Castro's salvo to Test Boks

2009-11-07 22:16

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Nought from one: it’s never a palatable way to start an international mini-tour at the back end of your exhausting domestic season, is it?

Novice-laden dirt-trackers as the victims or not, South Africa will be widely perceived to be on the European back foot already after their gruesome-to-watch bullying, and ultimately humbling, at the hands of “clubbies” Leicester Tigers.

Forget for a minute that the overwhelming nucleus of the Springbok senior side haven’t even stepped on a north-bound plane yet and that the main goal of winning the three Tests remains unruffled.

Because just as the naïve, wobbly-legged rookies, bruised almost beyond belief in the English Midlands, hardly constitute the Springboks’ front-line armoury, you could similarly argue that the weakened yet iron-willed Tigers outfit aren’t as accomplished as the French national side possibly licking their lips now for Toulouse on Friday night.

The Boks have a pretty poor modern record in France anyway, and you suspect that events in Leicester will have creased the brows of the broader, blue-chip South African camp who, deep down, would rather be tossing Frisbees around on our beaches than heading into the Euro gloom as well after a glittering but gruelling year.

Still, this five-match tour, as a collective entity, can hardly be branded a disaster yet – if one good thing did emerge from the second-tier crew, playing together for the first time, it was that pride in the green-and-gold jersey has not gone absent despite the indignity of the 22-17 Welford Road reverse.

Considering the way they were gored, sliced and diced up front, it remains a fact that, via a gutsy, second-wind blitzkrieg in the final 10 minutes or so, the Bok novices came within a whisker of snatching the spoils, however outrageously fortuitous or unjust that would have been.

And maybe John Smit and his proven-pedigreed fellow seniors, getting ready to zip their own travel bags, will be grateful to Leicester Tigers for knocking any hints of complacency or insufficient urgency out of them as they embark.

Certainly the colossal Martin Castrogiovanni and company in the Tigers pack served up a timely, sobering reminder of the culture of scrummaging and tight-loose unity and cohesion that characterises rugby in the northern hemisphere, despite its various shortcomings in other departments.

Let’s not forget that, even as the French pack looms threateningly on the immediate horizon, the top-flight Boks will almost certainly encounter the 122kg “Castro” themselves just a week on from the Toulouse clash as Italy try their own luck against the world champions.

Argentinean-born, which probably goes a long way to explaining his pushing prowess and inferno in the belly, the bearded, unruly-haired tighthead was my man-of-the-match by several furlongs.

The 59-cap international looks like a throwback to days when humans hunted for their supper with spears, and he certainly skewered his immediate opponent Gurthro Steenkamp most emphatically, didn’t he?

Mind you, Steenkamp, whom I have suspected for some time has gone backwards as a scrummaging factor if not as much in general play, must not stand humiliated alone: his front-row colleagues Jannie du Plessis and both hookers employed on the night were shown up too, and the “upright” propensity of the entire Bok eight in the set scrums was as fatal as leaving your natty cellphone on a Hillbrow pavement for 10 minutes and hoping to see it again.

Speaking of the hookers, we are entitled to ask particularly searching questions about the pre-match state of fitness of Chiliboy Ralepelle, captain for the hardly unimportant tour opener.

Just a week earlier, we all read the stories of his heartbreaking failure to fight off his injury bogey in time for a role of some sort in the Currie Cup final: by what miracle was he suddenly deemed hale and hearty to assume national leadership just a few days on, clearly chronically short of 80-minute lungs anyway?

I feel for the jinxed customer, in his quest to convince all punters that he’s the real deal, yet he lasted a mere 19 minutes -- obviously disrupting Bok plans in several respects -- and if he was tossed to the wolves prematurely it may have cost him further, demoralising time on the sidelines.

Be that as it may, we now have reason to fear that if the Springbok first team struggles at the set scrum early on this tour, secondary options to remedy it hardly bellow deafeningly from the rooftops.

Certainly the early portents suggest that selection policy for the mission, in terms of front row reserve stock, is going to be proved foolhardy in the extreme if the over-played, probably knackered Tendai Mtawarira-Bismarck du Plessis-Smit combination creaks noticeably all over again.

At least Mtawarira has reportedly been cleared to travel after one of those uniquely South African little political intrigues, with Sports Ministry officials querying his eligibility for the country.

It shows what bright sparks some people are, don’t you think, if suddenly the Zimbabwean-born loosehead’s Bok credentials are placed under scrutiny after he debuted all of 17 months ago and has amassed nearly 20 caps before a dissenting finger is bizarrely raised?

Indeed, one can only hope that some manner of xenophobic spitefulness didn’t lie at the root of any quest to sideline the genial, Durban-based near-cult figure.

After all, the nation would seriously welcome the “Beast” doing a Vickery II somewhere along the line if the Bok Test scrum is to avoid the kind of choppy waters experienced against the Tigers.

But if few will envy Mtawarira in his likely task against the mountainous Castrogiovanni, in particular, in a fortnight, maybe this trio of end-of-year Tests will also serve as skipper Smit’s most acid examination yet in the No 3 jersey.

Tighten your seatbelts; things could get a tad rough …


  • sc1pio - 2009-11-07 22:21

    Always looking at the positives Rob, good on you mate,

  • George - 2009-11-07 22:42

    Calling these guys Springboks is such an insult to the bokke. Worst performance ever for a Springbok side!!

  • Tommygun - 2009-11-08 02:43

    The Bok forewards at scrum time have been a worry for quiet a while now.The other worry is Morne Stayne going to handle the conditions in the north. If we can just hold our own in the scrums and Morne clicks we will be allright.I don't think Kirchner is the answer at fullback, also a concern.

  • Steph - Bullls Supporter - 2009-11-08 03:35

    Just watching the Currie Cup final, I don't think we are in front row trouble. Those two prop of the Cheetas are jong but formidable and with Os as there coach I really don't see us lacking when it counts. I just wonder if everyone else will give them there due without the nasty comments. They are the best I have seen out of all the Currie Cup teams and should really have an impact in the super 14 next year. Hope the Bulls shape up in the tight 5 before the Super 14, the Cheetas are going to give them and everyone else hell in the scrums.

  • DanieB - 2009-11-08 05:37

    Earle Rose looked like a star, then you must know how badly the rest of the team played. Steenkamp was exposed as weak, we have much better guys sitting at home.

  • AtWork - 2009-11-08 06:58

    I must agree that the scrums are going to be tough, but again I'm questioning the inclusion of the spare hookers of the bulls, what a slap in the face for the other guys that played well this year, including Derick. We are also short of flyhalves with Ruan doing what is neccessary, but why does he have to learn to be a flyhalf, fullback or wing on a bok tour is beyond me...

  • Nico Badenhorst - 2009-11-08 07:10

    Shouldnt we bring those politicians and the selectors on for some scrumming sessions (against some elephants) its unbeleivable that after all these years we still cant pick a normal touring squad on performance like everyone else.One can only speculate if the Cheetah props and hooker will end up haunting the selectors during this tour. Looking forward to the tests GO BOKS!

  • Shailesh - 2009-11-08 07:10

    Does the (man)? who writes these articles get paid by the word? I have seldom read such drivel, and I do a lot of reading!!

  • will - 2009-11-08 07:24

    Leicester tigers only played a B team against the Boks, Tigers were missing 8 first team players through injury and six with the England team. The Boks were just not good enough, except it and move on, dont make excuses.

  • FrankC - 2009-11-08 07:38

    It would be interesting to see a list of all our first class front row people, both SA and overseas-based....

  • Mark Smith - 2009-11-08 09:12

    In true Rob Houwing style- Close to the bone with lot's of flare - Great article

  • Theo - 2009-11-08 09:22

    Bok front row remedy does indeed "blow deafeningly from the rooftops". Called the Free State Cheetahs front row. Beat up the Sharks Bok front row and also the Bulls front row. But their selection would have annoyed the Parliamentary Committee on Sport (i.e. the racism politburo). All this proved is that transformation politics is alive and still eroding Bok rugby.

  • grenville - 2009-11-08 10:58

    why has bok managment overlooked western provice players like duan and tiaan seems that 2 good player are at the wrong end of the world,the pathetic pathetic loose forwards and tight 5 were ??? would like to know who intiated this pathetic butch of club players who were drilled by a great club like the tigers, heads should roll

  • Cullart - 2009-11-08 11:46

    Guthro is a spent force. Even at Currie cup level his hair beneath hi bottom lip was shoved up his backside ot a test prop at all.. and the same goes for Jannie Dup..

  • Martin - 2009-11-08 15:02

    Cant most of you understand the situation in South Africa. Most members of the sport Commitee in Parlement are born losers and they like to lose. So if by picking unwourthy players South Africa losses they are so happy, because other people are losinfg as they are lossers. And old Divvie he just makes them happy, gives them an oppurtunity to sit on the stoep and make a doppie. Ag wat no problem we are lossers. Those who wants us to win is a lot of discrimanating pro winning minority of this country.

  • Willem - 2009-11-08 15:48

    I am a Shark supporter but I tell you Wickus Blaauw broke all the guys he scrummed against or maybe he just looks good on camera...

  • peter warne - 2009-11-08 16:07

    I thought we all understood by now that the selection of this squad had very little to do with the game of rugby! My question is "Why do it under the Springbok emblem"

  • Main OKE - 2009-11-08 20:56

    CASRTO GIOVANNI IS MY HERO! Springboks front -row got owned! it looked like the tigers were pushing a scrum machine! haha. At least a few proper props are gona play now...oh ja and Davon Raubenheimer is useless. i think he watched more rugby than i did on the tele and he was on the field. and why arent there any quota players in Bafana Bafana....Adios!

  • Chris in Oz - 2009-11-09 00:06

    And there goes Chilliboy and spoils his chance to increase his total game minutes to more than his amount of caps.

  • Liebster - 2009-11-09 08:50

    A question should definitely be asked about Chili Boy’s selection. First of all about his ability as captain and secondly about his ability as player. Bandise Maku, the Bulls’ third choice hooker, played a much better game then his team mate. I do not believe Regan Hoskins’ comment, that the players where chosen on merit and there is no quota system in place anymore. Who are they trying to fool here? And what the hell was up with handing the captaincy over to Wynand Olivier before Dewald Potgieter?

  • Liebster - 2009-11-09 08:52

    A question should definitely be asked about Chili Boy’s selection. First of all about his ability as captain and secondly about his ability as player. Bandise Maku, the Bulls’ third choice hooker, played a much better game then his team mate. I do not believe Regan Hoskins’ comment, that the players where chosen on merit and there is no quota system in place anymore. Who are they trying to fool here? And what the hell was up with handing the captaincy over to Wynand Olivier before Dewald Potgieter?

  • ryan - 2009-11-09 10:31

    This is absolutely pathetic, why are these guys in the squad in the 1st place, 2nd and 3rd hookers from the bulls, 2nd and 3rd scramhalve from the Bulls, I know they won the Curry Cup and well done but what did these guys do, they sat on the bench or played out of position, come on something is not right here!

  • DR - 2009-11-09 11:12

    Good article.............entertaining all the way!!!

  • knowtheyllwinguy - 2009-11-09 12:07

    What does last weeks team have to do with the match against france!?? nothing. The real boks isnt anything like they played. Why does europe now feel they stand a chance?

  • Cheetah power - 2009-11-09 15:03

    @ Main oke. Cheetah front row would have destroyed the two clowns from Leicester who were made to look like superstars by the useless props in the midweek team....

  • Kalahari kid - 2009-11-09 17:54

    The irrefutable facts are: 1. Leicester Tigers sent our entire front row home. 2. They outplayed the Boks at what we have traditionally prided ourselves on as being a strength of our game. 3. Our coach is now "importing" replacements which many self appointed afficianados cried aloud when the midweek team was announced. 4. Our substitute hooker for the French game is now a third choice currie cup selection. (Well done Bulls). Or is our national coach suddenly demoting him for Andriaan Strauss? 5. Compare Jano Vermaak's stats this season to Heinie Adams. 6. The same can be said for Jean Deysel vs Davon Raubenheimer. 7. Earl Rose had a fair to good game. What will the next game bring? 8. Ashley Johnson played out of his boots but is technically immature. A principle tenet of the game of rugby is being meddled with. Take your best in form players! Don't insult our intelligence by telling the Springbok supporters that all players are selected on merit.

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