matfield and co. end sharks reign

Those who play SuperBru will testify that players rarely pick with their head when it comes to their chosen team, more often than not their heart dictates their choices. Having been playing for a good four years, I can count with 7 (at most) fingers how many times my vote has gone against the Bulls – (New Zealand tours are usually uncooperative). Continue reading

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glimmer of hope for bulls

It seems to be a recurring theme; every year the first few weeks of Super Rugby rarely ever make for a comforting playoffs outlook for South African conferences, particularly for the Bulls, however Round Four, as with one previous may just dispel this curse.

JLP -Bulls
Flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter scored 21 points as the Pretoria outfit ran out 38-22 winners over the Auckland Blues on Saturday. Continue reading

rugby more exciting with #VodacomRugbyStats

One of the most exciting things about sport is the stats analysis of a game. As sport fans we like to look at our teams’ (and individual) performances from all possible aspects. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to get the information, and when we do get it, it’s usually not when we need it!
Continue reading

blitzbokke struts the runway

Their larger than life persona often gives the impression that most pro-athletes are ‘out of reach’. They don’t breathe the same air we do, nor cry to the same soppy movies the rest of us do.

Any day this myth is busted, it’s often received with more appreciation than the athletes expect. And whenever a Springbok Continue reading

we will never know

I was 15 years-old when I realised I was better suited to play Shortstopper than Pitcher.  This was not because I couldn’t pitch.  On the contrary under-16 (or 18) provincial was already on the cards.   However two years of bad technique had finally taken its toll on my young shoulder and my vision of myself making it as a Pitcher heavily rested on that.

promising arm..

promising arm..

Back up a bit;

Way before dirt was invented; a very young Kate reckoned – given a shot – she could make it as professional baseball player, in South Africa (nogal). I know. I know. As you can see that did not happen; injury and other factors killed that dream before you could say ‘S-A-F-E’.

So, back to that pivotal day when I switched positions;

It all started in the second inning of our second game, where a victory would more than guarantee us a semi-final of a ‘big tournament’.  However, it was at this untimely moment that my shoulder gave in and coach forced the switch that was to change the direction of my career. I moved from first to the 6th position.

It was a game where our opponents were the favourites, and the most successful team of the tournament. A draw would not be our demise, but a loss would have us playing the “if so and so lose, and then we could…” No sportsman likes that game, not even a 15 year-old.

As the newbies of the event we were in way over our heads. And therefore needed something special to gain the upper hand. We our chances and hopes depended on dismissing three experienced 17 year-old provincial players would be key:  the first two gave us trouble, but the third helped us complete our most successful double play.

Backed into a corner of a full house (three balls and two strikes), she had to take the shot; and she did. A brilliant catch from first base sent her packing; from shot stopper I got my foot on third base, taking out the most lethal player on the pitch.  But our premature celebrations were cut short as the umpire screamed ‘safe’.

That was a game changer in more ways than one; ironically that’s the day Border Province selectors finally made that call. But not before we lost the game and umpire had the last say.

Despite what players, coaches or spectators may say at any given time or game, there is only one final opinion that can sway any game, which is exactly what the Springbok’s head coach, Heyneke Meyer boldly proclaimed following the Boks 15-29 loss to the All Blacks on Saturday:

“The ref is always right…..  If you start making excuses for your team then they start to make excuses. There were a lot of things that weren’t good enough even when we had 15 men on the field”.

In the short space of time that he has been in charge of our favourite sporting heroes, what have we learnt about Meyer? He’s a gentleman who refuses to take credit for anything.

Without fail, he will quietly shift any praise to the next man; and will not let another person take criticism when he can ‘gladly’ accept it, just as he did when commenting on Saturday’s game.

In what promised to the greatest contest of our time – the top two nations, fought with more heart and passion than ever seen before. One looking to end a 76 year-old monkey; the other doing whatever it took to keep the status quo unchanged.

However, the former fell victim to human arrogance, when in the 17thminute Bismarck du Plessis’ perfect tackle on Dan Carter denied spectators any hope of witnessing history, with the referees citing:  no arms. If it weren’t so dire, it’d be laughable.

A game changer – in more ways than one.

Since the incident, I’ve come across conflicting reports. The ‘loudest’ being the” Kiwis were the better side, anyway. And they were guaranteed a victory.’

From where I was sitting, I beg to differ. The SAffers’ dominating physicality could not be matched; at breakdowns they were supreme and the scrum contest was one way – Boks’ way.

The ‘victim’ tweeted “Nothing wrong with the tackle. Fell awkwardly and popped my AC joint which I’m pretty gutted about but proud of the boys getting the win” – Dan Carter.

IRB have since conceded defeat and admitted Romain Poite’s decision to issue the first yellow card to Bissie was incorrect.Their statement read “Just as players and coaches make mistakes, the decision was an unfortunate case of human error by the match officials, who, having reviewed the match, fully recognise and accept that they made a mistake in the application of law.”

In addition SANZAR has removed a red card from the disciplinary record of the hooker. This helps no one, let alone the Boks.

If anything, these outcomes show that the rugby body needs to evaluate how the same set of rules does not apply to everyone.

For way too long Ma’a Nonu has gotten away with rugby murder. And Saturday was no different. He received a slap on the wrist for shoulder charge on Captain Jean de Villers.

Unfortunately this human error is within the confines of this magnificent game, only.  In 2010 World Cup Fifa President Sepp Blatter had to apologise to the Football Association over Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal in England’s World Cup defeat by Germany.

Just like my legitimate but unaccredited removal of that youngster in my little league game, Lampard’s disallowed goal shifted momentum and had a fundamental effect on how the game ended, much in the same way that Bismark’s legitimate tackle was not only unacknowledged but unfairly judged.

Although my baseball team made it to the semi-finals by the skin of our teeth, unfortunately that disallowed goal forever altered England’s chances and they crashed out of the World Cup.

That is the sad outcome of these unjust judgements; it is not just the decision taken in that particular game, but rather the ramifications of the decision in terms of the overall tournament, as witnessed by our rugby squad on the weekend.

Forget history not being on our men in green and gold’s side.  Even World Rankings should not be taken into account. If ever there was a side to break this record, it was that outfit on Saturday.  But the point is that now we will never know for sure.

Nick Mallet summed it up accurately with his words, saying “this is an utter disgrace”. And unfortunately this is true when unfair judgements turn a game on its head. Like the umpire in my youth, Poite, despite his added advantage of having all the technology at his disposal, put the final nail in the historical Bok coffin, making an irreversible error in a decision that changed the outcome of a game which held the potential to make history.

We will just never know.

beginning of an error

Sport, like life should be simple. There are rules and we play by these rules, achieving outcomes based on our abilities, playing the game fair and square. See what I mean?  Simple. But perhaps that is just my naive way of looking at things.

After all, where humans are involved, there is room (sometimes too much room at that) for human error and even more room when it comes to bending the rules to achieve an outcome which does not wholly reflect the true situation.

And this was never more so than the situation between Golden Lions and Southern Kings.

Admittedly, the Lions were dealt with a rather unfortunate card. And with tails between their legs, they walked a rather embarrassing journey to collect an elusive ‘fair card’. It was never going to be pretty.

All because someone at decision making level screwed up, royally. There’s no getting around that. If job appraisal depended on this situation alone, then SARU should be without an NB member, end of the year plan.

What we we’ve learned is one valuable thing, there’s no accountability from our leaders. Ones who promised the Eastern Cape body a three-year deal, then turned around and withdrew that card, like it was never in play, without considering the obvious implications.

Trending on my Twitter timeline, minutes after the hooter on Lions’ 23-18 loss to Kings, #EarnedNotBought, obviously Johannesburg based franchise fans know something we don’t.

Lions Back

It is not the obnoxious manner in which they created and easily played this tag that makes me shake my head, but rather the lack of grasp of what relegating the Kings really means for South Africa.

Sure, our rugby will survive a couple of seasons, however the global image is forever tarnished and that’s not even the most significant part. The greater tragedy is the implications for a country that has come this far in terms of any form of development.

SA’s most successful Super Rugby franchise – Blue Bulls – average a 29 000 in crowd attendance this whole season. Stormers the greatest carriers with 33 000 in numbers, while Sharks did not even get above 19 000. At 31 500, Australia’s Reds just nick the Kings troops by 500. A telling picture.

Sure the Lions have reclaimed their Super Rugby status, because they, well, earned it. Never mind losing at home to a team that came last in this year’s competition.

Considering the amount of players gone to greener pastures, this factor gives a clear indication of where they’ll end up, come 2014. Yet you have the loud roar of “yes we are better”. Of course you are, despite tying the series one piece a side.

Let’s face it; the Eastern Cape franchise was doomed from the start. They were brought into the highest level of rugby in our generation prematurely, an aspect fully accredited to that accountability factor I mentioned earlier.

Kings Exit

This current plan is worse than putting a wound on a broken leg and being given marching orders (literally). Lions will not escape unscathed. Whether they’ll admit it or not, they are in the same position the Kings were in only months ago. Only they have ‘experience’ to worsen the matters. We wait…

A good mate of mine asked; “Kate, you support the Bulls, so why the fuss?”

The point is I’m an Eastern Cape child first, before a rugby fan. Choose to see that however you choose. I do hope you do not misunderstand though.

I came across a Tweet from someone who seems to get it; reason known to him, he deleted the post and for that alone I shan’t mention his name.

This must be the saddest day in SA rugby history – I played during apartheid, this is nothing compared to that” (sic)

As a late 80s kid, I will not profess to have lived through the dark times of this country. So what is he trying to say?

I enlisted the help of someone who could possible phrase this better than any 140-characters-limited post:

“As disappointing as it is to have your provincial team knocked out of the Super Rugby competition, the slight positive side is knowing that the team demonstrated that the region does belong in this competition.”

“The Kings were seldom overwhelmed by the task of playing among the elite provincial unions in the Southern Hemisphere. In fact, they played as if they had long been in those echelons. Hardly has a team made a better debut in Super Rugby than the Kings, not even the Western Force (2006) and the Rebels (2011) had better introductions to this level.”

“Yet here we are, and here are the Kings out of Super Rugby – a glimmer of hope of playing Super Rugby has been dimmed for an Eastern Cape child that is being nursed at an Eastern Cape rugby academy.”

“As a product of the EC, I weep for that child”Sbu Mjikeliso Avusa Media Sport Journalist.

The Lions may have won the promotion-relegation 2013 fight, but the truth, in this situation, there’s no winner…

Just a beginning of long repercussions from a bad error.

you have gone too far

England Rugby players should be safely tucked up in their comfortable beds by now, following a brutal Three-Test series in South Africa, which like all test series ended with its casualties on both sides.

A day after the Baby Boks were crowned World Junior Champions, cementing a bright future of SA rugby, our senior chargers walked on that wet floor, slipped.

With a 2-0 series victory over England, the third in PE on Saturday was a mere technicality. Only it was not. Stuart Lancaster’s men needed redemption. Heyneke Meyer needed validation. Certain players needed recognition – a recipe which was to make this match a tougher challenge than anticipated.

That still doesn’t justify sharing a 14 all spoils, which may be acceptable when certain English football clubs face each other; that can never fly when the Boks face anyone. Least of all the Poms. Yet, here we are….

winning boot

winning boot

When the stuff that hits the fan, hits the fan, we are a country that will not be satisfied until we find a reason for the cause and even better if we can single out a single culprit: enter Morne Steyn.

Usually the darling of South African crowds, Steyn was booed by some spectators at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium after a second-half drop-goal effort drifted wide.

Avusa Media Sport Writer Sbu Mjikeliso tweeted ‘#MorneSteyn deserves a lot of things (death, torture, getting dropped from the squad), but not getting booed by South Africans’. While Sbu has propensity for the dramatic, he makes a valid point: we have gone too far.

I have witnessed this ethos at Coca-Cola Park, home of the Golden Lions Rugby Union. My commitment to go to as many (Lions) home games as possible has become a regrettable vow each time an opposing kicker steps up.

Lions’ supporters (apologies to the few that don’t fit this coming description) in my opinion have very little sportsmanship. And the biggest disappointment of all is the Union Management’s somewhat ‘encouragement’ of this behaviour.

Without fail when Elton Jantjies or Jaco Taute take their kicking duties, spectators are reminded to be silent, while Brumbies’ Christian Leafliifano didn’t stand a chance. Neither did Beauden Barrett or any other number 10.

I have never been to Newlands, but I am told the crowd there is no better. In fact 20 year-old Ihaia West, a (young) Kiwi fell victim to this treatment only on Friday during their finals against South Africa. Despicable!

The Poms avoided a whitewash simply because the Boks were utterly poor. There is no getting around that. They made poor decisions, failed to execute well-grounded advantage. Saw the 9m mark a number of times only to be turned-over. Desperate and simply dire circumstances, with Steyn even worse than Jerome Boateng of Germany against Greece.

Having missed 12 of 22 kicks at goal and several drop-goal attempts during this series has undoubtedly given Meyer enough headaches. I shall not add to that.

Meanwhile, at 27:

• Fastest 100 points by a Springbok (8 Test matches, 3 as a replacement)
• Fastest 200 points by a Springbok (16 Test matches),
• Fastest 300 points by a Springbok (24 Test matches),
• Fastest 400 points by a Springbok (33 Test matches),
• Most drop-goals in a Super Rugby season (11),
• Most points scored against the All Blacks for a Springbok (31),
• Most points in a Tri Nations match (31),
• Most drop goals in a Super Rugby game (4) (in the 2009 Super 14 semi-final against the Crusaders),
• Most drop goals in Super Rugby (22),
• Most drop goals in a Super Rugby season (11 in 2009),
• Most penalties in a Super Rugby season (51 in 2010),
• Most points in a Super Rugby season (263) – Beating Dan Carter’s record of 221 set in 2006,
• Most points by a Bulls player in Super Rugby history (1,157),
• Most points by a South African and first South African to reach 1,000 points in Super Rugby (1,157),

These do not exonerate Steyn, just a reminder of who’s head you’re a calling for. While you may be inclined to say ‘drop him’, he has a number of times settled the arguments of who should wear the No. 10 jersey.

Sure, maybe this time, it should be re-opened. Patrick Lambie? Considering HM’s style he is well suited at 15, then there’s Peter Grant, Johan Goosen and even Elton Jantjies. This however is why you and I are not the coach.

Don’t get me wrong I do believe something needs to be done, maybe not as drastic as Sbu’s suggestion, but booing him is not the answer. No man or woman in green and gold should ever be subjected to such utterances by their fellow country man. This has gone long enough.

Once golden boy Bryan Habana was the recipient of such, with many putting pressure on those in charged to get rid of him, not so long ago. How soon we forget, because Habs seems to be on his way back to that sparkly status.

Funny, how the stalwart is on the receiving end of this again. I’m sure he hoped he’d gone past it, for he responded in the best fashionable way (last time); came back to win a game for the Boks against the All Blacks. This too was in PE.

Now there’s got to be a word for that.

valentine’s day… lief blou bulle

I have always been that person who, when I show support to any team I associate myself with, I try to do it in what I call the ‘correct way’. As mentioned sometime before; I do raise a brow or so when I see someone at the stands in an ‘incorrect’ clothing.

What this means is; over the years – apart from a couple (or more) of Bafana Bafana, Proteas, Boks, etc jerseys I own – I have bought (at least) one Warriors Cricket top; my affiliation with Kaizer Chiefs means I’ve been seen in black and gold colours. I watched Liverpool’s not so pleasant meeting at Old Trafford, with Manchester United this past weekend in my Red’s top. Vodacom’s change of colours in 2011 meant I became the owner of yet another Blue Bulls strip.

During my University years, each Month I saw different looks from my friends who had the money and time to change their hair styles. While Adidas, Nike, Puma, Totalsport and (or) sportsman’s warehouse saw my hard-earned Rands. Of course they would dub me ‘silly’ ‘money waster’, and I’d just point to their heads. Its is an ‘argument’ of different strokes I happily won… many times.

2012 Super Rugby tournament kicks-off in just under two weeks. To say I’m excited and could run naked during a storm would be an understatement. (Thank goodness there’s Varsity Cup in the meantime – new orange shirt). New season. New jersey. While I’m going over my budget, trying to decide what I’ll have to go without next Month, so I can get the new Bulls jersey; this makes its way onto my communication channels.

happy valentine’s day

Accompanied by this press release:

Puma show love for the Vodacom Bulls by launching new away shirt on Valentines day
14 February 2012

PUMA® has unveiled a dramatic new Away kit that the Vodacom Bulls rugby team will sport in the Vodacom Super Rugby 2012 competition. The striking colour marks a significant image shift for the Vodacom Bulls and is inspired by the purple Jacaranda trees that characterise their hometown Pretoria.

Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies says: “PUMA have certainly changed the pace since their arrival at the Bulls and the team feels that our Away jersey, a complete contrast from our traditional kit, is a great way to celebrate a new partnership.”

The Away shirt, as with the home shirt launched in December 2011, has a dramatic “smash” design inspired by the phrase “bull in a china shop” and expresses the Vodacom Bulls’ powerful playing style. The complexity of the design, which combines a chevron-like effect, is designed to distract opposition players.

PUMA South Africa’s Marketing Director Brett Bellinger says: “In designing the new Away shirt PUMA wanted to create a statement on the field, so we have opted for a striking colourway inspired by the purple Jacaranda trees that are synonymous with Pretoria.”

PUMA has a long-term deal to supply full technical kit to both the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Vodacom Bulls rugby teams, and is the official distributor of the teams’ match replica gear.

The Vodacom Super Rugby replica away shirt will be available from 24 February 2012 and will retail for R599

In all honesty, I don’t know how any self-appreciating fan is supposed to feel about this. At least I don’t.

now that’s how you put your foot in it

There’s never a dull moment where the South African rugby family is concerned. Family – now that’s interesting word. With all the squabbles, and, and… Anyway, following the Boks’ exit out of the Rugby World Cup last year meant that Peter de Villiers’ days were just about done. We’ve loudly said ‘and rightly so’ to that.

images

With Gert Smal out of the race, last week saw ‘rumours’ of Heyneke Meyer being the ‘only’ available candidate surface. Pundits dubbing him the only name even worth mentioning. In fact, come this Friday SARU were (expected) to unveil the man at the helm of the Blue Bulls franchise to be taking the reins from P Divvy.

Other sports have succeeded in drawing attention as expected.

The ever continuous cricketing debate on whether Graeme Smith deserves a spot in the ODI outfit, and more so after his 125 knock on Sunday, gave one lot to blog about.

I have never made secrete that I am quite fond of Smith. Someone once called me the ‘president’ of the Biff fan club; and so this is one debate I chose not to get involved in, as I didn’t trust my objectivity.

Football was also up there, creating detractions, despite that it wasn’t a particularly good weekend in the football front either, as complacent Liverpool failed to go past Bolton. How the Reds could fancy a Champion’s League spot when we concede three goals to a team on relegation doors is beyond me? It is still a long way to go, but I for one am concerned. The ‘axe Kenny’ notions just about added to the misery.

Yes, football and cricketing challenges are a given; but who could’ve thought the Pretoria giants would be giving me something to blog about long before the season starts?

One of the many things we see in this industry is what we call ‘an epic’ fail. And my beloved Bulls have succumbed to this fate. At least their PR department has, with the release of an official statement on the issue of Heyneke Meyer and the Bok coaching job.

Statement reads:

“At a meeting called by SARU, on Tuesday, 24 January 2012, with the Blue Bulls Company’s Board of Directors, SARU informed the Blue Bulls Board of their intention to offer Heyneke Meyer the position of National Coach.
The Blue Bulls Board reiterated their position that Meyer is under contract with the Blue Bulls Company and had appointed Meyer as Executive Rugby, only after an undertaking and commitment by Meyer to lead Blue Bulls rugby over the next four years.

It is the Blue Bulls Board’s position that it would not be in the Blue Bulls interest to release Meyer after many resources and commitments have been made in order to enable Meyer to fulfill his mandate.
Should Meyer however decide to accept the position of National Coach, he needs to inform the Blue Bulls Board of his decision to abdicate his responsibilities and commitments to the Blue Bulls.

Although the Blue Bulls Board would be disappointed with such a decision by Meyer, the Board has faith in the coaching structures under the leadership of Frans Ludeke in taking the Bulls into the future.”

Now that’s what you call a Bulls Eye! That cat is out of the bag, so what could Oregan Hoskins be hoping to tell the world on Friday?

Imagine this tweet foretelling Friday’s main course: “Wouldn’t it be funny if Friday’s SARU press conference comes around and a beaming P Divvy walks in as says he is staying on?” courtesy of @BrookeBack13

I had (high) hopes that this season’s new kit would be the only thing that would prompt the words ’embarrassing’ from the Bulls;

And that folks is a lesson on how you rightly put your foot in it!

irb gets it right in craig joubert


The word’ ‘gutted’ will forever be an understatement when one thinks of the Boks bowing out of the 2011 Rugby World, following that ‘lack of balls’ defeat at the hands of the Wallabies.

Many may have felt something similar when the Proteas failed to take down the Black Caps earlier, but this day reminded me of 1999 when one Alan Donald dropped his bat and forgot how to run…altogether. The look of disbelief on Victor Matfield’s face vaguely reflected Lance Klusners that fateful night in England.

Like many SAffers, hearing the news that our very own Craig Joubert will take charge of the final contest between New Zealand and France excites me (God knows the last thing the game needs is the likes of Bryce Lawrence). Provided we don’t ‘pretend’ this is a Boks final, like we did Proteas when Gary Kirsten led India to gold.

My last work for Varsity Cup was one of my favourite interviews I’ve ever conducted, a chat with – yes, you’ve guessed correct – Craig Joubert, before he was to jet off to New Zealand. I didn’t know anything about him, apart from what was online, therefore; didn’t know what to expect. However, by the time he put down his phone I had dubbed him ‘the favourite’

Here’s ‘Whistling while he works’

its in the rule book mate

Craig Joubert is a name extremely familiar in world rugby. This professional rugby union referee initially spent five years in corporate banking, following his graduation in Business Finance. He holds a B.Com and Honours degree in the financial field, completed at UKZN, but – of course – it’s all about refereeing for him at present.

The 33-year-old has an incredible record: he was a touch judge at RWC 2007, he has handled over 20 Tests – including the Tri- and Six Nations – and he will be at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later this year.
Last year was a memorable rugby season for him, having been handed the double – reffing the Super Rugby and Currie Cup Finals in one season.

varsitycup.co.za caught up with the former UKZN student to chat about Soweto, Jonathan Kaplan, time-zones and, as one would imagine, all things rugby:

(1) Good day, Craig. A huge thank you for taking time out of your super busy schedule. To kick things off, please tell us about your time at UKZN?

“Good afternoon Kate, only a pleasure. Well, after being schooled at Maritzburg College I went to UKZN with mates. What I can tell you is, like most students, I had a helluva ‘jol’! The typical varsity stuff. Last-minute work… while the social life was taking the major priority. I mean, I passed and did my work; but that was all in between having a great time.”

(2) [Ha, ha ha.] Yeah, that sounds awfully familiar. When did you decide you wanted to officiate full-time? Did anyone influence that decision?

“My late dad was a referee actually, and that was the main influence. I started officiating at school through him. Then I went to Maritzburg College, as you know, a highly sport-oriented institution and they gave me the freedom and opportunity to continue with this passion. The teachers there were very supportive. I would travel overseas often and they would arrange make-up tests for me, ensuring I wasn’t behind on any work. From then on I never looked back. I went to the bank for years before going pro, but I started international games in 2003, doing Super Rugby, then Super 12.”

(3) So what does the life of a world-class referee entail?

World-class, huh? [More laughter.] Traveling, traveling… and more traveling. It’s managing the travels. I do travel a lot. I’m in Europe about three times a year. Australia and New Zealand two to four-times, maybe Argentina once or so. It’s the best and the most challenging tasks in my line of work. The different cross-zones often mean early travels. It’s great to be involved in the game, but I’m hardly ever home and that’s difficult.”

(4) You were in charge of the Bulls-Stormers Super 14 Final in Soweto last year. What did you take out of that game? And how big was it for our country?

“It’s, by far, one of the highlights of my career. For so many reasons… It was my first Super Rugby Final (of course), but also an historic event that involved two SA teams, which meant that the whole country was involved. The atmosphere was something else: vuvuzelas blaring the entire 80 minutes, something most of us never experience. It was noisy, communication with the captains was a challenge at time, but man was it special! It was also a reminder of what Nelson Mandela did, allowing the country to embrace rugby. People who have never been and probably would never go to Soweto… lives were changed. That game meant greater things for SA!”

(5) You are one of the three SA officials to be invited to this year’s IRB World Cup, who was the first person that you told of this news? And what about your relationship with fellow RWC ref Jonathan Kaplan?

“I was in Oz [Super Rugby duties] and my wife, who never travels with me, was there. So it was really special to share that with her. On Jonathan, we’ve been good mates over the years. When I started he was here in Durban and he became a mentor of mine.”

(6) Coming back to more local rugby. Briefly give us your overall views of the Varsity Cup competition… how big is it for South African rugby?

“It’s definitely a magnificent tournament. I work closely with guys, mentoring the officials. It’s a great platform for the youngsters, an opportunity to get out there. And this is evident in the number of these lads in Super Rugby and Currie Cup already. It is a great platform not only for the players, as we also use it to recruit officials. I love the different initiatives, like the Pinks Shorts campaign. It embraced the student vibe with the Monday Nigh Lights advantage. The universities have embraced it; it’s well-supported and looks great on TV.”

(7) For the first time this year a first division – the Varsity Shield – was introduced. Do you think such tournaments should have more than one division?

“I think teams like UKZN would’ve looked at the Varsity Cup some time ago and thought, ‘Hey that looks great! Geez, I’d love to be there, participating.’ The Shield provides this opportunity. It means more teams will get into it, putting pressure on the main tournament as they strive to get there. This will ensure growth in the Varsity Cup as a whole.”


(8) What are FNB UKZN’s chances of making it into the Varsity Cup (proper)?

“I would like to believe they’ll get there soon. If you look at the great players produced by the varsity, there’s a great chance. The university may not be as big on rugby as say Cape Town (with UCT and Maties), but they definitely have the resources to foster progress into the premier division.”

(9) Teams like FNB Tuks, FNB UJ, etc have shown they have what it takes to go all the way. What does this mean for powerhouses like Maties and Ikeys – the only two winners thus far?

“It’s great for the contest. Each year a new team steps up. This is great because it has that element of surprise; you never know what’s going to happen, who’s going to lead the pack. It benefits the so-called ‘powerhouses’ too. Their players move onto Stormers/WP rugby, which means that they get an opportunity to groom more youngsters, which introduces new talent into the game.”

(10) Thank you Craig, I have taken enough of your time, but I can’t let you go before I know what do you miss most about your UKZN days?

“That’s easy. On a sunny day you would have a choice between a golf course and a boring finance class. [Laughter from both ends.] No really, during your varsity days, you are only just starting out; the only responsibility is doing enough work to pass. I miss that flexibility and time spent with my mates – just dreaming, with no cares in the world. I have great memories of those days, although these days I get to enjoy the privilege of living my dreams and creating great memories on the rugby field.”

By Kate Nokwe: a product of Varsity Cup