Big Fish

Living up to the (Sonny) Bill


Written by (Big Fish)

Posted in :All Blacks, Cheetahs, Original Content, Sharks, Springboks, Super Rugby on 16 May 2011 at 11:16
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Sports 24 reports that Dr Brendan Venter, once a very influential inside centre, then a very astute coach and notable interviewee at Heineken Rugby games, worked with his old Vrystaat mates (who also played and coached under him at Saracens), Naka Drotske and Michael Horak (Cheetahs defence coach), in nullifying Sonny Boy Williams’ influence in their famous win against the Crusaders.

Venter had recently joined Pieter de Villiers in saying that Sonny Bill had some significant weaknesses in his game, including a lack of a normal passing game (anyone seen him throw a skip or long pass?) and a perceived lack of pace. Venter, applying some of the notable insight that brought such success to Saracens under his lead, further pointed out that the real danger in the Crusaders supporting players, and not with SBW himself.

To exploit the limitations in SBW’s game, and to ensure that his off-loads did not open up the defence, the Cheetahs entrusted hard-tackling Barry Geel to bring him down as quickly as possible, Robert Eberhson to mark the man immediately outside him, and the Ashley Johnson freight-train to run him down from set-plays such as lineouts. Not only did SBW pick up a knee injury that ended his game at half-time, but he was largely a non-factor in the game. An indisputable success for the Cheetah’s coaching staff, and Venter’s pedigree as a coach. one can only imagine how much more effective the tactic would have been had the monstrous tackling of Andries Strauss been available to the Cheetahs.

I still maintain that while SBW is undoubtedly a very good player, the question of whether he is quite worth the hype (which he has handled quite humbly so far) will be answered by whether he can evolve his game as opposition start to work him out. No doubt that his ability to off-load in the tackle will always be good and a factor, but as the Cheetahs showed, it is easier to mark a player that can only pass a metre or two away from himself (which is all you can do if you allow yourself to be tackled before passing) than it is to mark a player with a broader passing game.

It still remains to be seen if SBW can exhibit the ability to pass more conventionally, whether he can develop a kicking game, if his still unproven tackling is good enough, and whether he does indeed lack pace. What has been shown though, is that clever coaching involves objective and clear analysis, as well as an openness to external ideas (as shown by the Cheetahs). Would the Sharks have paid as much attention to Venter’s article on Sports 24 as the Cheetahs did? Would we have adjusted our system or asked for an improved attitude instead? I’m not quite sure at the moment.

From a broader perspective, this entire incident has some interesting implications. It shows again that unlike some people have believed, SBW has not changed the way the Crusaders play. The key to their success has long been their looking to keep the ball alive, and the superb running lines that they run. SBW has just been harnessed in keeping the ball alive for the support player, who must get credit for reading play well enough to be in the right place each time.

Secondly, the Cheetahs coaches mentioned that the success of their tactic to nullify SBW depended on the outside defenders implicitly trusting Geel to bring down SBW, which meant that they could focus on bringing down the support runner. This is what trust in a well-defined and executed defensive system looks like, and what it can achieve. Right now the Sharks do not have it – and THIS is the reason for the revolving doors in midfield.

Finally, it goes to show that despite the media’s love for putting spin on PDV’s words (compounded by his weakness at communicating in English), he was right about SBW’s incomplete game. Unfortunately, since it was him to said it, most people were never going to listen with their heads to what he was talking about. Well, I guess Saturday showed just how wise some rugby experts are.



64 Comments

  • perhaps we should give Snor some slack every now and again…

    very good article. i am sure the bulls would also not have listened to someone from outside. but i think it does help that naka and horak know brendan quite well.

    either way, kudos to the cheetahs coaching team for doing what pretty much no-one else has achieved so far.

    we still need to play the cheetahs, luckily at home. while our game against you this weekend, is more than enough to worry about, i am also worried about the cheetahs game. they play the sort of rugby we do not like to defend against, and they like to “take teams out” of the running.

  • Comment 1, posted at 16.05.11 11:28:50 by bloubulblog Reply
    bloubulblogUnder 21 player
     
  • @bloubulblog (Comment 1) : PDV knows something…If memory serves me right a copy of a SBW pass executed by one of the Crusader players landed in the wrong hands and lead to a Cheetahs try, think it was the one Ashley Johnson scored…

  • Comment 2, posted at 16.05.11 11:34:27 by Charlie Reply
    CharlieSuper Rugby player
     
  • @bloubulblog (Comment 1) :

    How about we start by referring to him as PDV or Div?? :twisted:

  • Comment 3, posted at 16.05.11 11:50:42 by wpw Reply
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  • Thanks for a good article Fish!! ;-)

  • Comment 4, posted at 16.05.11 11:52:25 by wpw Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 3) : part of the fun with PDV is all of his nicknames. like him or not, he is a colourful oke.

    and rugby needs colourful people. that is why names like draadkar, slaptjips, baksteen, vleis, p divvy, snor will always be part and parcel of the game.

  • Comment 5, posted at 16.05.11 12:00:38 by bloubulblog Reply

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  • @wpw (Comment 4) : ;-) Dankie Oom Vis !!! :lol:

  • Comment 6, posted at 16.05.11 12:06:00 by Charlie Reply

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  • @bloubulblog (Comment 5) : Pienk das en al !!! :twisted:

  • Comment 7, posted at 16.05.11 12:06:23 by Charlie Reply

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  • @bloubulblog (Comment 1) : i am also worried about the cheetahs game. I just think (or perhaps hope) that (not trying to take away anything from the oranges) the Stormers had a lot to do with this weeks victory over Crusaders.
    In the same way I feel that Saders helped the Chiefs.

  • Comment 8, posted at 16.05.11 12:09:33 by rekinek Reply
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  • hard-tackling barry geel? :roll: robbie freuan passed him like he wasn’t there to set-up guilford’s try.

  • Comment 9, posted at 16.05.11 12:15:45 by Megatron Reply

    MegatronSuper Rugby player
     
  • @wpw (Comment 3) : Or Jester, Joker or Funnybones?

  • Comment 10, posted at 16.05.11 12:29:43 by King Shark Reply
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  • Easy to come out and say this after the game. It worked though.

  • Comment 11, posted at 16.05.11 12:39:49 by Ben Reply
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  • @Megatron (Comment 9) :
    Freuan has broken many a tackle. Quite the beast that boy.

    Got handled like a kid by Jacques Fourie though. Still some way for him to go before he is ready to play with the big dogs.

  • Comment 12, posted at 16.05.11 12:41:23 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 11) :
    Except that Venter wrote his column before the game?

  • Comment 13, posted at 16.05.11 12:50:11 by Big Fish Reply
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  • …Take a bow PDV… :mrgreen:

  • Comment 14, posted at 16.05.11 12:51:43 by Charlie Reply

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  • @Big Fish (Comment 13) : how many times did barry geel actually tackle sbw?

  • Comment 15, posted at 16.05.11 12:53:21 by Megatron Reply

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  • @rekinek (Comment 8) : that would definitely have been a factor. exactly how big a factor, one can only speculate.

    but you still can’t take anything away from the cheetahs. the saders had mccaw and carter back, and from what i heard carter had a really good game, but was still outshone by sias.

    heyneke meyer always said that for a team to be a real threat at super rugby level, you need 7/8 really, really good players. while the cheetahs don’t have superstars yet, they have a few in the making with the likes of the two ebersohns, super sarel, brussow, coenie and ashley johnson.

    if they can hold on to those names, they will start to do even better in super rugby.

    imagine if they had juan smith playing…

    i for one am quite glad with the progress the two ebersohns have made. i was afraid they might prove to be a little too small for super rugby. go and read what robert ebersohn tweeted after the saders game. it was beautiful.

    something like: “little beats big, if little is smart, first with the head, and then with the heart”

  • Comment 16, posted at 16.05.11 12:53:38 by bloubulblog Reply

    bloubulblogUnder 21 player
     
  • The question is would a full strength crusaders team have been beaten like that!!!not so sure!!!

  • Comment 17, posted at 16.05.11 12:56:36 by shaniboi Reply

    shaniboiVodacom Cup player
     
  • @Megatron (Comment 15) :
    No idea. But that completely misses the point – the quality of the Cheetahs defensive system, like the quality of the Crusaders attack does not lie in the individual, but in the system and all the players in that system.

    Geel DIDN’T stop SBW from being effective, and nobody said he is a better player – the Cheetah’s defensive system (focused on exploiting his limitation to short off-loads) stopped him being effective.

    Part of that was getting Geel to hit SBW (he actually went low – there weren’t big hits), but another part was focused on hitting the support runner.

    The Cheetahs were successful because of a good system – the Sharks will continue to suffer if we only focus on individuals – be it Bosman or Oupa.

    @bloubulblog (Comment 16) :
    I am a big fan of Ashley Johnson. Big, quick, skillful and smart. I like how he runs at the defence from deep – guys like Spies and Alberts don’t do this enough.

  • Comment 18, posted at 16.05.11 13:02:35 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 13) : It was a test. Big Feesh I’m glad to say you’ve passed. :)

  • Comment 19, posted at 16.05.11 13:05:53 by Ben Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 18) : same with the running from deep. i am not sure if he will prove himself at bok level, but he does deserve to get some game time in the green and gold.

    remember he had a very good CC as well, so he has been playing great rugby for a while now.

    i think spies especially could do well if he played from the back a bit more.

  • Comment 20, posted at 16.05.11 13:07:04 by bloubulblog Reply

    bloubulblogUnder 21 player
     
  • @Big Fish (Comment 18) : I agree with you. And yet I got slanted for saying he should have been in the Bok 51. I really think he’s good enough.

  • Comment 21, posted at 16.05.11 13:07:06 by Ben Reply
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  • @shaniboi (Comment 17) :
    Is that the question?

    How about a full strenght Cheetahs side with Brussouw, Juan Smith, Jonghi Nokwe and Andries Strauss then?

    The Crusaders pedigree (and relative log position) speaks for itself, but take nothing away from the Cheetahs.

  • Comment 22, posted at 16.05.11 13:10:14 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 8) : @rekinek (Comment 8) : i doubt that stormers helped. I do think if the stormers had been given the same info they would have done better. The stormers had too much too lose and the Cheetahs had nothing to lose. Rather test the theory with the Cheetahs. Very clever… Its the 95 world cup all over again!

  • Comment 23, posted at 16.05.11 13:39:53 by Rahul Reply

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  • @bloubulblog (Comment 16) : not sure whether I can agree with sias outshining carter. Carter was off quite early in the second half. SBW was taken off during half time.Mc Caw’s first game after injury and to me Saders really looked off colour the last 20.
    But I guess they could still pull through if the Cheetahs were not so passionate.

  • Comment 24, posted at 16.05.11 13:56:30 by rekinek Reply
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  • @Rahul (Comment 23) : Firstly they eliminated a number of Sader’s first choices and left the rest with some sore bodies, perhaps even false sense of security that if we beat stormers cheetahs will be walk in the park.

    lots been said about teams loosing easy games after the weekend of crunch.

  • Comment 25, posted at 16.05.11 13:58:45 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 24) : as i said in my comment, that is from what i have heard\read about the game. unfortunately i couldn’t watch myself.

  • Comment 26, posted at 16.05.11 13:59:34 by bloubulblog Reply

    bloubulblogUnder 21 player
     
  • @Big Fish (Comment 18) : That’s why i am somewhat concerned for the Sharks’ weekend away in Bloem.
    Though the defence systems are designed for 15 men so if one or two are failing you do have a crack in the system.

  • Comment 27, posted at 16.05.11 14:08:51 by rekinek Reply
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  • @bloubulblog (Comment 26) : it was a nice game to watch – tries, drama and the underdog’s win – all you expect from the rugby game :grin:

  • Comment 28, posted at 16.05.11 14:15:46 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 27) : the Sharks bogey team… We like to lose 5 points in bloem. There must be a graveyard full of points that the Sharks have left behind!

  • Comment 29, posted at 16.05.11 14:16:14 by Rahul Reply

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  • @rekinek (Comment 27) : i always say that if we deserve a semi spot, then we need to beat the best to get there. if we cant manage a win in bloem, and that ultimately kick us out of a semi spot, then we did not deserve to be there.

    in any case, weve got ALOT of difficult games ahead. Bulls home and away. Cheetahs away and a very tricky game (if they manage another win overseas) at coca cola park…

    Interesting info in yesterdays rapport. According to SARU and de Klerk, the agreement between Gumede (and his partner) and the Lions is void…

  • Comment 30, posted at 16.05.11 14:31:44 by VanWilder Reply

    VanWilderCurrie Cup player
     
  • @VanWilder (Comment 30) : read that too, ja…interesting.

    I agree VW – (is it Jetta or Golf?? :lol: ) we do not have such an easy final stretch as people might think – we need to put pedal to the medal now and nail the whole boksemdaais stukkend! :lol:

  • Comment 31, posted at 16.05.11 14:37:53 by Ice Reply
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  • @VanWilder (Comment 30) : void would imply restitution so are they going to return all the money ? doubt it …

  • Comment 32, posted at 16.05.11 14:41:41 by rekinek Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 31) : If I’m not mistaken he supports Liverpool. That makes him an old VW Beetle. ;) :)

  • Comment 33, posted at 16.05.11 14:48:04 by Ben Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 33) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 34, posted at 16.05.11 14:50:38 by Ice Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 33) : haha… i`m a Man Utd supporter, so that makes me a Bugatti Veyron… ;-)

    @rekinek (Comment 32) : they said that they would meet in this coming weeks to discuss the way forward,but it seems that all that millions could be lost to the lions…

  • Comment 35, posted at 16.05.11 16:17:36 by VanWilder Reply

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  • @Ice (Comment 31) : the only good thing about a difficult final stretch, is that if we qualify for a semi spot, then we are used to high intensity games AND used to winning high pressure games, as we need to do to qualify for a semi…

  • Comment 36, posted at 16.05.11 16:20:09 by VanWilder Reply

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  • @rekinek (Comment 32) : maybe next year it will be the Lotto Lions…

    tata “the” chance, tata “the” millions…

  • Comment 37, posted at 16.05.11 16:21:38 by VanWilder Reply

    VanWilderCurrie Cup player
     
  • let’s be honest here…. the last two trophies the Sharks have won have been on the back of a run of games in which they built up a head of steam. Having no easy games left can actually work to the team’s advantage in some cases because they know they need to go into “finals mode” and simply stay there…

  • Comment 38, posted at 16.05.11 16:23:52 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 38) : thats what i tried to say in comment 36, only you did it a tad better. ;-)

    we won last years cc (with difficult semi and final) with STRONG defence and a willingness to give the ball air on attack. i just thing we strayed a bit too much in both departments.

  • Comment 39, posted at 16.05.11 16:29:12 by VanWilder Reply

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  • @VanWilder (Comment 35) : Nah then you would support Barcelona. I’d say you’re a Ferrari Enzo. :)

  • Comment 40, posted at 16.05.11 16:59:13 by Ben Reply
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  • @VanWilder (Comment 39) : Who played in our backline back then?

  • Comment 41, posted at 16.05.11 17:02:39 by Original Pierre Reply
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  • @Original Pierre (Comment 41) : Hmmm….Stef was there :twisted:

  • Comment 42, posted at 16.05.11 18:34:08 by rekinek Reply
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  • @VanWilder (Comment 37) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 43, posted at 16.05.11 18:34:59 by rekinek Reply
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  • great one Fish :mrgreen:

  • Comment 44, posted at 16.05.11 20:54:59 by chaz Reply

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  • What a good article! Really enjoyed it. :grin:

  • Comment 45, posted at 17.05.11 08:52:52 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 45) :
    Merci beaucoup!

    Musta been pretty darn good to get you out from hiding! :lol:

  • Comment 46, posted at 17.05.11 09:41:17 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 46) : Dont flatter yourself! :twisted: :lol:

  • Comment 47, posted at 17.05.11 10:15:31 by Ice Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 47) :
    Why don’t you go watch your 42″ tv? :twisted:

  • Comment 48, posted at 17.05.11 10:20:57 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 46) : This is what I’m saying. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 49, posted at 17.05.11 11:14:30 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 48) : Lame Fish…real lame.. :roll: :twisted: I expect better from you!

  • Comment 50, posted at 17.05.11 11:19:10 by Ice Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 50) :
    Great expectations. NOW I’m flattered.

  • Comment 51, posted at 17.05.11 11:56:02 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 49) :
    Why aren’t you around nowadays?

  • Comment 52, posted at 17.05.11 11:56:49 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 51) : better…not great..

  • Comment 53, posted at 17.05.11 12:10:28 by Ice Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 53) :
    There is just no winning with some people.

  • Comment 54, posted at 17.05.11 12:21:04 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 54) : …Blue Blood perhaps… :twisted:

  • Comment 55, posted at 17.05.11 12:33:34 by Charlie Reply

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  • @VanWilder (Comment 39) : Yup. But then we had a scrumhalf and centres who were working WITH the flyhalf and not against him. Lambie is currently keeping himself occupied tackling because he sure as hell isn’t getting any support anywhere else. There’s no need for the opposition to target Pat because his own team’s shortcomings and misdemeanours have turned him into a bit of a toothless dog. :|

  • Comment 56, posted at 17.05.11 17:39:14 by SharonvanWyk Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 40) : Im a Bugatti Veyron SS and I support Liverpool. So what’s your point, sweetness??? :twisted:

  • Comment 57, posted at 17.05.11 17:40:56 by SharonvanWyk Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 42) : Something this blog seem to have forgotten . . .

  • Comment 58, posted at 17.05.11 18:03:22 by Original Pierre Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 52) : I’ve been away a lot this year and didn’t have regular internet access. I’m going away again in a month. I’m actually trying to figure out how I’ll be able to watch all the play-off games. All this traveling does have a downside it seems. :smile:

  • Comment 59, posted at 18.05.11 10:16:34 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 59) :
    I recall you saying you love to travel: love might have been an understatement! :lol:

    At least write us an article before you leave again – always enjoy the discussion around the technical aspects.

  • Comment 60, posted at 18.05.11 10:22:57 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Original Pierre (Comment 58) : I really wish we could stop looking at the past and start focusing on the now.

  • Comment 61, posted at 18.05.11 12:18:48 by Ben Reply
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  • @Original Pierre (Comment 58) : makes you wonder how much the other guys made him look good in comparison to meyer or perhaps how much he dropped in this department.

  • Comment 62, posted at 18.05.11 15:06:37 by rekinek Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 61) : OP’s retired :mrgreen:

  • Comment 63, posted at 18.05.11 15:17:10 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 63) : Maybe Stef should follow in his footsteps. ;)

  • Comment 64, posted at 18.05.11 16:28:52 by Ben Reply
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