Go easy on praising Eddie

2007-09-20 14:38

JJ Harmse

What a powerful thing the mind is. Especially in sports and even more so at the very highest level, such as the Rugby World Cup.

We have had numerous instances where the minds and mindset of a team have upset the applecart and changed the way people perceive things.

How weak were Italy's minds when they played the All Blacks, for example. They were scared stiff for those first 20, 30 minutes of the game and when they recovered from the "shock" that the Kiwis were human beings as well, it was way too late for them to recover from a hiding to nothing.

They did finish stronger than they started, because their professional training kicked in and they could apply some body to the mind that was growing stronger.

The Portuguese on the other hand, charged into the All Blacks like a team with nothing to lose. Because they were never going to win the game, they embraced the challenge in the true amateur spirit of giving it a go and having fun at the same time.

They were out of it after an hour, but only because their bodies were going up in smoke. No frailties of the mind though and despite giving away in excess of 100 points, they walked off that field a much better side.

Destroying the tournament

It seems that some individuals at the World Cup have lost their minds as well.

I am talking about the citing officers in week one of the competition who seemed hell bent on destroying the tournament by handing down some silly citings and penalties to offending players.

Week two saw almost nothing as they went back into their shells, probably stung by the outcry by rugby folk from all over about their crackdown on foul play.

Week two saw referees applying (or not) their minds, probably also in reaction to the citings of week one.

Suddenly we saw red cards, yellow cards and a much-improved performance by touch judges. Although they still missed a lot of off the ball stuff, there was a far greater urgency by the officials to take responsibility on the field.

I thought Canada were hard done by when our own Craig Joubert was TMO in their game against Fiji, disallowing a try, but suddenly it was the referees who were deemed being too harsh and the citing officials too soft.

It all depends of course which side of the coin your team is.

When Schalk Burger was cited, we were all up in arms about the injustice. When Gareth Thomas floored Wallaby Berrick Barnes with a late, no arms shoulder, we were just muttering.

"I don't buy that"

Same with the Bok team and their two excellent wins over Samoa and England. Suddenly we were seeing things what we were told we should see. Like the influence of Eddie Jones on the performances of the Boks. And because we were told that it was there for anyone to see, we started to believe it was happening.

I am sorry, but I don't buy that.

Anyone who believes Fourie du Preez played the game of his life because Eddie Jones has influenced him to greater things, please think again.

I will accept that the input of Jones into the tactical strategy of the Springboks has helped them, but having watched Du Preez in more than 50 Super Rugby games, almost as many in Currie Cup and around 20 Test matches live, I saw nothing different than before in the way the Bulls player dominated the game.

Only the stage he performed on was different, the performance not.

Why was he voted Player of the Year in 2006? Because he was the best player in the country, that's why. Du Preez himself felt humbled by the accolade, but felt that he actually played better rugby in 2005.

So in his own mind 2005 was a great year, according to the rugby scribes 2006 was his best. And when he delivers a performance of class in 2007, suddenly we all act surprised? Come on, he has been playing like this for a long time now.

Somehow coach Jake White found it hard to acknowledge the performance by his No 9. He was quick to point out that his forwards laid the foundation, that Jones has had an input etc.

Every French journalist at the game jumped up and down about his performance and one English rugby writer went so far as too describe his performance as the greatest piece of scrumhalf play ever.

Yet, our own coach was reluctant to praise his player. I wonder why?

Official match stats

I also read about the impact Jones had on Butch James. I agree that James had a solid game against the English, but the fact of the matter was that he was sidelined for most of the time.

According to the official match stats, James only received the ball 12 times of which he kicked eight and passed four. That from 49% possession. Mike Catt, from 51% possession, handled the ball 33 times of which he passed 19, kicked nine and ran five times.

Clearly there was a big difference in the way England's flyhalf was expected to perform and how James was expected to perform.

However, if doing less, means doing more, then I need to apply my mind!

  • Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

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