“I do not expect an apology”

Friday, 27 September 2013 00:11 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

French Referee Poite who was subjected to widespread abuse after red carding Du Plessis in the last game has had some support from an unexpected source. Whilst the IRB took the unprecedented step of admitting an error had been made, Du Plessis insists he bears no grudges and has urged fans to go easy on the French referee. The Boks hooker went on to say, “I do not expect an apology. I have no doubt that Mr. Poite had no ill intentions towards the Boks or me. It must have been a great occasion for him to have been awarded a Test match viewed as arguably the greatest clash in world rugby. I feel sorry for him and I do not want him to be banished from the rugby fraternity or to be viewed as a ‘villain’. I bear no grudges against him and I have no doubt that he tried his best out there on the field.” Very fine words indeed form a player who was red carded incorrectly. The wonderful game of rugby brings out the best in players on most occasions, although not necessarily so in our country, where referee abuse was widespread in the last season. This week sees the return of the Rugby Championship in earnest. With key players from the Wallabies and the All Blacks fighting to be fit for the weekend games, the coaching staff members are looking at several options. The first clash will be the Boks against the Wallabies, whilst the All Blacks will take on the Pumas. Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie has made three changes to his team to face the Boks. James Horwill is named in the second-row and takes on the captaincy from Ben Mowen who skippered the team to their round four win over Argentina.  Tevita Kuridrani starts at outside centre with Adam Ashley-Cooper shifting to the wing to replace the injured Nick Cummins. Joe Tomane is called upon to step into suspended James O’Connor’s flank. O’Connor may have played his last test if he does not get his act and discipline in order – a shame for a talented player. Nic White keeps his place at scrum-half with Will Genia still relegated to the bench. That must hurt. Sitaleki Timani sits on the bench again and I am sure that he will gain more game time this weekend. He packs a punch in his robust tackling and loose play and will be useful against the Boks. A lot will depend on White’s kicking game, as it is hoped that it will keep the Boks at bay. The Wallabies have a point to prove after the 38-12 defeat handed to them by the Boks earlier in the Championship. Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer has opted to make two changes to the side that lost to the All Blacks. He has drafted in scrum-half Fourie du Preez for his first Test start since the 2011 World Cup. Meyer has also handed a start to hooker Adriaan Strauss with Bismarck du Plessis and Ruan Pienaar dropping to the bench. The Test will see Morne Steyn and Jannie du Plessis win their 50th caps for the Boks. Aaron Cruden is likely to start after overcoming his knee injury, whilst Beauden Barrett can also expect game time from the replacements bench. The All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster has indicated they plan to use “dual pivots”. It is indeed an interesting concept, given that they also have Dan Carter on the injury list. It is believed that Cruden will be the logical choice for Carter but the fine performance of Barrett has given the selectors a welcome headache. In comparison the Wallabies are struggling to have a quality # 10 and how much they would love to be in the position of the All Blacks. It is fascinating how the think tank changes their strategy when they are suddenly faced with a selection dilemma as this and maybe even the game plan could shift. However one must review these decisions and tactics with caution, as whilst the think tanks may conceptualise, the players in question must be up to such a game plan to execute in the field of play as this is something totally new. The Pumas have been bolstered by the return of lock Patricio Albacete. He has been capped 53 times, and is expected to return in place of Manuel Carizza. He is one of six changes from the side which lost 13-14 to Australia in Perth, a game that many believe they did not deserve to lose. Martin Landajo has been named at scrum-half instead of Tomas Cubelli, Horacio Agulla has been replaced on the right wing by Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino while in mid-field, Santiago Fernandez and Marcelo Bosch come back to replace Felipe Contepomi and Gonzalo Tiesi. The Pumas are a gutsy side and will draw a lot of strength from their game against the Wallabies. (The writer can be reached via scrumaf@gmail.com.)

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