Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tri-Nations House of Pain

The Tri-Nations gets ratcheted-up this Saturday for the 2nd test between the All Blacks and Springboks at Dunedin. The past week has been a South African whinge-fest on the heels of the latest "spear-tackle" controversy, and finger-pointing about referees' leniency toward the All Blacks, and New Zealand's imaginary scrum skullduggery.

The larger South African narrative this past week has declared that Springbok skipper John Smit suffered a "groin injury" after he "he was spear tackled by Brad Thorn."


For one, it wasn't a spear tackle. Thorn didn't lift up Smit vertically and drive or corkscrew Smit's head into the ground. He lifted him up and carelessly dropped Smit onto his back. It deserved a yellow-card.

Secondly, Smit wasn't injured from the knock. Like an overweight waddling Energizer Bunny, Smit kept going for another 30 minutes. It wasn't his groin that was troubling him so much, it was the stress placed on his lungs from carrying so much extra lard into a contest played under the new ELVs. Smit and the Bok pack were monstered in the scrum by a very inexperienced kiwi scrummage. I cannot ever remember seeing a Bok scrummage so ruthlessly obliterated. Given the pride they take in their jersey, and the scrummage in particular, and carrying the title of World Cup Champions, must've been humiliating.

Which leads to the even-more embarrassing cry-baby routine. Being a crybaby brings with it certain shame, but nobody said the squeaky wheel doesn't get the grease.

Smit came into the test match physically unprepared, looking in the sort of shape that makes Pop 'N' Fresh and Private Pyle from "Full Metal Jacket" look like American Gladiators. Fatboy got creamed in the scrums, then blames his injury on Thorn. A very convenient excuse and scapegoat for the Bok skipper, who looked like his match preparation playing in the northen hemisphere was a steady diet of chip-butties, donuts and bacon fat.

Sadly, too many rugby journos -- stenographers that most of 'em are -- have gleefully deep-throated, swallowed and regurgitated this farce whole, as if it were a papal decree.

Get over it already Champs, you are well and truly embarrassing the legacy of the green jumper.

Sadly, Brad Thorn misses the test match, serving out a week suspension for upending Smit.


Richard Loe:

My man of the match was Brad Thorn. I thought he typified the spirit the All Blacks took into this match and the ferocity with which they took up the ball, the tackles they made and the crunch they hit the breakdowns with.

Thorn wasn't standing for any nonsense from anyone and I thought he was tops.

Sean Fitzpatrick:

Brad was a real Thorn in Springboks' side

[...] I couldn't argue with selection - that was the All Black team I would have picked had I been the chief selector and that highlights the depth issue we have discussed before. I was worried about whether several individuals would step up in the heightened intensity and pressure of a test against the Boks.

But they did and I have to congratulate players like Brad Thorn, Jerome Kaino, Ma'a Nonu and Adam Thomson on how they handled themselves at this level. In the tough conditions and the enormous intensity and pace of that match, I thought they all did very well.

Thorn would probably be the pick of them. I wondered if he'd struggle in this match but I think the conditions suited him. He brought probably the most physical approach to a very physical game and he rocked the Boks back on their heels a bit.

Grant Fox:

We had many top performers.

Two in particular would have warmed the heart of Pinetree Meads.

Brad Thorn was ruthlessly efficient. He and Adam Thomson are old-style All Black forwards in mentality.

Check all the links top-right for all the explosive previews and match reviews.

Yours truly will be away for two weeks and should return by the first week in August. Stay well.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Iron Mike Sharpe of international rugby

Player profile: Victor Matfield, Springbok

Always dangerous, the outstanding Springbok lock Victor Matfield surely rates as the "Iron" Mike Sharpe of world rugby.

Sharpe became a regular of World Wrestling Federation (WWF) programming throughout the mid-1980s and early 1990s. [He] distinguished by his near-constant yelling and grunting throughout a match, as well as a mysterious black band on his right forearm, supposedly protecting an injury but more widely believed to contain a foreign object. Though occasionally defeating jobbers after smashing them with said forearm, Sharpe never held a single title for the promotion and is largely regarded to have himself been a jobber to rising stars of the then-WWF. Despite this, Sharpe was involved in his share of memorable moments...

Source: wikipedia.

Iron Mike Sharpe
REAL NAME: Mike Sharpe
BORN: Hamilton, Ontario
6'4", 275 pounds

Iron Mike Sharpe. The name alone brings up an image of a black forearm band and a lot of yelling.

Under the management of Captain Lou Albano, Sharpe fought his way up, though some may credit his mysterious black armband.

A Wrestling News article on Sharpe described the force of his forearm smashes during a match against Tony Garea.

"Garea was stung by a rain of heavy forearm smashes, delivered by the arm on which Iron Mike wears a strapped contraption of sorts. Many times over it has been alleged that what makes Sharpe's 'hammer' the most lethal in wrestling is that in this band of his he has secreted some kind of foreign object. That's what they say. But, because no one has ever succeeded in removing it from his arm, these allegations remain unproven."

Mike was a middle card tough guy who often was used by McMahon as a stepping stone for future contenders of the WWF championships. He wore a leather band on his arm that extended from wrist to elbow. Although it was made of nothing more than thin black leather, once nailed with an ordinary forearm smash, Sharpe's opponents senselessly collapsed to defeat. Iron Mike also slid weapons under his armband which he used when in trouble, concocting more controversy than his harmless gimmick ever deserved. He squashed lesser opponents on television only to be thrashed by up and comers at live events in Philadelphia and all of the major venues throughout the WWF territory. Once getting past Sharpe, the wrestler who was receiving the push gained credibility en route to presenting himself worthy of a title shot.

When his career had petered out, Sharpe turned his attention to teaching, and opened Iron Mike Sharpe's School of Pro-Wrestling in Asbury Park, NJ.

Crowbar (Chris Ford) was one of his students, and recalled the experience: "Iron Mike Sharpe was a funny guy. He showed me the basics, but I'd be lying if I told you Mike Sharpe showed me how to do a Moonsault. He was a lot of fun. Even though he was never a top guy in the WWF, I always enjoyed watching him, he was always entertaining and, as you know, vocal (laughs), very loud, always screaming and yelling. He had that patented leather forearm thing. Even though he wasn't a top guy I always enjoyed watching him."

Source: Canoe.

Comment --

I recall at a live WWF event held in Kitchener in the late 1980's. A group of us had seats above the entrance that the wrestlers used to enter the ring. When Iron Mike walked down the aisle towards the ring, we rose up out of our seats, wearing black forearm bands, making loud "Iron Mike" noises.

Iron Mike (the man was huge by the way), stopped, looked up at us and grinned. it was priceless. He subsequently lost to Hillbilly Jim that evening.....

Dean Berkers, Mount Forest Ont.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tri-Nations Hell in a Cell

International rugby gets a shot of adrenaline this Saturday morning with the start of the Tri-Nations championships.

NZ going for fourth successive title

New Zealand Herald

One team coming off World Cup glory and two with points to prove after freezing on rugby's grandest stage - this a Tri-Nations truly worthy of the name.

Pressure is mounting from all directions on an All Blacks side chasing a record fourth successive title in the annual stoush of the southern hemisphere giants.

The South Africans, who cruised to world champion status last November, are largely intact while Australia have acquired Crusaders icon Robbie Deans as their coach, the man many believe should now be at the New Zealand helm.

But perhaps the greatest challenges for coach Graham Henry comes from within his own All Blacks squad, who have taken on a distinctly inexperienced tinge.

To maintain their winning standards of the past five years will mean handling the heaviest player turnaround of Henry's tenure, his stocks thinned appreciably by the lure of offshore riches.

Read the rest.

A pessimistic "His Bobness" at The Silver Fern thinks "the Boks must be dreaming of All Blacks for breakfast." Give it a read.