26 Feb

Slip sliding away
by Rob Wallace
26 Feb 2003

The Blues kicked off their S12 season with a pretty good win over the NSW Warratahs on a wet Sydney night. The Warratahs have a pretty decent home record, and have started the last few seasons fizzing, but produced a damp squib on this occasion. Too many lost-looking league players at the back and a soft forward performance by NSW saw the Blues take a deserved 31-18 win.

It was a promising start but there was plenty to work on. The lineouts went well but the scrums could do with some more practice. Most gratifying was the way the forwards stuck to their tasks and let the backs get on with theirs. The pattern looked very good (not unlike the Auckland NPC team) and with a bit more organisation the back 4 is going to trouble many teams this season. Sloane seems to have moved away from the bulky, smash-it-up approach he took last year and with quick recycled ball the Blues have the wide talent to run in points.

Tuitupou and Caucaunibuca were the pick of the backs but special mention should be made of Orene Ai’i who had a great first game back after a shoulder injury. However Spencer’s deft touch would have improved things further. A player to watch with interest will be Muliaina who has the talent to get close to the AB squad after a good S12.

Ali Williams dominated the lineout, Flavell made a promising start to his season and the loose forward combination worked very well.

In other games: The Highlanders struggled to get into top gear winning 29-16 against a Chiefs team that played pretty well, while the Crusaders made their usual slightly rusty start but still beat the Hurricanes 37-21.

25 Feb

A Simple Process Of Elimination
by Rick Boyd
25 Feb 2003

Who will contest the final of the 2003 World Cup? It’s only eight months away — let’s speculate!

Australia will win their pool unless Ireland knock them off, which I don’t think will happen in Australia much though I would dearly love to see it (revenge for 1991! Now that was a bit of luck eh?)

France will win theirs, New Zealand will win theirs and the big question is who will win Pool C based right here in Perth? England or South Africa? You’d be pretty brave to say South Africa right now although who knows what the Tri Nations will bring.

Quarter final 1 in Melbourne, New Zealand v South Africa. Ah well, anything can happen in a knock out tournament as we know only too well, eh Kiwis? But going on recent history, and unless there are miraculous improvements in the Tri Nations, the Japies will be manoeuvring a fairly sizeable blind mullet up a steep incline with a small twig to win this one. And if it turns out to be England, well, no big deal. England aren’t due for another win over New Zealand for ten years and this team will not be the Development XV.

Quarter final 2 in Brsbane, Australia v Scotland. Easy peasy, you jammy Aussie wankers.

Quarter final 3 in Smelly Melly on Sunday, France v Ireland. Well, I for one will be praying to St Patrick and every other non-French saint I can think of for victory to the noble Celtic warriors of my ancestry and miserable, painful defeat for the unwashed eaters of frogs. But France will probably win just to piss me off.

Quarter final four in Brizzy, England v Wales. Well, we all know what happened there. Same result if South Africa scrapes into this game. I think.

First semi, in Sydney, the centre of God’s universe (providing God was a shirtlifter, and hey, you don’t hear much about Mrs God, do you? Maybe he was) -

New Zealand v Australia. Who’d pick it? The Tri Nations might give us a clearer indication that Australia is not the team it once was, not that it ever was much of a team, and it also might show that the All Blacks are the team they once were, which will be a nice change considering they’ve not been much of a team either recently. Naturally I’ll be expecting New Zealand to win but who knows. We’ll probably get some pommy fuckwit with a whistle who gives Australia two tries they didn’t really score and a penalty in injury time, but that will only be because Australia has ‘the winning way’ and certainly nothing to do with luck.

Second semi, still in Sydney (“a latte in that little al fresco down Oxford Street Crispin? Can I push your stool in, ducks?”) -

France (or Ireland) v England (or South Africa). Hey, imagine if it’s Ireland v England. Wouldn’t that be fun? Or Ireland v South Arica. An Irish-New Zealand final! Sublime! A New Zealand-South Africa final! History revisited! But it’ll probably be France v England, a replay of the two games they will play in August in preparation. And my money’s on those filthy heathen French. Hard, fast grounds in Sydney, fine weather, yes, I can see the French scoring a bag of tries and a SH ref not giving an endless string of penalties for Wilko’s trusty left boot.

And so we come to our France-New Zealand final. And here we know that karma has brought us to our just and well-deserved win. A fifty point thrashing of the smelly garlic munchers, plus a big punch up in injury time where three of the Froggy forwards are stretchered off, with two more red-carded for good measure.

The skies part and God (not the shirt-lifting Australian God, but a manly, Kiwi God with a checked bush shirt and a DB in his left hand) shines a beam of divine light down on Taine as he lifts the cup heavenward and the mighty warriors in black raise their triumphant fists in victorious salute as their title is announced for all the world to hear … “The World Champion All Blacks!”

Winning the world cup really only makes them world cup holders but they’ll be so good they’ll get the hypothetical accolade to go with it. And no one else has deserved that since the All Blacks last won in 1987.

Up in the stands O’Neill has an aplopexy and shits his intestines all over Vernon Pugh in his wheelchair, accidentally sending the crocked Welsh git hurtling down the stairs into a nearby dumpster of rotting condoms left over from the Mardi Gras, where he drowns in faggot semen.

And the world is a perfect place.

24 Feb

Slippery When Wet
by Paul Waite
24 Feb 2003

For once all the bad weather was over in Australia where the busy buzzy Waratahs bizzed and buzzed and lost to a Blues team which looks like it is going to be tough to beat.

Wet weather marred the game and seemed to turn the high-tech plastic/rubber ball into a bar of soap. Why is it, in these days of orgasm-inducing technology (so we’re told) they can’t come up with a compound which is at least reasonably grippy in the wet? The sight of the thing squirting out of a firm hold to land eight metres away without the excuse of a collision should have the men in white lab-coats nervously jiggling the pens in their top pockets and wondering whether they’ll have jobs on monday.

Aside from that the game showed us that the Blues have successfully translated their last season NPC form into the Super 12. The key feature of this is a tough uncompromising, swarming defence reminiscent of the Crusaders famous Oh-fensive Dee-fence, but it doesn’t end there. Starting from a basis of that defensive effort the team has sharp fangs on attack. The back three have pace to burn with The World’s Best Winger playing at fullback, and twin speedsters Caucau and Rokokoko on the flanks. In particular Rupeni Caucau is something very special indeed, with an acceleration over 15m which would require most of us to wear a G-suit to protect against blackout.

Added to an already explosive mixture was Orene Ai’i, who replaced the mercurial Carlos Spencer at first-five eighth very late in the piece. This ex-sevens star turned on a performance which should see him secure in the spot for at least the next round. The Waratahs loosies are probably still having nighmares over his now-your-see-me, now-you-dont’ performance.

Elsewhere in the round we noticed a Very Strange Thing, news of which you might need to be sitting down for: the New Zealand teams all seemed to be well prepared for the opening round!

Since the inception of the Super 12 in 1996 the NZ franchises have traditionally been utterly useless for the first three weeks of the competition. Most of the players haven’t even looked like they knew which end they were supposed to be running towards, let alone grasping the complex concept of teamwork. Not this time.

We have to ask ourselves why this is so. Is there a kind of gestation period for our rugby brains-trust, of about 6 years, for an idea? Quite likely, but there is another possibility. All Black coach John Mitchell has made it known that he has been visiting each franchise and participated in trainings.

So, maybe Big John is behind this exciting new initiative of actually being ready for the first Super 12 round, instead of sportingly letting the Australian teams have a head start of three weeks before the Crusaders win it anyway.

If you are diligent (and sensible) enough to have read all our columns, you will probably be aware that we have long been of the opinion that the way players have been pushing the ball underneath their bodies and out between their legs is, essentially, cheating. We called it the Birthmother Setup Technique, and denounced it way back in April 2001. Well here we are a whole two years later and Super 12 Officialdom is proving they do listen. The “Squeeze Ball” technique (we gave them a perfectly good name, why couldn’t they use it?) is now outlawed. You will still see the ball coming back through the legs, but it has to happen immediately, or the refs will blow. Good stuff.

While we’re on the subject of credibility, which we weren’t, there’s another improvement. The kicking tees which used to be used for restarts have been done away with.

Hoo-bloody-ray! Instead of watching the dubiously silly spectacle of a player perching the pill three feet off the deck on a recycled dayglo red traffic cone, and then having to have a ballboy risk death by coming on to retrieve said appendage affter it has been sent tumbling God knows where after kickoff, we have a simple drop-out.

We are all incredibly grateful that The Powers in the game have all succumbed to an attack of DoTheBleedingObvious-itis and made a sensible decision.

Next on the agenda is to have more test matches played in the daylight hours, where the rugby is best and the spectators happiest. Close on the heels of that is to stop our stadia being turned into rock-concert venues during the games, and a public shooting of all the DJ’s they employ to do so.

Apart from the mind-blowing result over in South Africa where the Bulls registered A WIN (!), there weren’t many upsets. The Crusaders creamed the Canes, the Highlanders flung the Chiefs, the Brumbies eaked out a mind-numbingly boring win over the Reds and the Stormers rained on the Sharks parade.

Just looking back at that monumental Bulls result, we think that this is due to the Cats dropping down to the Bulls’ wooden spoon level, rather than the Bulls raising their game. Competition for The Spoon is therefore likely to be hot this season.

Watch this space for regular updates and the usual perspicacious commentary on it!

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

20 Feb

Rugby World Cup Year
by Paul Waite
20 Feb 2003

There’s always a special feeling of anticipation when it’s the year of a Rugby World Cup.

Of course quite often the little butterflies of expectation are the most pleasant part of the whole thing, as they morph like a Lord of the Rings special effect, into the giant squids of disappointment come the event.

So what can we expect this time around. An All Black win, that’s what. I could end this article right here now that I’ve given you the important information, but I feel obliged to fill in some of the finer detail for you.

While Australia and South Africa exhausted themselves silly on disastrous end-of-season tours, John Mitchell rested his top All Blacks, and took a development squad away to the Uk and France where they aquitted themselves well. This year the test squad will be packed full of revitalised players, pumped for the World Cup, instead of nursing old injuries along from the previous season.

Another piece of the jigsaw is the approach Mitchell has taken since getting the All Black coach job. He has centred his efforts around the forward platform, and regaining that traditional All Black supremacy up front. This reaped dividends last season, his first in charge, and will bear more fruit this year.

Out in the backline the news is that the All Blacks have been deliberately holding back patterns of play they intend to use in the World Cup. Bits and pieces of the whole have been practiced infrequently enough to escape video analysis, but the whole package will only be unveiled in November.

Looking at players, the All Blacks are probably at their strongest depth since 1997, particularly in the forwards. Taken together with Mitchell’s emphasis on re-establishing the basic strengths of All Black forward play, this is very significant.

Taken as a whole therefore, the All Black picture is an encouraging one in this Rugby World Cup year. Aside from the team-oriented aspect, there is also the added X-factor of Jonah Lomu. If anything motivates Jonah to train and regain his most devastating form it’s a World Cup. News has it that he has shed numerous kilos, and is getting back to the kind of dynamic play that made his name in 1995, and later in 1999.

Unless, as in a certain farcical yacht race a rich Swiss buys the All Black forward pack and plays them against us, New Zealand should be able to field a World-beating team in November.

Bring it on.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

18 Feb

Oh Soopa, It's Rugby Again!
by Paul Waite
18 Feb 2003

Here we are again, all packed and poised to set out on another mega-expedition across the interminable landscape of Super12dom, to go where every rugby supporter has gone before, to drink more beer and eat more pizza in front of the telly than Guiness can fit in a Book of Records, to (in footy vernacular) Do The Hard Yards once again.

But a strange thing has happened this year – I’m actually looking forward to it!

Hithertofore, it has been a case of “oh no, not so sooooon!”, as rugby begins banging its drum to the accompaniment of the sound of leather on willow, and in the cooling heat of yet another summer in paradise (yeah, right). It has always seemed that the game was killing us with kindness in the shear amount of rugby heaped up on the punters’ platter – numbing us to death with the repetition of endless Super-12′s and Tri-Nations series.

This year I’m keen to see the boys back on the paddock, so the bastards must be grinding me down, but looking again maybe its just the sheer simplicity of this sport in a World gone mad with reports of terroism and war which plays a part. Or maybe it’s just Rugby World Cup Year.

Whatever the case we’re in for the start this Friday, and for once New Zealand Rugby is looking at a bright year ahead. Last season there was great debate surrounding John Mitchell’s decision to rest All Blacks by not including a good number on the end-of-year tour. I think that this will pay off handsomely this season. The Super-12 is a sapping experience for spectators, but that’s nothing to the body-wrecking forces visited on the players.

So, with all this in mind, here are a few predictions for the 2003 season.

1. The Super-12 will be won by the Crusaders (surprise) who, with plenty of All Blacks striving to get to the World Cup will walk away with it. The Brumbies will come second (again) as they are humbled 87-0 at Jade Palace.

2. The Bledisloe will be won back by New Zealand, as the Wallabies fluff around preparing for The Big One. Kylie Minogue will sing Waltzing Matilda at Stadium Australia just before the deciding game, but will forget the words and start humming the theme to Neighbours instead, unsettling the boys in the puke-yellow jerseys who know a Bad Omen when they hear one, even when it’s coming from a bird with a cute arse.

3. The Tri-Nations will be won by New Zealand. South Africa will be utterly useless, pretending that they are holding things in reserve for the World Cup, where they will be knocked out in pool-play. Former All Black John Kirwan will suggest that South Africa be replaced by Italy for next years 3N to make it a more balanced and interesting comp.

4. New Zealand will destroy Australia in the final of the 2003 Rugby World Cup to become World Champions. The Wannabes will be humbled to the tune of 45-12, 6 tries to nil, by a superbly tuned All Blacks outfit. Eddie Jones will be, for the first time in his life, stuck for words in the post-match conference due to the pain induced by the hard-backed edition of ‘A Million Rugby Quotes From Gobby Eddie Jones – Volume 1′ lodged sideways in his rectum. John O’Neil will be seen white-faced at the end of the final, prior to being sacked the following week for incompetence over the hosting arrangements which, oddly, will make a massive loss for the ARFU due to an accounting balls-up by the IRB and RWCL.

5. In an amazing coup-de-gras, NZRFU Chairman Jock Hobbs will negotiate an extra three Super 12 teams for New Zealand, at the expense of all the Australian teams, citing the “need for Australian Rugby to have a chance regroup after its poor 2003 showing”. A review of the situation will be timetabled for 2020.

Well that’s it, not much that is debatable there is there – pretty standard stuff.

Here’s to a great Super 12 and an even better 2003 season.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

Haka editor-in-chief. Please do not feed.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me: