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