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Ken Borland



Sanzar’s SuperRugby Christmas present is likely to be meh 0

Posted on February 20, 2017 by Ken

 

Rugby fans who have had enough of the current fatigue-inducing set-up will be eagerly anticipating Christmas and the expected announcement by Sanzar of a new SuperRugby format from 2016. But what they find in their stocking might still leave them unimpressed because Sanzar are unlikely to go the most obvious route of two pools of nine, eight matches home and away and semi-finals and a final.

Because the Southern Kings had such a dramatic impact on rugby in the Eastern Cape, certainly in terms of crowd figures, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) seem to have accepted that they can no longer leave such a massive region out in the cold even though they lost the promotion/relegation series to the Lions. And Argentina, full Sanzar partners now, look set to be rewarded with a place in SuperRugby as well, expanding the competition to 17 teams. Judging by the noises coming out of New Zealand and Australia, some sort of Japanese involvement is also being strongly considered to make it an even 18.

But the same Australian demands that impacted so heavily on the previous broadcasting agreement, which brings in all the money and therefore decides the format, seem set to ensure common sense does not apply. In order to sustain the ailing code of rugby union in Australia, they want their own conference, even if they have to share it with some New Zealand teams.

So the three proposals that Sanzar are considering are to keep the status quo (yes, many stakeholders, most of them living on a big island, actually think the current format is great), to split into South African and Australasian conferences, or to expand the competition even more and include other Asian teams, and the USA and Canada as well.

It would appear the two-conference system has been most positively received by Saru, and hopefully their negotiators will show much more skill when Sanzar meet in Sydney next week than the muppets who negotiated the previous deal. That could mean six South African franchises, which play each other home and away, making 10 fixtures. If the Australasian conference is split into two pools, with Japan in one and Argentina in the other, then they, too, could play 10 round-robin matches. The idea is then for the top six or eight teams across the conferences to play in the finals. If six teams go through and play each other, that’s five more matches. A semi-final and a final would then mean a maximum of 17 games per team – much cleaner, much simpler and less of a slog than SuperRugby is at the moment for all concerned.

What is vital is that Sanzar consult the players, on whom they rely to sell their product. There is a strong suggestion that the current exodus of players from the southern hemisphere to Europe is not just because of the power of the euro, but also because they are on their last legs due to the unceasing intensity and quantity of rugby Sanzar has foisted on them.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies, one of many on the injured list after the prolonged SuperRugby campaign, is pegging his hopes on change. “I’d really like to see the competition end before the international season. That three-week break for the internationals in June is a waste. I’d like to see all the focus on SuperRugby, get that done with and then give all the teams three or four weeks to prepare for the Tests. We could then finish the Rugby Championship at the end of October and either go back to our franchises or prepare for the end-of-year tour. I’d prefer there to be one global schedule and to finish SuperRugby in one go. That would also give all the teams one extra bye,” Spies told Daily Maverick on Thursday.

There does seem to be growing agreement on the sense of having one global rugby season. The International Rugby Players’ Association has come out in favour of it and even Sanzar CEO Greg Peters has said it makes sense. “The idea of moving June to July, in a Sanzar context, certainly holds a lot of appeal, for a lot of reasons,” Peters told The Herald Sun. “We could complete the SuperRugby season without a break, which is something in an ideal world we would want to do. Then you would move straight into the international program, have a short break, the Rugby Championship, short break, and then the Spring Tours. We would certainly be interested in sitting down with the northern unions and getting their views about whether it would work. And obviously we are interested in the views of the players’ associations as well.”

The Currie Cup Premier Division also looks set to change, with a new eight team format apparently agreed to in principle by the Saru executive committee, just two years after they went to great lengths to justify a cut to six teams. The phrase “political expediency” immediately springs to mind, but the thought of the Kings and the Pumas, who have dominated the First Division in recent times and are based in the rapidly-growing centre of Nelspruit, competing at the top table does have appeal.

The administrators sit in the boardrooms and make the decisions over lavish lunches, changing tune according to their own vested interests, but it is the players who have to go out, put their bodies on the line, and make these formats work.

“I’ve only been playing SuperRugby for six years and I’m struggling to get on the field now,” says Springbok star Francois Steyn, who has been out of action since May after two operations for compartment syndrome in the leg – an over-use injury.

“In South African rugby, we all worry about saying something wrong and stepping on someone’s toes, so I should probably keep my mouth shut. But it’s all about bringing the fans out and less rugby is probably better. Then the top players can play for longer. At this rate, if you play for 10 years, you’re a lucky guy.”

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-30-quo-vadis-superrugby/#.WKrl_2997IU

Smit hopes for Sanzar action following abysmal officiating 0

Posted on November 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Sharks CEO John Smit said at the weekend that while he could not publically share his views on the abysmal officiating in the match against the Waratahs in Sydney, he hoped Sanzar would take action following some of the most one-sided decision-making ever seen in SuperRugby.

“I’m sure Sanzar leadership is strong enough 2 do something before we need 2 enquire ,I hope!”, Smit said on social media after being asked if the Sharks would make an official complaint after referee Paul Hoffman, TMO George Ayoub and the assistant referees blew the visitors off the park in a 33-18 defeat.

While coach Gary Gold described the outcome as “a cruel result”, he was restraint personified after a match in which even New South Wales legend Phil Kearns said the Sharks had been “stiffed”. The post-game press conference was dominated by Australian journalists asking how the visitors felt about the refereeing.

“It seemed that some calls didn’t go our way, but that’s the way it goes, I’m afraid. A desperate Waratahs side played well and asked questions of us, but I felt that we answered them. S’Bura Sithole was a bit unlucky not to get his try,” Gold said.

Although Hoffman blew the Sharks out of the water with all the efficiency of an Uzi machine gun, Gold said he was not bothered by the referee being an Australian.

“I don’t mind where the referee comes from, every coach just wants a competent referee. I like to believe there is too much at stake for them not to be impartial, for them it’s about going to the World Cup, so it shouldn’t matter where they come from,” Gold said.

The director of rugby said he had sympathy for Sanzar referee head Lyndon Bray, who was bearing a heavy burden in trying to improve the standard of officiating.

“I know Lyndon is working unbelievably hard to improve the refereeing and it’s a huge responsibility. I have a lot of faith in him, but it’s a difficult vision and the game needs us to give him all the support we can.”

The controversial defeat merely exacerbated a horror year for the Sharks, their ninth defeat in 13 games leaving them 11th on the log.

Gold said they had to ensure they did not unravel like a cheap hem in their remaining three games.

“We need to show our supporters how much it means to us. We’re in a bad place on the log, but we need to take the punches and man up and we will be better for it. Some second or third-choice players are getting an unbelievable opportunity to play in SuperRugby – guys like Stefan Ungerer, Lionel Cronje, Etienne Oosthuizen, Andre Esterhuizen, S’bura Sithole and Stephan Lewies – and they’ll be better for it,” Gold said.

Sharks sing the blues once again 0

Posted on November 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cell C Sharks sung the blues once again on their overseas tour as they were unable to overcome their own first-half mistakes, a fired-up Waratahs side and one of the most disgracefully one-eyed officiating performances in Sanzar history in losing 33-18 in their Vodacom SuperRugby match in Sydney on Saturday.

Referee Rohan Hoffman, TMO George Ayoub and the assistant referees were so determined to sing the home side’s tune that the Sharks never had a chance, despite turning in an excellent second-half performance against a team that surely does not have it in them to be repeat SuperRugby champions unless other forces are at play. The fact that Sanzar are based in Sydney does not ease the speculation that was running rampant on social media on Saturday nor the genuine fears that rugby is totally naïve when it comes to matchfixing, much as cricket was.

The decisions to award wing Taqele Naiyaravoro’s 53rd-minute try, although he lost control of the ball and there was absolutely no evidence of grounding, and the TMO’s call to disallow opposite number S’bura Sithole’s touchdown in the 70th minute, were particularly damaging to the Sharks.

Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley was also able to kick four penalties as Hoffman punished the Sharks for a high tackle when the ball-carrier had clearly slipped and fallen into an arm that was at a perfectly legal height and for ruck offences when the home team were clearly not supporting their own body weight.

As outrage grew on South African social media, Sharks CEO John Smit told The Citizen: “I’m sure Sanzar leadership is strong enough to do something before we need to enquire … I hope”.

It looked like it was going to be a miserable day for the Sharks right from the outset as centre Adam Ashley-Cooper scored after 55 seconds, but that was entirely down to the visitors’ lacklustre defence and the brilliance of the Waratahs in exploiting the gaps.

The Sharks kicked out on halfway from the opening kickoff, and scrumhalf Nick Phipps passed inside after the lineout tap to livewire flank Michael Hooper, who burst through a huge gap the visitors were shockingly slow to close, before passing out to Ashley-Cooper, who powered over the line.

Sharks centre Francois Steyn pulled back a penalty from a scrum in the 17th minute, but Foley was able to stretch the lead to 10-3 at the end of the first quarter after captain Marco Wentzel, in a bid to turnover a loose ball, held on under pressure from Ashley-Cooper and conceded a penalty after another Waratahs attack sparked by Hooper.

The Sharks would have begun to feel Hoffman was screwing them over in the 28th minute when he made a ridiculous forward-pass call against Bismarck du Plessis, the Waratahs then being given another penalty as the scrum went down, Foley making the score 13-3.

Steyn narrowed the gap to 6-13 five minutes before the break after a sneaky hand in the ruck by the Waratahs was penalised. They then managed to win a Waratahs lineout throw on their own line after brilliant scramble defence stopped fullback Israel Folau from scoring and won a penalty. Hoffman told the Sharks it was halftime, so they kicked the ball straight out only for the disgraceful referee to give the Waratahs the lineout!

The Sharks were certainly in the game after the shock of conceding that first-minute try, but a shaky defence – six tackles were missed in the first 10 minutes and 15 in the first half alone – and their own basic mistakes were really hurting them as their promising attacks lacked the finishing touches.

Consultant Brendan Venter was seen addressing them during the break and the Sharks dished up some impressive fare in the second half.

They claimed the vital first score of the second half when they closed the gap to 11-13 thanks to flyhalf Lionel Cronje’s brilliant crosskick from a penalty, that was well-finished by wing Odwa Ndungane.

But three minutes later, it became clear that the officials would ensure the Sharks could say farewell to any chance of a morale-boosting win against the defending champions.

Massive wing Taqele Naiyaravoro powered down the right but lost control of the ball in the tackle by Sithole on the goal-line. With two pairs of legs rolling over and the ball seemingly stuck in between them, TMO Ayoub, (the whole of South Africa rejoiced when he was no longer an on-field referee), awarded the try despite there being absolutely no evidence of grounding.

Foley’s conversion gave the Waratahs a crucial 20-11 lead after 53 minutes but the Sharks lifted themselves when veterans Du Plessis and Steyn showed that they are not rugby oupas by slickly combining for the centre to score, Cronje also providing some vital touches in the build-up.

Steyn’s conversion made it a two-point game (18-20), but the Sharks were knocked back to the mat as Hoffman awarded two more controversial penalties against the Sharks – the ridiculous high-tackle call against Cronje when centre Kurtley Beale slipped and fell over into the tackle and a harsh deliberate knock-on call against JP Pietersen.

There was much to enthuse about the Sharks’ second-half display on attack, none more so than when they got the ball wide to Sithole and he powered down the left in a thrilling run, but the fun for the visitors was soon ended when Beale shoulder-charged the wing into the corner flag. That does not mean he is in touch, of course, but Ayoub decided he was and Beale escaped punishment for his no-arms tackle.

Any chance of even taking a point out of a game that they could well have won given decent officiating disappeared in the 79th minute when a poor pass from the otherwise good scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer was fumbled by Cronje and Foley pounced, kicking the ball through and re-gathering to score.

These days, any referee appointed by Sanzar could be incompetent, but this game seemed different in that there weren’t any bad calls against the Waratahs.

Whether any action will be taken by Sanzar remains to be seen, but past experience suggests the carpet in their Sydney headquarters will merely have more swept underneath it.

Scorers

Waratahs: Tries – Adam Ashley-Cooper, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley. Conversions –Foley (3). Penalties – Foley (4).

Sharks: Try – Odwa Ndungane, Francois Steyn. Conversion – Steyn. Penalties – Steyn (2).

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/383666/sharks-sing-the-blues-once-again/

Sanzar turn on own judicial officer & appeal Steyn ruling 0

Posted on May 31, 2016 by Ken

 

Francois Steyn’s return to the Sharks captaincy and the flyhalf position for Saturday’s SuperRugby game against the Western Force is now in doubt after Sanzar decided to appeal the decision of their own judicial officer and put the 2007 World Cup winner back on trial for the tip-tackle for which he was red-carded last weekend against the Chiefs.

It is believed All Blacks lawyer Stephen Cottrell is behind Sanzar’s unprecedented decision to appeal against Advocate Jannie Lubbe’s ruling this week that exonerated Steyn, and a Sanzar Appeals Committee, chaired by Terry Willis and with advocates Nigel Hampton and Robert Stelzner as members, will hear the matter via a video conference on Friday morning South African time.

But this will seriously disrupt the Sharks’ preparations for the match against the Force, with their team due to be named on Thursday morning and the Vodacom Cup side off to Cape Town on Friday morning. The franchise has appealed against the timing of the hearing and are looking to get it moved to after the game, either on Sunday or Monday.

Although Lubbe’s decision to clear Steyn was considered to be a highly generous one, Sanzar’s appeal is nevertheless extraordinary as they have never turned on one of their own judicial officers before.

The move has once again reignited old feelings of bitterness that South African players are judged by different standards in the competition, particularly since Cottrell, a legal representative for Sanzar, was the lawyer who defended Brad Thorn when he notoriously up-ended Springbok captain and current CEO John Smit, dumping him on his back without the ball, during a Test against the All Blacks in Wellington in 2008.

Cottrell argued that because Smit did not have the ball, Thorn’s foul play could not be considered a dangerous tackle and he was only given a one-week ban.

It was a decision that outraged the Springboks, for whom current Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold was then an assistant coach.

The uncertainty over Steyn further complicates the issue of the Sharks captaincy in the absence of the rested Pat Lambie and the suspended Bismarck du Plessis.



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