Professional imposters

Absolute rubbish. There is no spin to put on South Africa’s latest effort in the Vodacom Super 14. And to think they’ll all cash the cheque on Monday.

These guys call themselves professionals. They regularly moan about the travel, the workload and the amount of games in a season. They made the choice to play professional rugby and clearly too many of them should never have made this call. Others decided to coach in the professional game. They too are deluded.

Everything that is poor about the professional game in South Africa was in evidence at the weekend. You take the Waratahs visit to Christchurch on Friday and you compare it to the trash presented as a South African rugby player’s professional effort and you may as well be talking about two different codes. Christchurch embodied everything that is enthralling about the professional game of rugby union. The South African teams collective effort was abysmal.

And it is no coincidence that the collective offering came a fortnight after all the teams’ relegation fears were allayed with the latest ruling of no relegation to the South African team finishing last.

The Stormers and the Cats were the worst and to even consider the Bulls 26-all draw, when they led by 15 points, a moral victory adds further insult to the standard of the South African game.

The Stormers talk a fantastic game. If it is not one of their players telling you it is now or never, then it is one of their coaching quartet putting forward every theory in the book. The only thing they offer beyond theory is excuse after excuse. The Stormers play with no discipline, with absolutely no regard for the ball or the laws. Their performance in Auckland was a disgrace when you consider how much that squad cost to put together. Any attempt to talk up the character of a side who battled for 15 minutes with 13 men should be balanced when assessing the quality of the opposition and the form the Blues have been in this year. It was more down to Blues ineptness than Stormers guts that the visitors weren’t blown away in that 15 minute period.

Yet we will be given the same meaningless banter in the next week, be it from a coaching quartet that looks more lost with every passing weekend of the competition or a senior player who gives the parrot speak of finding positives from a lineout steal or a turnover.

The Stormers did not score a try and did not look like ever scoring one. You don’t even have to go further in your analysis of just how poor their performance was.

Sandwiched between the Stormers was the Bulls draw in Hamilton and the Cheetahs thrashing in Canberra. Again South Africa’s best showed they play for an hour, but struggle to make 80 minutes. The Bulls, with all the advantage and four tries in the bag, led 26-11 after 45 minutes. Yet they were the ones hanging on for a draw at the hooter and they survived a penalty miss and a drop goal miss from the Chiefs!

The Cheetahs’ honeymoon was also ended emphatically in Canberra. There were enough signs in Sydney to suggest we wouldn’t be seeing much from Rassie Erasmus’s newcomers on tour. They played every trick in the book to slow the game down and try and limit the damage against the Waratahs. Stung by the criticism, they tried to play rugby against a team that revels in an opponent who is willing to play with width. It was never a contest and the seven try to two advantage should have been something closer to 10 tries to one given the dominance in the second half of the Brumbies.

The Cheetahs, newcomers to the Super 14, are South Africa’s domestic giants. They are the current Currie Cup champions. And they took a pounding in Canberra.

And finally we had the biggest professional imposters of South African rugby, the Cats. Believing they aren’t accountable for away form (where they lost all five on the road), this is a management and administration that is quite comfortable in judging themselves on home form. They were adamant this week that home form against the likes of the rubble Reds and Western Farce, a team without a win in the competition, would be a more accurate yardstick.

Well, they were judged on Saturday. They were a disgrace to a professional unit against a team of no hopers aptly dubbed rubble Reds on this site. How stakeholders in the Gauteng region can actually sit back and accept the performance of the team and their coaches says as much about the stakeholders as it does the team.

The Cats created nothing on attack and their only try was a gift from the Reds. The visitors fumbled, the Cats hacked it through and Conrad Jantjes was taken out five metres from the tryline. Penalty try. Television replays showed Conrad Jantjes to be in front of the kicker, so the early tackle on his chase should not have mattered. In the context of the Cats season it only highlighted how limited this side is. The Reds, reduced to 14 men, looked more competent than a team of Cats.

This, boys and girls, is what presented itself as the professional face of South African rugby this weekend. It should have been a week ago because then we could have mistaken it for an April fool’s joke.

This weekend, there was no mistaking the fools and the fact that it isn’t a joke.