Written by: Arnold Geerdts
Cameras that have to help the referee hand out his cards, Rassie Erasmus’ already controversial lights from the coaches’ box and rugby action that makes the toe hairs curl with delight. This and more took place in the first week of the 2023 World Cup rugby tournament in France.
A loss for world rugby
The weekend kicked off with the All Blacks stumbling slump against France. This defeat perhaps says much more about the three-time champions than it does about the Roosters. It appears as if coach Ian Forster has now finally got rid of his dressing room, even though he had already indicated earlier that he would retire as coach after the World Cup tournament. World rugby is undoubtedly poorer. Still, we can’t completely write off the Kiwis and they could still be formidable opponents for the Boks later in the tournament.
Frog ear makes spectators see red
Spectators are in an uproar over recordings of children’s choirs singing the respective countries’ national anthems that were played before last weekend’s matches. The recordings sounded slightly disjointed and the pronunciation of Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika was, among other things, crooked and crooked. Other countries have also already complained. This is a world stage, not only for rugby, but also for every country that is represented and it is understandable that people are unhappy. The French would surely vomit bile if their national anthem were to be performed in a similar way in front of the world.
The elephant in the dressing room
Now let’s address the elephant in the room: Referees. The Scottish flyhalf Finn Russell’s “no arm bump” was in my opinion not at all legal or within the accepted description, and definitely warranted a yellow card.
The much-discussed “bunker” rule was also applied several times this past weekend, with cameras and a panel that had to help referees on the field decide whether an offense warrants a yellow or red card. The adjustment of Tom Curry from England’s yellow card to a red card against Argentina has already provoked criticism towards this system and created a feeling that the rules are not applied the same everywhere.
There will probably be quite a few such thorny moments over the next six weeks and referees will have to be much more attentive to being consistent. If the law says so, then so be it. Whether it is for us, or against us.
Rassie’s disco lights
Rassie Erasmus’ lights are just once again characteristic of Mr. Erasmus’ innovation and his constant search for improvement for his team. However, it has already set tongues wagging and coach Jacques Nienaber had to point out on Sunday that the lights have no “tactical purpose”.
In my opinion, the lights have already managed something important, whether it was intended or not: It made the other coaches wonder. I’m sure quite a few coaches are now lying awake at night wondering “what is that crazy man from Despatch up to now”. And that’s exactly what we want. Let them worry about things they have no control over!
However, I have such a bad feeling that World Rugby is going to take Rassie to task over this. We will have to wait and see.
To the doctor with Etzebeth
Eben Etzebeth’s shoulder injury will now keep him out for ten days, meaning he will miss the clash against Romania next Sunday. This will probably have a definite effect on the Boks’ game. This giant is now the engine in the scrum and there was definitely a slight slump after he left the field in the 26th minute. I do think he should be fit again for our game against Ireland on September 23rd.
It doesn’t have to be ‘pretty’
Finally, I would like to address criticism from rugby fans that the games just last weekend did not exactly produce great rugby, with the exception of the match between Wales and Fiji. Dear reader: Hear my song. World Cup Rugby is unlike any other form of the game.
It doesn’t have to be pretty or spectacular; as long as there is a winner and a loser. Just one point more than the other team is enough. There are no bonus points for playing well, so take the chance to win and move on to the next week.
Our expectations should be based there: One victory at a time.
And I’m sure Rassie will be able to shed more light on this old bag too!