Rob Houwing

Mallett stays firmly in mix

2012-06-29 10:27
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
I reckon Nick Mallett is as close as anyone in rugby worldwide to being a wholly authentic TV critic. Heart on sleeve, no punches pulled ... you could rack up the complimentary clichés but they are all valid.

So it probably comes as firm reassurance to many that the Test series between the Springboks and England being over doesn’t mean the former national coach and player takes a breather or even disappears completely off SuperSport’s screens.

He is on a contract with the corporation and although I do not know its duration this presumably means that as long as no major coaching/directorship type of role comes his way in the interim, he will remain a regular presence on the punditry landscape as the marathon season steams on.

SuperSport communications boss Clinton van der Berg confirmed to me this week that Cape Town-based Mallett will be in studio on Saturday once more for both domestic Super Rugby derbies (Stormers v Lions and Bulls v Cheetahs).

The hierarchy there are well aware of the overwhelmingly kind public sentiment his engagement is generating, and it is known that he enjoys this burgeoning new string to his bow as well.

Mallett was at vintage “blunt” during the final Test in Port Elizabeth last Saturday, as the Boks ran up consistent blind alleys for the first time in the series, England’s counter-physicality severely thwarting their momentum.

He was among the first critics to lament their glaring lack of a “Plan B” - even as coach Heyneke Meyer later suggested, perhaps a little dubiously, that “proper execution of Plan A” would have prevented a need for any different approach.

Mallett has also judged Meyer (who came under his influence as he cut his teeth in the Cape as a young coach, remember) entirely fairly in his first few weeks in charge, not shy to point out the former Bulls mastermind’s strong points which often enough came to the fore in the Durban and Johannesburg matches.

A personal sixpence on the subject is that the Boks partly lost their lustre at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium because several of them were effectively playing a fourth “Test” in as many weeks, considering the typical intensity of the Bulls-Stormers derby just a week before the series began.

Rob’s Awesome Foursome

1. Bulls v Cheetahs, Super Rugby
Pretoria, Saturday 19:10, M-Net, SS1 & SHD

My first ever visit to Loftus was for a Northern Transvaal v Free State Currie Cup match in 1984, when giant Vleis Visagie was still a Free State player and battled the lineout skies with Adolf Malan and company. It wasn’t a wonderful year for either side (WP, at the height of their powers, beat then B-Section Natal in the final at Newlands) but I recall a certain crackle to what has since remained a strong rivalry. Much like nowadays, too, the men from Bloemfontein tossed the ball about quite merrily, with Gysie Pienaar, Helgard Muller and Jaco Reinach to the fore even as their pack generally played second fiddle. With so much still at stake for the Bulls, I fancy their urgency to carry them over the line pretty comfortably on Saturday. 

2. Spain v Italy, Euro 2012 final soccer
Kiev, Sunday 20:45, SS3, SH3 & Maximo

Has this really been the very same Italy who ended listlessly bottom of their group at World Cup 2010 in South Africa, even below New Zealand? (Go and check again, it’s true.) Their turnaround in two years has been little short of remarkable – they’ve been as defensively adhesive as any other team at the European Championships and played with positive intent into the bargain. Under the circumstances my own blood will be blue for Sunday’s showpiece, even if the overly “tactical” Spaniards probably remain smartest money to claim what would be a commendable a hat-trick of major tournament silverware ... 

3. Wimbledon tennis championships
London, ongoing (not Sun) 12:30 or 14:00, SS2, SS7, CSN & SH2

As always, Wimbledon is magical televised entertainment for a fortnight, especially at a time when hibernation is agreeably in order in these parts! After early fears that the weather might play havoc with this year’s event, we’ve had plenty of play thus far and no lack of sunshine (well, you know, good bursts thereof). The roof over centre court is comforting insurance, too ... how wonderful that instead of “Cliff Richard” sort of interludes, for example, we were able to see live that incredible Rosol-Nadal affair through to its upset finish shortly after 23:00 in SA terms on Thursday night. 

4. England v Australia, 1st ODI cricket
London, Friday 11:45, SS5

Well, by the time several of England’s “crossover” players tackle South Africa in the first Test at The Oval from July 19, they certainly ought to be well primed. The host nation have already completed an all-formats home series against West Indies, and now limber up further with a five-game ODI series against the Aussies. Hostilities get underway at Lord’s on Friday, with the second game taking place also in London, at The Oval, on Sunday – note that this game switches to SS2 transmission. Apart from cricket’s oldest bilateral rivalry coming to the fore once more, it’s time we South Africans started watching Andy Flower’s charges much more closely with a view to the Proteas’ fast-approaching tour.

Read more on:    rob houwing  |  nick mallett  |  rugby

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