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Full Version: So much for Lukebeing 'Mr Unpopular'
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November 04, 2006 Edition 1

Gavin Rich

The controversy this week over the election, or non-election, of Luke Watson as the South African Players' Player of the Year comprehensively blew out of the water the theories that he would be bad for Springbok morale as he is an unpopular player.

For those who did not follow the latest Watson furore on the internet, it was alleged by a rugby website that the Western Province captain was chosen by his peers among the professional players in South Africa as their Player of the Year. This poll was conducted via sms, and last Friday Watson was the clear leader before a call was made for more votes.

In an email sent to the website, the South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins confirmed that he was called in to make a casting vote when the Players' Player poll delivered a tie between Watson and Kabamba Floors of the Cheetahs. Hoskins said that he felt the award should go to Floors.

Quite what qualifies Hoskins, who is definitely not a player, to make this call is difficult to understand. Surely then the award should be called the Players' and President's Player of the Year?

But as these awards should never be taken too seriously, and are not akin to winning or losing a Test match, that is not the issue. What is interesting though is that Watson was one of the top two favoured men when the players voted. So much then for him being disliked and unpopular, a legend that was propagated by the Bok camp during the home leg of the Tri-Nations.

And whichever way you look at it, the prominence enjoyed by both Watson and Floors when the players' views were canvassed is an embarrassment for Bok coach Jake White, for these were the two players who most critics felt were the most unlucky not to make White's tour squad.

Both of them are, of course, players who are cast in the mould of fetcher flanks, which has become a subject that White has had to debate with rugby media more than anything else.

White may have felt that the debate would be forgotten when Pierre Spies excelled in the No6 jersey in the last games of the Tri-Nations, but if his forwards do not attain dominance against Ireland and England over the next three weeks, then the subject of the fetcher is going to be a spectre that will haunt him throughout the tour.

You don't have to have a particularly long memory to remember occasions where a fetcher style flank has won Test matches against the Boks on recent northern hemisphere visits.

While everyone blamed poor Andre Pretorius for the defeat to Scotland at a wet Murrayfield in 2002, it was in fact the little known Budge Poutney who won that game for the Scots.

And even though the Boks had Schalk Burger at No6 against Ireland at Lansdowne Road two years ago, the man-of-the-match for the winners was openside flank Johnny O'Connor.

For the fetcher debate not to rear itself again on this tour, White is going to have to hope that the Bok tight forwards can make the same big impact on their opponents that they did against Australia and New Zealand in the home Tri-Nations matches, thus enabling forward momentum to negate the necessity for having a ball chaser.
We could have done with a good fetcher against the Irish yesterday.

I still feel that this guy should have been picked for the Boks. I also liked Kabamba Floors from the Freestate .

Its the old problem of Brawn and brains I am afraid. The selectors always seem to pick the bigger physical specimens, even though they may be a couple of fractions of a second slower to the breakdown ( and this is true internationally too.. sic Woodward and the Neil Back saga of some years ago)