Re­call­ing the time when the Boks were sim­ply a bunch of spoilt brats

Daily Dispatch - - Opinion -

LAST week­end’s rugby Test in Cape Town be­tween the Spring­boks and All Blacks was one of the most ex­cit­ing, pas­sion­ate and talked about in re­cent matches be­tween the two teams.

Okay, so we lost 25-24, which un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances would have been like a death rat­tle.

Not a bit of it. It was in­spi­ra­tional, and from a player and sup­porter point of view one of the best ever be­tween these two teams, es­pe­cially after the 57-0 drub­bing in Auck­land three weeks ear­lier.

So where to now? There’s the endof-year tour of Ire­land, France, Italy and Wales when hope­fully some of the in­jured play­ers, in­clud­ing cap­tain War­ren Whitely, will be back in ac­tion.

It was 25 years ago that the Spring­boks re­turned to in­ter­na­tional rugby after a decade out in the cold thanks to apartheid. We were pari­ahs and un­wel­come, and a cou­ple of games against our old rugby cham­pi­onship foes didn’t raise hopes that we would set the world alight.

We were beaten by both Aus­tralia and New Zealand be­fore we set off for Europe where thank­fully in our first Test against the French, we held on to a 20-15 win.

But all was not well. There was a lot of bitch­i­ness and moan­ing in the Bok camp. They were de­scribed as a bunch of whin­ers. Life on the road got to them and they com­plained that a three-hour drive through France was “tir­ing”.

When they ar­rived at the other end they found they’d been booked into a sec­ond-rate ho­tel.

“It’s a dump,” they cried, and the Chiel replied sar­cas­ti­cally: Only the best for our Boks; five-star treat­ment, noth­ing less.

An­other was that they were hav­ing to move ho­tels ev­ery three days. So what! Plenty of time to un­pack and set­tle down.

Even tourists spend less time in one place when tour­ing. As for the food, they com­plained of “prawns, prawns and more prawns”. Hell, they should be so lucky. It showed their pleb tastes; only pap and wors for them! And the weather was foul. What else did they ex­pect in Europe in Oc­to­ber? Sunny skies and tan­ning.

Their rugby wasn’t up to much ei­ther. It was the ref’s fault, it was the li­nes­man’s fault … No won­der they were not play­ing the type of rugby we back in South Africa were ex­pect­ing. They spent too much time grip­ing. They’d gone soft. Moaner van Heer­den would have noth­ing on them.

But take note, the Chiel wrote … No men­tion of French wine and made­moi­selles. Per­haps those were okay. These Spring­boks were whin­ers and per­haps win­ers too. They’d for­got­ten how to play good rugby; they were a bunch of nin­nies. Tough words in­deed.

Come on chaps, toughen up, get on with it and play the game in­stead of whinge­ing at ev­ery turn, it was said.

Well, that wasn’t the last of it and a few weeks later when the tour was com­pleted, the Chiel wrote a let­ter to Bok cap­tain, Naas Botha. Dear Naas, I agree with you that the tour from a win/lose point of view was not a fail­ure. You won eight and lost five which by most stan­dards is pretty fair es­pe­cially as your play­ers have had so lit­tle in­ter­na­tional rugby con­tact over the past 10 years. The Boks are on a learn­ing curve and surely will come right.

How­ever, from a diplo­matic and sport­ing point of view, the tour, es­pe­cially of France, was an ab­ject fail­ure. Un­for­tu­nately, for me any­way, the lin­ger­ing mem­ory of matches seen on tele­vi­sion will be of you and your team ar­gu­ing with the ref­eree, throw­ing arms in the air in ex­as­per­a­tion at an­other penalty given, fight­ing among the play­ers, petu­lance, tantrums, nig­gles, el­bows and knees go­ing in dur­ing tack­les and be­ing bad losers.

This is not the thing we would like to have our sports­men known for. Granted, the team may have been un­der ex­treme provo­ca­tion at times by the “games­man­ship” of op­po­nents, but they must learn to take the rough with the smooth.

Per­haps that will come with more ex­pe­ri­ence when they un­der­stand that re­tal­i­a­tion is what their op­po­nents wanted the Boks to do. Tem­pers need to be kept in check and ref­er­ees’ de­ci­sions ac­cepted and then South Africa will be proud of their Boks.

Off the field the tour seems to have been a dis­as­ter too. Any­way, as you said, from a re­sult point of view the tour was not a fail­ure, but in terms of sports­man­ship and man­ners, it cer­tainly was.

Kind re­gards and peace and quiet in your re­tire­ment; you need it. The Chiel. And now for Europe. Let’s see what our “new” Boks are ca­pa­ble of. Viva Bokke Bokke. Viva! –

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