31 Jul 2012

Sportesk - Social Network for Sportsmen and Women

In the last decade, social networking sites have gone viral. By using online sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, users are able to communicate with friends, family, celebrities, employers and even brands from all over the world.

Social networking allows you to communicate with whomever you want (or whatever you want), whenever you want and the advantage of this type of communication is endless.

New social networking site, Sportesk, has really found a niche in the social media marketplace. The site, as the name may suggest, is targeted towards sports fanatics, and offers the opportunity for anybody involved in sport – players, coaches, refs, teams, agents, sponsors etc. – to connect with each other from anywhere in the world!

27 Jul 2012

Opinion: It's time for Argentina, Japan and the Pacific Islands to be embraced by Super Rugby

As always during this time of the year, I arose early on Saturday morning, defying stupendous odds to catch a glimpse of the Super Rugby Play-Offs, or 'squeeky bum time' as the culmination of the season has become known in the UK.

That term was so beautifully coined by legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in the late '90s, to describe the added pressure that is piled on when results, not performances are imperative. With that ratcheting up of pressure normally comes some added excitement too.

Was it just me though or did the first round of qualifying matches seem rather a damp squib?

Rather than drawing breath after a roller coaster ride of attacking rugby, I found myself stifling the yawns. Both games were of a reasonable quality but they were also a little underwhelming; not the feast SANZAR representatives would have been hoping for when the Crusaders-Bulls and Reds-Sharks match-ups were confirmed.

17 Jul 2012

John Kirwan looks to turn Blues 'Poisoned Chalice' Golden

One of Auckland rugby's favourite sons was welcomed back to Eden Park yesterday, as influential power brokers Andy Dalton and Gary Whetton revealed that John Kirwan would be given the task of leading the Blues revival in 2013.

 During the press conference of his unveiling, Kirwan wasted no time in revealing that he was 'fulfilling a dream' coaching the Blues and was noticeably bristling with excitement.

The former golden boy of New Zealand rugby has a strong affinity with Auckland, having represented them in domestic rugby 142 times between 1983 and 1994, but had recently forged a coaching career in Italy and Japan. The time seems right for Kirwan to make the next step though. At first glance, it seems a pretty good fit.

The Blues have struggled under Pat Lam this year, enduring a miserable season in which they finished bottom of the New Zealand conference, despite pre-season hopes of challenging for the title. John Kirwan's challenge therefore will be to transform a stuttering franchise, which has recently been regarded as a bit of a poisoned chalice, into a golden one.

The 'Not So Serious' Super Rugby 2012 Awards

The Round Robin stage of this year's Super 15  finally came to an end on Sunday after 18 rounds of action packed rugby. The Stormers, Chiefs and Reds clinched top spots in their conferences and can look forward to hosting some big ties in the coming weeks.

The play-offs still await us, but as not all teams will be involved over the next three weeks.....now seemed as good a time as any (out of equality) to give you Dumptackle Rugby Blog's not so serious take on the end of year 'Award Ceremony'. Sit back, crack open a beer and enjoy the daftness.

The following categories are discussed 'in depth':

The Adam Kleeberger Award for Best Beard, Best 90s Tribute Act, Distinguished Award for Services to Hamburgers, Saturday Night Fever Award, The Piri Weepu Cult Hero Award, Best Mr T Impression and M.F.P (Most Fragile Player).

Read on below to see who made the grade in our satirical Awards Ceremony and leave your own awards in the comments section if you wants your thoughts to be known!

16 Jul 2012

Super Rugby - Time for the Play-Offs!

Reds snatch Aussie Conference
The round robin stage of this year's Super 15 came to a conclusion on Saturday, as a dramatic weekend of rugby witnessed the Stormers, Chiefs and Reds confirmed as  conference winners in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

The Crusaders, Bulls and Sharks also kept alive their hopes of Super Rugby glory, qualifying for the play-offs through the hotly contested wild card positions. They secured their passage after comfortable strolls past the Force, Cheetahs and Lions respectively.

Spare a thought for the Brumbies and Hurricanes though, who agonisingly missed the cut by the narrowest of margins. Sport can be cruel at times and coaches Jake White and Mark Hammett must be pondering what could have been had an extra point been garnered elsewhere during the competition.

Both can rest easy knowing that their sides surpassed all pre-season expectations though. The Hurricanes in particular, who finished as the competition's top try scorers (by quite a distance), were the 'feel good' team of 2012.

12 Jul 2012

Friday Fun - Leaky Australians, Fiji's new haka and my World XV

The weekend is nearing and the rugby therefore is creeping up on us once again. The Super 15 will be acting out the final round its' Round Robin stage, with the Hurricanes kicking it all off against the Chiefs in Wellington on Friday night.

While the three conference leaders (Stormers,Chiefs and Brumbies) have all but been confirmed (barring the Brumbies collecting zero points and the Reds getting a full house), five teams remain in contention for the other three play-off spots and it's all beginning to get a bit tense.

Until the action commences though, Dumptackle Rugby Blog rounds up some of the more quirky happenings from this week for your entertainment...

We divulge on the new Fijian war dance known simply as the 'I Bole', the problem of a rogue urinator in Australian domestic rugby and select our World XV for the season. What more could you want?

Is 2012 the year of the Sharks in Super Rugby?

Despite enjoying a long, illustrious history in Currie Cup rugby, the Sharks have never been able to translate their domestic success onto the Super Rugby stage. Runners up in 1996, 2001 and 2007; the Sharks have often been the nearly men of the competition.

2007 was perhaps the closest they came to getting their mitts on the trophy. Yet, despite topping the Super Rugby table during the round robin and also becoming the first South African side to host a Super Rugby final that year, they finished second best to a Bryan Habana inspired Bulls team, who managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in the dying moments. That final’s result sparked an unprecedented era of Bulls supremacy. How different things could have been….

A run of five wins in the Sharks’ last six games though now has some fans wondering; is this the season the Sharks finally come of age? The Chinese calendar may suggest otherwise, but perhaps 2012 is the year of the Shark after all? Their 32-10 demolition of the Bulls on Saturday not only kept their play-off hopes alive, but set up an unlikely charge towards the title.

11 Jul 2012

Opinion: Stop Sniggering! Scottish rugby's bold 'Four Year Plan' should be commended, not derided

Scottish Rugby's new Chief Executive, Mark Dodson, sparked a few looks of incredulity last week when he addressed the Annual General Meeting for the first time in his short tenure. Truth be told, a few sniggers could be heard at the back of the room too. His bold four year plan for Scottish rugby should be commended though, not derided. The aims may seem implausible to many in the short-term, but too often management is constrained by lack of vision. This criticism at least cannot be leveled at Mark Dodson.

If you haven't heard already, Dodson has set some incredibly ambitious targets for Scotland's national team, aiming to secure an RBS Six Nations Grand Slam and even World Cup glory by 2016 (ie. win the next World Cup). When you consider the Scots' early exit in last year's RWC and their failure to win Europe's flagship international tournament since 1999, it looks a very tall order indeed.

One cannot dismiss lightly the fact that Scotland have a fair old job on their hands. Wooden Spooners to World Champions in four years is no easy task. There is however strategy behind the bravado and a realisation that the tide perhaps is turning. Scotland do have talent coming through. They now need to match it with ambition.

8 Jul 2012

Sonny Bill abandons ship. Nonu to the rescue. But who backs up?

Sonny Bill Williams looks almost certain to continue his rugby union career in Japan (before switching codes to rugby league in Australia), thus ruling him out of contention for the inaugral Rugby Championship later this year. Fret not though. It is worth noting that the All Blacks still have a couple of damn good centres at their disposal.

Sonny Bill has taken his game to 'an all new level' in 2012 according to Wayne Smith and Dave Rennie (his coaches at the Chiefs), but the Auckland born code swapper is not the 'be all and end all' of New Zealand rugby. Round 15 of this year's Super Rugby competition reminded us of that salient point.

While a rejuvenated Ma'a Nonu, fresh from a 5 week rest, was busy tearing the Force apart at Eden Park, both with his destructive running game and his fabulous array of miss passes, SBW was busy committing a rugby sin in the dieing minutes at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton.

5 Jul 2012

Predicting the 2015 Rugby World Cup

Every year following a Rugby World Cup, we tend to see a clutch of retirements, resignations and sometimes even sackings in the international rugby arena. While the gloriously unforgiving world of test rugby may come to and abrupt end for some, for others a door of opportunity opens.

South Africa, England and World Champions New Zealand all started a-fresh with new coaches in 2012, and with that influx of heads came new ideas, playing philosophies and also personell. While the best coaches often adapt their styles and selections to the latest law interpretations, one can at least see which types of players the current crop would be likely to invest their faith in under the current rules.

So, without further adieu, Dumptackle rugby blog presents its' wholly un-scientific prediction of the major test nations first XV's for RWC 2015. Some notable legendary players have been left out, not because they are not good enough at the moment but because father time may have caught up with them after four more years and due to the increased competitive nature of some countries, there could be superior alternatives.

What do you make of the predicted squads? Please leave your views in the comments section below!

4 Jul 2012

Lancaster's hard nosed attitude will reap rewards for England

After two gruelling tests in which Heyneke Meyer's Springboks imposed both their will and their physical dominance on England, it was encouraging to see Stuart Lancaster's young squad charge themselves back up emotionally for one last big effort on tour. They may not have won their final match, but they can take some solace from the 14 all draw in Port Elizabeth; South Africa's most successful ground at test level. England displayed a lot of heart, endeavour and importantly, backbone.

Too often in the past northern hemisphere sides have capitulated in the final test on tour (see Ireland's effort in Hamilton, NZ as just one example of many). Drained physically and emotionally, some perhaps have been guilty of looking forward to time on the beach with the family after a long hard season. England though did not suffer from these frailties. England in fact were defiant.

Stuart Lancaster remarked prior to the tour quite vocally that he had discussed with the players how the season didn't end after the Aviva Premiership final. It seems he struck a chord with the players. The young squad continued with his hard-nosed attitude approaching the third test, despite finding themselves on the receiving end of an unassailable 2-0 scoreline.

June International Tests - The Definitive Review (New Zealand)

New Zealand cleaned up in June with a 3-0 whitewash over the touring Irish squad. Despite a scare in the second test, where Ireland almost pulled off an historic first ever victory over their hosts, many Kiwi players actually came out of the series with their reputations enhanced. A few stars were born too.

The first and third tests can only be described as thrashings and will have Declan Kidney pondering the future of some of his squad. Perhaps his own position is becoming untenable too. New Zealand inflicted a record score of 60 points to nil over the Irish in the final game. Worrying times for the Irish.

In this post though, Dumptackle rugby blog runs through NZ's 'break through players', the 'movers and shakers' and settles on a player of the series.

Steve Hansen should follow the example of Del Bosque and Spain

If Steve Hansen and his fellow All Black coaches ever needed a blueprint on ‘how to sustain international sporting success’, they need look no further than the efforts of Spanish national coach Vicente Del Bosque, the man who inherited their title winning side of 2008 before subsequently leading Spain to unprecedented World Cup and European glory in 2010 and 2012.
By dismantling Italy four goals to nil in the final of European football’s showpiece tournament on Sunday night, ‘La Rojas’ clinched their third successive major title; a record which they hold alone over almost a century of competition. This record is all the more astonishing though, when you consider the raft of early exits, painful defeats and tears shed by both their players and supporters prior to their inaugural success at Euro 2008.