Loose Pass: Spain’s saga, Bath’s plight and Rassie Erasmus’ three-point plan

·5-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the saga of Spain, the plight of Bath and Rassie’s three-point plan…

How does it end?

As Spain’s rugby community ended Thursday with that unmistakeable feeling of ‘oh no, not again’, much of the rest of the rugby world paused for a moment, read the story, shrugged a bit and moved on.

Such is Spain’s standing in the scheme of things. Guillaume Rouet’s heartfelt declaration of dejection and anger that evening would have given more pause for thought, but although Spain’s exclusion from the World Cup is the end of the story for many, for others it is far from it.

The other players in this act, South African prop Gavin van den Berg and his club Alcobendas, are facing all sorts of trouble. Alcobendas had made the final of the Spanish Cup, for example, a final which will now not be played until everything is settled.

More perturbing for club and player is probably the declared intention of the Spanish rugby federation to pass the case of the ‘modified’ passport on to the public prosecutor, with criminal charges potential at the very least.

Spanish federation vice president Jose Maria Epalza told a news conference that Romania had handed World Rugby a photograph of Van den Berg at a wedding in South Africa in 2019, two weeks before he had supposedly left Spain, according to the date in the copy of the player’s passport supplied to the federation.

The federation and the club have insisted Van den Berg himself was not aware of the modification of his passport, although the timing of the wedding and his eligibility windows were in his mind, according to Epalza: “…the player says he was not aware of the falsification but he signed the papers that stated that he was eligible, he knew the days he was in Spain, so it was something he might have known.” Spanish sport daily Marca also said the player had been actively involved in the falsification.

Van den Berg has not commented, and given Rouet’s dismissal almost of his existence, he is probably at home and far away from anything that might ever have anything to do with Spanish rugby ever again. If he’s been allowed to leave of course.

But the boards of both Alcobendas and of Spain have not been let off so lightly. Three board members and one player – not van den Berg – of the club have left their posts, while the entire Spanish federation board, starting with President Alfonso Feijoo, will depart once the investigation into the farce has been completed.

A sorry mess indeed, and a complete mockery of rugby’s already tenuous eligibility system where nations can import ‘project players’ and such. Hopefully this is the last time this happens, but we’re not convinced.

Johann van Graan’s next big challenge

Teams can have bad seasons, even bad runs of results, but to suffer a season such as Bath’s and then compound it with a record defeat in the club’s most culturally-important fixture surely nudges significant change a little closer to the Rec somewhere?

Loose Pass watched part of the game and was dumbfounded as to how a team featuring Sam Underhill, Taulupe Faletau, Ben Spencer and Jonathan Joseph could look so ragged. Yet that quartet were all culpable for errors which led to tries for the opposition.

“The fact we nilled them is a sign of respect to our supporters,” said Gloucester coach George Skivington. Goodness knows what Bath’s display said to their fans.

Change is, of course, already in the air. Johann van Graan will arrive from Munster in the close season, having laudably kept Munster on course for a decent season despite serious unrest among the locals and former greats of the Irish province.

He jumps from a frying pan into a fire, to a team which looks as though it is riddled with divisions and indiscipline and is suffering from a desperate lack of leadership from top to bottom. A career-defining challenge awaits.

One out of three ain’t bad

Rassie Erasmus is not everyone’s cup of tea, certainly not in the past 12 months, but he got one thing right with his three-point plan for improving the game: for the love of god stop the clock for kickers.

It is of course, a mild case of pot and kettle considering the Springboks’ habitual levels of time-manipulation over the past couple of years, but he is right in calling out the pointlessness of the amount of time the modern kicker needs to align his radar to the posts.

He also talked about stopping the clock for things such as pre-line-out huddles, shoelace tying, pre-scrum thirstbusting drinks and such, all of which count towards things which are habitually used as grey area time-wasters and are really only at the mercy of a stringent referee. But stopping the clock for time-wasters still helps the time-wasters, who are usually looking for a breather, perhaps even some strategic guidance from the water-boy. It’s not a solution.

But stopping the clock for goal-kicks? Yes please. That way, if a team needing a penalty to win gets a kickable penalty with the clock at 78:31, you’d know you still had 1:29 left to play, rather than wondering if the kicker would go all NFL head coach on us with clock management. Or other such variations.

That way, with the clock stopped, the artiste could take all the time he liked – we’d still get our 80 minutes of actual rugby.

READ MORE: Who’s hot and who’s not: Chris Ashton’s feat, England’s Six Nations success and Spain’s World Cup axing

The article Loose Pass: Spain’s saga, Bath’s plight and Rassie Erasmus’ three-point plan appeared first on Planetrugby.com.

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