Raindancers - Daniel Viles' All Star Rugby Team

THE RAINDANCERS - RUGBY

 

This is a rugby team made up of my favourite rugby players. I would, of course, manage the team and from time to time pull on the number 7 jersey and declare a personal crusade on all opposition fly-halves from the side of the scrum before suddenly deciding that I am an impact player and, therefore, cannot play for any more than five minutes at a time. Anyway, here is the team, the remaining descriptions to follow.

 

 

15. Joubert

 

14. C. van der Westhuizen

 

11. Carozza

13. Bartholomeusz

 

 

 

12. Howard

 

 

 

10. Paulse

 

 

 

9. Slattery (c)

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Brial

 

7. Smith

 

 

6. Pienaar

 

5. Eales

4. FitzSimons

 

 

3. Meeuws

2. Kearns

1. Allen

 

 

 

Fullback: Andre Joubert (Natal, South Africa)

I sat in the Castlemaine stand at Ballymore during the 1996 Super 12 semi-final between Queensland and Natal and watched Andre Joubert run away from me to carve up the Reds defence to score a try and set up two more, and then run towards me in the second half to score two more tries and set up a couple more. Joubert was sometimes described as the "Rolls Royce of fullbacks" such was his smooth accelerating running style which was both beautiful to watch and incredibly difficult to stop. Also a good defensive fullback with a booming kick.

Right Wing: Cabous van der Westhuizen (Natal)

Cabous was the guy who Andre set up two tries for in the afore-mentioned match. However, Cabous also created one himself through blinding speed and tremendous strength up the right wing. Was third in line behind James Small and Pieter Hendriks in 1996, and retired soon after, thus he never was a Springbok, which is a shame, because he was a genuine personality and would have made a positive difference to an often dour South African side.

Outside Centre: Mark Bartholomeusz (Brisbane SHS, Souths, Canberra Vikings, ACT, Australia)

OK, so I knew Mark at school, although I don't expect him to remember me. (If you're reading this, Mark, I was the touch-judge with a ponytail who also played cricket for Easts.) When he was in Year 11, he could run 10.8 seconds for 100m, scored three centuries in one GPS season in the 1st XI, and was outside centre, then inside centre for the first XV. The following year, he moved to flyhalf where he scored a dazzling 60m solo try against St Peter's in a trial game in which he swerved past nine defenders. He has managed to grab a single Wallaby jersey (I always knew he would) but unfortunately it looks as though that’s where his tally will stay. His dominance of the Brisbane club competition, however, could extend for quite a few years yet.

Inside Centre: Pat Howard (Queensland, ACT, Australia)

Pat's grandfather was Cyril Towers, founder of the Randwick Rugby Club and author of the flat-back running, attacking style of rugby for which that club is famous. Pat, however, was the author of the jinking game, in which he would run flat out at defenders, then suddenly, bring both of his feet together and jump off both feet to the right, before running forward and beating the next tackler with another jink to the left, or the right, depending on how he felt. For the Brumbies during 1996 and 1997, he could beat as many as four tacklers in one run, thus ensuring that his forwards had an easy time of it for the next thirty metres or so. Definitely deserved more time in a Wallaby jersey.

Left Wing: Paul Carozza (Queensland, Australia)

Proof that good things can come in small packages, Paul Carozza was a Wallaby star before the current trend towards huge wingers came into vogue. Carozza's career high point was the 1992 Bledisloe Cup series in which he was named Player of the Series. He scored the series-clenching try in the second test at Ballymore. Richard Loe smashed Carozza's jaw immediately after Carozza had grounded the ball. Paul's courage and skill in that series ought to have secured his place in the green and gold for many years. Still, no one can take 1992 away from this brilliant finisher.

Fly-half: Breyton Paulse (Western Province, South Africa)

The question you are asking right now is why I have selected a man who played almost his entire career on the wing at fly half. The question I am asking is why Paulse was never selected at fly half! Paulse is one of the most natural ball handlers I have ever seen. He was safe under the high ball, he had a good pass, an astonishingly good tackler by any standards let alone for someone of his small size and had a very sure kick. He also had pace to burn which is why it was so easy to just put him out on the wing. My theory on why Paulse was never tried at fly half (which is also Bob Dwyer’s theory) is that even in post-apartheid South Africa, you just didn’t put black men in key positions. It took until about 2003 for black and Cape coloured men to be selected in positions such as flyhalf, scrum half, lock and hooker. But Paulse is wearing no. 10 in my side!

Scrum half: Peter Slattery (c) (Queensland, Australia)

Another who deserved more time in a Wallaby jersey. While George Gregan certainly deserves his spot now, Slattery was desperately unlucky to lose the Wallaby No. 9 jersey in 1994 after his reputation was the victim of some inadequate protection from his forwards in tests against Ireland and Italy. Of course, the previous year, a cowardly Tongan had kneed him in the back, thus ending his chance to nail down the halfback position at that time. It is only too fitting then that it was Slattery who led the Reds to Super 10 victories in 1994 and 1995 to allow him to showcase his talent at the scrumbase and his outstanding leadership skills.

Number eight: Michael Brial (NSW, Australia)

Brial, whose career took an upward curve after he incorporated kayaking across Sydney Harbour into his training routine, was outstanding at open-side flanker for the Waratahs in the 1996 Super 12 where his speed and power was the genesis of many attacking raids. Was easily the Wallabies' best in their crushing 6-43 loss to the All Blacks in Wellington the same year. His sense of justice took a comical turn in the return match at Lang Park when Frank Bunce threw a punch at a Wallaby back and then, realising what he had done, offered no resistance when Michael Brial launched a series of retaliatory punches resulting in the most one-sided fight ever seen in any code of football.

Open side flanker: George Smith (ACT, Australia)

In George Smith’s breakthrough 2001 season, he was everywhere on the field. Just like Simon Poidevin and David Wilson before him, he had the supernatural ability to be the first man in and last man out of every ruck on the field. Watching him for the Wallabies against the Maori that year, I noticed one ruck which Smith had not made it to. What was wrong with him? The Maori spread the ball wide with a long cut-out pass, the recipient of which was immediately smashed by Mr Smith standing out in the centres. Now that’s reading the play! By the time of the 2003 World Cup, Smith had been switched to the blindside of the scrum, but was still among the best pilfering forwards in the game.

Blind side flanker: Francois Pienaar (Gauteng Lions, South Africa)

Francois Pienaar would probably have been considered as one of rugby's greatest ever captains in a 'normal' career. The fact that he was the captain during the period immediately after South Africa's re-entry into world rugby and formed a relationship with President Nelson Mandela that united a nation and laid the foundation for arguably the Rainbow Nation's greatest moment in rugby (the 1995 World Cup win) makes him immortal. Of course, he would have stood out on the field anyway with that tuft of hair that just wouldn't sit down!

Lock forward: John Eales (Queensland, Australia)

I think that enough has been said about John Eales, certainly in this part of the world, for anyone to know why he is in this side. I will always be thankful for his gracious nature after an incident at Ballymore in 1995 when I, jogging around Ballymore No. 2 as part of a referees training session, picked up a ball behind the posts that had been kicked by Peter Slattery. I kicked the ball back to Slats, missing the head of Australia's future captain by about an inch. Given that Eales had missed the entire 1993 season through injury, I was very close to becoming the first Queenslander in many years to receive the death penalty.

Lock forward: Peter FitzSimons (NSW, Australia)

I never saw Peter FitzSimons play rugby, a minor detail when considering selection for this team. Fitzy's main job in this side would be to romanticise in print the fine details of as many training sessions and matches as inspired him. On most occasions with my coaching of this team, I would allow a free reign and encourage as much individual freedom as possible, however, with Peter, conflict is the seed of great writing and I would gladly give him as much hell as was required to fill his column each week. That I haven't written a single word about his rugby skills in this description should be enough ammunition for one article already.

Tight head prop: Kees Meeuws (Otago, Auckland, New Zealand)

There is no doubting this guy’s class. As soon as the Auckland and All Black front row of Brown, Fitzpatrick and Dowd were put out to pasture, the Highlander front row of Meeuws, Oliver and Hoeft were there to take over. Like many rugby front rowers, however, Kees Meeuws’ world revolves around a far larger axis than just rugby. Any sport that has a sculptor as its most brawny participant has to be worth watching. Meeuws is another of those sadists who can bash himself around for 80 minutes and always look like he is enjoying himself.

Hooker: Phil Kearns (NSW, Australia)

'Boxhead' could never be a rugby league player. I mean, a hooker with a brain?! Yes, Phil Kearns who was once memorably described by Gordon Bray as 'the unemployed brickies labourer with a double degree in economics' is one of the more articulate people in Australian sport and also knows when to turn on the agro. His two-fingered salute to the crushed All Black forwards he had just steamrolled over for his first Test try in 1989 is one of the more enduring images of his career. Probably should have been the Wallaby captain instead of Michael Lynagh during the mid-90s as he seemed to be more respected and definitely got better results than the otherwise brilliant fly-half. It wouldn't hurt if Phil could make sure the team had enough 'Lean Cuisine' meals for tours as well.

Loose head prop: Mark "Bull" Allen (Wellington)

New Zealand has never been short of brilliance in its rugby ranks, but there has been a slight drought on characters in recent years. The Wellington captain, however, managed to nullify the hardest props in the game, inspirationally lead his teams to greater heights and still have plenty of room left over for a smile on his face. Instantly recognisable with his 'Kojak' hairstyle, Allen turned a Hurricane team that struggled in the 1996 Super 12 into 1997 Semi-finalists. It took an All-Black great in Craig Dowd to keep him out of a black jersey.

 

Replacement outside back: Stephen Larkham (ACT, Australia)

He just doesn't look like a rugby player, does he! And even if you could somehow convince yourself that he was, you wouldn't rate him too highly as a defender, would you! Maybe 'Bernie' HAS bluffed his way to the point where he is the best fly-half in the world, two years after being one of the top four fullbacks in the world. His solo try against Scotland at Murrayfield in 1998 where he skipped past ten defenders will compete with his 45m field-goal in the 99 World Cup Semi-Final as his most memorable moment, unless he does something even better before he retires - he probably will!

Replacement inside back: Thierry Lacroix (Natal, France)

Just in case it isn't clear, when Thierry is on the field, he will be the goal-kicker. His 55m penalty to sink Australia in Bordeaux in 1993 was an astounding piece of rugby. However, I hope he enjoys playing in a team full of Australians and South Africans as it will give him the chance to play the running, passing style of rugby that I suspect he enjoys a lot more than the ten-man game he sometimes plays with France.

Replacement scrum half: Werner Swanepoel (Golden Cats, South Africa)

Swanepoel was a greater scrum half than history will remember him. His big season was 2000 when the Springbok selectors finally trusted him over Joost van der Westhuizen with the green no. 9 jersey. In an often losing side, Swanepoel was electric. He was quick in attack and defence, always ready to pick a gap with the ball in hand or close one without it. And he played 80 minutes of every game with the most natural smile you have ever seen. Unfortunately, whenever South Africa start getting successful at playing expansive rugby, they go back into their shells and drop all of their skilful players for Neanderthals. Not here, baby!

Replacement flanker: David Wilson (Queensland, Australia)

The fourth ex-State High player in this side. I've never met David but I refereed his brother Paul on several occasions in my days as a rugby referee. David is quite small for a flanker by today's standards, but he is very quick and very, very tough. Plays a traditional flankers role in that he is ALWAYS the first player to the breakdown and his contribution in this area over the last decade has allowed the Wallabies to overcome the weight deficiency that they usually give to opposition forward packs. Captained the Australians in the absence of John Eales and deserves to be remembered as a Wallaby great when he retires.

Replacement lock: Ian Jones (North Harbour, New Zealand)

Throughout the 1990s, there was no contest when picking your locks for a World XV. On the right, you picked John Eales; on the left, you picked Ian Jones. Case closed. While he bulked up over the course of the decade, Jones looked like a twig early in his career; almost the rugby equivalent of Bruce Reid! How someone that thin thrived in the engine room of international rugby surprised many, but thrive he did, powering the all black lineout for the best part of a decade.

Replacement prop: Matthew Dunning (NSW, Australia)

Dunning has a cult following in Sydney as a prop forward who specialises in intercept tries and ill-timed field goals. Outside of this cult, this skills are seen to work against him as his critics point to his developing scrummaging skills suggesting that he work on those a bit first. But the critics miss the point. Scrummaging skills take years to develop and in Dunning, they will develop. The other skills that Dunning possesses, however, cannot usually be taught to props. So my verdict? Stick with him and watch him become a great Waratah and Wallaby prop who will be remembered for years.

Replacement hooker: Keith Wood (Ireland, British Lions)

Is Keith Wood the most well rounded hooker to ever play international rugby? Hookers aren't normally given epithets such as 'king of the intercept' or make commentators say silly things such as "and that's a great clearing kick from the hooker." I mean, really, next they'll be talking about his fantastic support play on the wings! Well, Wood does all of this. The jury is still out as to whether Wood's distinctive hairstyle (i.e. none) creates the illusion that he does more work on the field than he actually does, but there is simply no hooker with more all round skill than the Irish number 2.

 

 

And for interests' sake, here are some other players who I like who missed the squad:

 

Fullbacks: Matthew Burke, Christian Cullen, Werner Greeff, Chris Latham, Andrew Leeds, Marty Roebuck, Brent Russell, Gareth Thomas, Andrew Walker

Wingers: David Campese, Vilimoni Delasau, Doug Howlett, Daisuke Ohata, Roger Randle, Joe Roff, Ben Tune, Shane Williams

Outside Centres: Robbie Fleck, Will Greenwood, Brian O’Driscoll, Tana Umaga

Inside Centres: Tim Horan

Flyhalves: Rob Andrew, Daniel Carter, Henri Honiball, Julian Huxley, Stephen Jones, David Knox, Nicky Little, Ronan O’Gara, Carlos Spencer, Andrew Walton

Scrum Halves: Nick Farr-Jones, Hakkies Husselman, Agustin Pichot

Number Eights: Jerry Collins, Ron Cribb, Lawrence Dallaglio, Bobby Skinstad

Openside Flankers: Joe van Niekerk, Phil Waugh

Blindside Flanders: Michael Jones, Ipolito Fenukitau, Jonathan Thomas, Schalk van der Merwe

Locks: Mark Andrews, Justin Harrison, Apisai Naevo

Tight Head Props: Richard Bands, Al Baxter, Martin Castrogiovanni, Dan Crowley, Omar Hasan, Adam Jones

Hookers: Keven Mealamu

Loose Head Props: Os du Randt, Richard Harry, Robbie Kempson, Patricio Noriega, Lawrence Sephaka, Joeli Veitayaki, Bill Young

 

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