Loose Pass

Date published: April 24 2012


This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with slips of the tongue, comebacks, naughty boys, fan issues and shopping lists…

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with slips of the tongue, comeback kings, naughty boys, fan issues and shopping lists…

The knives are being sharpened for Bob Skinstad after he let slip a racial term during his commentary of the Sharks-Chiefs game on Saturday.

“Lelia Masaga has gone head high in an absolute coconut tackle straight onto Lwazi Mvovo and tried to take his head off,” he said.

For those who don't know, 'coconut' is a derogatory terms used in Oceania to refer to Pacific Islanders. It's not a good thing to say at all and especially not in the context it was used in, with both SA commentators seemingly outraged at Masaga's tackle.

But as ever, it's what has come after that makes for the most interesting reading. Skinstad said on Twitter: “Heard the term and thought it meant aiming for the 'nut' – no harm meant sorry.”

Erm? Ok so 'nut' means 'head'… so from somewhere in the morass of tortured metaphors that constitutes the average Skinstad commentary we should presume there's a context he knows of where the prefix 'coco' means 'aiming for'?

We're not buying it. It was used in exasperation and anger (and we know he's a passionate and excitable chap), while Skinstad has been to New Zealand enough times to have picked up a few of the colloquialisms. Even people who haven't been there know what coconut means.

It will be interesting to see what happens from here. The SA broadcaster Supersport has not issued an apology yet, while Skinstad's lame attempt at eschewing himself from responsibility is truly an insult to intelligence.

SA presenter Darren Scott was sacked – subsequently he was virtually hounded out of the country – for using a racist term in a fallout with someone who owed him money. Will Skinstad be afforded similar disciplinary treatment?

Staying in SA, is Victor Matfield really going to make a comeback? He who wrote a column back in December on how he was enjoying not pushing his immense frame to the limit in pre-season and who has spent many an hour reaping in some very decent coin wearing his tailored threads on the sidelines for Supersport?

It is, of course, possible. But this is a comeback comparable to that of Lawrence Dallaglio's back in 2005/6: not one that is well-advised for the country and not one by any stretch guaranteed to end in glory.

Most of all, it begs the question: why bother? Heyneke Meyer has four years to mould a decent pair of locks together and fill the Bakkies/Victor gap and he's not exactly short of options in the rainbow nation.

It is said that Meyer's call is based on the need for leadership, but that doesn't follow either, not when you have a number of recent examples – Sam Warburton and Richie McCaw are two – where a coach has successfully identified a long-term leader in the squad to set the tone for the next four or eight years.

South Africa's team has spent a long time trying to re-bear itself from the continued choice of experience over potential, a choice which involved using players long past their sell-by date to the obvious and occasionally vocal frustration of those not being let in. More of the same from Meyer is not a good way forward.

Also not a good way forward is being nailed for doping when you are barely out of nappies, which happened to England schoolboy and Harlequin youngster Jonny Spelman last week.

Spelman was found guilty – he admitted it – of using testosterone, drostanolone (both anabolic steroids), growth hormone (GHRP6), human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), clomid (clomiphene) and nolvadex (tamoxifen) for three months in 2011.

Hopefully that's a lesson learned for Spelman – whose mother is a Cabinet MP and tried desperately to stop the news leaking out as well as financing a good deal of expensive legal representation.

But let it be a wider lesson learned to schoolboys who have their dreams: once tainted with that stigma, it is very difficult to bounce back and be taken seriously.

What's going on with fans at the moment? We've got Edinburgh fans abusing Yoann Maestri until he cracks and lashes out, Bulls fans throwing bottles at players' heads (and he wasn't even banned from Loftus), serial booing of kicks and kickers everywhere… is this rugby?

It's hardly surprising that when Premier Rugby announced last week that tickets for the London Double Header would be sold in four blocks according to team, fans thought they were being segregated à la soccer (in fact it was just a breathtakingly simple logistical solution), but when you consider what goes on at some rugby grounds at the moment, could you really have blamed Premier Rugby if it had been segregation?

Where does the problem start? Who knows… money is clearly at the heart of it. But you hear stories of music being played over the tannoys to distract kickers, of club administrators boasting that it is their responsibility to do everything in their power to make sure the opposition fails… an IRB campaign to highlight the values of sportsmanship rugby used to adhere to is becoming overdue at the top level.

That includes issues of stealing staff. The dust kicked up by Bryan Redpath's speedy exit from Gloucester needs to settle before he takes up the role he has so obviously been courted for by Sale otherwise there will be a long-lasting bad feeling between the two.

Obviously? This is Steve Diamond attempting to deny Sale's approach: “If he is available, we are going to speak with him. Now he is available, he is on our shopping list.”

So here we go… Redpath is linked with Sale. He denies it, but rumours continue. Just before Gloucester play Sale, Redpath resigns suddenly. Now he's on Sale's shopping list. You do the maths.

Finally, if you're up for a bit of Sevens action but can't afford the air fares to Hong Kong and such, why not get down to Oxford on May 26?

The RAF Spitfires Rugby Sevens Team is hosting a one-day invitational tournament featuring a dozen international and UK-based rugby teams, with proceeds distributed to three RAF chosen charities.

The impressive lineup will feature the RAF Spitfires, international sides such as Wales, Afghanistan, UWIC and Indian Side Rugby Uncle, as well as both Varsity Sevens sides. Leicester Tigers and Saracens are also to confirm their places.

All proceeds from the day's events will be donated between Khelo Rugby, which enriches children's lives through the playing and coaching of rugby in Kolkata, India, the RAF ExPOW Association, and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

Not sold yet? Strange… ok how about some free tickets? Simply send the answer to the question below to competitions.planetrugby@teamtalkmedia.com . Don't forget to include a contact number so we can get hold of you! (We promise not to give it to anyone else.)

Question: Who are the current IRB World Sevens Series champions?

Loose Pass compiled