FROM MARES IN KARKLOOF TO DARK HORSES IN JA­PAN

Sunday Tribune - - SPORT - LUNGANI ZAMA lungani.zama@inl.co.za

IT IS NOT of­ten that one finds him­self in mat­ters to do with dres­sage and grooms, but there we were, heav­ily in­vested in all mat­ters to do with the KZN Event­ing Cham­pi­onships.

Karkloof Coun­try Club was the scene, and there was more than one eye­brow raised when the chunky darkie strolled in, late on Fri­day night.

The crowd at these mat­ters is eclec­tic; a com­bi­na­tion of those with a life­long love af­fair with the fil­lies, and their eter­nal sup­port crew, with the carpark heav­ing with mud-splat­tered SUVS, cart­ing all their dreams from event to event.

It is not your usual sport­ing fare for this scribe, but the cur­rent cli­mate dic­tates that one must be ver­sa­tile enough to dab­ble in the most pe­cu­liar of ter­ri­to­ries.

And so, with much ex­cite­ment, and lay­ers of cloth­ing, we turned up in­tent to soak in the won­der that is the cross-coun­try el­e­ment of this three-day com­pe­ti­tion.

Alas, Mother Na­ture de­cided to drib­ble on the whole pa­rade and wash out yes­ter­day.

Per­plexed about the rea­sons be­hind horses not be­ing able to trot and jump in slip­pery con­di­tions, we re­tired to the near­est restau­rant, where con­ver­sa­tions flowed as freely as the claret stuff.

Nat­u­rally, mat­ters even­tu­ally me­an­dered to that epic Test match at Lof­tus last week.

Gosh, it was good.

There was pride in per­for­mance, and the kind of de­li­cious un­cer­tainty that die-hard sports fans live for, re­gard­less of the fi­nal re­sult.

Yes, it would have been ter­rific to see the Boks do the dou­ble on the All Blacks, but we are still talk­ing about the great­est sports team in the world. Just in case some needed re­mind­ing.

They came to set­tle a score, keep­ing a low pro­file and grit­ting their col­lec­tive jaw af­ter the up­set in Welling­ton.

That the Spring­boks have gone back to oc­cu­py­ing that sa­cred place, where the Ki­wis look at them with rel­ish and re­spect, is im­mense for this re­lent­less ri­valry – and for all of us who fol­low it.

It’s great for the game, too, be­cause new coach Rassie Eras­mus and his team have re­newed in­ter­na­tional hope that the World Cup shan’t be a one-horse race.

There will be dark horses in Ja­pan, and the Spring­boks are happy to play the part of the out­sider with a strong kick.

It’s tan­ta­lis­ing, and you can sense that mount­ing op­ti­mism ev­ery­where – even at a gath­er­ing of mares and soggy wellies.

The pride is back in the Bok jer­sey, in heav­ing, liv­ing colour.

And when they are the hottest topic of dis­cus­sion, even in the depths of the sod­den Mid­lands, hope springs eter­nal.

The Karkloof cross-coun­try will wait for an­other day, but Ja­pan 2019 can’t come soon enough. Es­pe­cially for the green-jumpered thor­ough­bred on the out­side, itch­ing to spoil the party.

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