weaknesses and so I’d tip them for a 7 point win.

Australia: 15 Adam Ashley Cooper, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Will Genia, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (c), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Matt Hodgson, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Anthony Faingaa, 22 Kurtley Beale.

New Zealand: 15 Mils Muliaina, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Joe Rokocoko, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Jimmy Cowan; 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Tony Woodcock.

Replacements: 16 Corey Flynn, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Victor Vito, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Israel Dagg.

Aviva Stadium opening

This weekend also sees the opening of the fabulous new Aviva Stadium in Dublin, the replacement for the old Landesdown Road. It’s a Leinster/Munster combination taking on an Ulster/Connacht team, with the emphasis as far as I know on development players so the rugby may not be of top order. But what a chance to get in and see the new place!

My plan for tomorrow is to get in to the Wool Shed and catch the Wallabies/All Black match, and get over to the Aviva Stadium for the match.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Boks suck again

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Look guys – I have a reasonably stressful job, my families away and the sun didn’t shine this weekend, so the least you could do is f£@*&ing try! That’s the Boks, who put in another woeful performance in a so far catastrophic Tri-Nations campaign. PDV will no doubt be having another rant about the ref, and although the Boks got murdered again, it doesn’t need the CSI to point out a few home truths:

1. They really miss Fourie du Preez

2. They really miss Fourie du Preez

3. They really miss Fourie du Preez

4. Did I mention they really miss Fourie du Preez? He’s as important to them as Dan Carter is to the All Blacks.

5. They are also missing Heinrich Brussow and Juan Smith.

6. They don’t have a plan B, so what is a deadly tactic with Fourie du Preez turns into lots of aimless kicking with everyone else.

7. Players like John Smit and Victor Matfield are showing their age and going to need to be managed carefully to last out to the next world cup.

8. I haven’t mentioned changing coach but that would help too. This is Graham Henry putting the boot in:

Out of this mess, Danie Roussow was immense, Pierre Spies showed a few good turns, and Jaques Fourie looked good. If I was in charge, from this team I’d swop Bekker for Matfield, Burger for Potgeiter, Kankowski for Louw, De Jong for Olivier, bring in Hougard on the wing, and drop Kirchner for Aplon.

For the Wallabies, Pocock was awesome, and Genia and Giteau are showing some of the form they are famous for. It’s all looking good for the first Bledisloe match of the year.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Trinations and Heineken Cup

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Tri Nations

Closing up on last weekend, PDV has been pretty vocal on a refereeing conspiracy,25883,16024_6274109,00.html- the Boks aren’t losing because of your dodgy selections then? Here’s an interesting and balanced Kiwi view on last week’s match

Whatever PDV has to say, 5 penalties given away by Ritchie McCaw and no yellow card is a bit ridiculous. The AB’s are such an awesome team, they don’t need to cheat, and it can backfire on them – Luke McAllister’s yellow card against France in the last World Cup was the turning point of the match for me.

Anyway, the Boks limp into Brisbane this week to see if they can breathe some life back into the corpse of their Tri Nations campaign so far. They will be desperate to get a win, and with a few key changes made in the team, they may well be able to do it.

 It’s great to see Kankowski and Pienaar back in the team, and Aplon adds some much needed excitement to the back line. The Wallabies have Ben Robinson and Will Genia back in the team, both very talented players. The Wallabies looked pretty undercooked in their warm up matches and have been kicking their heels for two weeks now. It should be one hell of a match, and I’m going with the Boks because I don’t have a clue who’s going to win.

Australia: 15 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14 James O'Connor, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Matt Giteau, 11 Drew Mitchell, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Rocky Elsom (capt), 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Salesi Ma'afu, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 Benn Robinson.

Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Ben McCalman, 20 Luke Burgess, 21 Berrick Barnes, 22 Kurtley Beale.

South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Oliver, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Ryan Kankowski, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Danie Rossouw, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (capt), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Dewald Potgieter, 20 Francois Hougaard, 21 Butch James, 22 Juan de Jongh

Heineken Cup

This is the opening weekend of the Heineken Cup - can’t wait! Leinster and Racing Metro looks good, Toulon and the Ospreys, Munster/London Irish again! and Toulouse Wasps.


Pool 1 Northampton Saints v Castres Olympique 20.00

Pool 4 Ulster Rugby v Aironi Rugby 19.30

Pool 6 Glasgow Warriors v Newport Gwent Dragons 19.30


Pool 1 Cardiff Blues v Edinburgh 17.45

Pool 2 Leinster v Racing-Metro 92 13.30

Pool 2 ASM Clermont Auvergne v Saracens 16.30

Pool 3 Toulon v Ospreys 14.30

Pool 3 London Irish v Munster 17.45

Pool 5 Benetton Treviso v Leicester Tigers 14.30

Pool 5 Scarlets v Perpignan 15.30


Pool 4 Bath Rugby v Biarritz Olympique 13.00

Pool 6 Toulouse v London Wasps 16.00

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Doom and gloom for Boks

And thus it came to pass – again – that the Boks got stuffed in Wellington. Looks like this is going to be a Tri Nations the Boks will want to forget. The All Blacks are back to their merciless best, and I’d say all the South Africans can hope for this year is to do a bit of damage at home. Piri Weepu made me eat my words too.

When they play at their best, the Springboks just steamroller the other team and the fact they don’t have creative backs doesn’t hurt them much. They are looking particularly blunt at the moment in attack though and it is hurting them now the steamroller seems to be having engine problem, then when you add in another yellow card, what do you expect to happen? I

t doesn’t pay to get these boys too far away from mom’s home cooking. They haven’t shown anything that is going to have the Wallabies too worried either.

Pieter De Villiers isn’t happy with the refs and they are really missing Heinrich Brussow, but PDV needs to pick more attacking teams if he wants to win.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boks/All Blacks - more of the same?

This week we head to Wellington, same teams, is it going to be the same result? Well, the way the Boks played last weekend I wouldn't be surprised, and they've not changed the team at all when the backline is just crying out for a revamp.

I'd put De Villiers back in centre where he belongs and boot out Oliver altogether. Or even better, put Juan de Jong there and bring in Hougard on the wing. I'd also be giving Pienaar a good look at scrum half. This is one for Springbok fans to watch through their fingers.

Piri Weepu at scrum half is the only chink of hope for the Boks.

It's pretty clear from the first match that:

  • The Boks are probaly going to lose this weekend
  • The only chance the Boks have of beating the AB's this weekend is at home
  • The Wallabies could have a big say in this year's results, everybodies expecting them to be dire so they can only do better than that. Let's see what Robbie Deans is really made of...

In other news, not exactly new but Rassie Erasmus is behind moves for a 20/20 stle rugby tournament, with 20 minute halfs (obviously) to run in the early part of the season as a money spinner to keep SA players at home. He's always been big on innovation, let's see what he comes up with. More about that here:
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Boks Disappoint

Bakkies Bakkies Bakkies did his thing as only he knows how and look what happens. That's only half the story though – I suppose that;s why we support sports teams because we never know what going to happen – you only have to ask Germany or Brazil that.
So scratch out all I wrote last week and sit back and enjoy the AB show as they rolled back into form.
Typical Springboks though, maybe last year was a flash in the pan after all. Maybe they didn't play strong enough opposition in the warm ups, and they probably do miss Fourie du Preez a huge amount.
But still... that's a pretty big loss for a side that want to be No. 1 in the world and dominate everyone.

It's just as well I didn't pop down to the Wool Shed, it's bad enough having the Boks dishing up that sort of result without having a whole lot of Kiwis to rub it in for you.

Let's not take anything away from the All Blacks though who were as magnicifent as ever.

Back to the drawing board for Div - I reckon Dannie Roussow is in better form anyway so no big loss of Botha.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

The All Blacks vs the Springboks - BRING IT ON!

The first match of the 2010 Tri-Nations, the Springboks versus the All Blacks at Eden Park - BRING IT ON. For the first time in years, there's Kiwis being respectful about the Boks, rude about the Boks. Makes a change from not caring about the Boks because the Wallabies were the ones to worry about. This is what Sean Fitpatrick thinks about the match:

The AB team is solid as always. Where I'd be worried about them is at centre, where Nonu and Smith, while a great combination, are both coming off injuries. They are looking a bit light at lock too. Their main man is Dan Carter who's been a bit up and down, and they need him at 100% to do what they want to do. I'm not convinced their rocket man is the best bet either.

For the Boks, Fourie Du Preez is a big loss, Januarie been playing fine but he's uneven. De Villiers at wing is odd, while sticking lump Olivier at centre is not the right move for me, even if he was good in S14. Morne Steyn is a good player, but isn't going to be a creative spark if tthey need one. The Bok mentality is as enigmatic as ever, but they are really up for this one, they don't fear the AB's at all, but is that going to mean confidence or cockiness?

Who's going to win. There's South Africans saying put your house on the Blacks and lots of nervous Kiwis - lets go with the Boks on S14 form.

If you're in Dublin, the place to watch it is the Wool Shed, go and queue on the pavement to get a decent seat and soak up the atmosphere and the friendly rivalry.

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SOUTH AFRICA: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Jean de Villiers, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Ricky Januarie; 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (captain), 1 Gurthro Steenkamp. Reserves: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 BJ Botha, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Danie Rossouw, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Butch James, 22 Gio Aplon.

New Zealand: 15. Mils Muliaina, 14. Cory Jane, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. Joe Rokocoko, 10. Dan Carter, 9. Jimmy Cowan, 8. Kieran Read, 7. Richie McCaw (captain), 6. Jerome Kaino, 5. Tom Donnelly, 4. Brad Thorn, 3. Owen Franks, 2. Keven Mealamu, 1. Tony Woodcock Bench: 16. Corey Flynn, 17. Ben Franks, 18. Samuel Whitelock, 19. Liam Messam, 20. Piri Weepu, 21. Aaron Cruden, 22. Richard Kahui

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Tri Nations preview

State of the Nations


Australia are a bit all over the place this year I’m afraid – a loss to England and a flaky win over Ireland hardly gives you much confidence for a good tri nations.

The reason for this is a bad run of injuries, in the front row, at lock and scrum half, but all over the field really, so there’s no continuity at the moment.

 I always rate the Aussies for playing the smartest rugby, but without a decent scrum and lineout it is always going to be a struggle, and loads of juggling around in the line means the potency of player like Copper and Giteau are stifled.

Cooper is their player to watch. I’d say they’ll be competitive with the AB’s but come off second best against the Boks.

New Zealand

The AB’s still look they are in transition at the moment. Their two king pins Carter and McCaw are firing at about 75 % at the moment, and they’ve had a bad run of injuries as well.

They looked good against Ireland and the first test for Wales, but fell off in the second test.

Their backline is razor sharp and they are absolutely ruthless but their scrum is under pressure, in the front row and at lock. Cory Jane is their player of the moment for me.

 They are developing a mental block for the Boks that most other teams have for the AB's, and I’d say this is going to be second place for them this year.

South Africa

Finally the Boks – in awesome form last Tri nations, had a poor end of season tour and have looked good against fairly weak opposition in the warms ups.

Good Super 14 performances means their confidence is high, they have very few injuries and don’t know who to leave out at this stage.

The one chink in their armor is the absence of Fourie du Preez, in my opinion the best in the world for the way he reads and controls the game.

But I’d say these Bok’s are up for it, and I think it’ll be two tri’s in a row for them. Man to watch is Pierre Spies for speed and power he’s matchless at the moment.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

Springboks statisitically favourites to win Tri Nations

Looking forward to the Tri Nations, I thought the best place to start would be to look at form in the Super series and how this acts as an indicator for Tri Nations.

After much fiddling around I came up with this graphic, and surprise surprise it is a good indicator – if you win the Super 14 (as it is now), you have a 71.4% chance of winning the Tri Nations.
What jumps out at you as well is how much black there is on the chart, both on the super and on the tri side. They’re always good value to watch.

I find as a Springbok supporter that I enjoy the matches between NZ and Australia much more than when the Boks play. So in theory the Springboks should be about to claim their fourth Tri Nations trophy, and retain it for the first time ever.

The Bok’s are an enigmatic bunch though, you never know exactly what’s going on in their heads, if anything. Bone crushing physicality is all you can guarantee from them. Roll on the tournament though, I can’t wait!

In other news, The Beast is back! Tendai Mtawarira makes a welcome return to the Bok squad after sorting out his citizenship issues.

In the UK, England’s Elite squad sees the omission of captain Steve Borthwick (former captain now obviously) and also no Olly Barkley or Shane Geraghty – Martin Johnson doesn’t really do mavericks does he?