Rugby : Henry best off without tarnished trophy Page 1 of 2 View as a single page 7:04AM Tuesday October 23, 2007 By Peter Bills England were brave and courageous, South Africa disciplined and dedicated to defence. So was this a World Cup final to put before the planet via global television? You must be joking.
What South Africa and England churned out in Paris was - in a technical sense - poor, unadventurous, defensive-minded rugby, littered with aimless kicking.
But this isn't rugby as we know it. Nor is it the rugby most people want to see played now or in the future. Sure, the South African nation will celebrate and claim all is well in their land now the mighty Bokke rule the world once again. They'll be deluding themselves if they believe that.
Never mind the frightening crime levels in their country, the nagging poverty and the alarming divisions between whites and blacks, between rich and poor. Winning a World Cup in such an ugly manner hardly reflects well upon either the ultimate champions or the game itself.
South Africa have now played in two Rugby World Cup finals, won them both and not scored a single try in either.
We are surely entitled to ask not only what that tells us about the Springboks' approach, but also about what is wrong with the modern game. Do people pay anything up to 1000 euros ($1925) or more to watch a match of penalty goals, as well as interminable kicking up in the air?
This was one of the most boring Rugby World Cup finals in history. Neither side wanted to risk anything; consequently, they kicked the ball away and invited the opposition to make mistakes with it.
England did, conceding five penalties in the first hour that were all translated into points. Those acts of transgression decided the game.
And that was all it took to win the trophy. No attacking-minded play, no inventiveness, little skill behind the scrum, scant originality in the play.
The formula was dire and depressing. Only England 's Mathew Tait offered a glimpse of back-line creativity and cunning.
So is this what rugby has come to, circa 2007? Is all that matters the fact that World Cup officials can sanction outrageous sums for tickets to the final, demand 15 euros ($29) for a programme and 30 euros ($58) for a couple of bags of fries and two beers? Just a cynical exercise in how to fleece the public? Never mind the product; sure, that's garbage and we all know that. But throw in a few fireworks after 80 minutes of mind-numbing boredom and hope the pundits will go home happy.
The fools might have done; any with a brain would have known that what they saw was complete rubbish.
About 12 months ago, All Blacks coach Graham Henry told me frankly "If winning a World Cup means we have to play defensive rugby, we have to kick the ball away and not play, then I'd rather not win it."
I have to tell you this: I believe Henry was dead right. Why would you want to win a World Cup playing no rugby, focusing entirely on defence and keeping the other lot out?
If this is what it takes to win a World Cup, New Zealand is better off without the tarnished trophy.
This glittering World Cup is no trophy of excellence. It's been dumbed down to a trophy of the basics ... who can deny longest, who can strangle the opposition, who can stop opponents playing, who can force mistakes from their rivals? That is what is required to win a World Cup in the modern game and New Zealand rugby is better off without such a devalued ambition.
New Zealand got a lot wrong in their campaign, but playing no rugby, kicking the ball up in the air and just trying to keep out the other lot, were not their failings.
This once-great game is at a crossroads, post the 2007 World Cup. Unless serious steps are taken to reward attacking play, to negate the incessant kicking and find some way to marginalise those who just don't want to play, we can forget all about rugby as it once was.
In Paris in front of 80,000 people, we had a foretaste of what this game will become in the future unless urgent action is taken to address its failings. Frankly, if this was a vision of the future, it was frightening.
- Peter Bills is chief rugby correspondent for Independent News & Media in London
You have to wonder what the author of the above article would have had to say had New Zealand come home with the cup in 95 having scored all their points off the boot. You again have to wonder what he would have had to say had they come home this year with the cup (instead of their tails between their legs) and possibly also have scored all their points off the boot. There is a very high probability that thats where all their points would have come from had they made it that far in the tournament and he damn well knows it! I imagine it would only have been praise.But guess what, we won it fair and square and are happy to have the Web Ellis trophy. Just hope that it isn't stolen in the next 4 years. Talk about bitter and twisted. Thank you for a most interesting article that you managed to dig up Coast. You being half pom and full Uitenhage would surely be slighted by the above article as are we. Even so, I and every other South African still sleep well at night (with a little help from Chubb & ADT)
Ahhh, Southcoast again!! So good to see our sporting gentleman has moved on since his last posting! Well, lets see, you dont like my responses to your postings but nevertheless, here goes.
When England were on their way to winning the World Cup in 2003, they were taken apart by their media saying they played un-attractive rugby. Clive Woodward was of the opinion that HE DID NOT CARE ABOUT PLAYING UNATTRACTIVE RUGBY-AS LONG AS THEY WON! After winnning the same media then had nothing but praise for them! These same guys are just airing their views again! Not to be taken seriously. Saturdays final was just that, a final. Finals are hard, tense, nail-biting affairs and usually go to the team which makes the least mistakes, ie concedes the least penalties. ANY team good enough to reach the final is good enough to win that final. Provided they play the right game, they can win. As England showed in 2003, this is how finals are played and won! England, I now feel, deserved more than the AB's to be in the final. Because their coaching staff know what it takes to win major competitions! The All-Blacks are a good team, play highly attractive rugby and are always a difficult team to beat. But in a competition like the world cup, this counts for st. They seem stuck in the amateur era and play entertaining rugby. Unfortunately, while spectacular it does not work and then all that can really be said is that this amounts to showboating for their supporters and this loses major matches! Fortunately, they dont seem to realise this as once they do they will be unstoppable! At this stage I would not be too quick to grab their advice as they always seem to come short when it matters. I am certain of one thing and that is I dont think NZ would want the rules changed to suit their efforts, rather they will look at their performances, improve their game and hit the road running. Then, my friend, it will be a case of watch them go and the rest watch out! In conclusion, I am reminded of the words of a great Sprinbgbok match winner of the past, Boy Louw who, when asked after matches about his unattractive style of rugby replied in a heavy afrikaans accent(my language, by the way) "Looks to the scoreboard".
And that concludes my postings on this topic on what is an aviation forum!!
Articles like these make the victory taste even sweeter.... Gimme more!
Tip to the Aussies.... The next final in four years time will require the same kind of (clever) tactical play as is the norm in big finals. Every rugby supporter with half a brain cell (did I just exclude 2 nations? - oops - ) knows this. So please withdraw before the tounament, since you dont want to win it anyway. It'll save you alot of dissapointment. We would be sad though, cause its so much fun to beat you.
(Although I do disagree with your snide remark about this being an aviation forum only, obviously it is, but I think some topics other than flying make for good fun.)
The reason SA are world champs is because they were able to adapt their game, play expansive rugby first time round against England, and then play a type of rugby which was needed to win the final.
Thats why NZ dont win in the modern era, through the year they play great rugby and can pretty much beat any team you care to put in front of them with great viewing expansive rugby, but when it comes to being able to change their style to suit the final, they are unable to.
Finals tend not to be great viewing in the sense of running in 60 metre tries, but thats because so much is at stake and I dont think you can blame teams/players for it coming down to drop goals and penalties.
By the way Jamex, I put money down on 3 teams at the beginning of the World Cup, SA (5-1), France (7-1), Australia (12-1)
I thought they were good prices, however, when England beat Australia, I had no option but to also back England as I could not cheer on France against England.
So, I had both teams in the final, just varying amounts of how much I was going to pick up from Ladbrokes!
Jamex I thought your first reply to this post was to be your conclusive (final?) post to a non aviation related topic. Coast obviously can't resist baiting the hook and you can't resist biting!
My 2 cents worth The difference between rugby and that other game with the round ball is that rugby supporters can share a stadium without the need for fences partitioning the opposition supporters and stones and bottles being hurled. They can leave the grounds without needing police protection. They can wear their team colours in a pub with the opposition without a riot breaking out. They can also share a (aviation) forum and exchange some good natured banter regarding their respective teams without it degenerating into a personal, and indeed unentertaining and topic killing, personal mud slinging match.
As an aside. Rumour has it that Coast was born in the motherland and is a closet Bok supporter anyway! He is also looking for a good Afrikaans girl of the marrying type!!!
Last edited by imustbemad; 27th Oct 2007 at 03:48.
It's like hooking a 6 iron off the tee, ricochet it off a tree and then see it role into the cup. It's not pretty, but I sure as hell write 1 on my card. And if you're James Kingston (I think), take the Audi TT home.
The Webb Ellis cup doesn't say 2007 South Africa - Played yuck final.
South Africa have the bearing of champions. The night after they won the World Cup final, the Springboks were guests of honour at the International Rugby Board's annual dinner in Paris. You would have thought they might have been a bit dishevelled. They could have been forgiven for rolling in a bit wobbly, tired and emotional from their exertions from the night before.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
They were immaculate, controlled and worthy winners of the sport's ultimate trophy. Among the crowd at the dinner were some of rugby's greats. Men like JPR Williams and Gerald Davies. They were amazed by the size of the South Africans, awe-struck by the speed with which the game and the players' physicality has moved on.
Yet even though it is a thoroughly modern game, old school values were on show and the Springboks took time to talk to all of the former players when they were approached. Ten minutes, sometimes 20 were kindly given. Critics of the South Africans talk of arrogance, of a self-belief that often grates. There was nothing like that on show. In fact there was very little behaviour that would have given away that the team had just beaten the very best that the world had to offer over a period of six weeks.
Occasionally, one of the players would break into a couple of bars of the Basque anthem that has been played at many of the grounds this tournament. But that really was it. The team were humble and dignified. When Bryan Habana was crowned player of the year, and compared to Jonah Lomu, he begged to differ. Lomu was a legend, a one-off; Habana was just a wing with a bit of gas.
This modesty was evident in the way South Africa approached their games in the tournament. They were a team in which everyone knew their place, how they fitted in to that plan and what was required of them. However, they could also cover for the man standing next to them. If you want to see what the biggest change to rugby has been over the past few years, it is that players can now do a little bit of anything. It is not enough for the front five to get down and scrummage, or jump in the line-out. They now have to be able to run, pass and kick.
Did you see the massive South African Victor Matfield putting in crossfield kicks? A few years ago, he would have been laughed off the park. Now the old man of the Boks' pack, Os du Rant, is happy to find himself face-to-face with a young centre in the final moments of the game and tackle him without a problem. I doubt Scott Gibbs would bounce du Rant now as he did a few years ago.
Skills have been merged, and the South African side have been among the leaders in opening the game up. But they have done so by marrying this willingness to play an expansive game with discipline.
In the past, Butch James was often so hot-headed that he would lose his grip on the match. Now he is a cool customer who plays his game, directing the team with calm authority.
This calm steel runs through the team and nowhere is it more evident than in their mop-haired centre, the crazily youthful Francois Steyn. He backs himself when most of us would question the sanity of the decision. You could see his confidence when he teed up the penalty that all but took the game out of England's reach. The team knew he would hit it, you could see from their shoulders. Control yourself and control the game.
South Africa knew what they had to do and did it with icy precision. They backed their discipline, not giving away penalties that they knew Jonny Wilkinson would kick. Keep him out of the game and they would win. Keep to the plan, stay together and it was within their grasp.
On the field they had the backbone to win under extreme pressure. Off it, their shirt buttons were done up, their ties on straight, shoes polished.
They looked like a team who were proud of what they had achieved. In short, they looked like world champions.
At the end of the Day, few things matter, 1)The Webb Ellis trophy says South Africa. Twice!!! 2) Peter Bills is being laughed at by 45 million South Africans, and many others in the modern rugby world. 3) Jake White has a job, Graham Henry doesn't.