Monday, December 12, 2005

THE YEAR OF THE CAT


2005 is over and for the first time since regional teams were introduced, the Lions will contest the Super 14 as a team with a main union and a set of smaller ones providing support in players. Gone are the days of the stupidity of the dualistic equality that fractured the Cats team of years past. The Cats, as usual, look good on paper, and this will be their year in the Super 14.

When Louis Luyt set up the four Super 123 franchises he had to put Freestate somewhere. Those were still the days of Lions rugby dominance and Oom Louis, thought he was being very astute in putting the Cheetahs and Lions in one camp. It failed. Aside from the unifying abilities of Tim Lane in 2000 and 2001, the Cats have always promised and never delivered. The Freestate players in the team were based away from home. The Lions players did not regard the matches at the Freestate stadium as home games. Effectively, the Cats had no home games. There was disunity in the camp and cliques of players formed.

This year the team is different.

Firstly, the Lions are the major contributors to the squad. They have to be. They are the main test union. They have continuity in their coaching. There is no fractious selection of coaches, differing from the provincial set-ups. Alistair Coetzee, the Bok backline coach, has joined the Cats to assist long time coach Frans Ludeke. Then we have the players.

The Cats have a full Bok backline to rely on. They have Enrico Januarie, a massive influence on the Lions, as the semi-final of the Currie Cup in Pretoria proved. They have Andre Pretorius who, having had some decent rest is Jake White’s number 1 flyhalf. In Wayne Julies, the Cats have one of the most underrated inside centres in South Africa. For those who underrate him, I suggest videos of last year’s tests against Ireland here when he marked what was then the best midfield combination in the world. At outside centre we have Jacque Fourie, who is arguably one of the most hardworking and multi talented outside centres in the world. Add the three of them together and you have a heady mixture of toughness, guile and flair that should make opposition coaches quiver. On the outside, the returning Ashwin Willemse should add pace and guilt to the dangerous midfield, while Wylie Human’s England experience should stand him in good stead in the overseas trips. And the back division will be controlled by fullback Conrad Jantjes who got a deserved recall to the Boks end of year tour.

Our loose forwards contain a bewitching brew of speed, power and guts. In Gerhard Vosloo and Baywatch (Cobus) Grobbelaar we have two of the fastest ball hunters in the world. Cobus completely outclassed the highly vaunted Bulls loose trio in the Currie Cup and the Super 12 this year, and his performance, in my view, formed the backbone of the strategy that Rassie Erasmus used to beat the Bulls. Wikus Van Heerden is a bough off the old tree. He is as hard and strong as his old man. Add to this his captaincy. He is one of the strongest ball carriers in SA rugby and he has a wizened captaincy, making him one of the best in the business.

In Kleinjan Tromp and Jannes Labuschagne we have two of the hardest men you will ever find in a rugby jersey. These two hardmen form the backrow and aside from their obvious ability to get the ball well, their physical attributes make them hard to stop in the driving maul.

The engine room will be controlled by the Bok trio of incumbent Lawrence Sephaka, Lukas Van Biljon and Marius Hurter. In these three we have a fornt row that have on three occasions shown up well against a vaunted Bulls front row and walked away as winner twice out of three times in 2005.

We have also added the considerable backup talents of Under 21 Boks, Earl Rose and his brother Jodie. Thabang Molefe, the massive U21 Springbok outside centre also moves to the Lions. On the bench we have the resources of John Daniels, underrated Doppies Le Grange, Russel Winter, Willem Stoltz, Gordon Gilfillan and Baksteen Nel.

The team played some of the most balanced rugby of any side in the Currie Cup this year and their second position on the Currie Cup log after the round robin should be cause for concern with other teams. The Cats are at their best when written off.

Here’s hoping 2006 is another year where they get written off.

Every year the Cats look good on paper. This is because the team is a mixture of Freestate and the Lions. This year they look good without the Cheetahs. Somehow, I feel this is the Year of the Cat and the Bacardi Breezes will be the first to suffer from the claws when the Super 14 kicks off.


And I will be at Ellispark shouting:

HOE MAAK DIE KATTE? MIAOWW MIAOWW MIAOWW!!!!

And if they lose?

We all know who'll be to blame for that?

Comments:
Dragons

Thank DavidS

Will go and read now ;-)
 
Yip DavidS, King Loius made a big error there, hope that end of marraige bodes well for both the Cats & Cheetahs.

You support a mean team.

Isnt the 8 from leopeards also joining you?

Why do you think they retained the Cats name- and not unified the name under the Lions?
 
Dis Kandas se skuld!!!!!!

Davids

We had a year of the Bulls and one of the Cats, anyone care to do one for the Sharkies?
 
I hope for SA's sake they do well. It really doesn't matter where they ended up in the CC, but whether they'll be able to carry that CC form into the S14 and transform it into victories.

Certainly the split with the Cheetahs would help that cause.

But like I said on the Bulls thread, the Lions have to overcome that panic-mood they seem to get in when things don't go there way, dessolving into a complete uphill battle. If they can do that, SA will have at least three good sides (along with Bulls and Cheetahs) that could knock some sense into those NZ and Aussies.
 
BTW

IMHO Doppies Le Grange is overrated. He had a terrible 2004 (among others)in S12 - especially on defense. His attacking abilities are also limited. He should stay at Vodacom level and let Julies and Fourie cover the centre spots
 
Aldo


Naaahhhh


Bogger hulle

Laat hulle sink....


Bloembull


Hulle lyk altyd goed op papier. Nou's dit net 'n kwessie van gel.

Dunno who's in the squad aside from the usual suspects I named and the Rose brothers.

The 8 from NW has joined the Lions and will probably be available for the Cats, but with Baywatch, Vosloo and Van Heerden I don't see him getting much game time.

I know there are 30 in the provisional squad, but even that make-up is secret.

The team will be named on 7 January 2006.

At the moment the Cats squad is on holiday.
 
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