Some Thoughts On Rugby from the past week

Sikhumbuzo Notshe is phenomenal.

He has the makings of a great rugby player. He was the best player on the pitch during the South Africa A vs England Saxons game. I watched 2 of the games he’s played in Bloemfontein this year and he was impressive in both. He has a complete set of skills. He’s good with ball in hand, strong in the tackle, athletic, quick and he doesn’t disappear during the game. He also seems to stand out as a leader. After one of the Saxons’ tries, he was the man who gathered his teammates under the posts and gave them a talking to in the huddle and they seemed to respond well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name in the match day squad of 23 for the 2nd Test between the Springbok and Ireland, I’m keen to see if he’ll hit the ground running.

More Games For SA A and the Junior Boks, please.

I was having a conversation with a friend during the SA A game (we decided to give them the nickname Back-up Boks) and he said he could get used to a weekend watching the Juniors & A team before catching the main game featuring the Boks, much like a high school derby day.

Another thing that was cool to see was the match between the Chiefs and Wales on Tuesday. The last time I remember watching an international side play a midweek game against a provincial team (apart from the B&I Lions) was in 2008 between Munster and the All Blacks. I’m not always a traditionalist but midweek games are the one thing professionalism has killed off from the old days, that I miss and pine for. Hope it was not a once off.

As for the under 20 national side, I reckon those gents need to play a whole lot more games together. One of the reasons the Junior Boks are a hit one year and a miss the next is how they are prepared. They are made to fit a specific purpose and that is the U/20 Championship. Every year the country gets excited by the talented youngsters chosen but more often than not we are disappointed. I think we would get more out of them if they played say a whole season together including practise games prior to their World Cup and an under 20 Rugby Championship against the New Zealand, Australia & Argentina Junior sides. I think that would make tem more competitive.

New Appreciation for The Beast

Ahead of the first Test, I read an article from an Irish website that was positively gushing over Beast Mtawarira. The feature includes detailed technical analysis on how he scrums and just exactly what it is that makes him so good. From there I got the sense that he is perhaps undervalued by South African supporters. That kind of technical analysis is also something that is missing from the South African rugby media.
Back to the game, Beast carried well and gained more yards than I have seen him in a long while. He and Siya Kolisi, especially, seemed to be a lot less tentative in their play and looked like they were playing with renewed confidence, like they were playing for someone who backed and reassured them.

Springbok Numbers 870 and 871

On Saturday, Faf De Klerk became Bok No. 870 when he ran on to the pitch for his debut with Bongi Mbonambi due to be No. 871 if he came off the bench. My gripe is that the numbering of Springbok players does not include black ex-players who were denied the opportunity of representing their country during apartheid but were given Springbok blazers in the early 2000s. Look, history cannot be re-written and this is not the biggest of issues in local rugby but it bugs me that SARU are so good at doing ceremonial and honorary things so well when people are watching. Their gestures placate the public but they are insincere. They should’ve gone the route of cricket and started numbering from 1 after re-admission.

The Small Matter of Garth April

With Pat Lambie now injured, Elton Kantjies will probably start at 10 with Garth April the next in the pecking order. However, the talk surrounding him now is that he is not ready for Test level, he has played only a handful of Super Rugby games, he was playing club rugby this time last year etc… I heard Coeztzee himself say April was brought into the squad to learn. If that was the case, it should’ve been said at the the announcement of the squad and he should’ve been placed on a standby list or whatever. It is incredibly unfair on him if he is leapfrogged by someone else. If a man is good enough to be in an extended squad, you should back him to be able to start or play in a game on any given day. Morne Steyn has been roped into he squad as flyhalf cover and I can only imagine (or hope) Johan Goosen would’ve been in Coetzee’s mind ahead of Steyn but was overlooked because he has a Top 14 semi final to play this weekend.

New Broom Sweeps Clean

So the old English saying goes. Allister Coetzee took the safe and sensible option for his first assignment in charge. With only 2 weeks to prepare the team, there was no way he was gonna pick a wholly different side to the one Heyneke Meyer left behind. I actually would’ve preferred a loss to Ireland if a completely new team was chosen, forget continuity… But I suppose that’s one of the reasons I’m not the Springbok coach. Changes will come and over time the side will take shape and have his own definitive imprint on it. Patience.