About Bob Skinstad

Bob Skinstad

Bob Skinstad lives in Cape Town, South Africa. He is a retired pro rugby player, a passionate social player and general sports fan. He also writes about Rugby on his Rugby Journey blog.


Latest Posts by Bob Skinstad

SARU: What Should We Do About the Kings?

May 13, 2012 by  

Share:

I am not hereby referencing the iamjonnyking clan, although we can be calamitous, and we do want to invade your #supe world, South Africa – some time, at least.

No, we take this posting pitstop at a past-time that ponders to procrastinates, and at times, even prevaricates; I think I could “P” everywhere in this piece, as I postulate on.

Yes, this is a pool party, where even the P-Divvy will likely ventilate at some point – precisely!

Okay, this is not an adult edition of Sesame Street; time to P-free.

Anyone for a Cookie? We could be a while.

As many of you will have grasped if you have lingered over words without end, while this scribe finds his residence under the same skyline, the long white cloud distinguishes my home.

Therefore, I offer this preview as a means to affirm my assumptions as I enter the discussion of the Kings in the #supeRUG world; they are a long way from your South African world.

Watching, reading, and reflecting on this subject that has a number of rabbit’s to trail, it is clear that some larger than life characters colour, much for many, in what is discussed on this subject that definitely matters.

This subject is much like the bride who expects it will be, the once spoken about long-term engagement has now become the real-time living arrangement, with the promise of tomorrow sounding more like the reality of today.

You know the story, the Spears promised a #supe new home and rugby status, only to be put down with the sweetest of treats, now finding a second coming in the Kings, with SARU again promising to be the faithful husband. However, the bed-wetting has returned, with many thinking it is only a matter of time before the sheets get soiled again. Unfaithful. A bride left at the altar; dressed for success; somebody else’s.

There will be tears before bedtime!

Let me be frank, as I begin to enter in, this is not a win-win situation

Somebody is crying into their pillow as a future dream becomes a nightmare. Let us not forget this dark and dingy destination for one. Sombre.

The talk remains that the Kings place is already a fait accompli, and you know the French, with the Lions the side for the chopper - ejector seat. Nobody is favoured if we refrain from the obvious; the Lions have too frequently found love in a broom cupboard; swept away by this level of competition. In the now neatly arranged South African Conference, Mitchell and Spencer haven’t been able to put the finishing touches together, even as injuries haven’t helped. Louis just too Luyt.

This is where the discussion can easily become tangential, and I will join you for a time.

Back in my Day! You know you are sounding Old.

This is NOT about 12 Teams

While you may legitimately decry the unfair nature of the conference arrangement, which does impinge on the conclusion, the numbers do affirm that 15 teams also means a closer competition – more away wins and a reducing gap in a contest – both marks that bear witness to a better competition, in my opinion. Aussie teams still derby in 12; not as often, but sleep is healing.

For all the talk about 12 teams in SupeRugby, such only works where the Currie Cup and NPC/ITM Cup have preference. You may talk about an Aussie conspiracy, but we have now joined their worldview, and we ain’t looking back. What were our historic rugby homes will still very much live on, as the ITM Cup has proven in previous years, but they are now well and truly domesticated – Rest in “P” – not again.

Apparently, he will be hip-hopping at home halftime matches. Okay, this may not be true, too!

This is NOT a Keohane/Watson Question

Those who make it such exhibit clear marks of making-to-creating a fatal category error. This question is being framed by some as a popularity contest on Mark Keohane, Luke and Cheeky Watson. The result of this tactic is the creation of a straw man; classic when one party wants to win a debate; easy to defeat a straw man that does not exist. This is disingenuous, with the result that it distorts the locus of this issue. This type of tactic encourages the reigning assumption of the masses to get on board, which works if many prove invigorated by the question.

Let me also state it this way; for all the talk about “supposed” wrongdoings by Keohane in particular, even if these are proven to be true, this is still a separate question to the legitimacy of the Kings in SupeRugby. While some media will talk about the mud’s viscosity, it should not stick.

Even if – hypothetically – Keohane is proven to be acting illegally, the Kings question is nowhere impinged by his actions, as his actions are separate. Again, no one should be asking you to like any of these protagonists. Such matters are beyond the point. While we can point to the genesis of this SARU decision that predates any potential Keohane conflict as basis for this position, the inherent logical connections in this situation also make this clear.

Don’t be confused by this issue.

Nuff Said.

Why is this important?

Because it helps to take more of the heat out of the debate, and most importantly in my opinion, because this better exemplifies a clear correspondence in the context. I am not consumed with pushing anyone’s case from my New Zealand home.

And again, the question of the Kings is not the same question as one’s opinion on the like-ability or fitness of Keohane and Co. It is time for South Africans to drop this line of reasoning in regard to the Kings, as it corrupts; assuming you want to approach this subject on an even footing.

A Solution?

You think I could arrive at that in a little over a Thousand words?

Okay, I lied, it is alot over that word count, and I do have a cunning plan – you can play, pin the tail on the weasel.

You could give SARU the same number of years and we could be onto a winner, which is to say, this organisation is sitting in the hot seat. They have made promises in the past that are now becoming the present, even when the gift still awaits to given.

Who said Cheetahs are not Marriage-Material?!

The solution is NOT to have the Kings of 2012 enter a playoff arrangement with the Lions of 2012

It would be as logical to affirm the Kings entrance into SupeRugby in 2013, with the plan that post this season, they could play the Lions for this spot in 2014. It would really be the Lion Kings then, as this Jozi side will be stripped, and then kitted in the other colours.

I also do not buy the lack of depth in South African rugby argument for a sixth side. There is plenty of depth. Take an accounting of the numbers plying their trade off-shore. The rudimentary numbers are there. What is needed is the financial ability or willingness to pay the price, which in practice puts a stop to this idea in the past.

You can also rid yourself of the lack of local talent perspective, as it is reasonable to expect this to take time, and I am assuming there’s at least some altruistic SARU ideals for having a team in the Eastern Cape. If previous locale is your raison d’etre for rejection, you may want to also check the New Zealand residence of the Highlanders squad.

Yes, the Kings will need a bumper cheque book.

The answer seems as intractable as either set of supporters in this debate – Word – channeling the 90s.

Wait! A Light… Dawning on the Horizon >>> The King, Writeth.

Oh, Stop It, Already!

Personally, I would take a more pragmatic view in the present, grounded in the reigning assumption that SupeRugby is NOW the dominant “local” rugby competition in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

This means that fundamentally, this competition is on a growth curve – phat boy.

If SupeRugby stops at 15, someone has dropped the ball.

I expect a scenario where another team will join the Australian Conference from Asia and another team will join the New Zealand Conference from the Americas, into the future, thereby making, you guessed it, 6 teams in each Conference, if the Kings are also JUST added.

If this is the long-term plan, on behalf of the Australian and New Zealand contingent, I would have placated this South African dilemma, [1] in light of this plan, [2] the African numbers impacting on the Television deal, and [3] the ability to keep a, they-owe-me, for a later date.

This would have taken some creative accounting, in terms of the breakdown in the competition, but this Kings side could have been guaranteed to play every Australian and New Zealand side; another coup for honest John O’Neill and his thriving conference.

The result is that SANZAR would also have given SARU and the South African 6 an opportunity to witness what this extra team looks like in reality, but with a limited expectancy of some two years, before the next deal is signed. SARU could even put some quality control outcomes in place for all 6 teams, placing all under notice that their future proof of life is to be connected with performance.

Everyone placed on a somewhat even footing.

Somebody call, SANZAR!

Today, talk is the Kings are already in SupeRugby 2013, and while the dawning of a new side with a Canterbury connection does offer something for this King, the promise of a tomorrow seems a question that is still very much future.

Will love mean marriage for these Kings? They may have the ring to prove it, but the Return of the King is much more middle earth – I know, loved this ending as well.

There is still much to say on this subject, but that is enough from me; this bill from Aotearoa now worth my crown.

Rugby: Scrum-Bagged (Trouble in Paradise?)

December 20, 2011 by  

Share:

Is the cornerstone that has often become the capstone in a rugby contest, in serious jeopardy of moving to the “too hard” basket for this Union of sports?

Before we go too deep into this quest, let me avert any seasonally affected readers. Easy now; the plan is that this reading malarkey remains more of a good time than a long time.  I do have a couple of other posts ruminating within that I would like to get without before we hit, Merry.

The clock is ticking.

A Game the Whole Family Can Play

However, and more concerningly so, the context for this recent talk has come from the purported locus of love for the dark arts.  At the time when the scrum was said to be silenced-south, such was shouted down from on high, with the proof of this pudding, circa Rugby World Cup, 2003.  You may well remember that time, when the work in the scrum was often subjected to much jest from those in northern confinements as they exclaimed the focus had been removed by the pragmatists, wanting style over substance, so that it all appeared so super.

In a New Zealand context, that good King Henry admitted as much, as has sought over time to pull a Cron-job [Mike Cron - one time ABs scrum guru], with the All Blacks scrum world leading for some time.  The thought-piece in the scrum looks to be in safe hands down south, as with the addition of Argentina to make a rugby championship, this focus should be fostered.  At least three of these sides tend to get rather excited by this contest, with dominance divine.

On the other hand, this is still not always the case in SupeRugby, where it can get too easily silenced.  Case in point is the SupeRugby final in this year of 2011.  As one commentator after the fact would note; should a more technical Referee been involved, the only Reds reference on the night would have been the image of a crest-fallen Front-Row, which was allowed to get away with too much for the good of the game. No guesses who the man with the whistle was?!

Settle.

Speaking of substance, as I get to my point; what has brought this front and centre, has been remarks made this day after the just completed round in the Heineken Cup.  In a piece by the affable and one time man in the middle, Brian Moore; he would comment about what reads like a growing crisis come scrumtime, after the display in the Ospreys v Saracens match.

Take a read of these reflections.

Ospreys’ coach Sean Holley suggested that perhaps the set-piece should be scrapped saying: “I don’t know where we are going in the scrums. Maybe we would be better off without them.”

Frustration speaks, but you wouldn’t go there UNLESS the exception has become more like the rule.

This was not one coach merely blowing off steam, as the “other” would also offer some other refrains.

Saracens coach Mark McCall, similarly exasperated, said: “It was carnage. We don’t practise scrum moves anymore because there are so many penalties from them. It breaks down before you can do anything with the ball. It’s just a mess.”

Ramifications anyone!  What to do about something?

Serious discussion may prove for another time, but let us see if we can not offer a morsel or two.

No Scrum? No X-Factor!

1] The scrum is fundamental. We lose the contest in the scrum and we emasculate the stamina in our strength. The other “rugby” code has its own strengths, but one prosaic outworking in that code has been the removal of the scrum as a contest.  Yes; there was a day!  It is now merely another way of pushing play that looks a little different from the rest.

Our own, Bob, referenced in one of our interviews earlier in the year about the need to rid the tendency for teams to employ a bevvy of one-off runners.  The reason this has become routine is because that reality is effective; it works.  It should be noted that this is also Rugby League 101.  The complexion of the Union code is further influenced on the defensive side of the ball, as the integration of ex-League players becomes a staple of the professional game, particularly north.

Periodically there have been rumblings about the future nature and relationship of these two codes of rugby, and the potential in a future marriage.  While those reflecting on the frustration that has become the scrum may not steering this course; there are ramifications.  Union must learn from the past and not repeat it.

If our Scrum is bagged, our paradiso is lost.

“Now When I Count, 1, 2, 3, I want You To All Go, Crash, Like I’m Doing Now.”

2] Solution. Don’t look to the Referees as they are part of the problem. To be fair, it can make the lottery look like a breeze, forcing the man to mount the wind into his whistle and blow us all away.  Speaking of this context, Bath Prop, David Flatman, would offer the following tweet:

Watching the rugby. These scrums are no longer funny. It’s sad when your job becomes a lottery.

Back in someone else’s day, the team putting the ball into the scrum was given the benefit to call for the engagement. Those wise heads will tell you that the shenanigans of today were not around when they were a boy.

The democracy of rugby must be returned to the people, and it should start in the scrums.

This piece is now starting to get out of hand – a metaphor – so we will leave it out loud for you to mull over, and finish with one from Brian, before I turn the lights out.

No elite referee has ever played in the front row at any level of note nor have their advisors, assessors or supremo Paddy O’Brien. Even so, this cabal of officialdom refuses to accept this as a significant handicap, insisting there is no problem or even if there is, it is wildly overstated.

Is that so? Do we protest too much when 11 out 12 scrums are not completed?

Is there little of note when senior coaches have started to think that the game may be better off without scrums? When they admit they no longer practice scrum moves because of penalties? When up to 25 per cent of a game is taken up with forming, re-forming and penalising scrums and still more time kicking for touch or goal – is there nothing for which elite referees and their superiors have to account?

Finally, in a day when the business is about entertainment that equals ratings, which makes it a success; if the solution can not be sought on the field, it is likely that ideas will come forth from an outside source, as the suits may say it ain’t so. While we are far from a post-mortem, we must not wait for a lifeless corpse to signal that the way forward means burial of this important body of rugby’s work – the scrum.

Contributed by guest iamjonnyking.

Branding The Rugby Championship: Is a Name Just a Name?

November 29, 2011 by  

Share:

Some weeks have passed since the monumental announcement of the new competition that now extends south into the Americas, as Argentina provide an answer to any obsessive even numbered people.

There is also the extended “Super” competition to begin 2012 before we will consume some prime Argentinian beef, which means we are about to get rugby stuffed, post-Christmas!

Yes, more rugby to crack the whip on the playing stocks, but this is one addition that makes sense and should be celebrated – time to Salsa?  While there is many details to uncover, the first of many has been provided with a new name for this 3 plus 1, southern hemisphere rugby ritual.

Introducing…

Framed. Centred. Says Something. Does It Communicate Anything?

The Rugby Championship. Really? Is it possible to get any more generically non-descript about the exact context of this event, save that we get the idea rugby is involved?!  This is not to say that it therefore must stink.  But, it is to say that it reads and feels like a sporting event waiting for a home, or the punchline to ascend the throne.

Originally, I intended to offer some reasoned thoughts stating something like the following:

The Four Nations? Unimaginative. The Southern Four? Bland. The Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship? Try putting that on a T-shirt!  Take your pick and create your own, but there was much scope to create a vibe for an expanding competition with the world’s strongest International nations.

My initial perspective was to picture a golf tournament – The Open Championship – where you can almost taste the history it is so rich and storied. This title fits the tournament, underscored by the iconic and elevated, tradition, standing, and respect this maintains in the world of sport.

Like that real life game that frustrates the job seeker when presented with the “experience required” filter, what this expanded rugby competition does not have is the time needed to attain the status where the words – The Rugby Championship – flow naturally out of the impression the event imbibes.

However, like the previous conundrum, the name will not get an opportunity to attain, unless given the time to grow, mature, and procreate, in the most rugby of senses.  There always has to be a starting point.

We also live in a world where the rugby landscape is still currently under construction.  You get the sense that this name reflects a desired reality of what is pregnant with potential.

I know; why stop there?! However, as one began a search, an engine started to roar.

Check out the following examples. Is there a growing trend toward a common theme?! Maybe, bright minds have decided to think alike.  Or, it’s possible that rugby administration has the creativity of a brick outhouse?!

You can be the judge.

Aussies. Bright Sparks?

You will probably recognise a couple of the teams have taken another progression and Super sized in subsequent years.

The IRB have also trodden this path, even more well worn than initially considered.

Should this worry the creative types?

Hmm. There is a Theme Ruminating Within!

While the premier international and annual tournament north is popularly referenced as, The Six Nations; take a look at how it is offered up in this promo.

Is this a Brand within a Brand?

Just before you exclaim the, so what; it seems that the above is in close proximity to how it is referenced [save possibly the "rugby"].  However, for branding reasons we hear it on repeat as the, RBS Six Nations.

Therefore, have we been playing the fool, waiting for the new tournament name that was in reality another limped wrist with a wet fish to the face, as the IRB signal another link in its masterbrand?

Is it even worth the remarkable effort < Yes, the words of this piece?!

At the time of announcing, I noted one with authority to speak reference the name, The Rugby Championship, as a little shot at those further north.  Such fighting talk!  M consideration at the time was that there was some forward thinking and a master plan, but considering the creatively similar context, is Darth Vadar really the Father of this Luke to the future?

Of course, if the name, The Four Nations Rugby Championship, was the winner on the night; the comparison would have been even more striking.

Considering what has taken place with the “Six Nations” and other tournaments, it is possible that there will be another stage in the branding progression, where the title sponsor also becomes a conduit as a reference point, connected with the trophy – cue the Heineken Cup – but this will need another progression; time.

The Rugby Championship is certainly a little labourious off the tongue, and while it will be something else that will talk; stay tuned.

There is a reason why a choir has an identical song sheet.

Contributor: I am Johnny King.

The Bokke Weekend: An Essential Rugby Journey

September 21, 2011 by  

Share:

Most, if not all, will have had the pleasure of experiencing the sporting experience vicariously through the Bounce’s many tweets and posts. His stream of sporting consciousness continues with the following words that should speak deep to all those that bleed Bokke green. Enjoy!

There are various factors that make being a Bok fan great fun. We have won twice as many World Cups as New Zealand, we play with passion and pride based on an incredible legacy, we generally have a good chance of winning each game we play in, and when we play at home that town or city becomes covered in green and gold gees.

Best Experienced with Friends

Each year I try get to at least one of these momentous occasions, and this year I chose the Tri-Nations match versus Australia in Durban to ‘get my Bokke on.’ And it was a rugby journey certainly worth writing home for.

As rugby venues go, Durban is pretty much tops as it combines the best winter weather around with a ground that is made for a proper sports jol. This isn’t only my opinion of course, speak to any well travelled rugby fan (or player) and 9 times out of 10 you will get the same feedback.

Starting on the Friday, I flew down from my home town of Johannesburg just in time for the time honoured fans ‘Captain’s Run’. The Captain’s Run allows the players (in this case my mates and I) the chance to come together for one last time before match day and put themselves through their paces with a view as to what their roles are for the following day.

In fan terms this means drinking a fair few beers and sneaking in a few shooters whilst trying not to push oneself into the red zone. Injuries during the Captain’s Run are a big no no, but at the same time a level of intensity should be created. Our Captain’s took in a few of Ballitos local watering holes on the Durban North Coast and saw us talk about the game with a few fans all with various views of what the game will hold.

Match day morning then arrived and there were some players certainly feeling the effects of a gruelling Captain’s, but a good fry up sorted out any niggles meaning the team was fully fit for the game ahead.

Match Fit!

With kick off at 5pm, it was essential to structure the day properly so as to peak come game time and not before. Second half fatigue is not just a concern for the players, but also for the fans especially in big games like these. With personal preparations made and jerseys donned, the team met up at a central meeting point on route to the stadium to get a couple beers and be presented with their stadium tickets for the day. Quite fittingly we decided to do this meters from the Springboks team hotel in Umhlanga – the Beverley Hills. With the team bus behind us, the day could not have gotten off to a better start.

From there it was off to the ground and the Durban pre-match ritual of warming up at Rovers rugby club. With ample parking on the adjoining fields, Rovers offers that perfect environment to get your game face on, and in the hours leading up to kick-off you become overwhelmed by the sheer number of fans dressed in green and gold. The Bok matches attract people from all over the country and the diversity of people that you meet on the day really adds to the spectacle.

Well oiled and ready to go, the last hour before kick-off is all about heading into the stadium and preparing yourself to give 100% for the singing of the anthem. This is always a highlight for me, a packed stadium belting out our national anthem and creating a sporting atmosphere I can’t imagine matched by too many occasions around the world.

Sadly, the Bokke weren’t in Such Mid-Season Form

The game itself as you know was sadly a bit of an anticlimax with the Boks running out of steam in the second half, but the result did little to dampen the occasion as fans just kept partying into to the night at the many locations sprawled within the radius of the Kings Park stadium.

It is naturally a bit of a weiner fest, but watching the Boks isn’t really about chasing skirt afterwards. The Bok experience is more about enjoying a unique and traditional occasion that makes being South African great. It offers something special for all ages, and though It is never great seeing the Boks go down, the all round value of a Bok weekend is always one to savour and I for one can’t wait until the next one.

Winning!

Bokke Forever!!!

Guest Post: @FollowtheBounce.

Rugby World Cup 1987-2011: Epochs with a Father and Son

September 16, 2011 by  

Share:

This could pass as something unusually evocative or a run of that broken down mill reflection that offers much but cannot deliver in the cut and thrust of the pagination in your imagination.

I cannot promise this will be long, but it will be true to the registration of intent furrowing about in the recesses of my multi-leveled machinations.  I feel it as I write, and when such digs deep into my psyche, such becomes a conduit for the wellspring of my deep, as the emotions symbiotically synthesize themselves along for the ride.

Blow Hard

I am tired of writing lifeless prose that stations like a sleeping dog that lies. Well; it often feels like such, with the recent past, too much rote and routine that speaks the same language with a dialect that I am want to disown; failing to communicate the incessant ringing in my ears.  My soul longs to wade in the waters where no such limitations are availing and all one is encumbered upon is the recurring horizonic theme that does not end with a yellow brick road of manufactured prose.

Soul that longs to write out loud and out of tune, your time has come!

I think I just messed something

Whether you fit that refrain, I am stopping to sup a while with this dream, where a “Shakespearean rugby renaissance” man was still a boy who walked with his Dad, but has now become a man, with that man now a Grandad; the characters still named the same, but the refrain not quite that historic game.

Enough; let me evade the equivocation.

In recent days I have considered the length of my progenitor’s days. The bell has rung ever clearer that the sands through his hour glass are indeed accounted by the grain; effectively understanding that one day at a time has long lost that altruistic exterior worn for the right occasions as a name-tag for the dinner guests.  Although there is still years before three score and ten greet, he has paid many in tax.

Many moons have passed

With the second coming of the Rugby World Cup into our Land still Longing, one has been reminded of this epoch that has been our rugby journey, which has been a continual part of our lives since the day it all began.  It would in the year of 1987, when in the flesh; a much younger man would take his boy to Lancaster Park, Christchurch, as the All Blacks would take Fiji, in the very first Rugby World Cup.  Yet another layer enters as the fields in 2011 are silent down south!

However, as if to remind one of the eventual transition that becomes all our destination; this time, I have been able to obtain the invitations, and I will be taking this Father of my youth to the events of September 9th.

Who knows if this will be the last time I am able to walk the journey, talk the game, dissect the details, and breathe in the cultural air way up there.  After all, four more years is a long time, as we well know – thanks George!  While it is just a game, in the cultural milieu of our living, it has become an epoch with which to mark the steps in the unfolding journey of wearying hands once young.  Sadly, in many of our recent cultural mixes, we don’t have such markers to illuminate our way; those times and seasons, not necessarily significant in and of themselves, yet enabled to provide that conduit for the experiences of a life well lived to come channeling forth, as it gushes the flourishing depth of antithetical existence into the minutiae of our Mondays that can very easily grey the numbering of our days.

Many days have passed under the Sun

Therefore, as we enter this Rugby World Cup season; I reflect on the love of a Father for a Son over too numerous years.  I consider the years 1987, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, and now 2011, and I am thankful for the grace as evidenced in the tender care of this first sign of his strength. Consider all the talk of choking in this Rugby World Cup and you miss what ultimately matters in this sporting past time.  If this game has been significant as a vehicle for these moments, and the one who held your hand when you were young is gone; no convincing is necessary.  If you are like me, still able to enjoy the moments, remember they are fleeting; number these steps and make them majestic as a memorial stone for the future.

This Rugby World Cup is about getting off that regimented wheel of our routine and remembering…

It has actually already begun

I can’t wait for it all to begin. I desperately want to see my team in All Black with this thing again… finally. I desperately hope to witness this with the Senior soldier in the King’s army, even as I begin an ascension with one who has stolen my heart from the moment I cradled his body with two hands.

If you miss this reality, you may prove to be 5 miles wide, but only a couple of centimetres deep.  I long to swim in the Ocean of human experience, and not merely get my feet wet along the way.

Thoughts on the All Blacks Rugby World Cup 30

August 24, 2011 by  

Share:

There we were like stunned mullets, but our party was in the front… of our eyes, as we witnessed what All in Black hope will be history in the making, and for all the right reasons; after the All Blacks Rugby World Cup squad of 30 was announced by the President of the Club – Beegee… Williams.

Just in case you have missed the names; here are those that have hit the right note.

Mils Muliaina. Israel Dagg. Cory Jane. Zac Guildford. Isaia Toeava. Conrad Smith. Richard Kahui. Ma’a Nonu. Sonny Bill Williams. Dan Carter. Colin Slade. Piri Weepu. Jimmy Cowan. Andy Ellis.

Kieran Read. Victor Vito. Richie McCaw [c]. Jerome Kaino. Adam Thomson. Sam Whitelock. Ali Williams. Brad Thorn. Anthony Boric. Owen Franks. John Afoa. Keven Mealamu. Andrew Hore. Corey Flynn. Tony Woodcock. Ben Franks.

No All Blacks side/squad can really be described as weak, with the 22 that takes the field able to handle the jandal throwing of the opposition.  But in my opinion, and for what it isn’t worth; I would have liked a couple of other faces included that could have offered more in a couple of different areas.

The two that iamjonnyking would have wanted the most - in a rugby sense - are Wyatt Crockett and Matt Todd.

Crockzilla – Willing to “pack down” the World on his Back

It is axiomatic that Henry and Co have a semi-trailer load of faith in the  propping capabilities of Tony Woodcock, which he has earned and justified over a long and distinguished career.  I have no issue with his selection, even with his status as our premier Loose-Head.  However, I would have liked Crockett included in the 30, even though he is also a specialist in this position.

While it is unlikely that Henry and Co. would risk having a specialist on the Bench; consider Crockett coming on with 20 left to play after Woodcock has softened up the opposition for the zilla to lock horns with Owen Franks in firing the opposition’s neck through their proverbials.  For all the Front-Rankers who are beginning to salivate; easy Tiger!  Even if such was not the case; Woodcock is still returning to the top, with Crockett’s worth as a combatant and replacement worth the investment.

While big brother Ben Franks is an asset on the Bench; I am concerned about the scrummaging of John Afoa.  Watching the Test in Port Elizabeth, it seemed apparent that it was on his side of the scrum where things started to become a little fragile.  Unlike a SupeRugby final where the Referee will not be so dogmatic with the technicalities of this vital phase of the game; we only have to look back four years to see what happened in another Quarter-Final, involving the Bling, to understand that one weak shoulder, and our white collar could have its very own confession.

The heir Apparent to Follow the Leader?

The second individual, Matt Todd, could be described as being inexperienced at this level… roookie… which underscores the Selectors perspective on having a legitimate back-up for the pure one – McCaw. Come on now; don’t cast aspersions on one who knows no skulduggery at the breakdown; who does not suffer to dirty his hands with espionage.  Okay; enough with the bloviation.

Suffice it to say that after the Test in Port Elizabeth, the worth of the scavenger was underscored.  Yes, Thomson’s numbers in the tackle, even his effectiveness at arriving at the said B-down, were a positive statement on the man’s ability to cover-up. However, if the All Blacks are going to successfully play their game, which there is no guarantee they will try, they not only need fast ball, but a good supply thereof.  Sunday morning, NZ time, further exemplified the importance of this area, as the locals effectively built their lead from events directly related to this context.

Therefore, the All Blacks should be concerned that this base is effectively covered should the unthinkable happen.  The most effective manner to maximise this potential is to have Matt Todd in the 30, particularly as he has not been close, up to this time. While we all hope in NZ that the time will not arrive when he would be needed. However, considering the importance of the context that McCaw frequents to the final result in a Test Match, the cover should reflect the positional context.  Victor Vito is still a young man with much ability. While one does not begrudge him this opportunity; even the man whom he replaces, Liam Messam, would only fill time for the man, Kieran Read; who in 8, is just as automatic as McCaw, with Thomson more than able to share this load with his Captain.

Speaking of the other potential players who were close, I would also have taken Sitiveni Sivivatu, who provides not only the specialist ability on the Flank, but also a distinctive flavour from the other back three.  It must be said that it is hard to argue with the form of the other men chosen, as this is one area where our numbers are sickening they are so prolific, but Siti’s form had been impressive, to say the least. The other man in this playing context, Hosea Gear, is another who shares much of these attributes.  However, unlike Sivivatu; he did not take his chances in 2011, and the world’s best winger in 2010, according to Henry, takes time.

One other selection, Anthony Boric over Jarrad Hoeata, is also the right call, with the former proving his ability over time. which should go nicely from the Bench.

In saying all that and there was much; this is the All Blacks 30 chosen for the Rugby World Cup.  As such, and it should surprise few; this scribe will be BackingBlack all the way, and on the RugbyJourney, to Bill.   While this will not be the same for many of you; you can still join in this Journey with your own tribe, even playing All Blacks selector too.

With much reason and little rancour; who would you have chosen, Selector?

On Heinrich Brussouw

August 21, 2011 by  

Share:

Small in stature. Huge in impact. Especially when in Green.

One can now appropriately say that he has a head for it, even as when such was punctured by a considerable stud or two; he would prove that he also has the heart attack for the challenge; not only over the ball.

It will no doubt have been a frustrating period for the Vrystaat Flank man, but when each curse has injured his game, he has come back, more motivated than a previous occasion.  Test match Saturday in P.E. underscored his impact in the Springbok assault for the Webb of Ellis, his motivation for the moment, and his readiness for this challenge.

The future battle with the McCawesome individual in All Black will be one of those definitive calls that will signal the war is ultimately and finally won, with that All Black witness much more readied after this recent first hand evidence.

Heinrich would be a fitting, man of the match, recipient on this Saturday, underscoring that when one adds in a Schalk and a Spies; the Bokke have a Trio to be watched and respected in the coming weeks.

Speaking of such; watch out for small hulk in Green!

Rugby Shirts: More Than Just a Jersey, More Than Just a Color

August 10, 2011 by  

Share:

The New Zealand rugby team have been iconically connected with the “color” black since the days of 1905 when a newspaper affixed the title due to the impression of their exterior. Yes, their playing strip had encouraged this impression, but post that moment; this title and its cultural significance has grown, with this team now referenced by this monicker; not the nation this team represents.

“We have our own motivation, we don’t need someone else to motivate us. The black jersey motivates our players, it has for centuries and will probably continue to, it’s such an important jersey.” Steve Hansen

Now for today’s Wednesday Wind-Up: England – The All Black Colonization is Now Official

And so the English attempt at a little subterfuge begins to show its face with the unveiling of their “change” strip.  Settle down Kiwi; you know it’s only a change strip, so don’t think twice about the tactic. There may not even be any need to see it. I mean; how often do the All Blacks bring out their white jersey?!

Time to remove the sanctimoniousness reasoning that puts denial into the details, and reasons without.

England, even at the behest of the “Just Do It… Again” brigade are playing a game of cognitive dissonance, which their cohorts try and avoid with weak answers that are contradicted by their practice. The duplicity in this defence can be exemplified by one recent England rugby international who tweeted with another.

It is for Your Benefit!

Ex-English scrumhalf, Matt Dawson, introduces the subject matter with the tweet:

What’s all the fuss about a black kit for the rugby lad. As if NZ own it!! Rubbish. Did anyone complain when all blacks wore white v scots!!

For starters; this was and is only a white jersey, which underscores its exceptional nature to the All Blacks strip, as it is an addition.  Dawson also fails to grasp or ask the deeper questions as to what makes something, be it a color or a symbol, culturally significant.

Teammate and ex-English International, Will Greenwood, responds:

@backpageheroes @matt9dawson won’t win or lose any games because of shirt but don’t understand why you would wear black in New Zealand.

A reasoned response with context as King.

Just when you are waiting for a reasoned refutation or defense; we get the real story from Dawson:

@GreenwoodRugby don’t u think its a genius plan, stir things up. I know certain ex england coach who may have loved to have thought of that

This answer affirms that Dawson understands the significance this issue has in a New Zealand context, highlighting his real perception of the motivation for this addition. Guilty as charged.

In other words, the whole color defence is nothing more than a smokescreen and a pat answer that does not deliver when detailed.

Not Even a Color!

Let’s examine why.

Argument 1: New Zealand doesn’t have the exclusive rights to the Black color

This is not a question about the legal ownership of a color, but the cultural and sporting traditions that intersect with such specifics, and are endemic in each nation.  This argumentation is contextually meaningless; devoid of the All Blacks significance in NZ; the broad Rugby World Cup context, and the historic justification for such an English change. It really flows into the, “why not,” type of argument that downgrades all the significant structures of thought into an arbitrary paint by numbers debate.

Argument 2: New Zealand also wear a white jersey against Scotland

The All Blacks only wear this when they must, because of potential color clashes. However, they will keep their black shorts/socks at such times. They make this exception in light of the requirements of the moment, with an historic association with the white jersey also part of the package.

On the other hand; although England have officially identified this as its “change” strip; they are playing with it like it is something so much more.  A change strip is made for the exception; while the English are using it more like a new norm.  The fact that there is even talk about this being used in the rounds post the group stage in the Rugby World Cup, affirms there is more to this change.  England are also changing their shorts and socks to all black!

Let’s put this discussion into its proper context.

In the year New Zealand will host the Rugby World Cup, without any cultural connection or precedent; England have just – you know, out of the blue – decided to adopt an all black kit as their change strip. This describes the effect, but what is the cause? One should easily reject ignorance of this potential All Black intersection, as this is even beyond their fantastical designs, and considering last year’s change strip; it seems this track has been laid for some time.  Add to that basket, coincidence; if you believe that you may want to put lipstick on that pig, cause it’s about to fly.  Rocket scientists affirm that this has been an intentional action, and while the NZRU has evidenced restraint; not wanting to get involved; this English decision has not been produced in a vacuum.  England will be well aware of the cultural and sporting connection that this uniform has in a New Zealand context, which puts the motivation for such a change into its proper light.

More Than a Jersey?

Let’s dig a little deeper.

An initial question can be asked as to what these colors culturally represent in New Zealand?  This intersects with the ignorant mindset that numb-skulls on about the color context.  One of the reasons for the cultural and sporting significance that is accorded such a status; is the long  history associated with this concept, even as a sporting witness to our identity.  Question: what makes the Springbok on the South African jersey or the Rose on the English jersey, culturally significant?  Answer: it is the cultural acceptance, inculcation, and identification that each of these cultures has established with each symbol. These symbols have become conduits and lose the force of their meaning if they are detached from the culture where they have been imbibed.  This also explains why some individuals in other nations miss the point.  It is my contention that the All Black strip bears the same cultural significance as the Silver Fern, the Springbok, or the English Rose, which is also why the All Blacks only wear white, when forced.  France in 2007; now England in 2011, are using a pseudo-psychological warfare as a means of engaging the home side in a sphere where they believe they can gain some traction.

Can they?

England would not consider using the Silver Fern, as it is clearly a representative symbol of New Zealand and the All Blacks.  I would be shocked if they do not fully understand the reciprocal relationship with the All Blacks strip. They will wear this kit in warm-up matches; they will wear this in their first Rugby World Cup match versus Argentina, and the talk is potential past this point.  Clearly, they are parading this as much more than just a change strip. Their actions speak louder than their words, as these betray their sentiment.

All one needs to do is scratch the surface; even on Twitter.

Much of this debate has been centred on the New Zealand context.  However, a relevant question is why England are willing to abandon their traditional colors, even in a friendly?  Whimsical answers are for the fairy tales.  There is obviously a greater motivation.  Unless one is under compulsion, humanity does not generally change unless there is a greater worth that has been witnessed.  The All Blacks only change their strip when they are forced. There is no greater motivation than playing in All Black.

With their digression; the English have made plain their motivation. Winning the Webb Ellis trophy has pawned their world into the cradle of another. If your goal is to date the “hot stuff;” if you believe you have her/him; you will not put him/her out on the bench… unless or until… you find another who surpasses.  When such arises; change becomes very easy, as your primary goal is being fulfilled.

Will it have any effect? Will Greenwood tweeted that it won’t win or lose any games.

My answer to this is that they wouldn’t go down this path unless they believed it was worth the effort. Yes, this will sell a truckload of kits, but after the 2007 Quarter-Final; there was much postscript about the Jersey change, and its impact on the New Zealand psyche.  In a contest where every bit counts; this is another move in the perception of their direction. Apparently England have affirmed that should New Zealand and England meet in the Rugby World Cup; they would not wear their kit.

Why should they need to give such assurances? After all, it is just their change strip, and there will be no intersection with the English white and the New Zealand all black.

I trust this “agreement” is in writing, as if this is in a match for all the tea and bikkies; one does wonder, particularly in light of the present duplicity.

You only need to listen to the explanation of why certain names have decided to stay in New Zealand to grasp the significance of the Black jersey.  The Rugby World Cup is in New Zealand. The All Blacks are very - play it again, Sam – difficult to beat at home. Can you see where this is heading?  Expect other tactics, as nations will look to ratchet up the pressure; numerous references to choking, and the like.

The All Blacks have to prove that they can look fear in the face, and not flinch.

Next Page »