Boks will be back

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 1 Dec 2010 at 10:03
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Following the Springboks victory of England this weekend, I read with interest how the English press announced that South Africa showed they will be a force in the World Cup.

The performance of the Springboks have been described as dogged, ruthless and any other physical adjective you can think of. More to the fact, it has been described as ‘traditional’.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers eluded to the fact when he mentioned in a post-match interview that they tried to play a game that does not suit the Springboks (referring to the Scotland shocker I would imagine) and that the England game would be the blueprint for what they take to the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand next year.

The English press suggested in their assessment of the match that the way to beat the Springboks is to match them physically, specifically upfront, and that if you manage that, you will easily outmanoeuvre their ‘boring’ one-dimensional backs.

It is true, throughout 2010 the Springbok backline looked lethargic, one-dimensional and at times pathetic, not able to use the platform their forwards provided for them and not converting opportunities into points.

Conversely, the All Blacks looked slick, strong and full of running.

The general consensus surround this issue was apparently that the game has ‘evolved’ and the All Blacks ‘evolved’ with it.

I am not so sure I buy into that.

The main argument used in this regard is that the new interpretations to the laws favours the teams that keep the ball in hand. Well two things springs to mind here.

Firstly, in rugby union you can only score if you have, or win the ball – so nothing really evolutionary for me there.

Secondly, if this is the case, why has the All Blacks and specifically Dan Carter been the team and individual who has kicked the ball more out of hand than any other team or player?

I watched some highlights packages of the All Blacks and Springboks to try and find the answer and two things jumped out at me.

Firstly, the All Blacks have really upped their game in the tackled area. It has been discussed ad-nausea this year and although they seem to get away with a bit, their approach is brilliant because thanks to the new interpretations (focus is on the defending team and tackler releasing) the odd obstruction and cleaning way beyond the ball largely goes unnoticed.

Secondly, through their dominance in this area, they have become more lethal than ever as a team who wins turn-over ball – and this to me is the biggest difference between the two teams.

The speed and execution from turn-over ball the All Blacks win is phenomenal, and in my view largely thanks to the genius of one Dan Carter who directs everything in that team.

Of course, the All Blacks ability to support the ball carrier plays a massive part in this but this is also hardly evolutionary, they have always been good at this.

I read a statistic recently which said the All Blacks averaged almost 4 tries per match in 2010, which is phenomenal at test level, but then I could hardly remember tries scored from set plays or first phase ball.

In comparison, a situation in the test against England summed up the Springboks performance of 2010 for me. They were 10 meters out from the English try-line hot on attack, ball came out from a ruck and somehow Victor Matfield and Frans Steyn got in the way of each other, bumbled the ball and they ended up 20 meters back.

It is not that we are unfamiliar with Matfield or any other forward standing at first receiver, he and others have done this very successfully at the Bulls with their infamous and very effective pod-system method of attack where two or even three pods are spread out next to rucks gaining meters upon meters on attack and also sucking in defenses and creating tries.

The difference was the execution of these plays (ball in hand) and of course, our tactical kicking which has come under the cosh quite a bit throughout 2010.

I know, one swallow does not make a summer (or any other cliché you want to throw in here), but rugby genius can also simply not be replaced – just ask New Zealand after the Hong Kong test when they substituted Carter and his deputy almost single-handedly losing them the game.

No matter what is written or said about this Springbok team in the local media, I tend to agree with the English press (for the first time in my life no-less) in believing that come Rugby World Cup 2011, and having players like Jaque Fourie, Heinrich Brussow and of course the genius Fourie du Preez back in the mix to direct play with the same authority as Carter does for New Zealand, the Springboks will be a massive force to be reckoned with.


  • Interesting points Morne.

    Here is an interesting one for you as a person to who is not a great RWC fan. Would Bok rugby have evolved in different (read more All Black and entertaining) path had our “traditional” pattern not been so well suited to World Cups?

  • Comment 1, posted at 01.12.10 10:24:13 by Dive Pass Reply
    Dive Pass
  • @Dive Pass (Comment 1) :

    Evolution of teams and the game is an interesting topic.

    Consider this for instance…

    Since the days of Naas Botha, South Africa never really produced a dominating flyhalf, or the general types of flyhalfs that people would normally refer or associate to.

    What we have produced in the pro-era however, are brilliant scrumhalf’s, and scrumhalf’s that perform the role of flyhalf’s in teams like the All Blacks.

    This brings a different, and interesting dynamic to the team and the game.

    People for instance often refer to this team, or group, or era as a ‘golden era’ of Bok rugby, similar to what we had in 1998 when we won 17 on the trot.

    In both ‘era’s’, we had very dominating, and brilliant scrummies (Joost and Fourie).

    Interstingly, many still refer to the 1998 era where we played total rugby.

    Going back to 2009, you will also see the Boks dominating and scoring some brilliant tries, even of set and first phases.

    The 1998 era came to a grinding halt in 1999, where we lost to Wales (for the first time in history) and also recorded losses to Australia and New Zealand (twice) – 4 or 5 losses on the trot if memory serves.

    What is interesting in 2010, and 1999 when those ‘era’s’ came to a halt, both Joost and now Fourie, was unavailable for the tests.

    Joost missed the first 5 or so tests for 1999 where Werner Swanepoel and Van Hoeselin covered for him I believe (memory is a bit dodgy).

    This year of course, we went without Fourie.

    Both, in their prime (1998 & 2009) have been described as the best in the world, and both player’s value was noticed once they were not available anymore.

    Like I said, one swallow might not make a summer, but pure genius cannot always be replaced.

    Dan Carter is one of those I believe, and so is Fourie in my mind.

  • Comment 2, posted at 01.12.10 10:36:48 by Morné Reply
  • Hey Morne great article and I agree To complete the formula we need a more attacking fullback I prefer Fransie here and with the missing players back we can win the RWC
    Just an observation When DC did not play for the AB’s they were poor and the same goes for McCaw We played this year without 2 key men and we were not fantastic
    Hopefully both FDP and Brussow will be fit and on form in just over 9 months time

  • Comment 3, posted at 01.12.10 10:38:16 by Fattmann Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 2) :

    I like the train of thought on our scrum halves role versus the fly-halves in South African rugby.

    I just think that if we were in an era of test series as opposed to tournaments that our “gees”/passion coupled with kick and chase approach would have been more exposed and resulted in us having to adapt to a more balanced game.

  • Comment 4, posted at 01.12.10 10:42:07 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive Pass
  • @Dive Pass (Comment 4) :

    My personal opinion – I don’t think there is anything wrong with our game.

  • Comment 5, posted at 01.12.10 10:43:09 by Morné Reply
  • IN general that is.

  • Comment 6, posted at 01.12.10 10:43:29 by Morné Reply
  • I agree that there are some key players missing from our squad, but let’s consider the following. Let’s say FdP returns and suddenly does not have the same effect as he use to? What will happen then? What concerns me is the fact that there is no suitable replacement for some of these players? Or maybe it’s more a case of suitable replacements for the type of rugby the boks want to play. We are running out of time and this EOYT showed us nothing 11 months before the RWC starts.

  • Comment 7, posted at 01.12.10 10:44:35 by Farlington Reply

  • @Fattmann (Comment 3) :

    Its funny you mention Brussouw..

    How exactly is he going to fit into our loosies?

    We have figured out that the Boks need to have Alberts in there, and Juan Smith is just a must have. So even if Alberts plays at 8 in place of Spies, which I cant see happening, Brussouw will be in a straight fight with Schalk.

    @Morné (Comment 5) :

    And to Morne.. With the game as it is right now, and the fetcher role specifically, is there a need to have a Brussouw in the team?

  • Comment 8, posted at 01.12.10 10:48:51 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • @Morné (Comment 6) :

    I think we could be more creative and less sterotyped on attack.

    The irony is that a lot of Bok coaches come in with that same thought but all it takes is a couple of loses and a bit of pressure they have to resort to the more conservative approach to save their bacon.

  • Comment 9, posted at 01.12.10 10:49:15 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive Pass
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 8) :

    The role of Brussow for me is very specific, and something I think he is quite strong at.

    We rely a lot on tactical kicking, and murdered teams with it in 2009.

    With Mossie, Habs and JPP chasing kicks, and Brussow being one of the first arriving players at rucks after the tackle, I think his role may just be even more important than in 2009 as a deck player exclusively.

    @Dive Pass (Comment 9) :

    Creativity on the ball depends, again in my view, on the quality of the ball.

    You can only create things with ball in hand if you receive good quality ball. This includes front-foot, quick and ball in space with scattered defenses.

    Knowing WHAT to do with the ball WHEN, is what makes backlines creative – and again this comes down for me, to having a general dictating just that.

  • Comment 10, posted at 01.12.10 10:53:05 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 10) :

    Thanx Morne.. Valid point..

    I still think, and I read a comment somewhere and completely agree, that the fetcher role should not fall to one player, and should be everybody’s role in some way. Bismarck has shown that he too can perform the role at times.

  • Comment 11, posted at 01.12.10 10:55:11 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • Besides, Brossouw isn’t exactly powderpuff when it comes to carrying the ball, he is a small dued but lank powerful

  • Comment 12, posted at 01.12.10 11:01:46 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 2) : Imagine Fourie and Dan in one team. That would be a thing of beauty.

  • Comment 13, posted at 01.12.10 11:01:50 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 12) :

    He is moerse powerful, I agree, but who do you leave out to play him?

    Schalk is invaluable in the team, and so is Juan.. Its a nice position to be in, but rather tricky nonetheless.

  • Comment 14, posted at 01.12.10 11:03:41 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 11) :

    Having written quite a bit on that topic I think you know I agree.

    But I do not see Brussow’s role as a fetcher, rather highly skilled first arriving similar to McCaw…

    @Letgo (Comment 13) :

    I cannot even begin…

  • Comment 15, posted at 01.12.10 11:06:00 by Morné Reply
  • @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 12) : You’re right he’s a pretty good ball carrier. Maybe not the strongest, but smart and has enough skill and creativity(sidestep, hand off)to beat his opponent.

    He’s also a good link player, has a good pass and offload. And I have also always thought he’s a very good supportive player.

    It’s not just his fetching that makes him a special player, it’s just the most noticeable.

  • Comment 16, posted at 01.12.10 11:06:31 by Letgo Reply
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  • We are very lucky in SA to have such a great selection of loose forwards!!

  • Comment 17, posted at 01.12.10 11:11:17 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 8) : Richard old chap, as shown by Richie MacCaw this year, the role of the fetcher flank hasnt diminished, in fact it is even more important. If you look at the trinations, one of our biggest flaws was that we were unable to compete with the Aussies or Kiwis at the breakdown. The loose trio needs balance and so Willem and Juan shouldnt really ever start together. They will compete for a position. As will Brussouw and Schalk, and lets be honest, Schalk hasnt been a fetcher flank for quite some time now. If we want to limit the kiwis ability to spread the ball wide, we need Brussouw back to slow the ball down and compete, like he did in 2009. If we think we can do that with both Alberts and Juan Smith together, we are mistaken.

  • Comment 18, posted at 01.12.10 11:12:02 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 14) : I prefer Brussouw when in form, but Schalla has played some of his best rugby this past season. He has also taken on the role of a leader at WP and has done great with that. I don’t think leaving an on form Schalk out would even be considered. He has really upped his game since his position in the Bok team has been threatened. It’s nice to know that a player like Brossouw would be able to step in and cover his position if needed.

    The same applies for Juan. Alberts has shown if for some reason, Juan can’t play he is more than capable to step in and make that position his own.

    As far as Spies goes. I think Kanko or Alberts or one of the other great 8’s in SA could easily (if given a chance) proof to be a better option than Spies.

    SA has always been blessed with many talented loosies. And no centers. 🙁 Has anyone ever considred converting some of the more mobile loosies into world class centers?

  • Comment 19, posted at 01.12.10 11:12:08 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 13) : Actually I dont think it would be. They are both generals on the field, and you dont want to many of those. Dan works well dictating the style of play, as does Fourie. You cant have 2 players trying to dictate the way the game should flow.

  • Comment 20, posted at 01.12.10 11:14:16 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @Letgo (Comment 19) : Convert loosies to centers!!! I posted on this yesterday. Im against it. Havent seen it work at a senior level. Tends to ruin a player as he becomes an average to poor backline player, and doesnt develop his game as a loosie, so looses in both areas (Nick Koster anyone?). What we need are more dynamic backline coaches.

  • Comment 21, posted at 01.12.10 11:18:10 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 20) : Maybe you’re right. Maybe they’ll get in each others way more than anything.

    I still think to rugby geniuses like that, would somehow work around that and once they start to read each other’s game, become unstoppable.

    You can’t tell me, if you have a great scrummy you have to have an average, run of the mille (morne steyn) fly half. And if you have a Dan Carter you have to have a just pass it to Carter and don’t think about anything else scrummy.

    Both would surely be better.

  • Comment 22, posted at 01.12.10 11:21:15 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 21) : howdy where hv u been to visit the Queen of England :mrgreen: 😉

  • Comment 23, posted at 01.12.10 11:21:17 by chaz Reply

  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 18) :

    Don’t you think Alberts can fulfil the number 8 role then? He has more impact than Spies does at the moment? Your thoughts?

  • Comment 24, posted at 01.12.10 11:23:09 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 21) : No, don’t convert them at senior level. It should start early on, at the Sharks academy, for example, We have a bunch of loosies coming through and already some of them are seen as too small to be loosies. So why don’t they just give these players a chance in the backline.

    I know I have mentioned, a few times, that Keegan or Kanko should maybe be tried out at 12 or 13, but that’s more just because we didn’t have anything else too look at and these players have been more dynamic than most of our backline players for some time now.

    I think had someone seen the potential for keegan as a center 5 years ago, he may have been an excellent center.

  • Comment 25, posted at 01.12.10 11:27:21 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 19) :

    I always thought Kanko would be a great centre but it is too far into his career for those type of changes. His father was a provincial full-back if my memory serves me correctly.

  • Comment 26, posted at 01.12.10 11:29:29 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive Pass
  • @Letgo (Comment 19) : Nick Mallet gave serious thought into playing Bobby as a centre.

    Rassie played Schalk Brits as a flank and a centre, it must be said he sucked at all three positions 😈

  • Comment 27, posted at 01.12.10 11:31:14 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 24) : Agreed, although I would still be tempted to play Spies on a hard fast track and Alberts on a damper one. Im a horses for courses kind of [email protected]Letgo (Comment 22) : I was thinking more of a Justin Marshall type guy to partner Carter and butch James type of guy to partner Fourie… the results speak for [email protected]chaz (Comment 23) : Hey Chaz… no, been working. Besides, the queen is a crap conversationalist. She kept referring to “we” which confused me as she was the only one in the room. @Letgo (Comment 25) : yes, but everyone knows in SA schools when the under 12 rugby coach asks the team to separate out into the position they would like to play 80% of the kids go to the loose-forward group.

  • Comment 28, posted at 01.12.10 11:33:04 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @Letgo (Comment 25) : He’s already an excellent loosie now! Unfortunately he’s an excellent loosie amongst many others and others who also has more bulk and power than he does.

    Do you really think he stands a chance to be seen as the number one loosie in any of the three back-row positions for the boks, before the many other loosies in this country? He’ll always have that size tag counting against him.

    I just think he would have had a better chance of becoming a regular springbok if he had tried to become a 12 or 13.

    He may not even have been a better 12 or 13 than he is a 8,7,6, but since SA does not have that many 12, 13’s of world class quality, he may just have been close to the best we have on offer.

    I’m saying when players are in their developmental stages you should consider, not only what position is his best position, but in which position he’ll be most valuable for his country and provincial teams.

  • Comment 29, posted at 01.12.10 11:35:44 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Dive Pass (Comment 26) : Kanko would rock as a centre, look how tall the lad is, getting his hands through the tackle would be no problem and the winger running of his shoulder would have a party every week, someone with Chavhangas pace would score some half decent tries

  • Comment 30, posted at 01.12.10 11:36:46 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
  • @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 27) : You can’t really say a player was tried in a position if he was just stuffed in there for one game. You would have to commit and convert him permanently. Like Craig Burden did.

  • Comment 31, posted at 01.12.10 11:37:34 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 31) : I know, was just having a bit of fun.

  • Comment 32, posted at 01.12.10 11:39:28 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
  • @Letgo (Comment 29) :

    What about the centres we have at the moment? Jean? Jacque? de Jongh? not world class? I dot think Keegan or Kanko stand a chance if the other centres in the country are fit.

  • Comment 33, posted at 01.12.10 11:39:57 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • @Letgo (Comment 31) : Having said that, Craig is now a great hooker, but maybe he would have gotten a starting spot more regularly as a backline player.

    I think he’s better suited as an inside center. Still, a great hooker. Any team would be lucky to have him. As are the Sharks, but we have two other hookers that we’re also very lucky to have. 😆

  • Comment 34, posted at 01.12.10 11:40:25 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 33) : Absolutely, Kanko is fast… for a loosie. Has great skills… for a loosie. Its what makes him a good number 8, but these skills cant be compared with those of a specialist back. He isnt BOD nor Jaque Fourie. You need to compare apples with apples so to speak.

  • Comment 35, posted at 01.12.10 11:42:57 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • There was also Jack White’s attempt to convert Pierre Spies into a wing. I watched him play for the Bok under 19 team at the WC held in Pietermaritzburg, with the knowledge of Jack White’s involvement in attempted conversion. It wasn’t a great success.

  • Comment 36, posted at 01.12.10 11:44:04 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive Pass
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 33) : Yes, but they both would have a chance against. Cheetahs centers, Lions centers, Bulls centers, Sharks centers. No depth in SA. Once Jean leaves we have De Jongh (new talent) and Fourie. Where’s the back up? With the flanks every province has 3 great loosies and some even has loosies on the bench that would make most international sides.

    That’s my point. It’s not like Kanko and more specifically keegan will ever be seen as the no 1 choice for the boks as loosies.

    And now that you mention it, I think if Kanko and Keegan had 5 or so years of experience at 12/13, they could easily have become the new Jean/Fourie combo of SA.

    You never know.

  • Comment 37, posted at 01.12.10 11:45:09 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Dive Pass (Comment 36) : They have great skills for loosies, because that’s where they train. This argument is moot anyway, because it’s all based on ifs. I don’t think anyone here is naive enough to actually think Keegan or Kanko could step into a 12/13 jersey and just be great. You need to notice the potential early on and convert them then.

  • Comment 38, posted at 01.12.10 11:47:56 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 33) : As I said depth and depth over the past few years or even decades. Center never has been the best position for SA. Yes we have had a few great centers, but it’s not like scrumhalf and loose forwards where we always seem to produce the best.

    Australia has always had great centers and New Zealand Fly Halfs, both areas where SA struggle. Maybe we should start trading. :mrgreen:

    Having said that. I have noticed that there is a few really, really talented youngsters coming through the ranks. A couple at WP and centers that covered for Olivier and Pretorius at the bulls are all great prospects.

    Also the Sharks u/19’s and 21’s seem to have a few great talents in this area.

    Maybe the tables are turning. That would be great for SA rugby.

  • Comment 39, posted at 01.12.10 11:52:40 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Dive Pass (Comment 36) : Far as I can remember Spies was a wing growing up and only converted to #8 very late (after school).

  • Comment 40, posted at 01.12.10 12:28:36 by MysticShark Reply
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  • As far as I am aware he played No. 8 in matric (he may have at some other level played wing). This info was from family of his I knew at the time, who also advised on the attempted conversion.

  • Comment 41, posted at 01.12.10 12:34:05 by Dive Pass Reply

    Dive Pass
  • I have a suspicion that Spies would have made a far better center than No. 8. Too late into his career now though.

  • Comment 42, posted at 01.12.10 14:00:06 by vanmartin Reply
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  • I don’t think PDV really aluded to anything really, his comments were reactive and not based on any semblance of fact! Since when did they setout to play expansively in the Tri N or against Scotland? They couldn’t get over the advantage line playing Bulls rugby so they kicked everyhing away! The only difference this weekend is that we got the fwd platform. This is not to say that is the wrong to play as clearly we’re good at it, but to suggest we have stumbled on a blueprint since 2008 is madness. Its the ramblings of a madman written on a wall in kuk!

  • Comment 43, posted at 01.12.10 14:59:08 by neilster Reply

  • Morne….keep the faith.

    The one observation I have of 2010 season is the pace of the game.

    The AB’s have simply run sides off their feet eventually they crack. Personally I believe Australia do it even better.

    Obviously you need to temper that with an uncomprimising pack of gizzly forwards and a set of penetrating backs as well as an astute kicking game.

    The AB’s when all is washed up have done that far better than anyone else in 2010 but Australia are not far behind.

    South Africa have issues….big time ….. they have look slow and un-fit even compared to so of the Northern Hemisphere ref’s and their current backline lacks strike power.

    ….I just hope that all those wanting the old boys such as FDP and Mossie to inject life back into the team are not totally diappointed when the rest of team can’t keep up.

    …much is made of Brussow return as well but he will be well up against it come even the Super 15 to make an impression.

    The Bok are well and truely up against it going into next year. They surely can’t roll out their current game plan and players…it is simply dated and many players way off the pace literally.

    But hey……this is the best Rugby nation in the world we are talking about ….. but their performances under this coaching outfit have simply been a shambles from start to finish.

    Chin up ……i’m looking forward to the Semi Final in Auckland already……….. if we make it that far ! 😉

  • Comment 44, posted at 01.12.10 21:32:38 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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