And not in your usual would-you-look-at-the-price-of-beer-and-cigarettes-after-the-annual-budget-speech kind of way, but in a more fundamental (and mildly offended) my-girlfriend-has-become-a-lesbian-and-says-it’s-all-my-fault kind of way.
You see, in the midst of sifting through the mountains of statistics and reading the countless weekly interviews with players and coaches that goes into accurately (or not, as was the case last week again…) producing sportblog.co.za’s weekly Kerrie Beker preview, I came across this gem from Western Province’s embattled coach Allister Coetzee, bemoaning the injury toll on his team so far this season:
“Imagine what’s it like at the start of the week when your biggest concern is whether you’ll have 22 players fully fit for a match in a few days’ time.”
No, really, he said it – just go check for yourselves on SuperSport.com.
OK, I see you don’t share my outrage here. Let me explain: the Western Province Rugby Union has about 10 000 registered senior rugby players. Stellenbosch University alone has 1500 registered players, which is more than one quarter of all the registered players in the whole of Namibia – and they made it to the World Cup! There are about 90 rugby clubs in the Western Cape feeding the provincial team. Granted, not all of them are anywhere near the size of Stellenbosch, but you get the idea. Surely finding a player or 3 to replace the walking wounded missing out of the provincial team’s ranks shouldn’t be that hard, right?
“It’s not often people get to turn their hobby into a career and for that I am eternally grateful,” said Dickinson.
“To have been able to travel the world and take the field with some of the best players the game has ever seen has been a huge honour.
“I want to thank my wife Fiona and our three children Michael, Emily and Isabella who have been incredibly supportive, understanding and patient over the course of my career and I look forward to spending more time with my family in the months and years ahead.
Last week I made myself guilty of giving the Sharks a bit too much credit and the Cheetahs way too little credit, and as a result sat watching in horror as my pick of the Sharks over the Cheetahs in Bloem turned farcical as the boys from the Free State pumped 50-odd onto the Durbanites. I’m blaming this bad pick on being distracted by the World Cup, an excuse I believe the Griquas would’ve been using after surprisingly coughing up the win points at home to give the Pumas their first victory of the Kerrie Beker campaign.
In fact, now that I think about it, given my other bad pick of Province over the Bulls, last week was either a week of upsets or a week of amateurish crystal ball-gazing. It takes a big man to admit that he is wrong. I, unfortunately, am not a big man, so I’ll continue to tell myself (and all of you as a consequence) that last week was a week of upsets – at least then I can continue picking this week without developing what golfers call the “yips”…
SHARKS vs GRIQUAS (Mr. Price King’s Park. Friday 7.10pm)
Although both teams should be smarting from losses last week, on paper the Sharks should have the goods on the Griquas, particularly since they have the comfort of bouncing back from last week’s pumping at home in the Shark Tank. As they say in the classics though, rugby is played on grass, not on paper, and the leaky Shark defence (as exposed by the Cheetahs last week) versus the Griquas’ potency on attack may yet deliver a surprise result. The Griquas have been consistently inconsistent this season, and if they decide to show up half-cocked in Durban this week the result could be very one-sided.
Sharks by 12.
PUMAS vs LEOPARDS (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit. Friday 7.10pm)
Oh dear. What to say about a game that not even SuperSport could be bothered to broadcast? Nothing really.
Pumas by 20.
LIONS vs BULLS (Coca-Cola Park, Joburg. Saturday 3pm)
Going into the World Cup there were many people that weren’t exactly singing the praises of the selectors for choosing Danie Rossouw to be part of the Springbok squad to defend the Webb Ellis trophy. Thus far he has silenced all critics and was named Man of the Match against Fiji. Check out this huge tackle on Luke Charteris in the Wales game.
The Springboks faced Fiji in their second 2011 World Cup game on Saturday at the Wellington Regional stadium. The Boks were absolutely clinical in their win of 49 – 3 over the South Islanders. Guthro Steenkamp, Jaque Fourie, Francois Steyn, Morne Steyn, Tendai Mtawarira and Daniel Rossouw (the Man of the Match) all scored tries as South Africa were rampant and showed no mercy. Morne Steyn kicked five conversions and Francois Steyn two penalties. The Sevens expert Fiji team never even managed to score on try, only one penalty.
When watching a mid-week game Monday on SuperSport, one name stuck in my thoughts, a young man called DTH van der Merwe. Now if this was a local Vodacom, Currie Cup or First division match, it would not have mattered much, but this was a game broadcast straight from New Zealand at the Rugby World Cup. You would be forgiven if you are thinking that this guy was playing for Namibia (because he’s certainly not a member the Bok squad) but this was not the case. This young, bottle-blonde lad was bearing the proud symbol of the Maple Leaves on his chest. You heard me I’m referring to Canada – the country famous for ice hockey, The Rocky Mountains and America-envy. The land mass north of the United States that spawned Mike Meyers, Celine Dion, Jim Carey and Pamela Anderson.
Yip, Canada does now not only hold major appeal for South African doctors, dentists and physiotherapists, it attracts our boys for rugby reasons as well. And why the hell not – South Africa boasts the most provincial clubs of any country in the world, we have two Rugby World Cups to our credit and our coaches are in demand the world over. It would therefore not be so far-fetched to think that a first world country such as Canada would be jumping at the opportunity to recruit Saffa players to promote and build the game way up North. Apart from eating, sleeping and of course playing rugby, the average South African male has a renowned work ethic inherent to his nature that has become widely respected the world over. People from all over the Republic are entrusted with a variety of jobs across the globe mainly because we’re trustworthy, hard-working and loyal – attributes that goes quite a long way on a rugby pitch as well.
It has been confirmed that Bryan Habana will miss out (through injury) on the encounter with the Fijians on Saturday. While this spells at least some misfortune in terms of the experience South Africa will lack, it opens the door for new kid on the Bok-block, Francois Hougaard. Or so we thought… In an unprecedented move SA Rugby, not entirely unlike the Cape Salmon, has preferred to swim upstream – hence the coaches and management team has decided to opt against popular opinion and select Odwa Ndungane instead.
For the purposes of this article, this selection conundrum takes a back seat however. It does however play well into this blogger’s hands as it bears massive resemblance to the tricky path Hougaard has had to endure in his career. More on that a bit later though. No offence to Odwa, but let’s turn our attention to Bryan and Francois, shall we? The platform was firmly set for this pocket rocket (who replaced Habana in the opener against Wales and scored the magnificent, match-winning try) to make the step-up into the Springbok starting XV. Again, let me not digress and rather focus on the comparative analyses I have in mind.