And a top of the morning to all out there in Gaggerland. I hope you’re all as mildly enthused as I am to bring you all episode 26 of the Chewsday Chew and give us all a bit of grist to chew over, comment on, argue about and lie in regards to during the ‘off’ week while we wait for the Rugby Championship to recommence with the two tests of Australia v New Zealand and Argentina v South Africa as per week 5 of 6 of this year’s tourny.
Personally, the timing and location of the next test match between the Wobbly Wallabies v Nearly All Blacks is a bit of a head scratcher. I get that everyone wants a game in Melbourne for exposure and crowd reasons (I mean, Victorians do show up in droves for the opening of an envelope or a good old fashioned covid protest, so they are generally a good earner). But, did we really think through doing anything non-AFL in that town at this time of the year? On a school night? Really? REALLY?
For those living under a rock (and foreigners reading this), AFL is by far and away the biggest sport in Australia. To be specific, it is the most searched Australian sport on the internet, most well-attended by crowds, most watched regular season sport, most published sports topic within Australia and, as of last week, the most valuable TV sports deal ($4.5Billion over 7yrs) in our wee nation. And the margin of that first place is a veritable country mile. It’s double anything else on a number of those metrics. Nothing gets close, especially among the winter sports. The size and scope of AFL simply gives it overwhelming domination of the national sporting landscape. And the heartland of that code is Melbourne. And the most popular 4wks of the year for that code in that town started last week (finals).
So yup, it’s the absolute BEST time of the year to plan on throwing an alternative (some would even say ‘fringe’) sports event in Melbourne and hope to get anything better than a sympathy showing.
But anyway, as it is the match is this Thursday night (because, you know, we can’t compete with AFL finals in Melbourne, during the finals, on a weekend, so let’s go for an off night, a school night, a work night because THAT will pack ’em in won’t it?) at Marvel Stadium (known to the rest of us as Docklands Stadium) which seats some 53-54 thousand fans (here’s hoping).
RA scheduling and marketing take a bow. This is shaping to be almost as good as the last RA event in Melbourne. I mean, who could forget the astronomically atmospheric sensation that was Super Rugby round? Yeh… (Crickets…). Seriously though, this could work. Like hooking an opponent’s best player in the face with a hockey stick, it could be a stroke of creative genius. I have my doubts.
But in the meantime, I’ve got a Chew to publish. And at the time of writing team-sheets aren’t out for either the Wobblies v Nearlies on Thursday, and nor for the Argentine Pumas (FISMs – Falkland Island Silver Medallists) v South African Catholics (because they play like they hate the pill) on Sunday. So what am I to do?
What I’m going to do is continue my recent theme and propose a Team of the Tourny so far, but with the difference of instead of being a jersey versus jersey comparison and picking on points awarded it’s instead the team I’d pick if I had a free hand to pick whomever I wanted, wherever I wanted from folk playing in the tourny this year.
Now, applying the Nutta patented formula used to date of jersey v jersey comparisons on the sliding points scale, the Team of the Tourny to-date (post week 4) was (is?) as follows:
And surprisingly enough, comparing a team I’ve selected on a points system I devised compared to a team I selected because I felt like it, there aren’t THAT many differences when you look at the overall 23 heads. Some may say it’s a shuffling of the deckchairs. But that said, there’re some changes for balance and impact. So MY ‘free hand’ Team of the Tourny so far would be:
For the pedantic among us, there are 15 of the same names (of 23). So 8 changes in names.
Whom did I pick and why?
Now, I’m a big believer in combinations and that clearly shows here especially in the tight 5. The Saffa tight 5 and subsequent set-piece has been all dominant all tournament. And much of that stems from combinations on top of individual ability. I mean Marx, Herby and Etzy are world’s best in their jerseys as-is, but with their regular dancing partners beside them in Kitshoff and de Jager (who both are arguably in the world Top3 anyway) they just get even better. As such, the Saffa ‘best’ tight 5 is, to me, an undeniable pick at the best of times let alone reflecting on the cold reality they have backed that up with a Bill and a Lions series win. 50-60 solid minutes from 4 out of 5 of these lads and with the sheer amount of possession that would flow, even the least competent mob of backline faeries should be able to wrap up the match.
From the bench, the Wobbly props Slipper and Alaalatoa combine with Montoya (who is the replacement Captain) as the Finishers along with Sam Whitelock. And between that collection, we have a bankable provision of meat and potatoes that would just starve an opposition out of a game.
Pistol Pete Samu, Kolisi and Big Bobby V would be my starting loose combo. Kolisi is the easiest pick of the whole team (followed by Marx) and is my team captain. The guy has been all class this series and has the ability to transition out of Saffa No6 into a general/normal No6 with no issues. For me, while Sam Kane is undoubtedly brave, the no7 jersey has been realistically duked out between Pistol Pete Samu and the indomitable Kwagga Smith. And while I’m a quiet fan of Kwagga I reckon Pistol creates too much too often to be left out of my starting side. And for No8, while Duane ‘Varmit’ Vermeulen and Jasper Wiese have done their jobs, the No8 role has really been biffed out between Bobby V and Ardie Savea with Bobby V getting my nod, although with Ardie coming off the bench to run at the minced meat defence left behind (although to be fair, Kwagga could easily fill that role as well).
My halves are Aaron “Feel My Wrath” Smith and Mo’unga. They are just so reliable and creative as to be almost must picks especially when compared to their opposition. And couple them with Havili at No12 and Luke ‘Skywalker’ Am as the hands down No13, we have a midfield built to rain points against anyone as well as make their tackles. For clarity, Skywalker was my easiest pick of the faeries.
The Flower Pickers would be Reiko Ioane, but back where he should be, with point-scoring machine Boffelli on the other wing and Willie le Roux in No15. Boffa kicks the goals. For me, le Roux has been a standout performer from down the back. And I reckon the match impact of a +60min Jordie Barrett slotting into anywhere in that back three, or No10, and would be awesome.
Finlay Christie gets my ‘vibe’ selection as the pine No9 – I just reckon he’s got the potential to be fantastic if he gets a proper shot. And Sticky Icky has earned his jersey to cover the midfield, and frankly anything else that needs doing, based on current form.
So there it is Cobbers – Nutta’s free hand selection after week 4 of the (Southern) Rugby Championship.
Is a side made up of 8x Catholics, largely dominating the tight 5, 8x Nearlies generally owning the midfield, 2x (token?) Argies and a random sprinkling of Wobblies a fair pick? Are there too many Aussies? Or too few Argies? What would be their game plan? Am I on drugs? Are you on drugs? What do you think? What will weeks 5 & 6 toss in? Or alternatively, what would be the Northern side to rival it?
Let your creative juices flow in the comments section…