RWC gets down to business

2007-09-27 14:08

JJ Harmse

In a couple of days the Rugby World Cup will be over for 12 teams and most, if not all, would have had numerous highlights.

For the likes of Portugal, playing in their first tournament ever, there surely cannot be any lows. They played with enthusiasm, passion and no real expectation, but made sure they had fun doing so.

In a way, their real battle starts now, as they have to continue the good platform they have established over the last month. Their style of play suits the Portuguese mentality and they should become a top 10/15 side very soon. It is all about the right structures and marketing of the game in their homeland now.

Equally, so were the performances of Georgia and Romania, who showed that regular exposure to higher leagues could benefit them immensely.

The big losers, apart from England, were Samoa.

There was a lot of talk beforehand from the Samoan camp and after their good half hour or so against the Springboks in their opening game, focus shifted to England, rather than Tonga. What a mistake that proved to be.

Suddenly Tonga is the talk of the town, Samoa's failed effort saw them lose a lot of credibility.

Players at the bar

Samoa's coach Michael Jones often talked about the 'Manu Samoa' or "warriors for Samoa", when describing his team, but they missed the boat.

There was talk amongst the French journalists of Samoans players at the bar of their hotel until the early hours of the morning in the week prior to their game against Tonga and the way they played, added substance to the rumour.

Suddenly it was the Tongans who looked liked being rugby warriors, not their Samoan neighbours.

The USA and Canada would certainly also not be happy with their efforts at the tournament. Canada offered so much in their opening game against Wales, leading the hosts for an hour before falling away. They then got a bad TMO call against Fiji, losing out in the last seconds of the game. Hard to believe the same thing could happen to them against Japan a couple of days later, but it did!

Luckily for coach Ric Suggitt the Japan result saw them earn a draw and they will at least return home with some log points. However, for a side that looked possible quarter-finalists, this was a disappointing tournament.

Same with the USA. They promised so much against England and then threw away the game against Tonga through bad options and poor finishing. World rugby need the USA to become the next best thing, but to be honest, it will take another decade or so before that looks possible.

Namibia had their moment of fame against Ireland and then provided France the spark they needed to become contenders again, but they were always going to be up against it in the "Pool of Death".

Namibian coach Hakkies Husselman has called for the so-called minnows to be retained at the World Cup and I cannot agree more.

Second tier

There should perhaps be a change in the structure of the competition, rather than taking teams away from rugby's showpiece.

They can have a second tier competition of eight teams playing amongst each other at the same time as the World Cup, which should have the top 12 sides competing.

One or two quarter-final places should be guaranteed for the two finalists of the second tier competition, with the big 12 playing for six or seven spots in the last eight.

With Tonga, Italy and Fiji still in the hunt for a top eight spot at the moment, one can easily have one of those in the quarter-finals. Such a two-tier World Cup could have the same result, with Fiji, Canada, Tonga or Georgia getting one spot among the likes of South Africa, France, New Zealand and Argentina.

The IRB should also look at the role the qualifying stage plays in determining the pools. Only two of France, Argentina and Ireland could progress from the pool stage, but Wales and Scotland were almost guaranteed a place in the last eight. If we had Ireland in say, Pool B, the face of the competition would have changed considerably.

We are now entering the important phase of the competition. Hopefully we will have four quarter-finals where the winner can be predicted, but not guaranteed. That is the nervous stage of the tournament. Up to now, the smaller teams entertained us. And what fun that was. Long may it continue...

Just a point to ponder. If Frans Steyn did not run 20m to play "peacemaker" between Bakkies Botha and a Tongan player, would we have had the drama surrounding his citing for biting?

The answer is no.

Forget the conspiracy theories against South Africa. If Steyn stayed, the citing officer would not have been in business. Steyn lost his composure and almost paid a silly penalty. Learn from that. No one is out to get us!

  • Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

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    AB praises selfless skipper

    2010-11-21 18:15

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