Mur­ray swart De­fy­ing the odds

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - OPINION -

ANY­ONE who thinks that our na­tional sports teams don’t ad­e­quately rep­re­sent our na­tion, is

wrong.

In noth­ing else, our gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and Spring­bok rugby play­ers may as well be peas in a pod as, over time, both have mas­tered the art of over-promis­ing and un­der-de­liv­er­ing.

Time af­ter time we watch our top politi­cians and play­ers alike, do any­thing but cover them­selves in glory as the cur­rent “cream of the crop” have bun­gled their way from wor­shipped to woe­ful, leg­endary to lu­di­crous, revered to ridiculed.

Worse still, be it the name of the game or the gov­ern­ment, each and ev­ery South African needs to be wary of emerg­ing forces from Asia as our best and brightest have demon­strated just how fal­li­ble they re­ally are.

And ... as next year draws ever closer, both play­ers and politi­cians have their work cut out for them with a gen­eral elec­tion and the Rugby World Cup com­ing at us like a freight train.

There is plenty to play for, noth­ing to gain and ev­ery­thing to lose, in 2019. Un­til then, with ev­ery pass­ing game and/or gath­er­ing, ex­pect more as­sur­ances and less per­for­mances.

Af­ter all, that’s what South Africa does, both in the game and gov­ern­ment.

We over-promise and un­der-de­liver and we’re damn good at it.

This wasn’t al­ways the case. Let’s rewind a few decades. Let’s go back to the be­gin­ning and re­live some firsts.

Prior to the elec­tions in 1994, canned food was a hot com­mod­ity as many ex­pected the worst once the masses had cast their vote. It was a ter­rific but ter­ri­fy­ing time as the change was wel­com­ing but wor­ry­ing.

It had been a few years since Man­dela’s re­lease failed to re­sult in a civil war. Now, as Madiba was on the brink of be­com­ing pres­i­dent, that “im­mi­nent”, con­cocted by naysay­ers, was no longer around the cor­ner. It was over­due.

Now, let’s jump for­ward a few months to mid-1995. Most South Africans had been able to cast their votes for the first time and their visit to the bal­lot boxes had ended with­out blood­shed.

Many a can of tinned food was near­ing its ex­pi­ra­tion date and those who had been ex­pect­ing the worst were still wait­ing – armed but un­harmed.

Op­ti­mists were yet to be proven wrong but pes­simists had been given plenty of food for thought and cause for com­plaint.

Gov­ern­ment was one, the game was an­other as read­mis­sion to the global sport­ing arena had hardly re­sulted in the Spring­boks’ slaugh­ter of all be­fore them that many had dreamed of for decades.

In fact, by the time the 1995 Rugby World Cup kicked off, the safe money wasn’t on the host na­tion. Many ex­pected the worst but it never came.

In­stead, the odds were de­fied, the dream un­folded and the leg­end de­vel­oped. We won.

Which brings us to the present day and my point. In less than three decades we have gone full cir­cle. Our play­ers and politi­cians have mas­tered the art of over­promis­ing and un­der-de­liv­er­ing, dis­re­gard­ing a track record of suc­cess by do­ing ex­actly the op­po­site.

As was the case in the fi­nals of the 1995 World Cup, and the 1994 gen­eral elec­tions for that mat­ter, pes­simism was rife and ex­pec­ta­tions weren’t great.

In both in­stances, South Africa un­der-promised and over-de­liv­ered and the rest is his­tory.

The same rings true for the Boks’ win over their old neme­sis on Satur­day when they went from lack­ing a hope in hell to sur­pris­ing friend and foe, de­fy­ing ex­pec­ta­tions and de­liv­er­ing.

We will have to wait and see what hap­pens on the floors of Par­lia­ment and fields of Ja­pan in 2019, but un­til then let’s hope that both our politi­cians and play­ers alike stick to what works and value per­for­mance over praise and profit.

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