SOMETHINGels It’s not called Rugby Union for noth­ing

Finweek English Edition - - Openers -

I MAY HAVE MEN­TIONED this be­fore. Per­haps even sev­eral times. Your ever-hum­ble colum­nist once played pro­vin­cial rugby. I was a loose for­ward – but not a loose can­non like Puke Wat­son. I threw up on my rugby jer­sey sev­eral times dur­ing my short ca­reer. Not be­cause I de­spised the colours or the em­blem like Puke Wat­son, but be­cause vom­it­ing is a sure sign of con­cus­sion. That – plus a John Player Spe­cial com­bined with Main­stay and Lemon Twist – put an end to my as­pi­ra­tions of play­ing for the Spring­boks (how quaint in 2008, I hear you say). And the fact that at the time even pool paid bet­ter than Rugby Union (and that pool ta­bles were found mostly in bars, I have to ad­mit).

I was also reg­u­larly called a Dutch­man on the field – the same slur Puke Wat­son is al­leged to have used in his talk at a rugby fes­ti­val. Mind you, it was used by the op­pos­ing team hop­ing to in­tim­i­date, not on team­mates like Puke Wat­son. (Well, there was one ex­cep­tion. It was in re­tal­i­a­tion for me re­fus­ing to pass the ball to our Soutie fly-half, who was no­to­ri­ous for hav­ing but­ter fin­gers. We lost that game.)

Like Puke Wat­son I did de­spise my coach. Un­like Puke Wat­son, not be­cause he didn’t pick me for an opener at an Eng­land-South Africa Test match, al­though that still hurts. He wanted a heav­ier pack – well, he should see me now. We also lost that one. I dis­liked him be­cause his idea of ruck and maul train­ing was to use a leather belt on any­one who didn’t have a hand on the ball. Those who were sur­prised at Kamp Staal­draad ob­vi­ously weren’t trained to play rugby dur­ing the Eight­ies.

Com­pare the hard old times to the silly games now be­ing played in SA rugby.

Oth­ers who want to get rid of the Spring- bok are now chan­nelling Doc Craven – who once said “the Spring­bok is as­so­ci­ated with whites and the Leop­ard is as­so­ci­ated with blacks” – to some­how sup­port the idea of 15 Proteas go­ing up against the All Blacks, Kots Kom­phela, cit­ing Craven’s words, says it’s con­clu­sive proof the Spring­bok is a sym­bol of “white supremacy”.

Never mind that it was in 1906 on the na­tional team’s first tour to Eng­land not long af­ter the end of the An­glo-Boer War that the team cap­tain Paul Roos de­cided on the An­ti­dor­cas Mar­su­pi­alis as its moniker, lest the Bri­tish press made up a deroga­tory name for the team them­selves. The Spring­bok was born more out of colo­nial re­sis­tance than white supremacy.

What to make of Naas Botha’s com­ments to “shoot the Spring­bok” is a bit more dif­fi­cult. But then again, wasn’t the fly-half’s first in­stinct al­ways to kick the ball into touch when passed to him? And what does the for­mer Dal­las Cow­boy think the na­tional team should be re­ferred to as now? Some­thing flash and Amer­i­can? How about the Aza­nian Mav­er­icks?

Here’s my com­pro­mise pro­posal: Keep the Spring­bok but make it black. The Black Spring­buck, the re­sult of ge­netic de­vi­a­tion, is es­pe­cially com­mon in the East­ern Cape (go fig­ure) and as such has now been de­clared a dis­tinct sub-species. And they breed eas­ily. I once saw a herd of more than 30 pronk­ing, that’s two teams, on the Great Ka­roo plains. What a mag­nif­i­cent sight!

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