Rather our impis than the Maori Big Brag
A pity we didn’t have a couple in the team
f I had to choose between a Maori Big Brag and Zulu warriors waving their assegais, I’d rather have the impis on my side any day.
One of our guys sprang into the news again at Loftus Versfeld when, carried away by the roar of the 50 000 strong crowd, he challenged All Black captain Kieran Read face to face, man teenoor man, before the test match started. Read described the encounter as “bizarre” and said it made him laugh.
I’ll tell him what would make him laugh. Facing his own team jumping around like clockwork oranges, sticking their tongues out like human chameleons and fluttering their hands over their private parts.
All the while grunting and groaning with severe indigestion. Yet opposing teams have to watch them go through this cha- rade every time they play against the boys from Deepest Down Under who haven’t yet seen (or as we sometimes say, haak’ed on to) the joke.
I was surprised to learn this impi came from Cape Town, which is not normally home to Zulu warriors, and that his name was Alfonso Franke, also not typical of more conventional Zulu genealogy. But he made up for it with enthusiasm. After provoking Read into nervous laughter, he returned to his two mates, rested on one knee and brandished his assegai at his country’s enemies. Then he drew his hand across his throat.
The laughter in the All Black camp subsided. They might have been even less sanguine had they known the translated words of the “Impi” song being played over the loudspeakers: “Hopeless battalion destined to die, broken by the benders of kings.”
New Zealanders bend to a queen, not a king, but they sport her country’s flag on their own, so they would have got the general picture.
In spite of that we still managed to lose. Everyone knows jumper.
Higher than a haka:
An impi shows his prowess as a line-out
that the Boks are world experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, but this demanded a special effort. With under 10 minutes to go and 12 points ahead, no one thought for a moment New Zealand would have time to score two converted tries.
Coach Rassie Erasmus realised our international reputation as chokers was at stake.
He had to prove it was not only South Africa’s cricketers who know how to behave when victory is within easy grasp. So he quickly sent off two of his best players to give a couple on the bench a chance at seeing what it is like to lose what they thought they had in the bag.
The All Blacks gratefully realised what was happening, and obliged by kicking the winning two points after the final hooter had sounded.
They were so pleased they even praised Franke for his passion. What we needed was 15 Alfonso Frankes who, if necessary, could be drafted into the team to wipe the smiles off opposing faces.
Maybe they could occasionally draw their hands across their throats in the scrum, to send a sort of destined-to-die message.
Sometimes other countries’ teams can indeed be excused for laughing. Before the Newlands test against the English in June, the impis rushed out on to the field, slipped on the wet grass, and sailed across on their backsides. You can’t maintain an intimidating presence after demonstrating this unique way of making an entrance.
It also presaged a bad result, 25-10. On that occasion, we didn’t try to lose.
It just happened naturally.