I have been trying to write this column since Tuesday morning, but the birth of my first boob-groping, nappy-demolisher, a fellow called Joe, who I hope to be troubling the Bok tighthead selectors in 22 or so years time, has kind of taken preference... I trust you'll understand.
On that, and as a little aside before I get into things rugby, I just have to let you know of the most apt and humorous nickname I have ever come across. The master of circumcision at the hospital where my little guy was born is known as "Piepie Snyman"! "Stretch" Minty, "Domkrag" Erasmus and "Tugga" Waugh have nothing on this classic. I have been giggling to myself since I first heard it and just had to share...
Okay, rugby. I have a few things on my mind that I just have to unleash on you poor people, so I will be brief on all of them.
The new laws: It's a bloody abomination that we have three sets of rules in place at the same time. Last weekend I took in the Super 14, which carries a few of the new rules, the Guinness Premiership, which carries no new laws, and the Varsity Cup, which carries all of the new laws. And it was like watching three different sports. The IRB and SA Rugby must take the blame for this fiasco. Have some respect for the sport you run, people!
The new laws II: I was going to give them a few weeks before commenting, but I am with the likes of Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez and Conrad Jantjes in thinking that they are a complete crock of stinky stuff. They have definitely changed the game, and to my mind, for the worse.
What they have done, by decreasing the number of set plays like scrums and lineouts, is remove instances of play where the forwards, which make up 16 of the 30 players on the field, are locked into a small section of the field, leaving the other 14 players, generally quicker and more skilled, to use that space to create the magic.
So now we have long periods of time where we have 15 on 15 in the almost the same space that we used to have seven on seven, with the obvious outcome being that we see less linebreaks and displays of skill and magic. Rugby's greatness lies in the fact that we get two battles in one game, one between the forwards, with its set of skills, and one between the backs, with its set of skills. And that looks set to be reduced by the new laws.
Peter de Villiers picking John Smit as his Bok captain: I will comment briefly on the actual decision, but the most worrying ramification was the reaction of Mike Stofile. "I will get to the bottom of this" said the master of interference, obviously implying that De Villiers had no right to make this call without consultation with the likes of himself. I smell selecting and coaching by committee, with De Villiers perhaps being allowed to be part of that committee. And that is disastrously messy, with only one result in sight. And it's not positive!
But why the hell did the Bok coach make this call in any case? What happened to players having to prove themselves in the Super 14 before being selected? What happens if the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Tiaan Liebenberg or Schalk Britz have an earth-shattering Super 14? I actually see no positive in the announcement as all he has done is shut the door of a cupboard he could have kept open, this while offering his first very serious contradiction.
And even if he really felt very strongly about this call, why not keep it between himself and Smit? The fact that it shows absolutely no regard for Smit's current contract with his French club is another discussion completely, but does add to the craziness of the call.
The Varsity Cup: It's a fantastic innovation that made for a tremendous Monday evening down at the Ikey rugby club, and from what I saw on the box, up at the home of the Maties, an even bigger spectacle was on show. The best thing about it is that we have another layer of players playing regularly in big matches.
As said - the new laws really do detract from the game, especially at this level where skills and fitness are perhaps not at the level of the Super 14 - in that it is just not the sport we have grown up with. But both players and spectators might get used to them.
One thing the spectators will not get used to, though, is the very strictly enforced "no booze" rule. Yes, people, treated like children, the entire crowd at UCT were refused a cold beer or glass of wine. The reason being, apparently, that they did not want people driving under the influence. All very noble, for sure, but perhaps something we could decide for ourselves?
It's no wonder we saw very few actual students in the crowd...
Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.
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