SOMETHINGels It’s not called Rugby Union for nothing
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!