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Super 14 Week 3 Report – Australian teams

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After the first three weeks of Super 14 rugby, we are starting to get a feel for who has what it takes to make the finals and who will be stuck at the bottom of the table come May. And there are  a few surprise positions on the ladder. Here is a look at how the Australian teams are traveling:

The Australian teams are going well as a whole with three teams in the top four and none in the bottom five. The Waratahs are showing again why they are title contenders (as they have been the last few years with without going all they way), but are being accused as being boring by almost everyone from the public to the media to rival teams. They did start to show a bit more flair in their win over the Highlanders, and entertaining or not, they are winning and sit second on the ladder. They are a very well-drilled, well-structured side and should head towards the tournament’s final weeks without dropping too many games.

The Force are surprisingly fourth on the ladder after their win over the Brumbies on the weekend. With the announcement of star playmaker Matt Giteau moving back the Brumbies next year adding to the reports of infighting and tension over in Perth since this year’s pre-season, the Force were considered outsiders to win in Canberra, but with a fantastic turn by fullback Cameron Shepherd, who scored 3 tries, they achieved a great win in the face of diversity. If the players can ignore all the outside distraction, they possibly could do very well this season, but a middle-of-the-table finish is the likely outcome.

The Brumbies are solid at the moment with 2 wins and 1 loss, but will be shocked their loss the the Force at home, a game they thought was very much in their favour up until the whistle blew to start the match. The Brumbies are usually a solid bet to make the top 4 of Super Rugby, or at least stay in the top half of the ladder, but whether they can repeat that this year will rely heavily on whether their young flyhalf Christian Lealiifano, who is in the shoes that were filled by Wallaby great Stephen Larkham for so many years.

Finally the Reds will be looking to throw off the shackles of the bottom end of the table where they have been for the past few years. With a backline that finally looks like they could do some damage, the Reds will have to start making a move up the table very soon if they want to show they are finals contenders. The big grudge match against their southern neighbours the Waratahs this friday could be the litmus test for how their season ends up

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Written by Dale Weber

Tuesday, 3 March, 2009 at 7:42 pm

2008 Tri-Nations Series – TOP 22

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Here are Outside the Frame’s pick for the best team from the Tri-Nations for 2008:

 

  1. Tony Woodcock 
  2. Bismarck du Plessis
  3. Greg Somerville
  4. James Horwill
  5. Victor Matfield
  6. Rocky Elsom
  7. Richie McCaw (c)
  8. Rodney So’oialo
  9. Ricky Januarie
  10. Dan Carter
  11. Lote Tuqiri
  12. Jean de Villiers
  13. Stirling Mortlock
  14. Richard Kahui
  15. Mils Muliaina
  16. Andrew Hore
  17. CJ van der Linde
  18. Ali Williams
  19. Juan Smith
  20. Jimmy Cowan
  21. Matt Giteau
  22. Conrad Jantjes

 

Despite a few matches being very one-sided, overall the tournament was a very close affair with no team really dominating. As the winners of the series obviously the All Blacks are best represented with 10 players followed by 7 South Africans and 5 Australians. Richie McCAw had to be named captain for inspiring an All Black comeback in the tournament and for simply being the most influential player in world rugby today for his teammates, opposition players and of course the referees.

Written by Dale Weber

Wednesday, 17 September, 2008 at 5:43 pm

All Blacks secure another Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup double

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2008: another year for New Zealand dominance in the Tri-Nations rugby series. With their 28-24 win over Australia in Brisbane on Saturday night, the All Blacks secured another tournament win, taking their overall tally to 9, leaving South Africa and Australia on a paltry 2 each. The All Blacks also retained the Bledisloe Cup (competed for by Australia and New Zealand) for another year, which they have held since 2003. This leaves the final Bledisloe match in Hong Kong as simply an exhibition game. 

The game itself was a fairly close encounter, especially considering the walloping the Wallabies received from the Springboks two weeks earlier. Australia cleaned up many of the mistakes from that match and come out as a much tighter package. They looked pretty good in the first half with most of the possession and territory, yet still found themselves leaking the first try of the match to All Black fullback Mils Muliaina. While Australia seemed to be the ones in control of the game, New Zealand were in fact the more dangerous looking team in attack, and while defending much of the opening half, they took their chances and were rewarded. The Wallabies managed to make something of their possession advantage just before half time when Adam Ashley-Cooper crossed after a clever cross-field kick from flyhalf Matt Giteau to winger Peter Hynes, who put the fullback across the line.

The second half started very well for the men in gold, who after coming out of the sheds firing, found themselves 10 points ahead when lock James Horwill bashed his way through the All Black defense, putting the score 17 to 10 in favour of the Wallabies. This however was the beginning of the end for Australia, as they seemed happy to rest on their laurel and slackened the pace off a bit, while the New Zealanders did just the opposite and stepped up their attack to score three tries in less than 20 minutes. And with each try the game just kept slipping further and further away from the Wallabies. A try from Ryan Cross in the 78th minute mustered up a little hope for a last minute win, but the All Blacks were not prepared to let the game, and indeed the silverware on offer, go once it was in their grasp.

On a whole the two teams were rather evenly matched, but the All Blacks were the team who knew what they had to do to win, and came out and did the job. The Wallabies might count themselves a bit unlucky to lose the match and the trophies as they do have a team who can beat the All Blacks. But you can not give a team like the All Blacks the chance to get back in the game, which is exactly what Australia did in the middle of the second half. 

Both the Springboks and the Wallabies will be very disappointed with their respective Tri-Nations campaigns. At different times during the series, both teams looked like favourites to win, and will be wondering how New Zealand, who at the beginning of the tournament were the best bet for last on the ladder, mounted a great comeback to clinch the series. Richie McCaw’s return was the catalyst for the All Black’s return to form, as with their captain back New Zealand formed a cohesiveness to their team and gameplay that was just too much of a challenge for the other two teams to overcomes. Australia and South Africa must wait a year for another crack at winning the top rugby union tournament in the world, and will probably be hoping McCaw will be injured when that time rolls around again.

 

Final Score:

All Blacks 28 (Mils Muliaina, Tony Woodcock, Piri Weepu, Dan Carter – tries; Dan Carter – 4 Conversions)

Wallabies 24 (Adam Ashley-Cooper, James Horwill, Ryan Cross – tries; Matt Giteau – 3 conversions, 1 penalty)

Written by Dale Weber

Tuesday, 16 September, 2008 at 7:11 pm

Everything on line as Wallabies and All Blacks clash at Suncorp

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The Tri-Nations series of 2008 will be decided on Saturday night in Brisbane in the final match of the tournament. With New Zealand on 14 points and Australia on 13, it is a simple matter of the victor of the match will be the winner of the series. Adding more to the already fiery clash, the Bledisloe Cup may or may not also be decided on the game. A win for New Zealand would wrap up the Trans-Tasman trophy for them, with the final game in Hong Kong becoming a dead rubber exhibition match. However, if the Wallabies find a win in Brisbane, they still have to knock over the All Blacks in Hong Kong or the trophy stays with the men in black, who won it last year. So this weekend’s match is the most important of the year for both teams.

Trying to predict a winner is complicated by the fact that this year has seen quite a tumultuous set of results in the Tri-Nations tournament. South Africa managed to win away in New Zealand and looked favourites to win the series, only to crumble in two consecutive home games and finish last on the table, but still managed to inflict a devastating defeat over Australia in their last clash. And New Zealand who looked quite weak in the first half of the series, mounted a comeback with the return of captain Richie McCaw and now sit on top of the ladder. While Australia have been highly inconsistent, with two impressive home wins leveled out by two horrible losses playing away. But in the end it all comes down to the final game of the tournament between the cross-Tasman rivals. 

On paper, the All Blacks look to be the team to choose. Consistency with player combinations is often the key in these type of matches, and by sticking with the same roster that defeated the Springboks in Cape Town, the All Blacks will be confident in their team cohesiveness. Add to that the factor of captain Richie McCaw, who was at the centre of the mid-tournament turnaround by the team, New Zealand look as very strong favourites for taking the match.

The Wallabies will be a much less settled camp than their rivals. With the record loss to the Springboks in their last match, the Australian’s will be feeling the repercussions as the search for what went wrong will no doubt be the cause of a few changes in the team and their game-plan. Timana Tahu and Tatafu Polota-Nau are the main casualties, both dropped from the team altogether, while Phil Waugh, Hugh McMeniman and Matt Dunning have been relegated to the bench. This gives Ryan Cross, Stephen Moore, George Smith, Nathan Sharpe and Al Baxter all a spot in the starting side. With Berrick Barnes still injured, coach Robbie Deans is gambling on putting Stirling Mortlock into inside centre and back up flyhalf, positions he has not played before internationally. This pairs him up with another strong runner of the ball, Ryan Cross, in the centres and could be a clever tactic in controlling the midfield and putting pressure on Dan Carter.

The match at Ellis Park two weeks ago could affect the Wallaby mentality in two ways: it could cause doubts to set in or it could fire them up to restore their pride. And with the prospects of winning their first Tri-Nations since 2001 and getting closer to the Bledisloe Cup, as well is the game being at home, the Wallabies could have a very good chance of beating the more favoured All Blacks.

 

Outside the Frame prediction: Australia by 6

 

Wallaby Squad:

Run on: Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Al Baxter, James Horwill, Nathan Sharpe, Rocky Elsom, George Smith, Wycliff Palu, Sam Cordingley, Matt Giteau, Lote Tuqiri, Stirling Mortlock (c), Ryan Cross, Peter Hynes, Adam Ashley-Cooper. Reserves: Adam Freier, Matt Dunning, Hugh McMeniman, Phil Waugh, Richard Brown, Brett Sheehan, Drew Mitchell.

 

All Black Squad:

Run on: Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore, Greg Somerville, Brad Thorn, Ali Williams, Jerome Kaino, Richie McCaw (c), Rodney So’oialo, Jimmy Cowan, Dan Carter, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Richard Kahui, Mils Muliaina. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, John Afoa/Neemia Tialata, Anthony Boric, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Stephen Donald, Isaia Toeava.

Written by Dale Weber

Saturday, 13 September, 2008 at 12:59 pm

World Champs finally turn up as Springboks smash Wallabies

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It was a bittersweet victory for South Africa when they notched up a record win over Australia at Johannesburg on Saturday. While the Springboks finally showed why they are the current World Cup holders, it was a matter of too little too late in the Tri-Nations, with the series now a two-horse race between New Zealand and Australia. But the Springboks, and especially coach Peter de Villiers, will be very happy with their performance at Ellis Park after coming into the game as a team under siege, having only won one game from five in the tournament, which included two losses at home. This second win was not enough to move them from the bottom of the table, but at least it restored some pride to the world champions.

From the kick off it looked to be an exciting game on the highveld, with the Wallabies strongly attacking the line only to be held out by the Bok defense and having to settle for a penalty, posting the first points of the game. But after eight minutes the game just went downhill for the Australians. Conrad Jantjes sent the monstrous Andries Bekker over the line for the first try of the game, and the South Africans just kept on going.

The Springboks managed to overcome the problems that plagued them in their previous Tri-Nation outings this year. They no longer fumbled the ball at crucial times and worked solidly at the breakdown resulting in minimum turnover and long sets of phase ball. A second try to Jongi Nokwe, just five minutes after Bekker crossed the line seemed to come as a shock to the Australians, and suddenly they were the ones under pressure. Indeed, a third and fourth try before halftime, both to Nokwe, had the men in green cheering into the locker room and the men in gold looking a little bit worried. 

There have been bigger turnarounds in rugby history and with an inspirational coach like Robbie Deans having a chat to them in the locker room, the Australians would have been looking to come out in the second half firing. However, any notion of a second half comeback was quickly scuttled after just five minutes as outside centre Adrian Jacobs made an inspiring run for the line and crossed over for the South African’s fifth try of the match. The Springboks could then sense an opportunity to make some kind of amends for the poor display in the series up until then. Keeping the Wallabies on the back foot, they ran in three more tries, including another one from Nokwe, to post the highest winning margin against the Wallabies in Tri-Nations history. And with Nokwe’s four-try haul another record from any player against Australia, it was not a good night for captain Stirling Mortlock and his men. A try from Drew Mitchell in the fifty-sixth minute was a poor consolation for a team who had come into the game very confident of defeating the Springboks at home two weeks in a row. 

The Wallabies will be wondering what happened to cause such a sound defeat. It was not entirely a bad performance by the Australians, it seemed more that they were taken aback by the intensity brought by the Springboks, which they were never able to overcome, instead playing the rest of the game on the back foot and unable to make their way back into the match. There were some simple mistakes by the Aussies and their previously rock-solid defense turned quite soft at the crucial times, with South Africa too often finding the gaps and overlaps. An interesting selection for the match was league convert Timana Tahu slotting in at inside centre for the injured Berrick Barnes, after having played only 23 minutes so far for the Wallabies, all from the bench. Inside centre is a crucial position in defense and much of the Springboks attack came through the midfield. However Tahu cannot be blamed for the massive loss. There were defensive mistakes made across the Wallaby team, including a few memorable ones from captain Stirling Mortlock. 

In the end it was not the game the Wallabies were hoping for in preparing to knock over the All Blacks in two weeks in Brisbane, and win the Tri-Nations. But there is a two week break to go over the mistakes and revitalize the team, and the heavy loss could be a catalyst for a big turn around against New Zealand. It was however the game the Springboks, their coach and indeed their fans were looking for. It may not have saved their Tri-Nations campaign but it did take the pressure off the players and especially the coach de Villiers and showed that the Springboks are still worthy of being the world champions. Now they just have to find some consistency. 

 

Final Score:

Springboks 53 (Andries Bekker, Jongi Nokwe 4, Adrian Jacobs, Ruan Pienaar, Odwa Ndungane – tries; Butch James – 3 conversions, 1 penalty; Percy Montgomery – 2 conversions)

Wallabies 8 (Drew Mitchell – try; Matt Giteau – penalty)

Written by Dale Weber

Tuesday, 2 September, 2008 at 1:18 am

Posted in Rugby

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All Blacks punish scrappy Springboks

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New Zealand has all but ended South Africa’s hopes for winning this years Tri-Nations series, while putting themselves in a very good position to take the crown. The 19-0 win puts the All Blacks at 14 points on the ladder, 5 clear of Australia, but with the Wallabies in a good spot to gain at least 2 points from the next two encounters with the Springboks in South Africa, a series decider between the All Blacks and Wallabies in the final match of the tournament in Brisbane next month is looking very likely.

The match itself on Saturday night was a very physical contest and the final score was perhaps a little unlucky for the South Africans who were held scoreless for the first time ate home in Tri-Nations history. New Zealand were the worthy winners of the match but they had to overcome a Springbok team who threw everything they could at the New Zealand try-line but continually came up short. The first half saw South Africa as the more attacking of the two teams but they could just not get through an impenetrable All Black defense and were plagued by simple errors.

The men from the republic would play very well into the New Zealand 22 but when it came time to score, knock-ons, forward passes and turnovers at the breakdown, often forced by the opposition’s determined defense, kept them scoreless. The All Blacks on the other hand had no issues with turning their attack into points and although they spent less time at the South African end of the field in the first half, came up with the first try of the game after seven minutes. It remained tight for the rest of the half, being 5-0 at the break, and it looked to shape up as a very tight tussle between the two rugby giants.

The All Blacks came out of the sheds looking to build on the platform they set up in the first half. They continued to disrupt the Springboks and the home team’s frustration was evident in the amount of mistakes they made, simple errors and bad choices of play. New Zealand then stepped up their attack with two converted tries in the middle of the half that pushed the lead out to 19-0, and by then the game was over with South Africa unable to overcome their lack of composure. 

Much of the game came down to the action at the breakdown and that man, All Black captain, Richie McCaw. His ability to turnover the ball at the right time continually denied the Springboks the momentum to build towards a try. The new ELV’s show how important maintaining possession is as you get closer to the trylines and with Richie McCaw leading the way the All Blacks are very aware of this and know how to swing things their way. South Africa will be wondering how they could score 63 points (against Argentina) one week and then be kept scoreless the next. It was a tough match but in the indeed New Zealand were the only team who knew how to finish off their attack with the ball over the try-line.

 

Final Score:

All Blacks 19 (Conrad Smith, Dan Carter, Keven Mealamu – tries; Dan Carter – 2 conversions)

Springboks 0 (Nothing – *sigh*)

Written by Dale Weber

Monday, 18 August, 2008 at 11:04 pm

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Rugby and politics clash at Newlands. Oh and the All Blacks will be there too …

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It is crunch time for both South Africa and New Zealand in saturdays game at Newlands, Cape Town. Both teams will be looking to put one hand on the Tri-Nations trophy in a matchup that promises to be one to remember. It has been two weeks since the last Tri-Nations match, and more than enough time for every man and his dog to voice his opinion on who will win this match.

The Springboks did have a game against Argentina that ended up being nothing more than a training run after they dominated the Pumas 63-9, and this will be a major confidence booster in having won by so much against a team that came third in last year’s World Cup. Unfortunately for Argentina, the Springboks won that World Cup and will be looking to prove that they are worthy world champions. And the best way to prove that point will be to win this year’s Tri-Nations series. They face a big obstacle in accomplishing that feat in the All Blacks. At the moment the series is wide open for all three teams to take the crown. South Africa with three home games would probably be the betting man’s tip as we all know how important home games are in this tournament. However, one slip up in any of those games and the All Blacks and Wallabies will be waiting to pounce. 

Despite their confidence from last week’s win and the belief in themselves as world champions, the Springboks might be distracted by the sideshow that is the politics behind South African rugby. A government official got a bit silly when attacking the selection of two white players over two coloured players for tomorrow’s game. Somehow he seemed to infer that this selection was an act of racism against coloured players. How exactly can it be racism when the coach Peter de Villiers himself is not white, but rather a black South African? 

He questioned the choice of Fourie du Preez returning from injury to replace Ricky Januarie at scrumhalf, due to the fact that Januarie “won” the game for the Boks in Dunedin. No doubt Ricky Januaire is a very talented scrumhalf and his solo try in the final minutes of that game was inspired but du Preez is a phenomenal player and was integral to South Africa winning last years World Cup. Du Preez is a much more settled player than the fiery Januarie, and that is a very important point to remember at this point in the tournament. South Africa needed Januarie’s unpredictability in order to beat New Zealand at home, an incredibly hard task to do at any time. The game in Cape Town needs more a more level-headed player at the scrum base for the men in green and that is where du Preez comes in. 

The selection of Percy Montgomery over Conrad Jantjes at fullback has similar reasoning to it. New Zealand played their best game of the series in their win over Australia in Auckland by raining kicks down on the opposition’s back three and putting them under pressure. Percy is a rock under that kind of pressure, while Jantjes can be a bit iffy, as is winger J.P. Pietersen, and so undoubtedly de Villiers has made the right choice in Montgomery. It is such a pity that a proud rugby nation like South Africa is constantly mired by back room politics. Hopefully Peter de Villiers can rise above this circus and lead the Boks in the right direction, away from all the politics. 

Getting back to the actual game, New Zealand have a very good chance of beating the Springboks. South Africa will be missing Bakkies Botha in the second-row, and the physicality he brings to the game will be missed but his replacement is a very capable, very big man in Andries Bekker. The Auckland match against Australia showed how important Richie McCaw is to the All Blacks and the New Zealand captain is fit and ready to go in Newlands. If Springbok flankers Juan Smith and Schalk Burger can neutralize Richie McCaw at the break down, then the home team will have a very good chance of emerging victorious. The other New Zealand superstar, flyhalf Dan Carter will also be a worry to the Boks but if Montgomery and wingers Bryan Habana and Pietersen can handle any kicks he sends their way, and Butch James and Jean de Villiers can put pressure on him in the centre of the field then South Africa, with the home crowd behind them, will be able to wrap up this match. 

 

Outside the Frame prediction: South Africa by 8

 

Springbok Squad:

Run on: Percy Montgomery, JP Pietersen, Adrian Jacobs, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Butch James, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Victor Matfield (c), Andries Bekker, CJ van der Linde, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Adriaan Strauss, Brian Mujati, Danie Rossouw, Luke Watson, Enrico Januarie, Francois Steyn, Conrad Jantjes. 

 

All Black Squad:

Run on: Mils Muliaina, Richard Kahui, Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu, Sitiveni Sivivatu, Dan Carter, Jimmy Cowan, Rodney So’oialo, Richie McCaw (c), Jerome Kaino, Ali Willliams, Brad Thorn, Greg Somerville, Andrew Hore, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Keven Mealamu, John Afoa, Anthony Boric, Adam Thomson, Piri Weepu, Stephen Donald, Isaia Toeava.

Written by Dale Weber

Friday, 15 August, 2008 at 10:53 pm

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