In a weekend where there were no real games of significance on, I learned more than any other weekend this year so far.
Well let me first touch on the Currie Cup promotion/relegation matches.
What a bloody waste of time. Most would believe that the 36-all draw in Witbank between the Pumas and EP Kings were ‘thrilling’ or ‘exciting’. Personally, I had to force myself not to switch channels and watch Stephen Hawking’s Universe.
By Saturday, I just could not take it anymore and after 40 minutes of sitting through the Leopards and SWD Eagles game, I switched over to watch the Aviva Premiership.
Firstly, I could never, and will never see the point of these promotion/relegation play-off matches. I understand it is hugely important for the unions and I also support the idea of teams being promoted and relegated, but to do this in a play-off format simply robs the game of rugby of something special.
For the first division teams the significance of these games are a hell of a lot more important than the actual first division title, which was played a week ago between the same two teams. In the final, the EP Kings won a closely contested game but throughout I felt that SWD could not care less.
A week prior to the final the Eagles went hammer and tongs at the Kings in the last round of matches in the first division, knowing that a victory would have them square up against the ‘weaker’ of the premier division teams – they achieved their victory, one more crucial than the one the Kings achieved in George in the final.
So what is the bloody point on playing a final where the more significant games are the promotion/relegation fixtures? Or rather, what is the point of playing promotion/relegation games in the first place? Wouldn’t it be much simpler to have the top one or two teams automatically move up and the other teams in the premier division down?
But thanks to these useless games I was actually forced to watch English rugby (Aviva Premiership) and one or two ITM (New Zealand) Cup matches.
Two interesting things occurred to me.
Firstly, how is it that dead-average South African players suddenly become superstars in English club rugby?
Anyone remember Marco Wentzel? Yeah I had to google his name too in order to remind myself for which South African teams he played for before he moved to England. Not only is this guy the captain of Leeds, but the way the commentators praised his skill and efforts as a line-out genius, I wondered whether we perhaps lost out on Victor Matfield’s successor.
The second thing that I found interesting over the weekend was when I watched Southland taking on Wellington in the ITM Cup. At one stage Southland probably carried the ball through 20 phases before they scored. It was a massively impressive build up but I noticed, not once, did the commentator refer to or had to remind me in which phase they were in at any particular time. There was also no graphic on television (something SuperSport loves) to indicate phase 4 or 8.
It got me thinking about our obsession with phases in the game, and phase play, and how this is seemingly insignificant in New Zealand rugby.
South Africa and to some extent Australia somehow view a team taking the ball through many phases as some sort of victory, or brilliant achievement. This of course is regardless of what is actually done with the ball or actual field meters gained. We also coach our players to play pre-determined, phase orientated or result driven rugby, meaning the pods that we set up in different areas of the field are pre-determined, and whether or not you have one guy tackling a pod of three or four players, or 5, the mission of that ball carrier is to get to point A (predetermined) and once he gets there, go to ground (because this is in the plan) and set up another phase.
This is then praised by all in sundry, including our well educated commentators as some sort of rugby brilliance.
Remember the semi-final in Durban? Sharks at one stage had over 70% of the ball for well over 20 minutes, but never really build up any lead over the Blue Bulls or convert the possession into points. Southland did the same, well same in the sense of holding onto the ball but in the 20-odd phases they accumulated, but they had about 18 line-breaks or successfully crossed the advantage line 95% of the time on each ball-carry. Nothing pre-dertermined, no pods, ball being moved from one end of the field to the next effectively breaking down a brilliant Wellington defense.
I have stated many times, and I witnessed this again over the weekend – the main difference between New Zealand rugby and the rest of the world is that they breed thinkers, we breed robots.
This weekend sees the Currie Cup final between the Sharks and Western Province. Now apart from working yourself into a frenzy if you support either team, do yourself a favour just for shits and giggles because I personally find this amusing – try and count how many times, and to what lengths coaches and players from each team will go to in the lead-up to the game to attach the ‘favourites’ tag to the other team – it is hilarious!
Enjoy the final!Tweet