28 Aug

New Haka But Same Old Problems
by Paul Waite
28 Aug 2005

The good news: The All Blacks unveiled a new haka which raised the hairs on the back of the neck, and they won the test match.

The bad news: They showed everyone how to win a test by 7 tries to nil, whilst conceding 27 points – something hitherto considered impossible.

Once the emotion and euphoria of what was at the time a great last-gasp win has boiled away, we are left with the cold reality that the All Blacks gave away two utterly dumb and unnecessary tries last night, and should have won by a comfortable 15-20 points, instead of nearly losing.

And that’s being generous over the blunder by MacDonald which led to his clearing kick being charged down by Januarie for a try.

South Africa are a tough proposition but are essentially a bunch of very motivated and energetic tree-kickers. They smack the shit out of the trunks and hope for some fruit to drop into their hands, where it’s greedily consumed in a flash.

For this season at least, they should have changed their team name to The Hyenas, such is the scavenging nature of their gameplan. They are a young side, and all this is obviously new and providing results, however next season it will be old and they will have to turn their minds to playing creative rugby if they are to keep on tasting success.

For the All Blacks, it was a frustrating mixture for fans of the men in black. The tight five were on fire, and the scrum was a brutal weapon that had the measure of the Bokke pack from the start, and had gradually turned them to pulp by the end. The fruits of this were seen in the final winning try which came from a wonderfully controlled maul, and Mealamu peel-off to drive over.

The lineout was also very solid, and didn’t miss a beat when Ryan came on for Williams near the end, showing we have some good test-level depth available. The predicted dominance of Matfield did not eventuate, and was a key factor in that it prevented South Africa dictating procewdings with the territorial game.

With the change in All Black tactics to drive the ball up the guts more, and close to the fringes of the ruck, the Springbok umbrella defence was also taken out of the equation, and gaps opened up consistently. Only committed Bok defence kept things intact, but Rokocoko twice broke through to score nevertheless.

But the negatives in the All Black game were plain to see. They are still bordering on the poor in making the right decisions in open play and still err too much towards throwing the 40-60 pass. The worst one of the night was when Jerry Collins, who otherwise had an absolutely outstanding 80 minutes, lobbed a gimme intercept to allow the Springboks to gain the lead and a sniff of victory.

Aside from poor passing options, there was the kicking from hand which was, to be kind, very ordinary. Apart from a few kicks, most went straight to a South African, and hardly any were chased to put pressure on the receiver.

Finally there was the cretin in the middle blowing the whistle. The IRB ought to dock him half his wages, because he only seemed to witness about 40 out of the 80 minutes of play – he missed that much of what was going on. Clearly out of his depth at this level, his decision-making was impossible to fathom at times, and from the point of view of an All Black supporter, just about every single dubious call went against the men in black.

The sooner we never see this idiot again, the better.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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27 Aug

The Return of the Jedi!
by Rick Boyd
27 Aug 2005

In a triumph of justice over iniquity, of right over wrong, of light over dark, of which Luke Skywalker would have been proud, the creative, positive New Zealand All Blacks utterly dominated, outplayed and slaughtered the negative, spoiling, cheating South African Springboks 31-27 at Carisbrook today.

A score something in the region of 50-15 would have been in the offing but for one factor: the utter, utter, UTTER incompetence of the blind, bent, imbecilic French git of a referee. In a display that makes David McHugh look like the fount of all refereeing wisdom and Derek Bevan look like the world’s most accurate and intuitive referee, Froggie Jutge turned in the worst international refereeing performance I have ever seen since the glorious days of bent Broederbund ref Gert Bezhuiden-whatsit.

And what made it hilarious, totally and completely farcical, was that it was all one way. South Africa were offside, they cheated, they obstructed, they broke every rule in the book and few that aren’t but should be, and this witless Froggie chimpanzee was absolutely uninterested. Instead, he pinged the All Blacks for irrelevant trivialities, along with the same things he was blind to when perpetrated in green jerseys.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing but admiration for the fierce competitiveness and uncompromising physicality of the Springbok team, along with their incisive eye for half an opportunity. They played the ref and they got away with it, time and time again.

But what else did they do? The All Blacks blew their heroic forward pack to pieces, out-thought and out-played their back line which again showed themselves to be utterly bankrupt in creativity and positive attack. The Japies lived off the scraps of the opposition’s mistakes, mistakes largely generated by refereeing incompetence, except for the end of the game, when it looked like the All Blacks would continue their recent habit of capitulating when the tide was against them.

Instead, the men in black stormed back, split the Spingboks wide open and drilled them like a week-old blancmange. Maybe this team has come of age. Maybe.

The All Blacks were in total control for most of the first half but robbed of continuity by blinding refereeing incompetence. The second half was messy, and mistakes crept in, but they came good at the end.

I have nothing but contempt for Jake White and his recidivist attempts to turn back the clock to negative, spoiling, destructive rugby, and for the incontinent NH morons on the IRB and refereeing panels who are simply refusing to apply the laws so that talentless teams can compete.

This is not what will bring rugby to the world, although granted, it is about the only way South Africa will win.

Right, we won, so I can’t be accused of a throwing a tantrum, although if it’s being a poor winner and lacking graciousness I’m accused of, then I’ll gladly settle for that rather than some sort of pathetic sportsmanship to a side whose game I despise.

The game could so easily have gone either way and what an injustice that would have been. The All Blacks were lucky to win in the end, but they did so with convincing style and proved their point emphatically.

YES!!!

26 Aug

Dunedin Decider
by Tracey Nelson
26 Aug 2005

As I ponder the outcome of the All Blacks v Springboks Tri-Nations test to be played in Dunedin this Saturday, a few things come to mind -partly because of what I have heard and read from the various media in the buildup this week, but also because of what seems to be escaping a few people.

There have been the usual stories about the Springbok’s rushing defence – yes, it’s true they are pushing the offside line and getting away with it by being clever enough to bring their midfield backs up in a straight line. You would hope that the touch judges would give the referees a little help with this, but sadly they seem more interested in looking for petty off-the-ball incidents than anything that would actually help promote better policing of the offside line. In my opinion the reason they are getting away with it is because the referees are allowing offside play at the breakdown, particularly at the ruck. The laws state that the offside line is the hindmost foot of the hindmost player, but how often do you see Burger and co in the pillar positions fringing at the halfway mark of the ruck itself? If the referees are happy to allow this then of course the defensive backs are going to stand up over the offside line as well. And good on them. In rugby you push the boundaries as far as you can, and if you can get away with it then you keep it up.

There have been some ill-informed comments about Richie McCaw being a penalty magnet this year. I can tell you that while he may have been penalised a few times during the test in South Africa, in subsequent games his penalty count has been low (only two conceded against Australia a fortnight ago) – which is even more remarkable given the number of instances he is involved at the breakdown during a game. Thankfully I note there have been some rumblings about McCaw needing more support at the breakdown, and it will be imperative that So’oialo and Collins provide that this weekend against three of the biggest loose forwards in world rugby.

Which brings me nicely to the forwards. Henry and his coaching team have been quick to point out that the All Blacks made numerous line breaks against the Springboks in their first encounter in Capetown this month. The problem was that we didn’t convert them into points, and that was because of some inaccurate passing and some clever defence from the Springboks who managed to put themselves between the ball carrier and the support players (quite legal as long as you don’t play the man off the ball). The All Blacks made this easier for the Springboks though, because we had numerous tight forwards scattered throughout the backline as the game wore on, which only compounded the problems for our backline.

If the All Blacks repeat this fractured game plan, which is quite on the cards given the high-risk running style they are currently employing, the Springboks will win the game. Anyone who thinks the Springboks can be outrun in the forwards this season is living on another planet. This Springbok team is as fit and strong as any team ever to come out of the Republic, and to attempt to beat them by chucking the ball around like headless chickens is a recipe for disaster. While they may not be the best at creating scoring opportunities from set play, this Springbok team is magnificent at counter-attacking from turnover ball.

Unfortunately there seems to be a penchant in the Tri-Nations for our coaching team to encourage the wide game right from the opening whistle, instead of committing the opposition pack and creating space for the backs. The All Blacks have an exceedingly potent three quarter lineup, but they are never going to realise their potential if they have to skirt their own forwards out wide. For the All Blacks to win this weekend they must commit the Springboks up front, provide front-foot ball for the backline to ensure the opposition defence is retreating not advancing, minimise the 50/50 passes, and not turn the game into a parade of Fatties in the Backline. With any luck we then won’t be seeing Habana sprinting off down the touchline with only Woodcock and Mealamu to beat on the outside.

Lineouts will need to be fast and simple to prevent Matfield and co from contesting. The tight five will need to be at their best in the scrums and play as a unit throughout the game – not scatter to all four corners of the field as they have been prone to doing in the last two test outings. The loosies will need to support one another at the breakdown, and protect Weepu around the fringes as he will undoubtedly be targeted by the Springboks.

I will finish with the somewhat staggering fact that on the even of the test there are still 2000 tickets left unsold (which equates to almost 7% of the ground given that Carisbrook can only hold 30 000 spectators). Ticket sales have been unusually slow, especially given that the final Tri-Nations test in Auckland against the injury-ravaged Wallabies sold out in hours of the tickets going on sale. So what gives with the people of Dunedin? The ticket prices are not astronomical, so there is no excuse on that count. This test match is the only one in Dunedin this season, so it’s not like there’s been a glut of All Black rugby in the far south. But there is a problem with it being a night game. There is limited accommodation in Dunedin, so even if you wanted to travel there to see the test you would have nowhere to stay, and nobody in their right mind is going to drive hundreds of kilometres there and back on the same day. Dunedin is in severe danger of losing the right to host a test match if they cannot sell out the ground – and it defies belief that the locals aren’t attending the pivotal game of the Tri-Nations that will not only decide the winner of the series but will also determine which of the two sides will be ranked No 1 in the world. So come on Otagoites, get out there and support your team.

13 Aug

NPC Kickoff!
by WAJ
13 Aug 2005

Real Rugby is at last back on the screen for the season. You just can’t beat watching two New Zealand provincial footy teams going at it.

Suddenly the National Rugby Burden is lifted from the shoulders and you find yourself watching a game with your National Pride safely tucked away where it can’t get hurt.

Passions are still fired when your own province is involved, especially with a close rival province but it’s a safe warm and cozy home-fires type of passion, and one which feels as comfy as a well-loved pair of slippers.

Last night we had Waikato vs Taranaki. There was a lot of kicking, and a lot of mistakes from both teams in their first outing of the NPC season together, but it didn’t matter. It was just great stuff to watch on a Friday night.

The only discordant note was the referee’s uniforms.

Who, in their wisdom, decided that it would be a great idea if our referees were made to look like a bunch of faggots on their way to a pyjama party?

Luckily the ref was Lyndon Bray, who is a fairly imposing sort of bloke. Smaller, yappier refs might just get laughed at by the players in future fixtures. The costume just looks bloody stupid, and the NZRFU needs to dump ‘em and get down to the local Canterbury Clothing shop smartly to pick up some shorts, socks and jerseys which look like they’re actually designed to be on a footy field, instead of inside a harem.

Ah well. Even with a pansy in silk drawers wielding the whistle, it was great to be back watching NPC.

Bring it on!

7 Aug

Recipe For Rugby a la Debacle
by Paul Waite
7 Aug 2005

Ingredients: 1 tasty All Black team, 3 coaches who should know better, 1 rare Lions Tour, 1 Tri-Nations (common variety), a compliment of fans, and 1 team reputation (slightly tarnished).

Method: Mix coaches and All Blacks in with your Lions Tour, vigorously stirring and bringing to the boil.

Pour out into three separate steaming tests, adding a garnish of fans to each one. Thoroughly win them all, beating well.

Remove your All Black team and coaches, and leave to stand and go completely cold for a month. Refrigerate, and remove brains.

Take your Tri-Nations half a World away.

Fold a silly gameplan into your cold All Blacks mixture.

Finally add it to a Tri-Nations test, and let it flounder and bumble about for 80 minutes, until reputation is completely gone.

Serve.



“Send in the Clowns”. That was what Graham Henry must have said as the time came for the All Blacks to leave their dressing room at Newlands.

Goodness knows what half of those men in black were doing out on that paddock, but it was annoying and not at all funny to watch, clowns or no. I guess if we wanted to know whether or not it’s a good idea to give an All Black team a month break mid-season after a good warm-up series, then it was well worthwhile. It was a complete debacle.

The astonishing thing was, despite the catalog of stupidity and rustiness the All Blacks were still in with a chance of winning at the end, and got a bonus point!

No doubt South Africa is patting itself on the back. Allow me to bring it back down to Planet Earth. The Springboks were ordinary, if energetic. The cyncical and deliberate swinging arm that the thug Matfield took Byron Kelleher out with resulted in it’s only try – an intercept from a pass thrown by the cross-eyed Kelleher, who had to go off just afterwards.

South Africa could not string together more than a couple of attacks worthy of the name, and had to resort to kicking for most of the test, and the odd wobbly drop-kick attempt from long range from the disappointingly limited Pretorius.

The rest of the proceedings focussed on how many stupid mistakes the All Blacks could make to thwart their attempts to score tries – the answer was plenty.

I’m in favour of a Silliness Threshold in these tests I’ve decided. An impartial counter should keep a tally of Really Silly Mistakes from each side. When it reaches The Point of the Ridiculous, then a loud farting raspberry should sound over the P.A. (ie. like the final hooter does) followed by the team name “rrrrrrrrassssssssssspp – All Blacks!” – that kind of thing. Once a team gets the raspberry, the IRB rules should state that it cannot win – whatever the ending scoreline, because it’s just been Too Silly For Words, and a win by them would bring the game into disrepute.

The All Blacks reached their Silliness Threshold about mid-way through the second half.

The simple fact is, they didn’t deserve to win it. Even taking away the cheating and animalistic antics of Matfield (hopefully to be cited and banned), and the resulting fluke of an intercept, and the fact that this was worth seven points and the final score difference was six points, they didn’t.

Finally, aside from the obvious effects of the long interval between Lions Tour and Tri-Nations, the coaches need to have a closer look at what they have been telling the team to do out there.

In this test we saw precious little tight work, apart from some good scrummaging but we did see a lot of ‘miracle ball’ offload attempts. We also saw hookers and props trying to step out on the wing, and when you see Ali Williams getting the ball at first receiver and looking like a rabbit staring at the on-coming headlights, you know that you are also looking at a losing All Black team. The old tenet – do the hard yards first, and beat the opposition up-front.

Let’s see if the Three Chefs can come up with something a bit more palatable in Sydney shall we? That last recipe made me puke.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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

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