The Tuesday Top 5 - Green and Gold Rugby
Rugby

The Tuesday Top 5

The Tuesday Top 5

This weeks top 5 has a bit of an overseas flavour – what with the lack of Australian teams playing in the finals and all. We still give out some grades, look at how the finals played out, gawk at some very fancy Wallabies, address some problematic beliefs about Super Rugby and check in on our little gardening project.

Report Card

With no Aussie teams to grade, I thought I’d grade the semi-finals, ie the matches themselves, not the teams.

Crusaders v Chiefs: B- This was a fairly tense affair, but I had the feeling throughout that the Crusaders had it in the bag. The Chiefs looked threatening on attack but were halted by some outstanding defence. It wasn’t exactly entertaining rugby, but you have to admire the way both teams were throwing themselves into it. The grade was lifted from a C to a B- purely for the tackle Mo’unga put on Lowe that lead to Dagg’s try. Perfect example of why you should never give up after missing a tackle.

Lions v Hurricanes: A This match had it all. Some outstanding attack, tough defence, backs tearing it up, mauls driving through and an intercept try. Plus suspense, excitement and (for non New Zealanders) a great underdog story. I honestly thought the Lions were done at half time, but the way they made their comeback, starting with a try just before half time and another just after, was incredible.

Super Rugby, The Ladder and The Finals

So after much hand wringing, complaining and outright bitching about the format of Super Rugby, about how unfair it is to certain teams etc etc, the rightful teams are in the Final. The Lions, who finished 1st and the Crusaders, who finished 2nd.

People have been banging on about the Lions not having to play a team from NZ so the results are skewed. Well they finally did play a team from NZ, the 2nd best team from NZ, and they made them look ordinary. Would they have done this to the other teams? Who knows, but with that game they showed they deserve to be there.

Embed from Getty Images

Did the travel take its toll on the Hurricanes? A trip to Canberra (which is now a direct flight from Wellington remember) wasn’t a huge disadvantage, it’s not like they did a trip to SA in the first week then back here, that would be much tougher. Would they have had any more advantage over the Lions had their first final been at home? Personally I don’t think so.  We all know trips to SA (for us and to Australia/NZ for the South African teams) are tough, but they have been part of the competition since it began. I have no doubt it makes winning away from home more difficult, but it isn’t unheard of. Away teams win in South Africa during the regular season, so why is it all of a sudden an impossible task in the finals?

Anyway, I’m looking forward to the final this weekend, to seeing the 2 best, most deserving Super Rugby teams this year fight it out.

What the hell were you thinking?

So I’m just going to leave this here. This is the latest promotional idea from the brains trust at the Wallabies/ARU. I imagine the conversation might have gone something like this …

“Hmmmm …. How can we get more people to take an interest in the Wallabies?”

“Ummm …. Gee, that’s a tough one. Maybe if we get them out there, among the fans.”

“Ooh, that sounds great. We need to boost their image.”

“We need to get the boys out there so people can relate to them.”

“I’ve got it! Let’s dress them up in some over the top white collar preppy costumes and let people come and admire how well they can model!”

“Perfect. But make sure that you alienate every state bar NSW by only putting the Waratahs players in the shoot, wouldn’t want to look too inclusive now, would we.”

For those interested in attending the event you can RSVP here: … http://www.sportscraft.com.au/wallabiesrsvp.html

I particularly like the part where you get to send in questions. So … how do these spiffy outfits help with your general ball handling/kicking skills?

What the? – hang on! (Part 1)

Isn’t it funny how subconsciously we all knew that the Lions could be in the final and that the final could even be held in South Africa yet in reality we were all a little surprised (shocked) when the Lions won and with the realisation that the final would be held in South Africa. How could we be so unprepared? How could we miss the fact that the Lions were at the top of the table on the most points, most bonus points, most tries for, least against, best for and against ratio? Yes, ahead of the Kiwi teams! They were in the final last year as well right? They have even beaten all of the Kiwi teams in the last two seasons. What the? – hang on; didn’t the SARU just cut teams from Super Rugby?

STOP! So let’s just stop this whirlwind of thoughts and get a handle on this. So Saffa team, final in South Africa, cutting two teams as uncompetitive and crowds and ratings down. But weren’t there rumours and some reports that other teams like the Lions wanted to go as well?

How are you going following this story? It’s a puzzling scenario at best and almost comical in other respects. Let’s set aside why you got surprised and let’s look at this story. It has two parts. First up why we didn’t see the Lions except for in our peripheral vision. The simple answer is distraction. Between the whole off field political team cutting mess and our obsessive-compulsive tendencies (I will explain further about Aussie rugby’s OCD below) the rugby got lost in the arguments.

Bill Pulver - Credit ARU Media - Karen Watson (1)

But the most interesting part of this is the intriguing question about what this does for South African rugby knowing that next year two teams are moving on from Super Rugby. Just having the final in South Africa would obviously be a boost you would assume, but if the Lions win will it re-engage South African rugby supporters? Or will it prove to be more of a divisive issue if they have success off the back of team being moved on to a competition that is arguably at a lower standard?

What the – hang on? Ah – Super Rugby. So consider this. Last year we read about the NZRU being “arrogant” and wanting Super Rugby changed so it was more competitive? The potential for the NZRU to be eating humble pie after next weekend is an uncomfortable reality. It also may make the NZRU’s position rather tenuous as the realisation that the momentum, attention and potential future of Super Rugby may be in the hands of the SARU, not the supposedly dominant Kiwi teams. Stay or go, the SARU has the world’s eyes on them and the outcome of the weekends game will give them momentum and a power boost whatever they choose to do going forward.

So let’s just set the pre-game tone a little. Based on the hand that’s been dealt it appears that the SARU have played a decent card straight off. If you’re in London, Dublin, Cardiff or Edinburgh you should have a nice afternoon at the pub with a 3pm kick off. In Johannesburg it’s a nice 4pm afternoon kickoff. For us it’s a midnight start and for the small Kiwi audience it’s a bloody late night with a 2am start!

They say sport, Rugby in this case, can be a great equaliser and you are only as good as your last game. Well the NZRU, SARU are about to find out who comes out on top of the SANZAAR political log come Sunday.

What the? – hang on! (Part 2)

Obsessive compulsive tendencies! It’s a real issue. We all know that aside from the Jaguares who didn’t play any Kiwi teams in 2017, every other country (yes including the Sunwolves!) beat a Kiwi team while we just can’t. Oh that hurts! Why, because we are Kiwi centric and looking for an excuse and distraction to cover our performance issues in any way possible! Australian rugby does not want to face reality or look in the mirror.

It’s a hard reality to face. Last year we were comfortable in that the Springboks were mediocre and were struggling as badly as our Wallabies. The Lions getting thrashed in the Super Rugby final was simply explained by the fact they had not faced a “formidable” Kiwi team and (like Aussie teams) not at their level.

One game. That’s how long the Lions took to work out how to beat a Kiwi team. The Springboks coach has publicly abandoned the old school traditional “Saffa” way and game plan, adapting a Lions influenced set up. This “Lions” style of rugby that’s new, different and producing the results comes from the outliers. It is vastly different to the traditional heart and soul of South African rugby. The Kings who have been back in Super Rugby five minutes have adopted this style and have taken it to the Aussie teams and performance wise are nearly on par; from a cold start. But back in South Africa it’s been a hard reality for teams like the Bulls, Stomers and Sharks and all have found it hard to adjust let alone keep up. Their habits are ingrained and big changes are being made to move away from the ways of the old. They have realised they have no choice.

Embed from Getty Images

Kiwis, Kiwis, Kiwis! Unbeatable, formidable blah blah. A combination of our own obsessive-compulsive tendencies and getting caught up in our own rhetoric and hyperbole. We have created this reality for ourselves. So anyone see the Saffa players or Japanese players needing to work on their fitness before beating the Kiwis? Did anyone see Gatland flogging the British and Irish Lions players before they faced the All Blacks to get them fitter?

As I said, we have created this reality ourselves. The Saffa resurrection comes from outliers; a new way and philosophy that’s on par with the Kiwis. A new style, game plan, different skill and attitudes; in summary, a new and fresh approach that’s shattered the old mould.

Do you recall the changes at the Brumbies when Jake White was imported? Do you remember the change in the Waratahs when Michal Cheika was imported? Both came from outside and brought in new fresh elements that produced success. White’s experience and approach compared to Cheika’s may explain the longevity of their legacies. Cheika gets results fast while White builds a platform for a club to operate from and build towards results. Now look at our current Super Rugby sides and even the Wallabies and look at the issues. Issues in defence, attack, discipline. It’s not like 100+ players all of a sudden are unfit, can’t defend or attack or be disciplined or even be so lacking in concentration they can’t do all three equally during a game. There are some very clear common denominators in this.

For hundreds of years we have known of the dangers when you reproduce from the same gene pool. You heard the stories about what inbreeding produces. Now look at Aussie rugby and knowing the history behind this, who we have to guide us away from the mediocrity we haven’t been able to escape for years? Who is helping us with our coaching crisis? Who is upskilling our players? Do the simple test. Think of the names and find one that comes from outside of the main (gene) pool (past or present) in the Aussie rugby system. But there is a slither of hope in Simon Cron; as close to an outlier as we have.

simon-cron-pic

The Lions and the other South African teams are the lesson Aussie rugby needs to be paying attention to. The Lions are producing the performances by taking a fresh approach and have done without having many (if any) Springboks to get there. It’s taken time to accept but even the Springboks have now conceded they needed to change to the new way. A look at the languishing Bulls, Stormers and Sharks who are all trying to change their systems and set up towards the Lions benchmarks shows that it took outliers to bring the changes they desperately needed. The Kings showed it also can be done being another one of the outliers.
One change in a rugby gene pool can make a whole change to the rugby linage. Add an Eddie Jones to the disastrous English team and…….but he was a bit shit as a Wallabies coach want he?

Obsessive compulsive tendencies!

The ARU and the Beanstalk.

(Yes, once again this is a 6th item. Maths isn’t my strong point, obviously!)

This past week there has been a little more movement within the ARU, and the rumour mill is still in full swing.

We have had another departure from the ARU, with chief financial officer Todd Day resigning (to head on over to the Australian Olympic Committee) According to the SMH Day was “a key strategist for the ARU in helping it come to the conclusion it needed to reduce the number of Australian Super Rugby teams from five to four.” But he is, of course, adamant that this is not the reason for his decision.

Arbitration has begun, with the Force taking on the ARU in court. Not much news out of there yet, but I assume we will have something more for this segment next week.

Not so much ARU related, but we also now have Twiggy Forrest backing a Rebels/Brumbies merger. Not a new idea by any means, but with his financial support to make it happen … who knows. Would they take the most successful team and mix it with the least successful? Would they agree to kill off rugby in Canberra to try and keep it in Melbourne (where it hasn’t exactly been thriving either)?

matt hodgson andrew twiggy forrest dave wessels

To be honest the whole saga has just about done my head in and I wish it would just end already. It is causing in fighting among the teams – NSW want the money from the cut team, Force /Rebels turned on each other in their own bid to survive, then both turned on Brumbies, NSW and QLD are, as usual, untouchable which just pisses off the rest of the country, and discontent is growing among the public, leading inevitably to disinterest. If the ARU had hoped to totally fragment the rugby fans of this country then I would say it’s just about the only successful thing they have managed to do in I don’t know how many years.

End of rant.

On a happier note, the little bean who looked down and out has a new lease on life and is going gang busters. He almost looks ready to transplant into some soil so he can continue his bid to successfully develop better than the ARU. The late comers are also doing their bit and going on nicely. Unfortunately on Saturday night I made the decision that I had to cut some of the seeds from the competition given the obvious lack of talent available in the bean department. So I gave the seeds notice that in 48-72 hours they would find out which of them was getting cut. They tried to argue the point, one seed told me it would cost too much to cut and the other claimed we had a binding contract. But this morning I did the deed and cut the 2 most under performing seeds. The two lowest performing seeds are now gone, regardless of the fact that they were two of the original seeds that were planted when the competition was first formed.

Beans week 4

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    Great article, thanks a lot.

    Once again we are back at the spot, however, that in reality we have been since Eddie Jones got kicked out, that we need a foreign coach to come in and reinvigorate Australian rugby.

    Deans didn’t end up being that man, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. We need to get in the best foreign coaches.

    • Woolfe

      He is already here and is coaching the Force.

      • Missing Link

        I’d be really happy to see Wessels succeed Cheika providing he continues to do well at the Force.

      • John Tynan

        Aussie Dave isn’t a foreigner!

        • Ben Fox

          Sure is – went to my school in Joburg

        • John Tynan

          Sarcasm, mate, all good. Like Aussie Kim Clijsters and Aussie Tim Finn and Dingo Deans….

        • John Tynan

          Actually, Wombat Wessels works for me.

  • Andrew Luscombe

    Agree, coaching/approach to the game is the biggest problem. NZ and Lions have improved in the last few years. No Aussie teams have.

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      The Force has improved in the last year under Wessels. The team is not cut yet and looking at the ARU’s case at arbitration will not be.

      • Andrew Luscombe

        Yeah, good point. I was thinking of the overall Aussie decline, and Force improvement isn’t enough to make up for that. Should have chosen my words better.

  • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

    The ARU presented their case to the arbitrator. Basically it boils down to that 15 less regular games with 3 less teams and everything else stays exactly the same. They think it is sufficient to constitute a “new agreement”, although there was no termination of the previous agreement, no mandate, no negotiation on terms for the new agreement….it looks suspiciously like a variation to an existing agreement.
    The ARU case is so poor that they either: (1) wants to loose the arbitration, (2) believed their own bull, (3) are incompetent, (4) will pull a rabbit out of a hat soon or (5) all or some of the above.
    Where is the ARU Board’s oversight as this is embarrassing and a waste of ARU funds that could have gone to NSW grassroots.

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      What I find surprising is that the SANZAAR did not even attempt to make the new signed agreement look different than the agreement it is suppose to replace…..deliberate or incompetent? No reasonable person will agree that this is a brand new agreement when the same 13 broadcasters are parties to the agreement, the same rugby unions and that they came up with exactly the same terms and conditions with same finals format etc.

      • Jules

        And didn’t Saanzar say when this announcement came out that they could cut the teams because the broadcasters agreed to NOT change the broadcast deal!!

      • Andrew Luscombe

        Sounds like you’ve seen some details. Do you have any links to share?

    • Blue

      Oh so true. It’s a pity these ARU board members and executive are hell bent on going down this path. The damage done to rugby in this country will be so hard to recover from. Money which is the centre piece of this debacle is been wasted on legal battles. No extra funding will find it’s way to the grassroots of the game in this country after this whole sorry affair is resolved. All of the board should resign not dependant on any outcomes.
      The ARU is supposedly to support and grow rugby in Australia exactly the opposite is what they have achieved.

    • Bakkies

      Hannes I don’t know if that it is true with what you posted. How is the alleged statement relevant to the Force who are raising that legal matter?

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        “How is the alleged statement relevant to the Force who are raising that legal matter?”
        The Force did not raise a “legal” matter and is not the aggressor here. The Force is the victim of the ARU that is dead set to axe the side by sidestepping a commercial obligation in an agreement with the Force that secured the Force existence until 2020. The ARU can stop all this unnecessary effort and cost by agreeing not to axe the Force until the end of the broadcasting agreement as originally agreed.

    • Bakkies

      ‘no termination of the previous agreement, no mandate, no negotiation on terms for the new agreement.’

      Exactly can’t recall a peep out of SARU when the Cheetahs threatened legal action using the same argument as the Force and the Government hadn’t yet put its two bob for the Kings case.

      In the end they covered with what is now official that they have both been moved to a different competition.

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        The difference between the Cheetah’s and Force is that SARU treated the Cheetah’s with respect and help them to secure a mutually acceptable alternative. If SARU acted like the ARU they will also find themselves in court, although the South African legal system would have provided less protection than the Australian legal system that provides more protection for the innocent party e.g. unconscionable conduct.

  • Moz

    Great article, really appreciate the effort.

  • Tomthusiasm

    Is that a Sportscraft sponsorship or did the Waratahs just dress up as their fans for Mad Monday?

    • Hambone

      That’s good

    • Bakkies

      Two look like hillbillies and forgot their razors

    • Patrick

      love it

  • Sam

    Why wasn’t the dagg try a knock on?

    • Andrew Luscombe

      Cause it was knocked back.

  • Brisneyland Local

    Gee, Aru / Wallabies marketing department. So there is a general perception out of most of the Country that the ARU / Wallabies has a NSW bias. So how do they go about this by only putting those guys in the ad.
    Either they dont think there is anything to worry about, or dont care what the rugby playing and supporting public think.
    Fuck em.
    I hope they get smashed.
    I want to see regime change in this rugby country.
    Start from Cheika, that fucktard Nathan Grey, then the rest of them.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Don’t hold it in mate. Let us know what you really think :-)

      • Brisneyland Local

        I thought i was being reserved. Lucky I didnt come in on the long run up

        • HK Red

          Hahaha, well played.

        • Brisneyland Local

          Thank you HK !

  • Who?

    Great points about coaching. But one thing I’d point out… Ackerman’s not exactly a foreigner in SA. He’s just a very good coach. The Lions actually developed much like the 2011 Reds did – they were a bunch of young blokes with good coaching who all went to the national team together.
    I’m not saying we’re not inbred in our thinking. We’re definitely stunted in our growth. And I can’t see a strong head coach out there local aside from (the rather inexperienced) Wessels. But having a different nationality doesn’t guarantee someone comes from a different gene pool, and being from the same nation doesn’t guarantee you’re in the same Rugby gene pool. Our searches for coaches shouldn’t be local only, but they should be looking for coaches with alternative thinking patterns to those we already have.

    • MST

      Thanks Who.

      You are correct in saying that Ackerman is not a foreigner in SA. My use of the word outlier was intentional and was so not to suggest that a coach need to be a foreigner.

      Its interesting to note that Ackerman was John Mitchell’s understudy which may explain the influence on his coaching. Deon Davis from the Kings also has quite an interesting resume which could explain why he can mould a newer inexperienced teams. He also was in the Lions setup during Mitchell’s reign.

      I see that the Kiwi have grabbed one of their outliers and signed him up as the Highlanders coach. Aaron Mauger (as in the ex-AB) will return from England (Leicester Tigers I believe – where ex-Reds Matt O’Çonnor is coach).

      • Who?

        I probably didn’t pay enough attention to the word ‘outlier’, and focused more on the use of the term inbred (which is too well used around my town to describe a few neighbouring towns, where people are said to have two heads).
        Just as Ackerman was Mitchell’s protégé, so Wessels was White’s protégé. It’s also interesting to note that Macqueen influenced Jones (to an extent), and Link was a protégé to both of them.
        Compare that with Graham, who was Deans’ protégé. And Gibson, who was Blackadder’s protégé. Blackadder is widely considered a successful coach, but 8 years coaching that team without a title, with some of the greatest players in the history of the game, and then his replacement goes to the final the year after he moves on (and with arguably a weaker team)
        Perhaps another method of evaluating the coaching DNA of these people is to see where they’ve picked up their craft? Who they’ve studied.

        • MST

          I agree about Blackadder. Good coach but he never could take that last step up. Some protégé just don’t have the ability to move up. Larkham is an interesting example to consider after spending time under White and with Lord Laurie and Cheika

      • Bakkies

        There is an interesting interview in the preseason from Davids on YouTube where he said most of his coaching jobs have been rebuilds which says a lot about his credentials.

  • Ben Fox

    Dave Wessels has proved to be a good outlier

    • Bakkies

      Read what Wessels says about his connections with White. Wessels started his career like us mere mortals coaching under 10s or below.

  • Chinese Dave

    Sorry to nitpick, but

    “To be honest the whole saga has just about done my head in and I wish it would just end already. It is causing in fighting among the teams – NSW want the money from the cut team, Force /Rebels turned on each other in their own bid to survive, then both turned on Brumbies, NSW and QLD are, as usual, untouchable which just pisses off the rest of the country”

    So only NSW want the money from the cut team? As in the other teams don’t want any new money that might be available? Really?

    • MST

      They may do, but it was the Waratahs chairman Roger Davis who came out and said he believed “chopping a Super Rugby team is the right decision because it will give NSW the slice of revenue pie they deserve”.
      As far as I know none of the others have said it publicly.

Rugby

Brumbies first, then for the love of the game. "It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I'm right." —Moliere

More in Rugby