The time has come, the Fatboy said, to write about rugger.
Rugger is not politics, you might say, and this is Politicsweb. But I say what my bubbe said when I proudly told her I’d been given colours for athletics: “Vot’s athletics, rugby? Vot’s cricket, netball? Vot’s politics, rugby?”
Anyway, you and I know that everything is about politics, especially in Seffrica. Look at the Springbok team. Mostly it’s been similar to the ANC’s top office bearers whom my Latin teacher, Mrs Hudson, would have called “sick, lame, and lazy” – and I’d add “the geriatric”.
Even the ANC SG, Gwede Mantashe, a man of huge charm, intellect and eloquence, and clearly a former fourth team prop (and still wearing, you notice, an antiquated gum guard), even he referred to this when he remarked that Heyneke Meyer shouldn’t be playing madalas at the Rugby World Cup (RWC). Or look at hooker Bismarck du Plessis. He’s has about as much control of his brain as does Dianne Kohler Barnard. Or how about Meyer? He’s about as cogent as Baleka Mbete. Though I have to say she seems a lot less hysterical than he does.
As for lock Eben Etzebeth, he’s about as humorous as Julius “little Julie” Malema proclaiming a point of order. According to Mike Greenaway of the non-Independent group, Etzebeth “was utterly unamused earlier this week when a reporter from New Zealand asked: ‘Eben, has anybody ever told you that you look like Borat (the character from the movie of the same name played by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen)? I mean, is that your nickname, Borat?’ Etzebeth glared: ‘No! I have no nickname.’
“The bruising lock, “ continued Greenaway, “made a point of muttering something unrepeatable under his breath in Afrikaans as he walked past the stirrer after the press conference.”
But, look, I know about you trolls on Politicsweb. Already you guys are muttering unrepeatable stuff under your fetid breath and wanting to know what my credentials are. Am I as insightful as Naas Botha? Am I as commanding as Nic Mallet? Are my ears as cute as John Mitchell’s? Did I have as difficult a childhood as Ashwin Willemse?
Alright, I’ll tell you. I was the captain (and shortest eighth man in the known world) of the 1972 Hebrew University first XV, beaten 98-0 by a depleted Northern Transvaal rugby team on a church tour of the Holy Land; member of the Israel rugby team, similarly thrashed by the RAF Cyprus (the air force, guys, not the road accident fund), also in about 1972; member of the Lund (Sweden) rugby club where I played scrum-half and hooker; scrum-half of 1 Para’s second team, where I once had the huge honour of running for about 90 seconds alongside legendary All Black scrum-half Sid Going (the Kiwis chose, for some unknown reason, to practise at Tempe); and I’m a veteran Rugby Couch and Coach Potato with a bar and oak leaf cluster.
Most importantly, above all, people mostly know me as Jeremy Gordin. But actually my full surname is Gordin-Skudder and my wife sometimes calls me Nu-Nu or Brave Blossom.
In other words, I know lots about rugby, especially about losing.
So, moving right along: we all got over-hyperventilated about losing to the Blossoms. But the loss seems to have served as the necessary and proverbial kick in the tuchis for the Boks. It appears to have focused their minds. Or, as Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto remarked after the 1941 Pearl Harbour attack: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
So bad was the hyperventilatory period that I was even prepared to give some consideration to the team suggested by the learned Archie Henderson when we held an emergency meeting regarding the Boks:
15 Willie le Roux [Lambie on bench] 14 Dylan Leyds 12 Jessie Kriel 11 Damian de Allende 13 Lwazi Mvovo 10 Elton Jantjies (Pollard on bench) 09 Faf de Klerk 08 Duane Vermeulen (captain) 07 Jaco Kriel 06 Siya Kolisi 05 Lood de Jager 04 Eben Etzebeth 03 Vincent Koch 02 Scarra Ntubeni [Bismarck on bench] 01 Steven Kitshoff.
Clearly young Henderson hails from the Western Cape. We didn’t really need Kitshoff, Ntubeni or Leyds. And Jantjies is so unpredictable that I mostly break out in hives watching him. But still – insofar as the Henderson team got us away from Heyneke’s obsession with geriatrics, Bulls’ players and Ruan Pienaar – this selection was pretty damn good.
But what we need now, what we need to do tomorrow, is, in the immortal words of my brother Joel, to figure out how “to bugger Biggar” – the reference being to Dan Biggar who “is inclined knock over five from 50m every morning before breakfast.”
Given this goal, how does Heyneke’s team measure up? It’s as follows:
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.
Well, from the past weeks, we’re not going to put our noses up at the Incredible Schalk, though in fact (a little noticed one) he played shockingly against the Nipponese (flinging himself about like a rag doll on steroids, mis-passing the ball, etc). Nor are we going to complain about Pollard or FloLo. But why has Heineken left Jannie du Plessis out of the starting line-up? I’m not a great fan (far from it, Jannie’s too unwieldy and old now) but, without him, Bismarck gets cranky. Also, why the need to play JP Pietersen? Too long in the tooth – as is, by the way, the Beast. And why the need to put Ruan Pienaar on the bench? For heaven’s sake, play Rudy Paige. And why Alberts instead of Kolisi?
But, look, I know what you want. You want to know if we can win. I have to admit: I’m really not sure. The Welsh are fit, angry, and the last men standing from the British Isles (well, I suppose the Irish are – but they’re not really from the “sceptr’d isle”).We can win if we stay focused and we’re as hungry as we ought to be … but, hey, we’re mostly as peculiar and contrary as Borat on a good day.