CAPE TOWN – Rugby analyst Mark Keohane shares his weekly rants and raves following the weekend’s rugby action.
1. Warren Gatland’s final Six Nations campaign ended in triumph against an Irish side a pale imitation of that which beat the All Blacks in Dublin less than four months ago. Wales have earned the right to be ranked second behind the All Blacks, with an unbeaten run of 14 Tests in which the only team they haven’t played is New Zealand.
Wales have now won 12 grand slams in tournament history and four in the Six Nations. This is more than any other team.
2. Scotland the brave. Wow, what a game, what a comeback and what a thrilling finale to the Six Nations on Saturday. Scotland and England combined for 11 tries and 76 points in one of the matches of the last decade. England incredibly led 31-0 after 31 minutes, but needed an 83rd-minute converted try to level the scores at 38-all.
My personal highlight was the try finish of Scotland inside centre Sam Johnson. It screamed world class.
3. If Scotland’s international comeback was sensational then the second-half revival from the Lions to turn a 33-5 deficit into a 36-33 win against the Rebels was Lazarus-like. I loved Lions coach Swys de Bruin’s honesty in his press conference. He told the media he lost the plot in the change-room at halftime and that he gave the players the hairdryer treatment.
De Bruin said he didn’t hold back, apologised for the articulation and delivery of some of his expletives but said that even the most angelic of coaches would not have tolerated what the Lions produced in the first 40 minutes. Good on you Swys.
1. England flyhalf Owen Farrell is a damn good rugby player. He currently is the best flyhalf in the game and among the toughest wearing a No 10 jersey. But it also seems he is on the protected species list when it comes to “no arms” tackling. Farrell consistently leads with the shoulder and often doesn’t complete the arms wrap around.
He flies into tackles with a disregard for his own health, but equally illegally so for his opponent. I just hope that one referee will be professional enough to apply the letter of the law and give him his marching orders in the World Cup.
2. The Stormers, just two years ago, still managed to average the highest attendance annually in the history of Super Rugby. But the decline in the last two years has been dramatic. It’s a combination of things: poor performance, ticket prices, saturation of sporting options and the entire Newlands experience.
The superhero double header drew a crowd in excess of 40 000. This was a pre-season occasion at Cape Town Stadium. A fortnight later, in their opening home game at Newlands, less than 15 000 paid to watch the Stormers against the Lions. Even worse was the Friday night match schedule against the Jaguares: It doesn’t work in Cape Town, not in appeal and not because of the post 6pm traffic to get to Newlands.
3. World Rugby’s bosses met in Dublin to discuss the proposed World League series. Initial reports suggested the Pacific Island teams would be excluded. The condemnation was unanimous, but still the bosses haven’t come forward to say what will be done to ensure the future of the Pacific Island teams.
Rugby’s global leadership has to address this issue and as long as they don’t, they must be insulted as much as their refusal to invest in the Island teams is an insult to those brilliant rugby players and supporters.