From the Touchline

(Rugby News Service) Saturday 8 October 2011
 
From the Touchline
A sign advertising products made from the not-so-unique possum

AUCKLAND, 8 Oct. - A lighter look at Rugby World Cup 2011.

Numbers 

5 - The number of times Ireland have failed to win a Rugby World Cup quarter-final after being beaten in 1987, 1991, 1995, 2003 and, with Saturday's 22-10 loss to Wales, 2011.

25 - The match on Saturday between Ireland and Wales marked a quarter century of quarter-finals in Rugby World Cup history.

48 - The most points scored by one team in a Rugby World Cup quarter-final, when New Zealand defeated Scotland 48-30 in 1995

He said it

"It feels like they're cheering us. It's the first time I've been walking around New Zealand and everyone is saying 'good luck' and 'I hope you do well'. I think we might be favourites. I think they hate the Aussies more than they hate us."
- South Africa second row Victor Matfield, who is more is used to being heckled than cheered on the streets of New Zealand, has no illusions about what's behind his new-found popularity and figures it just might have something to do with who the Springboks are playing in Sunday's quarter-finals.

Possums popular? Not in New Zealand

New Zealand’s possums must be really happy to get a stamp of authenticity from an Auckland souvenir shop, which has led some tourists to believe the destructive pest is unique to the Land of the Long White Cloud.

As Australia’s leading lady, Dame Edna Everage, with her trademark greeting, “Hello Possums”, would tell you, the possum is Australian, and is a much-loved protected species. But it made no friends when it found a new home across the Tasman Sea.

The possum was introduced into New Zealand in 1837 to establish a fur trade and liked the place so much there are now an estimated 70 million of them - about 30 million more than the number of sheep.

In Australia, possums come up against hungry dingoes, bushfires and less palatable vegetation. But in New Zealand they have no enemies and an abundance of tasty vegetation. As a result they have done major harm to the ecosystem, damaging forests, competing with native birds for food and insects and making a nuisance of themselves in suburban gardens.

Kleeberger has a date with shears

Adam Kleeberger's beard, the subject of considerable media attention in the early days of the Rugby World Cup, will soon be consigned to history ... and the Canadian flanker will be parting company with his mass of facial hair in a good cause. Two good causes, to be exact.

Kleeberger is asking rugby fans to get behind his Shear the Beard campaign by making donations to a fund to help rebuild the city of Christchurch, which was devastated by two major earthquakes a few months apart, and to a campaign to raise cancer awareness in Canada.

Kleeberger is still in New Zealand holidaying with family after Canada's pool-stage exit from RWC 2011, but he won't be having his beard removed in a country that knows a thing or two about shearing. He'll return to western Canada for the occasion, which is scheduled for 17 October in Victoria, on Vancouver Island, where Canadian comedian Rick Mercer is to do the deed.

The Christchurch fund website can be reached via: 
http://donate.rugbycanada.ca/e/Shear_the_Beard

The Canadian cancer campaign website is:
http://mobro.co/SheartheBeard

Smit's juggling act impresses

If South Africa's players have any serious nerves in the lead-up to Sunday’s do-or-die quarter-final against Australia, they weren’t showing them at their captain’s run on Saturday.

As coach Peter de Villiers took his customary seat at the back of the grandstand, Springboks captain John Smit showed off his soccer skills by kicking, keeping aloft with feet only and even heading a Gilbert ball.

A game of touch football followed, with a bunch of players taking delight in charging off the field towards the sideline cameramen, some of whom compared the experience with photographing a rhinoceros stampede from directly in front.

Wallabies get their kicks in the cold

Australia’s captain’s run in Wellington on Saturday was held in arguably the coldest, wettest and windiest training conditions of the tournament.

The wind was blowing across the Porirua Park field so hard that several players found it easier to walk into it backwards, while Quade Cooper and James O’Connor had fun kicking into and slightly across the gusts, their efforts invariably resulting in the ball landing behind the line it was kicked from

And Radike Samo set what might be an unofficial world kicking record when he lazily booted a Gilbert with the wind into touch and nearly into tomorrow.

RNS gs/mr