A new decision, let alone a new day, is the beginning point toward a new destination. If that reality intersects with a new year actuality, then let it be; best we start moving before it’s too late.
The clock is ticking and we have only a matters of hours left in this year of 2011 in Nouvelle Zelande.
I did want to meet with you again before we close the book on the rugby year of 2011 that proved painful for some; joyful for others, but memorable for all.
While it was sevens heaven for Gordon and the boys in Black, we really started our year as we know it, with the many Red faces after a Super season was finalised by the Bryce is Right. It was neither Bryceless in the scrum nor on the scoreboard in the Final from Brisbane, as the gallant Saders failed to surmount their last summit in a Super season we all should never forget.
This would transpire only a couple of months after I first heard a knock at my door, where brother Bob would invite me into his social media world, which still finds me as chief bloviator, at large.
Rugby proves only a portion in the fabric of the tapestry of life, with the weave broken very early on in the Super season, as a shaking Christchurch would remind all us all about the pain of loss, and the “Joie de Vivre.” Words on this blog would be a vehicle for relief, as a heart-rending time hit us all, particularly those in the zone.
Before Bryce would become loathed in the Republic, he would be disliked, as the SupeRugby new conference season began to take effect.
Talk about the length of this portion of the season and its impact on playing careers would surface, as the new home conference-focused set-up would help the Reds, nearly as much as did Dickinson – I’m almost over it – with the South African and New Zealand sides, feeling the cost of those long fought, historic divides.
While the SupeRugby officiating philosophy can be prone to plane away the sharp edges of the contest in Union, in near and future retrospect, the season was a success.
South African sides away from home continued to grow legs of belief, with away wins, more prominent than at any other time. In New Zealand, we witnessed an early return of the southern men, the Highlanders, who put that early dent in the Bully boys of Pretoria, signalling a resurgence of sorts. With a number of strong recruits – Hosea Gear, Tamati Ellison – in 2012, look for this to continue.
The Cheetahs would only go on a Crusade or two; the Lions would roar, but needed more; the Sharks would look likely until they tanked it; the Bulls would die another day very early, only to nearly breathe new life into their season. Therefore, it would be left to the Stormers to fight into the playoffs, again promising much before getting literally – moered – by the Saders in a semi, leaving the South African conference silent in the Final.
The New Zealand conference would be dominated by two teams, the Blues and the Saders. The Chiefs mostly lacked their own identity, playing like they longed to be contestants in Masterchef; the Hurricanes blew cold and occasionally hammered hot; the Highlanders were losing their home and played like it at the business time, which means New Zealand had two.
While the Blues were able to keep their sail just in front of the southern city, the away side for the season, Saders, would give their most extreme example of rugby culture. You know the story, but to play their season out, demands a movie and a book. Even the Aussies could discern the significance, with “Marto” affirming if they won the semi, the deal should be done. Fairy book it would not be, as the travel and the moment would slip through their grasp, just like Genia whose genius justified the result. It was hard to feel vanquished after they turned on a potential season of woe.
The other New Zealand side would face the eventual champs, the Reds, in the semi. Gifted like few other units, the franchise from the biggest city in New Zealand would add some starch to their serious skill out wide, proving in the battle of Timaru versus the Saders that they could step up to the mark. The semi would be their final curtain call as the Reds were able to employ their game against a side that decided they thought replication was the best means to success, playing into the hosts hands.
It is fair to reflect on the strength of the Australian conference in the Reds charge to the SupeRugby title, however, they won the matches that mattered over the Blues and the Crusaders in successive weeks, and claimed the first significant crown in the Southern Hemisphere season.
The Reds – SupeRugby Champions 2011!
In other matter-of-fact realities, Bob and I would also have the opportunity, in this Super season, of fleshing out this relationship, as he would touch down in New Zealand, and a special occasion would ensue .
That would be as fleeting as the space in the rugby season of 2011, as what happens next, would begin.
Yawn. Like watching the other bands before your favourite hits the stage, the very last Tri-Nations seemed much about filling in time, and paying the dues.
South Africa made their 2007 intentions perfectly clear in 2011. It worked for them then. It made sense. They had medical certificates this time, anyway. The wisdom and sense of such a decision was near perfunctory, as Graham Henry would illuminate this perspective with his words about the dead rubber decider in Brisbane. The All Blacks would come back from the brink heading into the break, but it was some more, Will Genia brilliance that would decide the encounter, handing the Tri-Nations to Roobie’s mates.
You got the sense that Australia, this young and enthusiastic breed blessed with overt athleticism, really did need this Tri-Nations tournament liked Henry needed a Quarter-Final win. The problem for this Australian outfit was that a Tri-Nations victory and World Cup success has proved as elusive as a consistent scrum interpretation, meaning their desperate need for success and growth, would ultimately encourage their undoing.
Henry had nailed it in history this time. Post the 2007 meltdown moment, he went back & built his campaign from the bottom up. Far from ignoring the past, he decided the All Blacks must look fear in the face and not flinch. While it is painful to remember, the reality stays in the past, with some memories more painful to forget.
Then, Captain of the Bokke, John Smit, wjo also knows much about success, uttered words at the time about how unlikely it would be for a team to peak for a Tri-Nations, and a handful of weeks later in the big dance. This would affirm the skillfulness of living and learning that these two sides would show. This would not automatically translate into success, with the feeling of what could have been for the Republic in New Zealand, a palpable post-World Cup reality.
The match in Port Elizabeth, a fitting memory to an International season, for the Springboks.
The Rugby World Cup
It is hard to encapsulate the full extent of the mass of this moment. I have written on aspects, but have yet to conquer the great divide of that October 23rd, night. I was nearly as emotionally traumatised and taxed, as thrilled, as we could see history rear ending its ugly head. To be sure, being live and exclusive at the ground would provide an ecstatic moment that I will never forget; one that was celebrated with a sporting euphoria like the two becoming one.
I appreciate you giving me that personal moment.
It is tough to provide an outsider’s perspective when I was well and truly “fishbowled”. The country was on rugby black alert, with all attention for 6 weeks focused on returning Eden to her former glory.
Nevertheless, it would all begin with an opening ceremony that would even surpass my preconceived perceptions, with the rugby following pretty good for a team admitting to the intensity of the country’s support.
While we waited for the big matches that mattered, we longed for the upset that is often used to gauge the gap between the have’s and the have not’s. It looked as if things could turn quickly, when Romania nearly Robert the Bruce’d over the Scottish on day two in Invercargill. Day three seemed to follow from the same script, as the Welsh looked likely, until their historic ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory against the Bokke, reared again, in Wellington. Again, they would leek away from another win.
It would be just over a week later, at this same Eden as the opening night, where the mad-hattered Irish would mount the wind and rain, beating the Australians up close and on the scoreboard. Cian Healy looked like the Fonz after every scrummaging collison, as if to say, “Heeeeey,” after getting to his feet and witnessing the Bryce is Right. Scrum complaints on the night, but few were too concerned east [New Zealand] from west [Australia].
The golden run that many had predicted for Bling was looking very ring rusty in the rain. They seemed to have a golden run on paper to the Final, but now the Bokke and All Blacks loomed large – back-to-back – even before the golden trophy could be gained. Someone dial 99!
We could be here for the rest of this year recounting this six weeks, so let me seek to divide and conquer.
Other fixtures would capture the attention, but none would make their local mark like the match on September 24th. The French have a habit in the Rugby World Cup, and Eden Park had also worked. However, on this special night, the All Blacks would bend early, before they would break out and over Les Bleus, who looked lost and a little disinterested, once the result was gone to bed.
Speaking of the French, their narrative proved typical, as they would also finish the group stage with a taking to, by Tonga. Talk about another mutiny in their bounty, as Coach Lievremont, would apply the off-field touch, nailing the pantomine to full effect.
I am sure you know what happens next in the knockout, so I will spare the details. 1987 would morph into 2011, as the same four sides would make in into the semis, into the final, winning it all… once again.
Much had been made of the inability of the All Blacks to win without Carter and Carter. Critics cried doom and gloom when Dan was done. He would come very quickly, and then exit. Slade followed. Cruden was next. He would ease nerves until and Finally, another redemption song would be sung, this time by the Donald. It has been this scribe’s opinion that the All Blacks could win without Carter.
The opposition needed to get McCawesome. They failed!
All Blacks – World Champions 2011
This Final reality means that the Editor and his readers are dealing on two different continents. Just as this life is a journey with many bends; where you are, I have been; where I am, you once were. Empathy, humanity, and an appreciation for the absurd, is a gift given!
As I reflect on our two rugby destinies, I can’t help but see the parallels between then and now – 2007 and 2011 – and how time has lessened the intensity of that wound, even as a new rugby life cycle has encouraged time to move on.
Here we are.
Unfortunately and again, broken word counts do not encourage one to reflect on the other rugby moments in this year of 2011. However, congratulations to the once again, Golden Lions, and the Canterbury, ITM Cup side. Both significant achievements.
We have a new year, a new rugby year, a new rugby journey, right on our doorstep. More than that; we have a life that demands our living everyday.
It has been my pleasure to out-breathe these words on a page. It has been my pleasure to connect, even commune with the star of the show, Skinner Bob Skinstad. This RugbyJourney has the potential of our lifetimes, and although 2011 has not virtualised to the full effect of this extent; it is a beginning and we hope that you will come along.
In closing, even as we all reflect on these words, dwell on the following that rings as true for me, and as true for you. Without hesitation, the following will provide fodder as you think through the life, encouraged as always by the cultural qualifiers of a new season in life.
As a New Zealander speaking to mostly South Africans, I am happy to admit that I have strengthening affections through the many contacts that come my way, with many of you, in the Republic. What this will mean for the future, only time will be able to tell, but it gives me great pleasure to have your company in this journey from the 80; into the life!
Happy New Year from Bob, the team, and yours truly, truly scrumptious!
Yes it is.
However, make it a day by day reality. Please >
And, stay tuned, as my first post coming in 2012 encapsulates a vision.
What Say You?
Until Next Time
Shooting from the Lip