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.

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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!

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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

what juan smith said…

In March I interviewed Juan Smith for Varsity Cup. One of the greatest South Africans I’ve ever had a pleasure of speaking to. He was friendly, extremely funny and I only crapped at myself once or two times – Hello00 this is thee Juan Smith I was speaking to. 😛

Anyway, this interview was about his time at Shimlas, but 2011 World Cup came up and he beamed with confidence and undoubtedly told me he would be wearing the no.7 jersey for the Boks once again. I have been a fan for a number of years, so when he withdrew himself from the squad I shed a tear. Though many may not admit this is a great loss for PDivvy’s RWC side – this man’s absence will be felt. Yes we have the likes of Willem Alberts and with the right combination- there’s Jean Deysel as a possible go to person, however this will be a tricky task for SARU.

Here’s out chat

Alumni Q&A: Juan Smith

Thursday, 31 March 2011 14:43

The most underrated member of the all-conquering Springbok teams of 2007 and 2009, Juan Smith also happens to be a true-blue Shimla. We spoke to him about university… rugby… and his future.

A crucial member of the 2007 Rugby World Cup squad, Springbok flanker Juan Smith made his international debut for South Africa in June 2003 as a reserve against Scotland.

The following week he was named in the Boks’ starting XV for the second Scottish Test and later played as the Test No.8 during the 2003 Tri-Nations, also going to the World Cup in Australia when the Boks lost in the quarterfinals to New Zealand.

Today, the captain of the Cheetahs’ name is synonymous with South African – and world – rugby, having won 69 caps and been part of Tri-Nations-winning, World Cup-winning and British Lions-conquering Bok squads.
Having played for the Shimlas up until 2002, he is also a big fan of the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International. Currently sidelined with a torn Achilles Tendon, a blow for the Cheetahs and South Africa, we caught up with this former Shimlas to find out how it all began:

(1) Good morning Juan, thank you for taking time to answer these few questions for us. What did you study at Kovsies and why?

“Good morning Kate, only a pleasure. To answer your question – I signed up to do my Bachelor of Education. For me it was the only way I could get into Free State rugby. By no means did I want to be a teacher, but I needed to be a student to get into the rugby system provided by the university. And no I didn’t finish (my studies), because my career with the [then] Cats kicked off, which meant that there wasn’t any more time for studies.”

(2) I was going ask how your class attendance was, but…

“[Laughs] I was never in class I’m afraid! I was always at training if I wasn’t playing. The rare times I was doing none of these activities, I was chilling with my mates at Shimla Park. You could say I was a terrible student [a lot more laughter!].”

(3) Juan, is education not all that important as a professional rugby player?

“Oh no, don’t misunderstand me. Education is very crucial for anybody – a professional rugby player or not. A rugby career lasts for a few years and when that is over it’s important to have something to fall back on. I was fortunate enough to become a Springbok… but not everyone can have that, and even though I didn’t finish my studies I have a farm and butchery. I only have a couple of years of rugby and so my butchery and farm will be my future. I just was never the academic type, but, yes; education is essential.”

(4) When did you decide that rugby would become your profession? Did anyone influence that decision?

“I loved rugby from a young age and had a number of professionals that I looked up to. However, a large part of my decision was influenced by former mentor and University of Free State stalwart, Oom Tat Botha. He encouraged and mentored me; it’s because of him that I made the decisions I made.”

(5) You played in both the 2003 and 2007 Rugby World Cups. Apart from winning the latter, what was the difference between the two campaigns?

“Well, we won the 2007 [much laughter!]. The major differences were the teams. In 2003 we were a bunch of young stars, all new guys that hadn’t played together long. And then in 2004 Jake White selected this team that would later play in 2007 together. That was a crucial thing. By 2007 we had played together for over three years. That made the team stronger as opposed to 2003.”

(6) Tell us about winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup?

“It was unbelievable. It took time to sink in. When the final whistle went we were all just in awe. We knew we had it in us to do it, but that moment it happened it was unbelievable. To be part of the team that achieved that is a highlight of my career. It was quite simply the best experience.”

(7) You have been dubbed as one of the best blindside flankers in the world. What kind of pressure does that put on you?

“It is always nice to be acknowledged like that. Titles like that don’t just come overnight. But I’ve worked hard to be where I am. I’ve always trained hard and always given my best, so to be acknowledged like that makes it all worth it. Yes, the pressure is there because you may not always live up to it, but you work on your game and give it your all each and every chance you get. It’s great to know that when I retire one day I will leave that kind of legacy.”

(8) You are currently injured, missing the rest of Super Rugby, no Currie Cup for you. How are you feeling? Are you worried you might not make your third World Cup?

“It sucks to not be playing of course, and it’s hard to watch from the sidelines, but it is what it is. As for the World Cup, no I’m not worried; not at all. I’ve spoken to coach Peter de Villiers, he says he is happy with the feedback he has been receiving regarding my recovery. So, no; there’s nothing to worry about.”

(9) Back to the Varsity Cup; Shimlas made the semifinals once again, and unfortunately got the beating of their lives from the Ikeys. Did you see this coming (especially seeing as you were there in Cape Town supporting your team!)?

“Not at all. Before that loss I was sure they would go all the way this time. They are a great team; it was difficult to watch them getting hammered like that. Not to take away anything from the Ikeys, they were definitely the team that wanted it most. They played well, utilised all chances from the word go which is what my team failed to do. I am still a proud Shimlas though: watch this team, they have what it takes and only greater things to be expected. Ikeys were just the better team on Monday.”

10) How would you rate the standard of the Varsity Cup for anyone with aspirations to turn professional?

“The Varsity Cup has the quality that most tournaments don’t have. It has become so popular in the last year with great coverage. I’ve watched most of the games and it’s unbelievable exposure for these guys, something we never had. I reckon any club looking for players will definitely look at the Varsity Cup to lure guys. So it’s a great platform for these youngsters to be noticed. I wish we had this. I mean I had a great time at Shimlas, we even won the National Club Champs in 2002, but the Varsity Cup is just on another level – a really great opportunity for up-and-coming pro players.”

by Kate Nokwe


This article is a product of Varsity Cup

absolutey. utterly. gutted.

It was destiny. That the greatest captain in green and gold would reach a milestone that only few in the world could ever boast about. These legends, of course, include SA’s incomparable full-back, none other than the retired Percy Montgomery.

I can vividly recall the week the world joined us, as we made a fuss about Monty’s acquisition.It was a first for SA, and we stood proud, in unity, celebrating the greatest of greats.

No one was as pleased as my pastor, Rev Dave Gernertzky. Monty’s boot became a feature in Sundays sermons for an entire season, his love for Monty knew no bounds.

This was it for Smity, this was the moment we will tell our grandkids about. John Smit. Jake White’s protege, the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning captain; would receive the standing ovation from over 94 000 fans as he reaches one of the greatest accolades in rugby history; his 100th cap.

Only God could have orchestrated this meeting, that Smit would earn his glory on home turf. And more fitting was that this would take place in Soweto, with more history than I dare remember.

That FNB Stadium, worldly know as Soccer City – the stadium that hosted the battle between Spain and Netherlands for the ever contested Soccer World Cup Trophy – would host this phenomenon. It was just meant to be.

I can only imagine the atmosphere at the Smit household the morning of this event. One can only envision what was going through the man of the moment’s head during the captain’s run.

Was he calm? Was anxiety the main factor? Or just plain excitement and pure pride? Did the opposition matter at all or only just the reason why all the attention is on him?

Having gone past old City only two hours before kickoff, the atmosphere was electrifying, only I wasn’t to experience it to its core, Dros Pub it had to be. Dressed in my ‘Body Classique Personalised Bok’ jersey I joined the predominant male species.

As he (Smit) walked in ahead of his mates, I’ve never been prouder. I’ve never seen a nation more proud. This is our boy. This is not only his day, but OUR day too.

As we stood, I swear the balding man across our table’s stained-with-tears-face reflected Smity’s. We raised our beer glasses (ok mine had something else), lumps in throats, there really were no words.

By the end of the first half, it seemed the Boks would (prematurely) hold the Kiwis from claiming 2010 Tri-Nations (Not today Haka boys, Schalla and (Juan) Smith’s play demonstrated such).

Title lost to the Boks, pride was on the way and Smity would get his day with absolutely no hindrance, for it is meant to be.

And then, *sigh* then two minutes remaining, it all went sour, particularly for Smit as he missed an all important tackle that simply crushed an entire nation.

Blackstars’ humiliation at the hands of Suarez surely was not this excruciating. Bafana’s crushed dreams by Uruguay was somehow expected. But this? It couldn’t be! Surely Nigel Owens blew his Welsh whistle a tad bit early.

Someone tell him his watch is wrong! Tell him Smity has paid his dues and he has a legitimate claim! Play on! Somebody! Anybody…?

It was all over. Smity wasn’t to reign (Not today Ole Ole boys, Richie McCaw’s grin seemed to say), like Monty’s 19-0 defeat, they will be no victory.

What was suppose to be the greatest day of his life turned into an ‘I will be disappointment for a long time’ (Smit, at a presser’) Maybe Sharks victory was for their captain, but man, if ever there was an irony…

Pierre Spiers summed up the day with this tweet:

“Not nice but that’s sport…we leave it all on the field. Proud of our boys and well done to the All Blacks. Well done John Smit you legend!”