20 May

Semi-interesting
by Paul Waite
20 May 2001

Yawning, I made my way upstairs on Saturday evening with a vague feeling that some rugby might be on the telly. I was right – it was the Super 12 semi-final between The Brumbies and the Reds. Could I be bothered to watch it? Hell why not, let’s see how it goes.

Such are the deliberations of the TV rugby fan when his country’s teams have been knocked out of the Super 12 in the round-robin stages.

Semi-interested in a very relaxed non-partisan way, I watched what I had already decided was a foregone conclusion. Sure enough the Robo Masters proved that they are far more efficient at rugby than The Reds.

Efficiency. That’s what it came down to in this game. Efficiency at recycling. Efficiency at tackling. Efficiency at delaying the opposition at the ruck.

I don’t think I saw anything I could class as a bit of flair in this benighted game – nothing. All I saw was damned efficiency. Gregan is like a bloody machine behind that Brumby ruck isn’t he? I remember a film called Westworld with Yule Brynner in the starring role as a gun-slinger robot. Gregan reminded me of him; even the hair-style was the same.

I must be getting old. A lot of what transpired in this semi-final of the Super 12 left me stone cold, and it wasn’t just that I had no team there to support.

Ironically, the only thing which sparked me was the incident where Finnegan tap-danced on Foley’s head at a ruck. We had the ridiculous spectacle of Kaplan asking his video referee (Wayne Erickson) to review the thing and rule on it. It took an age. For God’s sake all Finnegan was doing was losing his temper a bit with Foley obstructing the ball and saying “piss off doing that ya bastard”. No harm was intended or done; you could see as much by the way he simply dabbed the foot. I agreed with Erickson’s assessment of a yellow card, but there it should have stayed.

But that wasn’t good enough for the judiciary of our game. Oh no. Apparently Finnegan has copped a five week ban. What a bloody ridiculous judgement that is. One day “the game” (whatever that is) will wake up and realize that it’s two-faced. On the one hand it embraces all the commercial hype and bullshit which pressures players to win at all costs as well as providing ever more showy entertainment value in a full-contact sport, and on the other it wants to sanitise the game to a level where Mother Teresa would bestow a blessing without a second thought.

The two approaches are like a pair of Supertankers on collision course.

Personally I’d like to see the referees told to rule a good old-fashioned punch in the gob for getting out of line in the old way – let the players sort it out between themselves. As for video referees – change the channel and put on an episode of Neighbours or something.

Getting back to the game, it was absolutely no surprise the Brumbies won this one so the result wasn’t interesting to me at all. I was looking at players and two stood out for me.

Firstly George Smith the Brumbies openside. What a marvellous player he is, and what a bane he is going to be this season for the Lions, All Blacks and Springboks alike! Not only is this guy fast, he’s as strong as an ox and could rip a ball out of the jaws of a Great White judging by his recent performances. Definitely one to watch this season.

On the other side, we had the inimitable Chris Latham. Latham is the thinking man’s fullback. His vision of the game is unsurpassed, I believe. The way he reads what his opponents are likely to do is only matched by the speed of his reply once he gets the ball. He always seems to have worked it out the day before, it’s that smooth. Burke would be warming the bench in my Wallaby team, whenever Latham was fit.

Speaking of Great Whites, over in the other semi-interesting semi-final, the Sharks were debunking the myth that the Cats were in contention for the 2001 Super 12. It was a bit like watching a bunch of rhinos running about amongst a flock of geese. Luckily no-one seemed to get trampled to death, but it was a close thing.

The Sharks have been a surprise package for this Super 12. They are a powerful mixture of speed and size, and look to be well capable of taking on and beating the Brumbies at Bruce Stadium next week. If I had money on this one – I’d be putting it on the South Africans.

Let’s hope the Final produces more interesting rugby than the semis.

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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