Before I get hauled in front of a firing squad, let me make it clear: I do regard Bryan Habana as South Africa’s premier wing – even with his poor 2008 form and injury setbacks.
However, I have a vision (call it a fanciful dream, if you like) of seeing the Ndungane twins – Akona and Odwa – playing together in the same Springbok team.
Rugby 365′s Jan De Koning writes that it is a thought that crossed my mind often before, but resurfaced again at the weekend in watching the Springboks demolish an uninterested and lacklustre Wallaby team 53-8 in Johannesburg.
While all the plaudits went to Jongi Nokwe for his four-try record feat – and credit to him for getting those tries – the real star on the wing was Odwa Ndungane.
I have followed the careers of both Ndungane brothers with great interest, even before Jake White rated them as “too slow”, and felt they offer something special.
When Akona finally convinced the Springbok selectors to give him a run in the national team, Odwa produced such sublime performances on the domestic scene that you just knew his turn would come one day. When it did happen, this year, it was at the expense of his twin brother.
However, Akona has been a fine form with the table-topping Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup competition this year and following Odwa’s outstanding display against the Wallabies I can safely say they will not let their country down if they have to double up as the Bok wings in a Test.
While neither of them has the blistering pace of Habana, they have repeatedly shown their willingness to work around any shortcomings and produce world class performances.
I still have a dream of getting the Boks’ opponents to see double – select the Ndungane twins.
Player of the Weekend: If you have a recording of this past weekend’s Test between the Boks and Wallabies, just go have a look at how often Odwa Ndungane was involved in try-scoring moves – coming off his wing to look for work and in the process help setting up at least two of Nokwe’s tries. As I said before, he may not have the blistering pace of a Bryan Habana, but he does posses most of the other skills that a wing needs.
Brief bio of Odwa Ndungane:
Full names: Odwa Nzuzo
Physical: 1.84m; 95kg
Born: 20-02-81, Umtata
Provincial caps: 76 (Border 49, Blue Bulls 2, Sharks 25)
Provincial points: 175 [35 tries] (Border 25 tries, Sharks 10 tries)
Provincial debut: 2000 v Eagles (Border)
Super Rugby caps: 35 (Bulls 10, Sharks 25)
Super Rugby points: 55 [11 tries] (Bulls three tries, Sharks eight tries)
Super Rugby debut: 2004 v Sharks (Bulls)
Test caps: Three
Test points: Five (one try)
Test debut: v Italy 2008
Villain of the Weekend: I will be honest, I have never been a big ‘fan’ of one Matt Dunning. The Aussies used to mock Ollie le Roux as an overweight and overrated prop. But at least Ollie used to run with the ball and was seldom pushed back in scrums (note, seldom). Mr Dunning, who for years lived off the infamy of that dreadful drop-goal (he actually kicked it through the posts when he shouldn’t have) that cost the Waratahs a home semifinal, has also been pretending that he can scrum. A couple of years back he had his head shoved so far up his own behind the Wallaby front row was reduced to uncontested scrums. This past weekend rookie Bok prop Tendai Mtawarira – a player who two years ago switched from No.8 to prop and is in his first season of international rugby – repeated that ‘head up his behind’ treatment for Dunning. Robbie Deans saw trouble coming and saved the rotund young Aussie further embarrassment by removing him from the field after just 30 minutes. If Dunning is Australia’s answer to their front row troubles, they are in very deep ‘horse manure’.
Disappointment of the Weekend: Stirling Mortlock is a class player and I truly rate him as one of the best outside centres in the world. I am not sure if it was because Timana Tahu was so poor on his inside, or Mortlock was simply uninterested and wanted to preserve his body for the Tri-Nations decided against the All Blacks in a fortnight. Whatever it was, the Wallaby captain had a shocker and the type of game you do not want to see replayed often, especially not the part where lock Andries Bekker strolled past him for a try.
Try of the Weekend: The Springboks scored eight tries, with some great work in most of them. However, it is Jongi Nokwe’s fourth try that stood out for me as the most sublime moment of the match. The Springboks attacked down the right and Conrad Jantjes – a much improved player – grubbered ahead into emptiness. Ndungane, ever present, followed up, gathered in the rolling ball and as the defence came across he gave to left wing Nokwe, who scored his record-making fourth try in Tahu’s tackle.
Quote(s) of the (last) Week:
1. De Villiers again, this time on the margin between winning and losing: “Winning and losing are the same thing to me, it’s just that winning is much nicer.”
1. Joel Stransky, an expert TV commentator these days: “He is almost unlucky to not have scored.”
Fact(s) of the Week: The All Blacks and Wallabies, who will meet in the Tri-Nations decider in Brisbane on September 13, have played each other more times than any other two test nations in rugby union history.
Here’s the top five:
NZ v Aus – 130 matches (AB’s 66 percent wins)
Eng v Scot – 125 matches (ENG 52 percent wins)
Scot v Ire – 122 matches (SCO 51 percent wins)
Eng v Ire – 121 matches (ENG 57 percent wins)
Eng v Wal – 117 matches (ENG 45 percent wins)
France has played the most Test matches overall, yet don’t feature in the top five. The most they have played against one country (England) is 91 matches.
(Stats, courtesy of pickandgo.info – rugby365′s official stats partner)
Noteworthy stat: Despite outscoring the Wallabies by eight tries to one at the weekend, the Springboks made far more tackles – 73 to 57 – than the Wallabies.Tweet