JJ Harmse

Fast start for Blitzbokke

2011-11-24 09:19
Sport24 columnist JJ Harmse (File)
JJ Harmse

So Victor Matfield will be leading the Barbarians on Saturday and Richie McCaw will be groggy from another foot operation.

Reports confirmed that Matfield, a legend in his own life time, will be strategising with Graham Henry and Steve Hansen this week as part of his responsibilities as BaaBaas captain, while the Kiwi coaching duo’s real captain, McCaw, will probably be just be waking up from having the metal plate in his foot rewired and re-screwed.

It is an ironic way for two of the world’s most influential players to end off their seasons.

McCaw of course, had the honour and privilege of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup a couple of weeks ago, while Matfield was already back home in South Africa, contemplating reasons why the Boks failed to successfully defend the World Cup.

It is a fitting way for Matfield to end his career during which he proved to be among the elite in the game. A couple of weeks ago I suggested that he deserved the South African Player of the Year award, but it went to Schalk Burger and seeing that my argument was based on emotion, "Schalla" probably deserved the title.

At least Matfield gets a last opportunity to leave the game on a personal high, despite failing to get the local crown he was nominated for so many times in his career.

Also, some credit to SuperSport for punting the BaaBaas game on their channels. Matfield is due to join the World of Champions as an analyst next year and they certainly are making a good fist of establishing their new import’s credentials in the viewer’s minds.

As Matfield departs the scene, the weekend will see the start of new careers on the international Sevens rugby scene.

Luckily for South Africa, Paul Treu will be fielding a fairly experienced side in the opening leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series to be held on Friday and Saturday at the Gold Coast in Australia.

In fact, it is a very experienced side that will represent the country on the weekend, with not one of the 12-man squad having not won an IRB tournament before.

One can certainly feel confident that the Blitzbokke will be one of the frontrunners on the Australian east coast over the weekend. This tournament, of course, is not new on that continent, but new in the 2011/12 format.

The Emirates Airlines Dubai Sevens normally kicks off the World Series in the desert before everybody took the bus to the Dubai International Airport to fly down to South Africa on their way to George.

This time around we see everyone flying all the way to Brisbane first, before they fly into Dubai.

The Dubai tournament now becomes the second event on tour and this time around, the Emirates flight to Cape Town will be a stopover for Port Elizabeth.

There is certainly a huge challenge awaiting SARU and the Eastern Province organisers to improve on the show that George managed to deliver over the last couple of years.

But let us leave that for another week and focus on what can happen Down Under.
The Treu Boys face USA, Japan and Australia in Pool B.

If one looks back at last year’s results, the Blitzbokke will consider the Australia match as the pool decider.

However, the Aussies have eight new faces in their squad, while Japan and the USA will field experienced squads.

Expect the Kyle Brown-led Blitzbokke to end pool play 3-0, with the USA providing them the stiffest opposition and Australia probably dropping games to the USA and South Africa.

The Boks have Cecil Afrika back in the fray as well as Robert Ebersohn, who will play in the opening three tournaments. This is great for the brand, the team and the country.

Contrast this to the attitude by the Sharks that the likes of Lubabalo Mtembu, Paul Jordaan and Sibusiso Sithole will not be available to play as they are busy preparing for the 2012 Super Rugby season.

I can almost guarantee everyone reading this that only one, if any, of those players will see regular playing time in Super Rugby, so why the Sharks are doing this is beyond me.

Unfortunately the Sharks have shown a consistent trait to go against the grain when it comes to the well-being of our national game. Why they have this urge to short-change South African rugby, only they can explain.

It must also be such a disappointment to Sithole who scored that incredible try in the last play of the last tournament of the 2010/11 series, not to be able to play Sevens again. The try was also voted as South African Try of the Year at the SA Rugby Awards.

Good luck to Treu and his men. Make us proud!

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    jj harmse

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