26 Apr

Super 15 — Round 11 Preview
by WAJ
26 Apr 2013

Wellington hosts the first AFL game for competition points ever outside Australia onANZAC Dayevening. Should be a good game, though Sydney will be too good for the Mighty Saints. And there is even a link to the All Blacks as a Sydney player, Mike Pyke, used to play for the Canadian rugby team and scored a try against the All Blacks playing on a wing – it is a great story!Hoping for great weather and a good crowd on what is a special day for New Zealand and Australia. 93,000 at the MCG today for Essendon v Collingwood – amazing!!!

Hurricanes v Stormers – Intriguing game this. Heaps of changes for the Hurricanes – Savea a big out (though a good decision on his part to stand down) but perhaps offset by the inclusion of Vito. They will need to be on their game as the Stormers have as good a record as any SA sides in NZ and are just the type of team to beat these Hurricanes. Strong defensively and good enough up frontto cause problems, they will want a close scrap, and with the game breakers they have in the backs, in the likes of the Flash and de Jong, though not used with any real enthusiasm, arestill a threat. I reckon the Stormers will be absolutely desperate and winin a close one.
Stormers 1 – 12

Reds v Blues – Probably the game of the round. And a big test fora developing Blues team. Thought the Reds blew it last week, the decisions to keep on attacking from all the penalties awarded to them ultimately cost them the game. They were totally in control up front and would have won if they had backed themselves and taken the kicks.Horwill blew itin what seemed to become a "me mightier than you" contest.But an excellent T5, really hard working loosies, and of course the terrible two working their magicthey are really hard to beat at the moment. TheBlues will need another big defensive effort as you feel they will struggle with possession. And they must treasure what possession they do get a bit more in the unforgiving Suncorp – and they are maturing. Needbig games from Ranger, Weepu and the loosies, and some defence from Noakes!
Reds 1- 12

Chiefs v Sharks – Both teams had unsatisfactory losses last week in games they would have expected to win. So this clash of last years finalists is one where they need to get their respective mojo’s back. And boy have the Chiefs made some changes to try and get going again. Plenty of pace and flair in the revamped backline,Cruden needs to take charge, and the forwards need to get back to supplying the quick ball that backline needs. And against this depleted Sharks line up, pace is going to be the deciding factor. The Sharks look down on pace out back and light on experience up front. Not going to that easy of course but still comfortable for the Chiefs.
Chiefs 13+

Brumbies v Force – Should be a reasonably comfortable win for the Brumbies. This is a pretty settled Brumbies team now, they showed all sorts of character, and no little skill in staying with the Reds last week – Mogg is a star! They just have too much for a willing but limited Force.
Brumbies 13+

Bulls v Waratahs – Huh, I see one of the Waratahs forwards is talking himself up in the week before they hit Pretoria – FOOL!! It is still one of the toughestplaces to win at, and the Waratahs haven’t won there since 2002. Though I do have to say it was a gutsy win last week against the Chiefs, something the Waratahs are not known for!Can their rediscovered running game overcome the patented altitude rugby that the Bulls play. The Waratahs back 3 are going to field a lot of bombs, a whole new experience for big Izzy and what are going to pretty inexperienced wingers. The Bulls will have too much.
Bulls 13+

Cheetahs v Kings – Should be a good old fashioned arse kicking.
Cheetahs 13+

Crusaders v Rebels – Should be a goodold fashioned arse kicking.
Crusaders 13+

Regards Waj

5 Apr

Super 15 Round 8 — Preview
by WAJ
5 Apr 2013

Blues v Highlanders - Intriguing game this. Both teams battling away with little success, and need to win. The Highlanders pack have been well off the pace this year, that aggression at the breakdown that saw so many turnovers and momentum last year has gone – in strengthening the team with imported players JJ has taken away the edge. MacIntosh is a big in, and Tuiali’i an interesting addition. Are they enough to turn it around? Slade too a key in getting those backs flowing. The Blues need to tear into this. Eden Park has been a pretty good hunting ground against the Highlanders for the Blues. A Highlanders win last year can be simply offset by a better Blues team against a lesser Highlanders side, that easy for me.
Blues 1 – 12

Brumbies v Kings – Gunna be a hidin’
Brumbies 13+

Sharks v Crusaders – Can the Crusaders do it again? Huge game last week and you wouldn’t bet against them with much confidence. Some Crusaders really stood up, now consistency please. There is an article in the Herald today about Nonu and it makes mention of some of the top players not being at their best during the Soopa rugby season or parts of it. They need to get over themselves and perform all year round, that is why they are All Blacks. So Whitelock S, Davey Earp et al time to resume normal business. The Sharks have been a bit hot and cold this year, and are coming off the bye but I’m backing hot here. They have been changing a lot of players around trying to find the best mix, they looked to have found that last time, sure it was against the Rabble’s but you still have to front and they did. Weather could also yet play a part in this. I hope for Justin it is a Crusaders win, assuming he is in Durban as well this weekend, but I think the Sharks will have a little too much at home. And a question: when was the last time the Crusaders starting XV had only 7 AB’s?
Sharks 1 – 12

Hurricanes v Waratahs – These 2 have been pretty evenly matched over the years, the home side with usually the edge. Recent results would suggest they may not be far apart currently as well, as the Waratahs look to be improving – yeah big statement I know! Still struggling to score a lot of points and they don’t win away much at the moment, in fact the last time they won outside of Australia was May 2010 in the Tron!! So that record alone speaks volumes. And an improving Hurricanes team is picking up momentum nicely. Franks has stiffened up the T5, Shields is showing why he is rated so highly, and the danger the outside backs possess is well-known. I’m looking for a big game from Vito and some consistency through the 80 from Barrett and Perenara.
Hurricanes 13+

Force v Rebels – Both teams are battling, but none more than the mighty Rebels. Some improvement last week but something still missing – recognisable game plan, penetration in the backs, defensive capability all round, team harmony – yeah Ok a lot still missing. And it is interesting (well probably not for most) that Higgie gets the captaincy ahead of JOC with Delve out. Something smells a bit there!! The Force battle continuously with player strength and depth, but look to have some good recruits this year. The halves especially have been invaluable and the big outside backs have benefited. Even up front the Force will win it in this area.
Force 13+

Cheetahs v Stormers – Mmmm toughie this one. The Cheetahs have been fantastic of late. The loss of The Goose has seen them play even better and consistently better. No slip in form they are well drilled in the basics and attack with variety and accuracy. This is going to be tough against the defence of the Stormers, who have a good record in Bloemfontein, in fact the Stormers have won the last 7 times these two have played. That is a telling stat! But most have been close games, and with the improvement seen from the Cheetahs, with Brussow, Labuschagne and Strauss in excellent nick. The Stormers – sigh. How a team with so much talent in the backs continues to look so ordinary on attack is a travesty really. This inability to use that talent to back up a good set of forwards is seeing this team fail (in a word). The are great competitors but the style is straight out of Pretoria and wastes their talent. What might be if they threw caution to the wind??? Still think they will probably grind out a close win.
Stormers 1 – 12

Regards Waj

21 Oct

Game Stats: Wallabies v All Blacks, Brisbane, 20 October 2012
by Tracey Nelson
21 Oct 2012

The usual analysis of the All Blacks’ game, being the First 3 to the Breakdown, ball carries, tackle stats, penalties conceded, turnovers, the lineouts, and scrums. Some notes on these stats follow throughout the article.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each TOTAL. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute. This week:

Team: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Hosea Gear, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Victor Vito. Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith

Subs: Franks for Woodcock at 46 min, B Smith for C Smith at 52 min, Hore for Mealamu at 56 min, Weepu for A Smith at 60 min, Cruden for Nonu at 62 min, Romano for Retallick at 68 min, and Vito for Messam at 72 min.

Points Scored NZ Australia
Tries 0 0  
Conversions 0 0
Penalties 6 from 8 6 from 7
Drop goals 0 from 1 0
TOTAL 18 18

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 11 1
Australia 14 1
TOTAL 25 2

NZ Penalty Offences
Tackler not rolling Mealamu, McCaw, Woodcock (YC), Franks 4
Ruck off feet Mealamu, Jane 2
Ruck offside Faumuina, Franks 2
Scrum Woodcock, Faumuina 2
Obstruction Nonu 1
TOTAL   11

Australia Penalty Offences
Tackler not releasing 2
Tackle – late 1 (YC)
Ruck off feet 4
Ruck hands 1
Ruck entry 1
Ruck off side 2
Offside knock-on 1
Scrum wheeling 1
Scrum bind 1
TOTAL 14

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons A Smith(2), Messam, Whitelock, C Smith, Jane, Nonu, Read 9
Fwd pass Dagg, Carter 2
Counter ruck   2
Maul   1
Lineout   4
Ruck   1
TOTAL   19

Turnovers Conceded by Australia
Knock-ons 11
Forward pass 2
Tackle 1
Ruck 1
Maul 1
Scrum 1
Lineout 4
Miss touch from penalty 1
TOTAL 21

First Three to the Breakdown stats are looking for those players who are getting to the tackle/breakdown quickly and are also being useful by either cleaning out opposition players or setting up ruck ball. Anyone arriving and just leaning pointlessly on the side of a ruck isn’t included in these numbers.

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
McCaw 29 15+14
Mealamu 15 8+7
Woodcock 15 7+8
Retallick 14 7+7
Hore* 12  
Read 12 6+6
Franks* 10  
Whitelock 10 6+4
Messam 10 4+6
Faumuina 8 6+2
Romano* 6  
Jane 6 0+6
Vito* 5  
Dagg 5 4+1
Carter 5 1+4
Nonu 4 1+3
C Smith 3 2+1
Gear 3 2+1
B Smith* 1  
Weepu* 1  

Ball carries and metres gained No of carries Metres
Messam 6 61
McCaw 5 18
Retallick 5 12
Read 4 35
Franks* 4 4
Whitelock 3 7
Vito* 2 9
Hore* 2 7
Woodcock 2 2
Mealamu 1 8
Romano 1 3

Completed Tackles means that player actually brought the ball carrier to ground (ie. as the Laws of the Game actually described the tackler), not assists in the tackle situation which are tallied separately.

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
Whitelock 16 (9+7) 3 (2+1)
Woodcock 13 (5+8) 2 (2+0)
Hore* 11 0
Read 12 (5+7) 3 (2+1)
McCaw 10 (4+6) 5 (3+2)
Messam 8 (6+2) 2 (2+0)
Faumuina 6 (6+0) 0
Carter 6 (4+2) 1 (0+1)
Nonu 5 (3+2) 2 (1+1)
Mealamu 5 (5+0) 3 (1+2)
Retallick* 5 (3+2) 1 (1+0)
A Smith 5 (5+0) 0
Gear 5 (1+4) 0
Franks* 4 0
Romano* 4 0
C Smith 4 (4+0) 0
Weepu* 3 0
Vito* 2 3
Dagg 1 (1+0) 0
TOTAL 125 14

Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Most importantly, I do NOT included slipped tackles in the Tackles Made stats, it gets noted as a missed tackle. Either you’ve made the tackle or you’ve missed it.

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Carter 2
McCaw 2
Woodcock 1
Mealamu 1
Retallick 1
Messam 1
Read 1
C Smith 1
Jane 1
Hore* 1
Weepu* 1
Cruden 1
TOTAL 14

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 1 2
Second half 2 5
TOTAL 3 7

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Retallick 1 1
Whitelock 0 3
Read 2 3
TOTAL 3 7

Australia Line-outs Won From
First half 4 6
Second half 2 4
TOTAL 6 10

NZ Scrums Won From
First half 5 5
Second half 5 5
TOTAL 10 10

Australia Scrums Won From
First half 5 6
Second half 2 2
TOTAL 7 8

26 Aug

Game Stats: All Blacks v Wallabies, Eden Park, 25 August 2012
by Tracey Nelson
26 Aug 2012

The usual analysis of the All Blacks’ game, being the First 3 to the Breakdown, ball carries, tackle stats, penalties conceded, turnovers, the lineouts, and scrums. Some notes on these stats follow throughout the article.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each TOTAL. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute. This week:

Team: Wyatt Crockett, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Hosea Gear, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith

Subs: Hore for Mealamu and Retallick for Romano at 46 min, Ben Franks for Crockett and Ben Smith for Nonu at 55 min, Vito for Messam and Weepu for Aaron Smith at 64 min, and Cruden for Dagg at 70 min.

Points Scored NZ Australia
Tries 1 0  
Conversions 1 0
Penalties 5 from 6 0
TOTAL 22 0

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 7 0
Australia 11 1
TOTAL 18 1

NZ Penalty Offences
Tackled player Carter 1
Tackler Hore, McCaw(2) 3
Ruck hinging McCaw 1
Scrum Crockett, Hore 2
TOTAL   7

Australia Penalty Offences
Tackled player 2
Tackler not rolling 2
Tackle – high 1
Playing ball on ground 2
Offside general 1
Offside from kick 1
Ruck leaving feet 1
Ruck offside 1
TOTAL 11

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons Dagg(3), Romano(2), McCaw(2), Read(2), SBW, Nonu, Weepu 12
Forward pass Romano, Nonu 2
Pass error Romano, A Smith, Carter 3
Spilled ball SBW 1
Tackle Messam, Jane 2
Lineout Romano, Messam 2
Scrum Hore 1
TOTAL   23

Turnovers Conceded by Australia
Knock-ons 5
Pass 1
Tackle 2
Ruck 2
Maul 2
Lineout 3
Scrum 1
Miss touch from penalty 1
TOTAL 17

Clean Linebreaks
SBW 2
B Smith 2
Jane 1
Carter 1
A Smith 1
Dagg 1
Cruden 1
TOTAL 9

First Three to the Breakdown stats are looking for those players who are getting to the tackle/breakdown quickly and are also being useful by either cleaning out opposition players or setting up ruck ball. Anyone arriving and just leaning pointlessly on the side of a ruck isn’t included in these numbers.

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
McCaw 33 16+17
Whitelock 27 9+18
O Franks 26 12+14
Read 23 14+9
Crockett 22 16+6
Retallick* 16  
Mealamu 14 8+6
Messam 14 7+7
Hore* 12  
Jane 12 5+7
B Franks* 8  
Romano 8 5+3
Vito* 7  
Carter 7 3+4
SBW 7 3+4
B Smith* 6  
Nonu 6 5+1
Gear 5 2+3
Weepu* 3  
A Smith 3 1+2
Dagg 2 1+1
Cruden*1  

Ball carries and metres gained No of carries Metres
SB Williams 12 65
Read 12 32
McCaw 11 48
O Franks 9 12
Messam 7 42
Retallick* 6 27
Whitelock 6 20
Mealamu 6 15
Hore* 5 15
Vito* 4 22
B Franks* 4 10
Romano 3 8
Crockett 1 5

Completed Tackles means that player actually brought the ball carrier to ground (ie. as the Laws of the Game actually described the tackler), not assists in the tackle situation which are tallied separately.

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
McCaw 13 (5+8) 2 (1+2)
O Franks 8 (3+5) 1 (1+0)
A Smith 8 (6+2) 0
Messam 7 (4+3) 2 (2+0)
Whitelock 7 (4+3) 2 )2+0)
Vito* 6 0
Romano 6 (6+0) 0
Carter 6 (2+4) 0
Read 5 (3+2) 1 (0+1)
Crockett 4 (3+1) 2 (2+0)
SBW 4 (3+1) 0
Nonu 3 (2+1) 0
B Franks* 2 0
Retallick* 2 0
Mealamu 2 (2+0) 1 (1+0)
Gear 2 (2+0) 0
Cruden* 1 0
B Smith* 1 0
Jane 1 (0+1) 1 (1+0)
TOTAL 88 12

Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Most importantly, I do NOT included slipped tackles in the Tackles Made stats, it gets noted as a missed tackle. Either you’ve made the tackle or you’ve missed it.

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Carter 2
Crockett 1
Mealamu 1
Whitelock 1
Messam 1
Read 1
Jane 1
TOTAL 8

Set pieces in opposition 22 Number Scoring
All Blacks 5 0
Australia 3 0

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 3 5
Second half 9 9
TOTAL 12 14

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Whitelock 4 4
Retallick 2 2
Read 2 2
Romano 1 2
Messam 1 2
Quick throw 1 1
Not thrown FK awarded  
TOTAL 12 14

Australia Line-outs Won From
First half 4 6
Second half 7 8
TOTAL 11 14

NZ Scrums Won From
First half 4 4
Second half 4 5
TOTAL 8 9

Australia Scrums Won From
First half 5 6
Second half 3 3
TOTAL 8 9

19 Aug

Game Stats: All Blacks v Wallabies, Sydney, 18 August 2012
by Tracey Nelson
19 Aug 2012

The usual analysis of the All Blacks’ game, being the First 3 to the Breakdown, ball carries, tackle stats, penalties conceded, turnovers, the lineouts, and scrums. Some notes on these
stats follow throughout the article.

Numbers in brackets are the first half/second half breakdown for each TOTAL. An asterisk denotes a player that came on as a substitute. This week:

Team: Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Owen Franks, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Richie McCaw, Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Aaron Smith, Dan Carter, Hosea Gear, Sonny Bill Williams, Ma’a Nonu, Cory Jane, Israel Dagg
Reserves: Andrew Hore, Ben Franks, Brodie Retallick, Victor Vito, Piri Weepu, Aaron Cruden, Ben Smith

Subs: Retallick for Romano at 52 min, Ben Franks for Woodcock at 66 min, Hore for Mealamu at 77 min and Weepu for Smith at 79 min.

Points Scored NZ Australia
Tries 2 1  
Conversions 1 1
Penalties 5 from 6 4 from 4
TOTAL 24 19

Penalties/Free Kicks Conceded Pen FKs
NZ 15 0
Australia 11 0
TOTAL 26 0

NZ Penalty Offences
Ruck entry Nonu 1
Ruck leaving feet /Messam, Whitelock/Messam 2
Ruck offside Nonu,McCaw 2
Offside general O Franks, B Franks 2
Obstruction Nonu 1
Scrum Front row, Woodcock 3
Lineout Read 2
Throwing ball away Smith 1
Taking player off ball Romano 1
TOTAL   15

Australia Penalty Offences
Tackled player 2
Tackler not rolling 1
Ruck leaving feet 1
Ruck hands 2
Scrum 4
Lineout 1
TOTAL 11

Turnovers Conceded by NZ
Knock-ons McCaw, Read, Jane, Gear 4
Forward pass SB Williams, Messam(2) 3
Pass error Read, SB Williams, Dagg 3
Spilled ball McCaw 1
Ruck – foot O Franks 1
Ran into own player Smith 1
Miss touch from penalty Carter 1
TOTAL   14

Turnovers Conceded by Australia
Knock-ons 11
Tackle 4
Ruck 2
Maul 2
Lineout 1
Scrum 1
TOTAL 21

Clean Linebreaks
Dagg 2
Whitelock 1
Smith 1
Messam 1
TOTAL 5

First Three to the Breakdown stats are looking for those players who are getting to the tackle/breakdown quickly and are also being useful by either cleaning out opposition players or setting up ruck ball. Anyone arriving and just leaning pointlessly on the side of a ruck isn’t included in these numbers.

First 3 to Breakdown Total Per half
McCaw 25 12+13
Messam 16 9+7
Woodcock 15 9+6
O Franks 13 8+5
Read 12 6+6
Romano 11 9+2
Nonu 10 4+6
Mealamu 9 3+6
Retallick* 8  
SB Williams 7 4+3
Whitelock 6 4+2
Jane 6 3+3
B Franks* 3  
Smith 3 0+3
Dagg 2 1+1
Gear 2 0+2
Hore* 1  
Carter 1 1+0

Ball carries and metres gained No of carries Metres
SB Williams 7 44
Messam 6 53
Read 6 19
McCaw 4 48
Whitelock 3 22
Romano 3 21
Mealamu 3 10
Retallick* 2 10
O Franks 2 3
Woodcock 1 2
B Franks* 1 2

Completed Tackles means that player actually brought the ball carrier to ground (ie. as the Laws of the Game actually described the tackler), not assists in the tackle situation which are tallied separately.

Completed Tackles and Assists Tackles Assists
McCaw 12 (3+9) 3 (1+2)
Carter 12 (6+6) 3 (1+2)
Nonu 11 (5+6) 2 (1+1)
O Franks 9 (3+6) 5 (1+4)
Whitelock 9 (1+8) 0
Messam 8 (4+4) 0
Read 7 (5+2) 3 (1+2)
Retallick* 7 0
Romano 7 (6+1) 0
Mealamu 5 (4+1) 4 (1+3)
Woodcock 4 (2+2) 2 (2+0)
Gear 4 (2+2) 0
Smith 3 (2+1) 1 (1+0)
SB Williams 3 (2+1) 0
Jane 3 (2+1) 0
Dagg 3 (2+1) 0
Hore* 1 0
B Franks* 0 2
TOTAL 108 25

Missed tackles also includes slipped tackles where the ball runner gets away. Most importantly, I do NOT included slipped tackles in the Tackles Made stats, it gets noted as a missed tackle. Either you’ve made the tackle or you’ve missed it.

Missed and Slipped Tackles
Nonu 4
Whitelock 2
Jane 2
O Franks 1
Dagg 1
TOTAL 10

Set pieces in opposition 22 Number Scoring
All Blacks 6 1 try
Australia 2 1 penalty

NZ Line-outs Won From
First half 7 7
Second half 7 7
TOTAL 14 14

NZ Line-out Jumpers Won From
Whitelock 8 8
McCaw 3 3
Retallick 2 2
Romano 1 1
TOTAL 14 14

Australia Line-outs Won From
First half 7 8
Second half 6 6
TOTAL 13 14

NZ Scrums Won From
First half 6 6
Second half 4 4
TOTAL 10 10

Australia Scrums Won From
First half 3 3
Second half 4 5
TOTAL 7 8

14 Jul

Super 15: Last Round Preview
by WAJ
14 Jul 2012

Hurricanes v Chiefs – Easily the game of the round. Great potential for an excellent game. The Chiefs, for all their struggles at set piece, nearly won last week and their confidence will remain high they are on the right track. Lots of changes means a stronger looking team and with a focus on set piece up front and better use of the outside backs should see them home comfortably. The Hurricanes have to win, almostcertainly with a bonus point, and then hope at least two other results go their way – a big ask. But they are nothing if resilient and the Chiefs will have to ensure their defence is on guard all game, a sniff and Smith and co are gone-burger, 55 tries (that of the Force and Lions combined believe it or not) says relax at your peril. I think the Chiefs will win the battle up front and that will get them home.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Brumbies v Blues – should be a comfortable home win. The Blues showed signs in the second half last week that they have potential – unfortunately a roadblock in the halves will stymie that for the time being, though a competitive forward pack could cause some trouble for the Brumbies. And only 16 out this week I see.The Brumbies will hope to carry on their merry way – efficiency their mantra. They keep it simple and move the ball quickly when there is a chance to use the pace they have out wide. Possibly vulnerable at 1 5/8, but do the Blues have the weapons to test this out??? McCabe v Nonu an interesting match up.
Brumbies 1 – 12

Crusaders v Force – The interest here is only in how much the Crusaders win by.Plenty of changes for the Force in what will be the most capped playerin Soopa rugby, Nathan Sharp’slast runat this level. But there are a lot ofbig names missing and it looks to be more a trial for next year than anything else for the Force. The Crusaders will need to stick to their aims and get things into shape for the playoffs. The outs don’t really help them here but the likes of Fred, DC, DonnersandMaitland can all do with a run to improve further. Interesting Whitelock at centre, presume Fruean is rested, but it will be interesting to see what comes of this change.
Crusaders 1000+

Reds v Waratahs – Thank goodness! No more woeful Waratahs to cruel our rugby vision until next February. They really are the great underachievers of Soopa rugby – with the talent they have had over the years it is almost criminal that they have so underachieved. Internal politics throughout the whole organisation would seem to have played a great part – I mean who sacks a coach when he gets them to a grand final?? Would love to see what the likes of Jake White could do with this team. Foley has them again next year but on this years performance he is pushing the proverbial up a very steep hill. But they play the old enemy tomorrow so will be up for it, but will again fail to take advantage of any good ball and you can guarantee good Wallabies will become bad Waratahs. The Reds have left their run too late, and after a disappointing effort last week have left themselves with too much to do tomake the play-offs. They will know where they stand before they play, and an upset in Canberra is what they will be praying for. A Brumbies win or bonus point loss could see the Reds really have a go and stick it to their great rivals.
Reds 13+

Stormers v Rebels – The last game foranother ofSoopa rugby’s real warhorses in Stirling Mortlock. Unfortunately it is unlikely he will go out on a winning note. Given that the Stormers defence will hold out a limited Rebels, and that the Stormers struggle to score tries themselves (whilst 2nd on the ladder they have scored the third least amount of points and not once have they got four tries, even with the Flash on board – extraordinary) this could be a game only the true believers will be watching.
Stormers 13+

Sharks v Cheetahs – The Cheetahs were brave last week in atrocious conditions to push the Stormers, without really looking like winning. They have tailed off a bit. The Sharks look to be peaking for a real go at the finals and will be far too strong at home, though they have each won two at the Shark Tank. And Bismark is the best forward in world rugby at the moment – a phenomenal player.
Sharks 13+

Bulls v Lions – The Lions were OK last week, but the Bulls at home, smarting from last weeks belting -wouldn’t be mortgaging the house to back the Pussies any time soon.
Bulls 13+

Regards Waj

6 Jul

Super 15: Round 20 Preview
by WAJ
6 Jul 2012

So how is any self respecting sports fanatic supposed to get through the next 5 or so weeks without 1) life threatening sleep deprivation, 2) loss of job, 3) divorce!! Wimbledon, Tour de France, Olympics, cricket (yeah I know we are crap but still it is on and – OK fair enough we could miss that)- and then there are the oval ball codes…. It is enough to drive anyone to upgrade their plasma to a bigger size!!!

Some great games this weekend – well the first 3 are, then it pretty much turns to crap – so enjoy tonight then watch replays of Federer v Djokovic (probably the match of the weekend between guys who aren’t overly fond of each other).

Chiefs v Crusaders – Oh the hype for this game, hope it lives up to it. Should be a beauty. Lots of great match ups, the need for points from both sides and their earlier encounter all bring a great edge to this. The keys for me – will the Chiefs scrum hold up this time, the midfield defences of both teams and the form of Dan Carter. The Crusaders will no doubt attack the Chiefs scrum, and with the Crusaders scrum wanting to prove a point but more importantly gain an edge in this game it is crucial the Chiefs hold up. I thought the Crusaders failed to use their scrum advantage as much as they could have last week and need to get that right, Read will of course help that as McCaw seemed to struggle at times with his timing last week. Then the Crusaders need to hold SBW, but equally the debutante centre in Horrell will be tested by Fruean and Fred – tackle drop offs here could well mean points. The match up of Carter and Cruden is of course critical to edge sides fortunes. Cruden is playing great rugby, consistent, inventive and accurate, he has arguably been the player of the year so far for the Chiefs. Carter will need to be at his best for the Crusaders to get a win here – the Chiefs defence is up there with the best and there is none better that Carter at breaching defences, whether by hand or foot. And I’m just looking forward to seeing the front rows square off, Romano v Retallick, Cane v McCAw, TKB v Ellis, Carter v Cruden and on it goes. Weather looks good – can’t wait. And I just think the little extra class will come through in the end.
Crusaders 1 – 12

Reds v Highlanders – What a great follow up. So two teams here that are hanging on to play off hopes by the skin of their teeth and really need a bonus point win to stay in the hunt. This brings a different pressure to bearof course and I wonder if the Highlanders have it in them to score those 4 tries, especially away and having Ellison out also a handicap. Still they will give it their all as usual and cause problems with their disruptive game plan. But the Reds are looking batter and better and turned in some quality play last week to have the Rebels done and dusted quite early on. Diggers is a big out, but they still have plenty of speed out wide and with the Burglar geting more match fit each week they will ask plenty of questions.Expect the forwards to break even with the more stable and creativeaxis of the Reds to steer them to a win.
Reds 13+

Sharks v Bulls – And then we get this beauty. The Bulls were fantastic last week. They switched off late, but prior to that were almost scoring at will, including an absolute cracker from Basson (arguably the individual try of the season). On that form they will be very very hard to beat. The Sharks had a bye last week and whilst that will freshen up their test players nicely, the changes they have made may well offset that in terms of stable combinations. The bus that is Frans Steyn is a great in for the Sharks,but his combination with Freddie is uncertain, and a new 8, 9, 10 in itself could be problematic though they are all experienced players. I think the more settled Bulls team in great form will shade this one.
Bulls 1 – 12

Blues v Force – hard to get enthused about this. Crowd numbers could be a worry. The Blues should get up. The Force have been as horrible as the Blues and with some key players missing will struggle. The Blues have a good blend of youth and experience and should have too many options for the Force.
Blues 13+

Waratahs v Brumbies – this is an intriguing game. The Waratahs have been horrible this year, shocking tactics, woeful execution and just plain dumb. So what do they now the season has gone, pull a selection rabbit out of the hat and go with a new halfback ( Grayson Hart no less) and a rookie 1 5/8. The rest of the back-line are all tried and tested Wallabies, some in good form and they will be up for this. Apart from Queensland this is the game they really set themselves for. The Brumbies need to keep winning to ensure themseleves a play off spot, any slip ups and the Reds could well take that one spot that seems likely for the Australian conference. There consistency has beenthe key, but they looked a little shaky last week and will need to tighten their defence.
Waratahs 1 – 12

Cheetahs v Stormers – The Cheetahs were horrible last week, the Stormers weren’t that flash themselves though they have that defence. And how does a side with that much talent in the backline score so few tries?
Stormers 13+

Lions v Rebels – Mmmmm. The mighty Rebels have too many outs for me.
Lions 13+

Regards
Waj

8 Jun

Test Season Starters: Review of Games
by WAJ
8 Jun 2012

Whilst the the motivation for the scheduling of the various tests throughout the Southern Hemisphere this weekend is the money, I admit to quite looking forward to test rugby, especially the AB/Wallaby/Bok games (Argentina are also playing Italy and Scotland must be lurking somewhere as well). It also gives the Blues players a chance to find form, the Chiefs and Crusaders to gather injuries, the Wallabies every chance to suffer further embarrassment and the Boks to start a total rebuild.

All Blacks v Ireland – I like the look of this AB XV – every one of them is in good form, with a question mark over Fred, but he is such a big match player that he will surly play a blinder. There are plenty of combos carried over from Soopa teams – C Smith and Savea, Fred, Guildford and Carter, 4 Crusaders forwards – as well as 6 of the 8 WC winning pack that the hope is this team should settle reasonably quickly. There is a question mark over Read/A Smith/Carter axis because they have not played together before, but hopefully we will see Smith focus on passing to Crter or the next forward up , just do the basics as he familiarises himself with test rugby. We should be fartoo strong for this Irish side which will be under huge pressure at scrum time where they have a pretty inexperienced tight 5 and we will have too many weapons out back against a set of Irish backs which would be classified as solid and nothing more. With weapons in Carter, SBW, Savea and Fred, the finishing ability of Guildford and the guile and organisation of C Smith this has the potential to be a night of great promise for the AB’s. They would expect plenty of high kicks to test Guildford and Savea, and yes there may be a question mark in that area, but then the counterattacking from Fred can equally bring huge rewards. So a typically tight first 20 – 30 minutes, and then it will probably open up.
All Blacks 13+

Wallabies v Wales – Deans is under huge pressure to get some wins on the board, a couple of losses in this series and it would be hard to see him keeping his job, even with O’Neill firmly in his corner. The Wallabies do not have a lot of time to put Tuesday behind them and get this XV gelling. The makeup of the XV is interesting with 7 starters from the Waratahs, the least successful of the Aus Soopa teams over the last 6 weeks!! How 7 of the worst team can make the team of the best players is puzzling to say the least. Wales have selected a very strong side – they are well rested and full of class, have a strong scrum, 3 good loosies and outside backs with size and pace. They won the Six Nations on the back of some really gutsy play, and never say die attitude and will really test this nervous Wallaby team. I find it very difficult to split them and can see a welsh victory 1st up.
Wales 1 – 12

Springboks v England – This is a very hard game to predict. A new Bok coach has picked a side with plenty of changes from the side that played in that WC quarterfinal, only 6 back up from the starting XV v Aus. And then only 2 forwards. The Boks will want to make a statement here and this game will be as ferocious in the opening 30 minutes as any for a while as this new set of Bok forwards endeavours to make its mark. How will the Poms respond – they have a few hard heads in the forwards themselves and won’t be taking a backward step. With Steyn Inc, Kirchner, even Capt de Villiers the Boks don’t come across as a team that is looking to play free flowing rugby,well when have the Boks ever done that of late anyway? So the Bok halves will be putting in frontof the forwards, use the likes of the Flash to chase the kicks down and dominate at set piece – yada yada yada. How the Poms get around, over or through this is their big question? They do have a more adventurous looking backline, plenty of pace and a big guy at centre who will need watching. Still a lot of unknowns on both sides and will be a game worth watching just to see how it unfolds.
Springboks 1 – 12

Regards Waj

25 May

Super 15: Round 14 Preview
by WAJ
25 May 2012

What is it with coaches and there need to change everything around all of a sudden. I hope Rennie is not tempting fate too much, Hammett did last week!!! And how much of a legend is Brad Thorn. A hugely impressive individual who is the ultimate team man.

Chiefs v Bulls – game of the round. Two of the best attacking teams of the comp to date who score plenty of tries and who usually win at home against each other. The concern for me is whether the Chiefs have made unnecessary changes with the changing of both props who have gone so well all season. TKB also comes back in and he will need to be a lot steadier than his last start under what will be some intense pressure from a very good Bulls pack, 7 of whom have made the just named Bok squad. But if the Chiefs can pressure the Bulls pack, which is what the Waratahs did for a while in the close loss and the Highlanders did last week, and focus on ball retention, then the Chiefs can have a good win. Cruden and SBW are the keys in keeping the ball in front of the Chiefs pack, both having great seasons andtheir play, and a return to the team defensive attitudepre-Lions, will bring the Chiefs home.
Chiefs 1 – 12

Hurricanes v The Mighty Rebels – Can the mighty Rebels win 3 in a row? Will Kurtley cut yet another team to shreds? Loving the way they are playing at the moment, scoring plenty of tries and really entertaining. They have named a strong team with Jones on the blindside a great in, he is very promising. If Kurtley is given any space then the Rebels become very dangerous as he brings in dangerous runners the likes of Vuna and Inman. The concern though is whether the defence shows up and is on the job. And the Rebels have a 100% against the Hurricanes with a 6 try to 4 belting last year:-) The Hurricanes will be hurting after the capitulation to the Brumbies last week and they too have named a stronger looking team. Double B gives them a much better look and should steer the Hurricanes home, though their goal kicking will need to improve
Hurricanes 1 – 12

Blues v Highlanders – The biggest question with this game – how many spectators will turn up? The Highlanders should take this comfortably against the Blues B team. It should be a good training run for the Highlanders, giving them a chance to try a few moves, practice their goal kicking; and the opportunity to get some games into some young Blues players and too see how they measure up. Not much else to say on this game
Highlanders 13+

Brumbies v Reds – the next best game of the round, this one has a huge amount riding on it in terms of winning the Australian conf and thus getting a finals spot, (there is only going to be one spot in it for Aus this season).This is a super impressive Brumbies team who never give up and who are incredibly good at finding ways to score tries -whether it be the locks bursting, a jink and weave from the 1 5/8 or pace on the wing these guys sense and take the opportunities brilliantly. On the back of a rock solid T5 and a real goer on the openside flank they are always in the contest. But the Reds are rising and have looked a lot better the past few weeks with an excellent win against the Chiefs and then getting the job done with some comfort against the Lions. The Burglar of course is back and whilst he is nowhere near peak form he does add class especially at this level. But it is the Reds forwards who have really stepped up, Link looks to have settled on a group of 9 or 10 who are really getting their work. Could go either way but think the Reds will get up with that little extra class they have overall.
Reds 1 – 12

Force v Lions – who cares.
Force 13+

Cheetahs v Waratahs – OMG 2 in a row. This might be a slightly better game, hopefully see some running rugby from the Waratahs for a change, they have nothing to lose. And is Berrick Barnes the most over rated 1 5/8 going around. Used to rate him, but has turned to crap of late.
Waratahs1- 12

Sharks v Stormers – predicting a dour slog here. Yeah I know hard to believe isn’t it.But the Stormers defence is unbelievably stingy and they score bugger all themselves so you would have to say it is going to be a low scoring game. And it is hard to see the Sharks finding a way through the wall, though they have been in reasonable form of late with 3 wins on the trot. I just can’t see the Sharks doing enough, even home advantage is negligible with both teams having won4 times at the Tank.
Stormers 1 – 12

Regards Waj

25 Oct

Four More Minutes Boys
by Paul Waite
25 Oct 2011

mccaw-at-ruckThat’s what Richie McCaw might have been thinking as he got to his feet after effecting the final turnover in the Rugby World Cup Final. Four more minutes to suck out of the time-keeper’s clock. Four more minutes to hang onto that ball. Four more minutes to win the World Cup.

The image of the New Zealand captain crouched at a ruck with hands poised, deftly pushing the referee’s patience with the pick-up, will stay with me forever. It epitomised both the man and the moment. There was no panic or worry on his face, just an expression of complete concentration and faith in what he and his team needed to do. A certainty that he had the William Webb-Ellis trophy as firmly within his grasp as he did the ball.

For their part, the French had just spent a full five minutes in possession throwing everything they had at the New Zealand defence. The Black Wall had hurled them back, keeping them between half-way and the 10m line and denying them the territory they needed for drop-kick or penalty.

Rightly loath to kick the ball, they flung it wide from a scrum with a miss-out pass to Rougerie who waded through a Conrad Smith missile attack, and shrugged off Sonny Bill Williams for good measure, before the Black wave crashed down once again and McCaw drove through the final ruck with such force he caused replacement halfback Doussain to fumble.

That final turnover, to a New Zealand scrum four minutes from time was the last that the French saw of the ball.

The story of the final up to that key point was a much different tale than many fans had expected.

A lovely Woodcock try in the 14th minute, from the same lineout move they pulled on Australia a couple of seasons ago seemed to be just reward for All Blacks pressure and control of the game, but three misses with the boot by half-time from the normally reliable Piri Weepu had the worm of doubt working on the home fans.

That anxiety was only heightened at the half-hour mark when Aaron Cruden went down awkwardly in a tackle as he took on the French defensive line and limped off the field to be replaced by Stephen Donald.

For those unfamiliar with Donald’s history with the All Blacks suffice to say he has never impressed, and his appearance on the field with 50 minutes still to play in a World Cup final was probably not greeted with uniform optimism by the fans.

With both teams running off at halftime with only 5 points between them, it was still all to play for in the second half.

After two minutes of play France got the chance to get on the board with a penalty shot from wide, but Yachvili narrowly put it outside the right post. Two minutes later they conceded a much simpler chance to the All Blacks, and Stephen Donald strode forward to claim to ball. The TV cameras caught a rather huffy look on Piri Weepu’s face as he did so, but he had had his chances and time had run out. Donald wasted no time in knocking the ball through the sticks, and the fans breathed a little easier though nobody was relaxing at only 8-0 up, and of course nobody knew that those three precious points would win the World Cup for New Zealand.

A darting run by Dagg floundered badly as All Blacks all left their feet at the ruck, allowing Rougerie to step through and hack the ball loose. Weepu then favoured the French attack by stabbing a toe and deftly chipping it right into Trinh-Duc’s arms, whereupon he set sail for the All Blacks line. A few rucks later the All Blacks were all behind the ball and seemed to have regained their composure but unfortunately Donald’s lack of time with the team told as he came up out of the line and marked the wrong Frenchman, leaving a large hole for outstanding French No.6 and captain Thierry Dusautoir to surge over the line and force by the foot of the right-hand post.

The conversion made the scoreline 8-7 to the All Blacks, with a further 31 minutes to play. With a one-point lead, and a French opponent now pumped and ready, everybody knew the All Blacks had a fight on their hands.

Obviously Graham Henry thought the same, and he sent in reinforcements, substituting Ali Williams on for Whitelock, and Andrew Hore for Mealamu. Piri Weepu took the restart, kicked it out on the full, and was immediately replaced by Andy Ellis. Although the two things were probably not linked it seemed that way, and marked the end of a poor game by Piri’s usual standards. After the game it was reported that he had suffered a troubling groin injury in his warm-up, which may go some way to explaining the lack of form.

The game turned into a gigantic arm-wrestling contest from that point onward, but the only real scoring chance that France had from there until the end of the game was a 45m penalty attempt in the 64th minute from right out in front, which Trinh-Duc missed handsomely.

From there the All Blacks simply backed their defence, as the French had a long period of posession and hung onto it greedily. There is always talk of how tiring it is to defend for long periods, as if the attacking team expend little or no energy themselves. That isn’t the case, and a well-drilled defence can sap the will of an attack if it can knock it backwards consistently. This happened to the French, as they tried everything to break though.

This final underlined what we always learn when we watch these Rugby World Cup Finals every four years. They stand apart, even from semi-finals, in terms of the level of mind-altering pressures brought to bear. Apart from 1987 when nobody really understood what a World Cup was, every final has produced this kind of concentrated grimly-fought rugby contest, and so it will probably always be.

The All Blacks deserved to win this World Cup, make no mistake about that. The single point of difference on the scoreboard was a fair reflection of the teams as they played on the day, the All Blacks were just that tiny bit better in defence and it gave them a win.

Only those teams strong enough in mind as well as body can win these contests, and in seeing it done by your own team, it gives you a new appreciation of the achievements of the Australian, South African and English teams which have won it in earlier years.

Congratulations to Richie McCaw, his All Blacks, and the coaching staff for bringing the Cup home!

All Blacks: 8
T Woodcock try, S Donald pen

France: 7
T Dusautoir try, F Trinh-Duc con

HT: 5-0

Paul Waite

Paul Waite

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