Archive for September, 2014

The Pollard Package: How to beat the All Blacks

Posted on: September 20th, 2014 by Rob Opie No Comments

Heyneke Meyer must have been left scratching his head after the recent Australasian tour, and wondering if he will ever beat the All Blacks in New Zealand. Well Heyneke, you’ve done some pretty awesome stuff in your Bok coaching role to date , but it’s now time to lift your game to the next level. It’s time to lift the ante, and the answer is staring you right in your face – The Pollard Package! When things are just not working out against New Zealand, it’s time to implement what is called a radical tactical shift!

A legendary Manchester United striker of yester- year recently commented that if he had  David Beckham in his team, he would have scored twice as many goals, as he did in his brilliant career. He was alluding to Beckham’s split second precision passing into the box. Yes, David Beckham was what can be termed a ‘plus one second ‘player. And, at the very top level this makes all the difference!  But, Heyneke if we look at your selection in Perth, you started with two halfbacks who are both ‘minus one second’ players. Add that up and your half backs are minus two seconds!  Now, this can still win you games versus lesser opposition, but you will never win against the top team in the world – the All Blacks.

In reality, by the time poor Jean de Villiers sniffs the ball, he is in dead man’s alley, with very few options left – as the hunting pack (opposition loose forwards) have a two second advantage. Now, we all know that Richie McCaw is a great player, but at age 33, he is no longer as quick as he use to be. So of course Richie loves it when you pick ‘minus one second’ half backs!  He has a field day! And come on Heyneke don’t be fooled by the high ratings the New Zealand rugby community place on Morne Steyn’s head – they are just playing you! In reality, Morne only played with any confidence and authority when he had the genius of Fourie Du Preez on the inside – a player who can be described as a ‘plus two second’ player himself. That is how good Fourie still is!

So, what is required is a radical tactical shift in selection. Pick your team as if you’re in Richie McCaw’s changing room discussing the real Bok danger men that need to be closed down! Work out who they do not want to play against, and pick your team accordingly. Here is what is probably currently playing on Richie’s mind, and he wishes does not appear on the Bok team sheet – and it’s in the order of highest danger  Bok effectiveness    :

Fourie Du Preez – the Commander!

Handre Pollard –   the Full Package!

Eben Etzebeth –    the Enforcer!

Duane Vermeulen – the Bruiser!

Willie Le Roux – the Unpredictable!

Bismarck Du Plessis – the Scavenger!

Jean de Villiers – The Leader!

Bryan Habana – The Finisher

And then fill in the rest of the team sheet with all the other great players the Boks currently have in their ranks!

So the key lies at half back, where we need ‘plus two seconds’, not ‘minus two seconds’. We’re all lucky to be watching a Springbok rugby genius emerging in Handre Pollard – a player who can be described as the full package. He has it all and he seems like a fine level headed bloke as well! To date he has not played many games in tandem with Willie Le Roux,  but he is sure to develop a devastating fly half / full back interplay , like we saw with Freddie Michalak and Patrick Lambie at the Sharks !  Richie McCaw must be seriously worried about the options the Boks have coming up to RWC 2015.  At 34, he is unlikely to get too close to many ‘plus one second’ players, and we saw this with the Pollard/ Hendricks try on Saturday.

But, we also have our challenge in that Fourie Du Preez is now 32 , and the RWC 2015 will be his swansong. Ruan Pienaar at ‘plus one second’ and predictable is certainly not the answer! Let’s see what Francois Hougaard can do?  Heyneke, we need to take into consideration that you have seldom backed him to start at scrumhalf and he has had the ‘Oscar Pistorius cloud’ hanging over his head for nearly two years, which can only cloud his decision making. But, what must not go unnoticed was his superb pass that led to Pollard’s drop goal on Saturday. Maybe he is a new man now – free of the close Oscar situation that must have affected him in some way.

One thing is for sure:  A du Preez, Pollard and Le Roux combination will beat the All Blacks wherever they choose to play! That’s because these players create seconds, options and choices! And that is exactly what the All Blacks just hate to play against! They are forced to close these players down!  And that is what erodes their focus on their own game plan . Well done Heyneke, but it’s now time to up the Bok game plan.  The Pollard Package is the real game changer!



Rob Opie on Wellness – is Tim Noakes’s ‘Banting’ diet missing a key ingredient?

Posted on: September 20th, 2014 by Rob Opie No Comments

If you don’t know what or who’s behind the Tim Noakes (aka Banting) diet, you must have just popped in from another planet.  Noakes, professor of sports science at the University of Cape Town, and an internationally renowned scientist, infuriated doctors, dietitians and academics with his spectacular about turn on carbohydrates for health a few years ago. He says humans don’t need them. He also no longer believes in a cardinal rule of cardiology: that saturated fat causes heart disease. Fans of Noakes and his diet are growing faster than waistlines are shrinking, and science backs him. Still, human brand specialist Rob Opie thinks Noakes may be missing a key ingredient in his diet’s recipe. MS

By Rob Opie*

Years back, when I was studying the University of Cape Town, we enjoyed our annual visits to the Knysna marathon immensely. For most of us, it was just one huge party. We were happy to tuck into a few ice cold beers on the Friday night before the race. For more serious athletes, it was all about carbo-loading and PB (personal best) times. Cape Town sports science Prof Tim Noakes helped to fill pasta and pizza joints, where the “real runners” congregated.  They followed his advice to the letter on carbo-loading.  They regarded his book, The Lore of Running, as law and lore indeed.

Then he did a complete about turn a few years ago, saying  he got it all wrong about carbo-loading. It isn’t just the pasta and pizza restaurants that have been knocked off balance by Prof Noakes’s low-carb, high-fat (LCHF, aka “Banting”) diet. Doctors, dieticians, academics have come streaming out the woodwork to attack him for his views, saying he got everything wrong, and his diet is dangerous.

But has he got everything right second time round? Yes, and no, I say.

After UCT, my career was focused on food, with over two decades invested in feeding South Africans. The one thing we knew for sure was that South Africans – well most of the 53 million of us – were “carbohydrate switchers”, and still are. They switch according to which form of carbohydrate is best value and convenient at the time – to keep stomachs full through long working days – switching from pap, to rice, pasta, potatoes and the convenience of bread. In reality most South Africans therefore can’t afford any specialist low-carb diet that Prof Noakes’s advocates. He has said poor children should eat organ meats rather than pap and bread. That makes sense, since these meats are affordable, and nutritious.

Steak a better bet

But  back to running, where from my own experience, I know that pizza did not improve my running. In fact it got worse. So, I agree with you, Prof Noakes: a steak is always the better bet. Proteins are vital building blocks and saturated fab is fab for body (and mind).

Prof Noakes’s heart has always been in the right place in helping people to do life better, but as a scientist, is he not complicating things again? The  human body has simple, natural ways of telling us what it thrives on, and what it merely survives on. It sends messages all the time when things are not right: from indigestion to bloating, to allergic reactions, to excess weight, to fatigue, right through to life-threatening diseases. That’s just how it works. Our job is to take heed of these messages.

We now live in the most technologically advanced food world mankind has ever known, yet most of us remain steadfastly ignorant of most of the potent universal laws of life and health that govern our daily lives.

Universal law

When it comes to food, the most important universal law is balance. The body works much like a swimming pool – get the ph balance wrong and the pool goes green. In the same way, your body chemistry requires balance, and the food you eat affects that balance. Too much or too little of anything for too long creates an imbalance. That creates the groundwork for any state of “dis-ease” – from minor illness to major  life-threatening “dis-eases” – to develop. The trick is to get the acid /alkaline balance right, so that the body can do its job – and function optimally!        

Luckily for us, the human body is blessed with its own inbuilt sensors that constantly send out messages. Just one example: like most of us, you will at some time have experienced a certain message known as a “babbelas” (hangover).  It’s just your body talking to you as it does all the time, sending you a message that you’ve overdone things, and disturbed its balance. Too much acidity in this case.

If we all listened a little more attentively to what the body tells us daily – what it likes and what it doesn’t like, but most of all what it really needs – we would reap the rewards of improved vitality , called happiness and health. (and maybe a six-pack stomach with a little extra effort!)

So thank you, Prof Noakes for confirming what I always suspected about the benefits of a big, juicy, fat South African steak, and  for helping so many people lose weight, and manage serious medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease along the way.

But for me, diet will always remain a four-letter word, about “eating to live”, rather than “living to eat”. Keep it simple and balanced. And if food is really to be our medicine, and medicine our food, as the ancient Greek Hippocrates advocated, that requires balanced living and eating in the physical, chemical and emotional realms of life and health .


Jean de Villiers. Captain in a cauldron again!

Posted on: September 20th, 2014 by Rob Opie No Comments

Hats off to Jean de Villiers coming up trumps again on Saturday at Newlands. A great captain and a great leader under pressure. The result was a hard earned Bok victory against Australia, and add two more superb tries to his own personal tally. But, behind it lies a Bok captain in a cauldron again, and a Bok Brand being significantly undermined and devalued.

In 2008, John Smit found himself in a similar position and was forced to address his team on the matter. On Saturday Jean de Villiers would have had to do the same. John Smit referred to it in his book entitled ‘Captain in a Cauldron ‘ as ‘killing the cancer ‘,when a player finds himself selected under duress – or let’s call it what it really is – political interference . In 2008, the said player was a certain Luke Watson, and Smit could see his team was decidedly off color – on and off the field. Add to that most of the players did not enjoy Luke Watson as a person. He simply did not fit into the squad! Now, that was not the case on Saturday when Oupa Moheje took the field – obviously well liked by all the players, but with one problem. Every player in the team knew he had been given his starting cap under duress – due to political interference. The result was a Bok team hopelessly off color in the first half on Saturday. Out of sync they found themselves 10-5 down at half time. Add to this a fumbling captain who normally has the best set of hands in the game .The Boks knew they had to dig deep again, but did they know how?

The issue? With 20 years of democracy under our belts, when will we ever learn? When will we simply stop looking at color – when will we just say no to political interference in sport. A Bok jersey is one that is earned through blood, sweats and tears, but above all being the very best in your position– to earn that starting cap in green and gold. That is what drives the Bok Brand, makes the team gel and drives up performance to the next level. With full respect to Oupa as a person, on Saturday we saw a test starting cap handed out to an inexperienced player who was far from the best option at No 7, and that said it all to the other players in the squad .Certainly no fault to Oupa, who has done superbly well to get into the squad, but was now put in position he should not have had to answer too. He still needed to be tested off the bench, against lesser opposition –when the right opportunity presented itself. Saturday was not the right time – and the players all knew that! And they also now knew for certain, that not one of them in the team could secure their position purely on merit of performance. Now that is the real game changer in sport ,as it destroys the key ingredient that drives all sporting champions to the next level – Faith , Confidence and Belief – called FCB .The interference undermined the team dynamics , and they simply failed to gel in the first half – near everything going wrong ! And it was not Oupa’s fault !

Luckily Saturday turned out to be a tale of two halves, and I am sure Jean de Villiers had some very wise words to say before coming out the tunnel at half time. Yes Oupa ,did his best , but sometimes one’s best is just not good enough at the top level .His substitution early in the second half rekindled the Bok team dynamics – and they surged to a 28-10 victory . Suddenly the team was able to gel. Not because Schalk Burger had the No 7 jersey , but because the team pulled it all together again –felt more relaxed with the situation – suddenly the dropped passes were gone – and a bonus point try resulted .The players gave it their all in those last thirty odd minutes, and Australia added zero points to their half time tally !

Well done to captain courageous Jean de Villiers, but next week it starts all over again and this time it will be the far tougher All Black team. Let’s hope the ‘political interference cancer’ has been killed off, so that you have the mental and physical energy to have a fair crack at the best team in the world on Saturday. But, this time with none of the unnecessary pressure you found at Newlands. The lesson has once again been heard loud and clear. Select ‘rugby players as rugby players ‘! Twenty years down the line – who actually cares anymore about color! I am sure Oupa will agree, and he himself will know if and when he is ready to start in a Bok jersey. Till then, he must go through the ranks to earn his stripes like anybody else. That’s the magic of the Bok jersey . Bok team dynamics depend on how that ‘Bok jersey’ is awarded and presented. And that is how pride and hope is built for a nation .It’stime our politicians focused on building brand value , not destroying it ! Our nation and Oupa deserve better!