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the rugby world cup

 

the rugby world cup in france has finally kicked off for south africa and we made a great start, beating samoa 59 – 7.

samoa are a really tricky prospect and at times the game was rather closer than the scoreline suggests. samoa are the most physical rugby team and are a biiig bunch of boys. they’re tackling is ferocious and when they run they look like charging rhinos. the springboks (“bokke” for short in afrikaans) aren’t little puppies either and are one of the hardest tackling teams in world rugby and take some stopping when they get going. as such this was an incredibly physical encounter – probably one of the most physical contests i’ve seen in a long time. and one which samoa, at times, looked to be getting the better of.

south africa’s schalk burger, in a picture that looks like he’s attacked the samoan bloke like some animal! the photo illustrates just what a bruising encounter this was… 

south africa started well, racking up a few penalties, but then samoa came rampaging back with a try, making the score 9 – 7 to the springboks. thereafter it was a matter of samoa going mental and south africa having to put in tackle after tackle as the pacific islanders kept on coming at us. it was a really tough time and even though we managed to score two tries there was a sense at half-time that if we didn’t change our gameplan samoa would’ve run all over us. as it was, i felt we were quite lucky to limit samoa to only one try.

percy montgommery kicking for the posts. 

at half-time there was a brief little mention of the game in the studio (before they went to the england camp) and francois pienaar (ex south africa rugby player) summed up the game perfectly, by saying that we were playing to samoa’s strengths in playing the game lose and that if we kept the game tighter and simpler samoa wouldn’t be such a handful anymore. sean fitzpatrick, being the eternal tosser that he is, smugly disagreed.

the second half started with even more intensity and samoa came at us like rabid pitbulls. again, our tackling needed to be at its best and we were lucky not to concede any more tries. there was clearly a change in strategy and south africa were trying to apply francois pienaar’s advice of keeping the game tighter, and after the barrage at the start of the second half, the strategy started to pay off. we focused on the set plays and samoa were soon floundering, and it wasn’t long before the tries started pouring in.

south africa focusing on the set plays. 

initially we were just edging our way forward and even though it looked like we’d win, it didn’t look like it would be by a giant margin – perhaps a 35 – 7 score or something. then francois steyn (a substitute) started exerting his influence and he started varying our play. he had an amazing game and once again showed why he is such a find. steyn has such vision and a really good rugby brain, and is a joy to watch. south africa are team that is traditionally about strength, speed and directness and can though they can be predictable, there game is extremely effective when they are playing well. as such, we aren’t renowned for our creativity, so you can imagine my joy when we finally do unearth a player with real flair and vision.

with steyn’s influence south africa ran riot and scored 8 tries. apart from the scoreline it was a very good result for a few key reasons:  for the first time in a long time south africa are showing that they can vary their strategy, should plan A not work; francois steyn is starting to fulfill his promise and exerted a strong influence on the game; the wonder that is brian habana.

brian habana – the man who races cheetahs (as the commentators are so fond of continually telling us). habana has been a class act all season and went into the world cup ranked as the best winger in the world. still, the world cup is another level and the pressure alone makes it harder to perform at one’s best on this, the greatest stage of all. habana came out flying, though and if anything has gone a step toward enhancing his already massive reputation. he scored four tries and although samoa aren’t the best of teams, habana’s pace was truly frightening (for any non-south africans 🙂 )!

 

habana pulling a funny face before blitzing towards the tryline. 

his fourth try was particulary impressive when he showed his strength in breaking through some of those huge samoan tackles and ran a very intelligent line, before putting on the after burners and just tearing away towards the try-line. he is that rare thing – a truly quick winger, and as such gives us a big edge in any game. while habana is on the wing, there is always the chance that at any moment he could do something spectacular. 

this is the best quality clip that i could find of him – its habana playing for his provincial team, the bulls:

the result definitely lifted my mood after france’s terrible loss in the opening game to argentina. it might not quite seem right that i support both france and south africa, but what’s a man to do if he was born to a french father and a south african mother?

france’s loss seriously jeopordises there chances of achieving anything in this world cup. their game against ireland is now an absolute must-win game and even if they win that they might end up finishing in the dreaded second place in group d. why is second place so dreaded, you ask? because the reward for finishing second is a quarter final match against new zealand – the one team you simply do not want to play, at least not too early in the world cup.

the all blacks performing the haka – their pre-match tribal-chant-thingie. 

there is the sense that should france meet new zealand in the final then euphoria of the occasion and home support would give france a real good chance of beating new zealand. a quarter final in bloody cardiff… well, that’d be a very hard task indeed. but still, if they get there they’ll be grateful for reaching the quarter finals at all, so i’m sure they’ll be up for it. still, france wouldn’t want to face them in the quarters if it can be avoided.

the only way france can still finish top is if they beat ireland and then ireland beat argentina, which isn’t entirely unlikely. there is one good thing to france finishing second in the group, though (even if it might mean an early rectal examination for our boys) and that is that france and south africa won’t meet in the semi final. france against south africa is my personal nightmare. i watched them play each other once and that was in the 1995 semi final. it was awful. i was torn. it was so awful that i haven’t been able to watch them play each other since. 

i know i should look at it from the perspective that no matter what happened, i won, but the way i feel about it is that no matter what happens i lose…

but the semi final is a long way off and south africa and france may not even reach it – so we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it. right now i am just excited that the world cup has finally started and overjoyed at how good south africa played! i just hope my frenchies can show their true form too.

next up for france is namibia on sunday and for south africa its england on friday.

by the way, if any of this is greek to you then you can check out my rough guide to rugby that i’ll be putting up in the next few days.

photos posted with permission of fabdany. he’ll be posting world cup photos throughout the world cup and you can check them out here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fabdany/sets/72157601908887872/

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Categories: rugby
  1. September 10, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    I’ll definitely need the rough guide to rugby :p I don’t know the least bit about Ruby, but from the clip that I saw and what I read, the gameplay looks somewhat similar to american football as far as the basic idea goes.

  2. September 11, 2007 at 12:01 am

    I don’t normally pay attention to rugby, but I saw something about this on the news today. We lost to Scotland. They showed people with kilts and bagpipes celebrating on the streets. I couldn’t have picked a better country to lose to 😛

  3. jean pierre
    September 11, 2007 at 7:46 am

    CHRIS:

    yeah, they’re quite similar. american football evolved from rugby or at least an earlier form of rugby.

    i’m glad you’re interested in the game! 🙂 i love rugby. growing up in south africa its hard not to like rugby to some degree. in south africa rugby is everything – rugby is above all other sport and even other cultural activities.

    NYMETH:

    i’m sorry portugal lost… unfortunately they’re rather inexperienced at rugby, so won’t do terribly well at the world cup. but the fact that they are there is brilliant in itself – this is the first world cup they’ve reached!

  4. September 11, 2007 at 9:50 am

    I though Samoa were great against your lot. And their try-scorer isn’t half bad-looking either 😉 But they tailed off a lot in the second half, both because of your change in tactics (Steyn had a great game) but also they lost that intensity of earlier.

    Habanna, well, what can you say, he is fantastic.

    You know, of course, that I’m not supporting France in the slightest. Not until the Pool stages are over, and once we make it out (however unlikely it may look at the moment) I may start cheering them on again.

    Nymeth Portugal did really well against the Scots. A lot better than most expected. Although I’d look away when they play New Zealand. It might be tough going.

  5. September 11, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    Sorry. Rugby’s just not my sport!! (though I did date a Rugby player in college!! Does that count?) Nope. It’s American Football that really gets me pumped!!

    By the way, I have a room that has books piled just like yours. It kills me, but I just don’t have the shelf space!

  6. jean pierre
    September 11, 2007 at 7:12 pm

    NYMETH:

    yeah, samoa were very good. i was really worried for a long time during that game! and yeah, old williams isn’t the worst looking bloke…

    habana is such a ninja! 🙂

    as for supporting france, its very big of you to be talking about supporting them at all! as we know, theres a certain people who’s team play in white, who won’t support anyone but themselves, except for underdogs (and then only in the most patronising way).

    so i’m glad that you’ll even support them at all – should we reach the quarters. same goes for me, of course. if ireland get through then i’ll be cheering for them.

    STEPHANIE:

    i can fully understand, we can’t all be mad about every sport there is. you certainly get points for dating a rugby player, though! 😉 what position did he play?

    glad i’m not the only one that mistreats his books by leaving them in piles on the floor.

  7. September 12, 2007 at 5:45 pm

    I LOVE the expression on those guys’ faces in the second film. The looks of shock and disbelief at the ferocity of that hit is fun to see.

    That picture of the Haka reminds me of The Lord of the Rings, and if you don’t know why, it is because you have watched the extras on Return of the King yet…awesome!!! 😉

  8. jean pierre
    September 15, 2007 at 3:20 pm

    yeah, its a geat picture!! 🙂

    hmm… well i know it was filmed in nz, but i’ll have to see all the spec. features to see where the haka comes in…

    its brilliant that you know of the haka! its one of the coolest spectacles in rugby.

  9. October 22, 2007 at 12:26 pm

    the BOKS won the world cup on saturday most of you will know this by now. England played with there hearts but it wasnt enough. South Africa was lucky with all the easy penalties they were given but were the better side!

  10. jean pierre
    October 24, 2007 at 6:24 pm

    yeah…! its brilliant! 😀

    and we did get rather easy penalties – but then, we were the more focused team, ’cause we didn’t give any away ourselves…

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