Manu Tuilagi smashes Tom Williams

Top14 player imposter!

JDV smashed by Benoit August

The Northampton Saints 30m scrum!

Bastareaud huge hit on Rory Lamont

All Blacks skills - Pt 2 In the backyard

Trinh-Duc sets up Harinordoquy try

Wales vs England 1999

Greg Holmes great hit on Francois Louw

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Ross Skeate Diary - Fate or Coincidence

Toulon have progressively climbed the ladder in the Top 14 and now find themselves within site of achieving the ultimate goal. Ross Skeate, Toulon lock and regular RD columnist, gives us a philosophical insight as to how the team got to where they are today.

On Monday night I spent the majority of the evening watching Jonny Wilkinson receive a Midi Olympique "Player Oscar" for the best player of the month... awarded post humourously... or is that humously? I can't remember and it’s probably neither anyway. But basically it’s awarded after the month that it was intended for.

The last one I attended (I use the word loosely because I didn’t really have a choice in the matter) was Joe Van Niekerk's last year. I think mine's on the way somewhere, probably got lost in the post.

Anyhoo, I'm getting a little side tracked here. On attending Jonny's award I couldn’t help but ponder how significant certain decisions and events can significantly steer the course of a player's career. For better or worse in some cases - in Jonny's case, there's not all that much worse.

For Jonny the significant turning point which signaled his ascension to the top of the world stage (not to mention a million hearts, although he was a pretty capable player long before) was his famous World Cup winning drop kick. And in so many other careers (rugby and otherwise) there was that moment of success that proved to be the catalyst of the rest of a very long and successful career.

Yes, but what I am talking about are the hours of dedication, obstacles and trials that mixed with the right amount of great decision making that led to the breaking, or in Jonny's case, making of a great career.

The decisions that led to that point, where a player is put in the moment and it's either make or break. Of course the decisions that influence a rugby career, like so many other things, are not entirely the rugby player's. Ponder if you would for a moment, the amount of decisions of coaches, selector's and administrator's that pave the way for a player's career. Imagine how different a career could be with one team missed, one coach who doesn't favour the player and the subsequent decisions that the player would then make as a result.

Imagine a young Joe Van Niekerk, who burst onto the international senior scene in his early twenties on the back of his freakish athletic ability and then coach Harry Viljoen's confidence and how different his path could have been had Harry selected another bright star in his place.

Here he is nearly a decade later (not even having reached thirty) 50 odd Bok caps to his name and the captain of a Toulon side that has had a great year and find's itself facing Clermont in the Top 14 semi-final and a European Cup final against the Cardiff Blues.

Last year Joe was sitting next to me nudging me awake as the 14th speaker took the mic and even then I had a sense of the grand scheme of decisions and events that led the both of us to that very point in our lives.

In my case it was the decision to pose for Playgirl that led to the subsequent string of films and small bit movie parts. No, I'm not talking about that bit! I mean like the size of the appearances! Nothing else...seriously...stop it.


So while I was sitting there marveling at just how many people had turned out to the event, the absolute bizarreness of the context I found myself in didn't escape me. Let me just reiterate how amazingly passionate the Toulon supporters are, when I say I have never seen anything like it, I mean it. Not even those dudes at Loftus Versfeld painted blue with rings in their noses hold a candle to the Toulon supporters and hence the packed auditorium with queues of people jostling to try find their way inside.

So I continue to marvel! How is it that after growing up running round the field's of S.A.C.S. Junior school (Percy Montgomery's Alma Mater) barefoot with my young mates, worrying more about who was invited to whose birthday party .I now find myself watching Jonny throwing his best French around on stage while Felipe Contempomi and Tana Umaga look on?

How did this team of such varied individuals make it to the same place in the south of France after playing against each other for so many years before, and how did we find ourselves coming to the business end of a successful competition where we have found the very differences between each other and our varied backgrounds, to be our strength?

Is it coincidence or fate that brought us to this point? Is it that the immense amount of decisions and obstacles faced and opportunities taken have been designed in a way that we would all intersect our stories at this point in our lives?

I guess those are questions of a far more philosophical nature but no matter what realist/nihilist/fatalist theories you may have; it's very hard to deny the beauty of this moment.

So anyway, as we look ahead to the final stages of the season, both the European Cup and Heineken Cup take on a very French flavour demonstrating just how strong French rugby is this year we buckle down for the week leading up to our semi-final clash I cannot express enough just how proud of what we've done as a team, and what I have achieved personally since I have joined the club.

When I arrived just short of two years ago, we were facing relegation at the bottom of the Top 14 table, since then we have experienced a gradual and successful climb to where we are now.

Finishing that season with a great run of wins towards the end of the season leaving us well out of relegation fears and strongly mid-table (a very Bath-esque turn around); and this year has seen us remain unbeaten since January this year. Ironically our last loss was against Clermont, (I didn't play...*cough* *cough*) plus we’re in a European final to boot.

It’ll be even the more special if we manage to come away with some silverware at the end of the season, in both if my wishes permit, but either way as a club we’ve come full- circle, something I’m proud to have been a part of.

Hope to have you all behind us against Clermont in Saint Etienne on Saturday.

Best regards

Follow Ross on Twitter @RossSkeate and be sure to visit his website RossSkeate.com regularly for some fantastic photos, latest news, and behind the scenes snippets of what goes on at Toulon. We'll hear back from Ross soon.



  • Given Wilkinson's kicking stance, I'd believe you mean post-humourously; unless he's dead, in which case, post-humously, and I apologise for the crack at his stance!

    But seriously, it's neither. I don't think there is a special name for relieving an award for something that happened a month before.

    By Blogger Anarchangel, at May 11, 2010 6:43 pm  

  • Nicely written, as always. I'm not sure about the playgirl imagery though!

    By Anonymous FrankyH, at May 11, 2010 6:54 pm  

  • Awesome post, very readable and had a bit of a laugh or two as well.

    It is undoubtedly a beautiful moment to look back and see the fragile paths, built by chance, that led to so many different people, from different places end up at the same place...however, I don't think that the unlikelihood of something happening is indicative of it being ordained by some grand design.

    I'm not disagreeing with Skeato here, as he posed both sides of the argument but I'm saying that 'coincidence' is the winner is this case. Here's why:

    The argument for the 'fate' side of things is simply, as stated above, 'because something was so unlikely to happen it must have been fate'. It's difficult to articulate exactly what is wrong with this sort of thinking but is incorrect and illogical. I'll do my best to explain why...and I think it's easiest to start to asking everyone to consider what Skeato (or anyone) would be saying if they had ended up playing for the All Blacks (because by the sheerest of chances he ended up finding out he was actually adopted by South Africans from an NZ family and they faked his birth certificate or something...)...and then he became captain of the All Blacks by some off chance, then president of New Zealand then who knows what. The point is that if you look at that ridiculous set of events, you would look back and say, "That was so f**king unlikely", just like you would look at Toulon and say, "This is so f**king unlikely" and just like you would look at any situation of any individual anywhere in the world, you would say the same thing.

    And so to imply that that means there is fate involved means that you are assuming that the end result...whether it be Toulon or a presidency or whatever it is (for any individual)...is a pre-planned result. In other words, the argument is completely circular because it requires itself to be true in order to argue it.

    I'm not sure I'm getting at the circularity particularly well but I'm sure there are other more philosophical types out there who can do a better job.

    By Anonymous Graeme, at May 11, 2010 7:02 pm  

  • Bla bla bla my destiny bla bla bla $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 11, 2010 8:15 pm  

  • ALLEZ CLERMONT !!! This last defeat's score was... 39-3. same thing on saturday!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 11, 2010 8:42 pm  

  • Wonderful read. Really amazing to have such great access to pro players these days, even in the professional era.

    By Anonymous Benson, at May 11, 2010 10:44 pm  

  • Interesting column as usual and well written.

    By Blogger bicool, at May 11, 2010 10:59 pm  

  • nice season toulon!
    keep on the good work! But... I don't think you'll go further than saint-etienne.
    Good luck anyway


    By Blogger kevdetoulouse, at May 11, 2010 11:44 pm  

  • decent read

    good luck v Clermont

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 12, 2010 4:08 am  

  • Toulon are the Chelsea of Rugby ( €€€ ) if Connacht had the same budget we would have beaten them easily, still before people think i am bitter, hats off to them as they are one of the best sides money can buy. Not a great side/ not even close to Toulouse in terms of pedigree and pure class.

    By Anonymous ConnachtFan, at May 12, 2010 10:03 am  

  • Amazing to see how Toulon have improved.

    @ Connachtfan, not bitter? That whole comment of yours screams bitterness! :)

    Toulon are not the only side to buy players and mould a team in that way. At the end of the day its 15 vs 15. If anything they've done even better to take a hodge podge of players and blend together. Take away Wilkinson and Contepomi and there aren't that many other recognised world beaters there in fact. Certainly more than Connacht though, granted.

    By Anonymous Flinto, at May 12, 2010 11:23 am  

  • connachtfan you are so funny...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 12, 2010 1:19 pm  

  • It was neither fate nor was it coincidence that brought all those players there; it was money.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 12, 2010 5:22 pm  

  • I didnt actually get that small bit movies thing....i had to read it twice...

    very funny, just shame i was a bit slow....

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 14, 2010 9:39 pm  

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