Planet Rugby

Loose Pass

30th September 2013 10:50


The referee gets caught up in a scuffle South Africa v Australia

Calm characters will always trump hot heads

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the difference between the best and the rest, the uncleanable mess in Europe, Jake White and some sad news.

Despite Jean de Villiers doing his utmost to convince Saturday's post-match press conference that a 20-point win over Australia was cause for celebration, the immediate reaction of the Springbok at the final whistle left no doubt that disappointment was the overriding sentiment in the home dressing room at Newlands.

And rightly so. That all-important bonus point was there for that taking, and South Africa let it slip. Throughout our chats with the Bok players during the week, Heyneke Meyer's troops were totally confident that if they stuck to their structures and general plan, the tries, and that fifth point, would come when the game opened up in the final quarter.

As it turns out, that's exactly what La Plata, but not in Cape Town. Two totally unnecessary yellow cards were probably what cost the Boks in the end and it could have been a lot worse. Dr. Jannie is very, very lucky not to have seen a made it two red cards in as many games for the Du Plessis brothers.

We might be guilty of oversimplifying the matter somewhat, but the fact that the All Blacks could seal the deal while the Boks couldn't because they were a man down for 20 minutes neatly sums the difference between being number one and number two.

Only a minor miracle or perhaps an outrageous error at Ellis Park (good luck Nigel Owens) could now see the Rugby Championship trophy wrestled from the All Blacks.

But let's not be too negative (that one was for you, JDV) because, for the most part, the Boks were excellent. Both Steve Hansen and Meyer will have noted that the gap between the world's two best teams is diminishing rapidly as 2015 draws closer.

Another week and the saga over the future of European club rugby drags on. At least the rate of mudslinging has decreased marginally, mainly because those on the Anglo-French side of the great divide are concentrating on digging an ever-deeper trench to defend their position.

We keep hearing the same quotes from the bosses at Premiership and Top 14 clubs - "the Heineken Cup is dead", "the ERC is finished" etc. etc. etc. Yet amongst all the sound bites and statements, the silence from one of the most key players - the RFU - is deafening. Caught between a rock and hard place, and with fruit baskets piling up at the front door, England's governing body will soon have to pick a side.

It's astounding that we've reached this dead end. On the surface of it all, the grievances that have supposedly motivated the breakaway seem legitimate enough. The argument that clubs should run club tournaments while unions should handle national competitions carries significant weight. For the most part, the French and English clubs own the grounds where matches take place and they pay their players' salaries so by default they hold the keys to generating the funds at the centre of the dispute.

But the manner is which they have gone about launching their revolution is deplorable. The fact that Premiership Rugby sold the rights to a competition that either A. didn't yet exist or B. they don't control suggests that from the very outset they had no intention of negotiating a change to the current system. Despite LNR President Paul Goze's denials, the matter is very a much a case of the clubs wrestling control away from the unions and it has all the makings of a classic putsch.

The way Loose Pass sees it, the only way for this to end will be for a European court of law to decide whether the unions (and by extension the IRB) have the right to control where the clubs may or may not deploy the services of their employees.

Of course, if any sort of competition is to be regarded as a genuine 'European Cup' (even if they call it by some other silly name) it would have to include the Irish teams at the very least. But since the professional game in Ireland is largely funded the IRFU, the lines of who should control what quickly became very blurred. Banking on Irish teams coming aboard would be naïvely presumptuous.

Below the equator we go again as journos around the world were quick off the mark to speculate where Jake White would land up after his abrupt exit form the Brumbies last week. (Cylde Rathbone's commentary on the situation is by far the best we've seen).

Suggestions that White would ever land up in Clermont could not have been further off the mark. In no way did White meet the profile that les Jaunards were looking for, certainly not the way French-speaking Robbie Deans would have. White at Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin would be like Richard Cockerill importing Leicester-style rugby to the Crusaders. It was never going to happen.

Likewise, White landing at the Sharks is also not exactly a match made in heaven, John Smit's polite statement notwithstanding. It's certainly unlikely to happen while Brendan Venter is still there.

Loose Pass could not help but notice White conveniently hanging around on the pavement across from the exit of the press area at Newlands on Saturday. If he can't find a new coaching job, perhaps he should return to teaching. He could name his class 'Maintaining A High Media Profile High 101.'

We finish on a very sad note with some very unpleasant news from France, where former Biarritz prop Alexandre Barozzi is in hospital with a serious neck injury. Barozzi was evacuated by helicopter an hour into a Fédérale 1 game between Lannemezan and Bagnères-de-Bigorre on Sunday after a scrum collapsed and he was unable to move his limbs.

We're rooting for you Alexandre - courage.

This week's Loose Pass compiled by Ross Hastie

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