Botha Called Out By Springbok Captain

According to a report at Scrum.com, Springbok captain John Smit has called out “Cheap Shot Bakkies” for receiving a nine-week ban for headbutting New Zealand’s Jimmy Cowan at last Saturday’s Tri Nations opening match in Auckland, New Zealand. Money quote:

“The fact of the matter is that in a team sport, you can’t afford to have too many big egos. If you have one that is outside the team ethos, it hurts a team,” Smit said. “It was probably the least penalties we’ve conceded in a long period of time but all you remember is one act of silliness. It’s been dealt with, thankfully. I think it’s just reward for silly behaviour.”

Smit has spoken out at odd with Springbok coach Peter De Villiers, who sticks to his story that Cowan grabbed Botha’s jersey and kept him from getting the ball at one point in the game.  For a team captain to speak out against the coach’s talking points is a bold move, and might be indicative of frustration on the Springbok team with Botha’s antics on the field.

How Do the All Blacks Do It?

One of the questions asked throughout the Rugby Universe is how are they able to do it?  How have a nation of roughly 4 million people, and twice as many sheep, become the powerhouse of the Rugby Universe?  The New Zealand All Blacks are one of the most, if not the most, feared rugby teams around the world, and they’ve done it while beating teams from countries all over the world with a much higher population rates, such as England (51 million), France (65 million) and Australia (22 million), and where rugby is still an important sport.

It comes down to a level of passion that few people New Zealanders are passionate about rugby. It’s their national sport, outside of taunting Japanese whaling ships.  They are a small nation, population-wise, but all four million Kiwis bleed All Black, with little rugby balls bouncing around in their veins.

New Zealanders love their rugby. It’s their passion, they live for this game.  At the start of their lives, baby New Zealanders come out of the chute, hit the ground and immediately start looking for little Springboks to smack. (You can never start too early) Let me just add…

THEY.
LOVE.
RUGBY.

It’s passion. One of the few intangibles you can’t train in a player, or teach them on the field.  You’ll get that passion when you’re laying on the field at the end of a game – with your energy spent and the steam rising from your body like your spirit trying to escape, but it can’t be drilled into you.

It’s the idea that this is their sport, and no one from any other nation is going to take it from them.  This is part of the reason they are able to repeatedly beat teams from the Northern Hemisphere.  Another question people from the north ask is how the Southern Hemisphere teams (New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and to a lesser extent, Argentina) repeatedly beat teams from more “established” nations (after all, rugby was founded in England in 1823).

That, and the fact that they tend to play a more expansive style of rugby.  I’m looking forward to seeing if the All Blacks can turn that home field advantage into a second William Webb Ellis trophy at the 2011 Rugby World Cup.