NELSON MANDELA BAY STADIUM, PORT ELIZABETH
Not even the fact that I’m still stranded at the airport here in Port Elizabeth on a Monday afternoon can dilute the happy vibe I’ve woken up with for the past 2 days following a Springbok win over the All Blacks on Saturday evening – in fact I could probably sit here at Primi Piatti waiting for my flight back to Cape Town for at least another day until my impatience at waiting starts wearing through the afterglow of a Springbok win. I’ve said on these web pages since the start of the Tri-Nations competition that the results are essentially meaningless in the context of this year’s Rugby World Cup, and just so that you know that I’m consistent and unbiased (pfft!) I’ll stick to that story, even though the Springboks emerged fairly comfortable victors in this latest instalment of the Tri-Nations roadshow.
Admittedly, we beat their B team. Much in the way that they beat ours when we sent them over there a month or so back, you can only show up and play against whatever is put in front you, and attempt to draw your conclusions as a coach and management team based on that.
Morne Steyn definitely had his kicking boots on on Saturday when he helped the Springboks to a convincing 18 – 5 victory over the All Blacks in Port Elizabeth at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. I’m sure if there were any doubt about who the first choice flyhalf would be, they have been eradicated after this game.
So if you perhaps missed the game live, here are the highlights of the points scored:
20 August – NELSON MANDELA BAY STADIUM, PORT ELIZABETH. 5PM Kick-off (SA Time)
After 41 years, the Springboks and New Zealand come down to the Eastern Cape to face off against each other in what is South Africa’s last opportunity to test their combinations in proper test match conditions before the Rugby World Cup kicks off on the 9th of September (only 21 days 1 hour 19 minutes and 15seconds to go, kids – but who’s counting…)
My bags are packed and my flight is warming up as I write this, and I’m pumped! 70 000 people are descending on the windy city over the next 24 hours for what should be a cracking encounter, even though the Springboks are facing – to paraphrase All Black coach Graham Henry – a “very talented B team”. (Notice how when South Africa select a B-side the rest of our playmates in the Tri-Nations sandpit lose their minds, start crying about disrespect, cease sending aid to the continent and point their nuclear arsenals in the general direction of Johannesburg; when they do it virtually not a word is said or printed?)
She knows this, and she’s cool with it, as long as I don’t let it interfere with my duties here at home and my commitment to our daughter as a parent and a provider.
My mistress is South African rugby, and I love her unconditionally. No matter what she does, no matter how badly she screws up, I love her all the same. I might be a bit pissed off with her for a while on a Saturday night, but I’m guaranteed to still love her come Sunday morning because a bad day with her is still better than a good day without her.
Some days all I’ll need is a quickie with the Sevens team, and other days there’s nothing better than an extended holiday for two to a faraway destination like the United Kingdom on a year-end tour or to the Antipodes for a World Cup. As long as she continues to promise to do her best to make me happy, I’ll keep on loving her, and keep on wanting to go overseas on holiday with her. I know that she might not always be able to live up to my expectations (and those expectations are high – make no mistake, when you love her like I do, nothing short of the highest expectation is acceptable) but as long as she keeps trying her best, I’ll be there for her. Yes, sometimes I’ll be disappointed, and yes, sometimes I’ll say things about her that I might regret later, but at the same time I’ll defend her to the death. Because that’s what unconditional love is all about.
If the Springboks don’t manage to win the Rugby World Cup, P.Divvy is going to end up shouldering most of the blame and cueing the greater majority of the rugby supporting public to start beating on that most irritating “I told you so” drum. On the other hand, should the Springboks return to South Africa with the RWC, I’m fairly confident that credit will be spread around between the players, coaching specialists, SARFU, baggage masters, sponsors, bus drivers, and, well, you get the idea – but no mention of P.Divvy. The more cynical amongst us (and I’ve heard this one already, by the way) will say that the Springboks won the RWC despite the coach’s influence.
Shane Warne, in reaction to a question regarding the coach’s role in helping to achieve the dominance that Australian cricket enjoyed in the nineties and early 2000’s, once commented that in a team loaded with iconic players (amongst them you’ll remember was Warne, Steve Waugh and Glen McGrath to name but a few), the coach was the thing that they drove in to get to the ground from the hotel before the start of the day’s play. (more…)
In a scene from Quentin Tarantino’s movie Pulp Fiction, Ving Rhames tells Bruce Willis’ character that he should “throw” a boxing match or face serious consequences. He tells him that he might feel like getting up after being knocked-down, but that it’s merely pride f***ing with him, and he would do well to ignore pride. You might ask yourself why this scene from the classic cult-movie forms part of my post and what it has to do with sport. We are an extremely proud nation and pride is relevant and at the same time detrimental to Springbok rugby fans everywhere.
How quickly have we put the record loss to the Kiwis and the thumping by the Wombats behind us? How swiftly have we consoled ourselves with the explination that we were only comprehensively beaten because we sent a “B-team” to Australasia? How blindly do we stare into the the Durban night sky and await an unrealistic miracle-victory from a vastly experienced, yet untested side? Why do we put ourselves through this anguish every time? The answer is simple, a combination of pride and a national obsession to win. (more…)
Alright, so there it is: the away leg of the Tri-Nations, contested by our Springbok B-team-that’s-not-a-B-team is over, and no, no miracles occurred. We got beaten by better sides carrying a higher calibre of international player with more experience, both individually and as combinations, and the heavy losses we sustained against both Australia 2 weeks back, and 3 days ago against the All Blacks are a result of this.
The All Blacks on Saturday were a much more “game-plan orientated” team than the Australian side we faced the week before, and the Springbok side that pitched up was a lot more organized in defence, a product of an extra week of practice and cohesion. The communication seemed a lot more organized, and as any coach worth his salt will tell you, good defence is a product of good communication as much as what it is of physical commitment. (more…)