we will never know

I was 15 years-old when I realised I was better suited to play Shortstopper than Pitcher.  This was not because I couldn’t pitch.  On the contrary under-16 (or 18) provincial was already on the cards.   However two years of bad technique had finally taken its toll on my young shoulder and my vision of myself making it as a Pitcher heavily rested on that.

promising arm..

promising arm..

Back up a bit;

Way before dirt was invented; a very young Kate reckoned – given a shot – she could make it as professional baseball player, in South Africa (nogal). I know. I know. As you can see that did not happen; injury and other factors killed that dream before you could say ‘S-A-F-E’.

So, back to that pivotal day when I switched positions;

It all started in the second inning of our second game, where a victory would more than guarantee us a semi-final of a ‘big tournament’.  However, it was at this untimely moment that my shoulder gave in and coach forced the switch that was to change the direction of my career. I moved from first to the 6th position.

It was a game where our opponents were the favourites, and the most successful team of the tournament. A draw would not be our demise, but a loss would have us playing the “if so and so lose, and then we could…” No sportsman likes that game, not even a 15 year-old.

As the newbies of the event we were in way over our heads. And therefore needed something special to gain the upper hand. We our chances and hopes depended on dismissing three experienced 17 year-old provincial players would be key:  the first two gave us trouble, but the third helped us complete our most successful double play.

Backed into a corner of a full house (three balls and two strikes), she had to take the shot; and she did. A brilliant catch from first base sent her packing; from shot stopper I got my foot on third base, taking out the most lethal player on the pitch.  But our premature celebrations were cut short as the umpire screamed ‘safe’.

That was a game changer in more ways than one; ironically that’s the day Border Province selectors finally made that call. But not before we lost the game and umpire had the last say.

Despite what players, coaches or spectators may say at any given time or game, there is only one final opinion that can sway any game, which is exactly what the Springbok’s head coach, Heyneke Meyer boldly proclaimed following the Boks 15-29 loss to the All Blacks on Saturday:

“The ref is always right…..  If you start making excuses for your team then they start to make excuses. There were a lot of things that weren’t good enough even when we had 15 men on the field”.

In the short space of time that he has been in charge of our favourite sporting heroes, what have we learnt about Meyer? He’s a gentleman who refuses to take credit for anything.

Without fail, he will quietly shift any praise to the next man; and will not let another person take criticism when he can ‘gladly’ accept it, just as he did when commenting on Saturday’s game.

In what promised to the greatest contest of our time – the top two nations, fought with more heart and passion than ever seen before. One looking to end a 76 year-old monkey; the other doing whatever it took to keep the status quo unchanged.

However, the former fell victim to human arrogance, when in the 17thminute Bismarck du Plessis’ perfect tackle on Dan Carter denied spectators any hope of witnessing history, with the referees citing:  no arms. If it weren’t so dire, it’d be laughable.

A game changer – in more ways than one.

Since the incident, I’ve come across conflicting reports. The ‘loudest’ being the” Kiwis were the better side, anyway. And they were guaranteed a victory.’

From where I was sitting, I beg to differ. The SAffers’ dominating physicality could not be matched; at breakdowns they were supreme and the scrum contest was one way – Boks’ way.

The ‘victim’ tweeted “Nothing wrong with the tackle. Fell awkwardly and popped my AC joint which I’m pretty gutted about but proud of the boys getting the win” – Dan Carter.

IRB have since conceded defeat and admitted Romain Poite’s decision to issue the first yellow card to Bissie was incorrect.Their statement read “Just as players and coaches make mistakes, the decision was an unfortunate case of human error by the match officials, who, having reviewed the match, fully recognise and accept that they made a mistake in the application of law.”

In addition SANZAR has removed a red card from the disciplinary record of the hooker. This helps no one, let alone the Boks.

If anything, these outcomes show that the rugby body needs to evaluate how the same set of rules does not apply to everyone.

For way too long Ma’a Nonu has gotten away with rugby murder. And Saturday was no different. He received a slap on the wrist for shoulder charge on Captain Jean de Villers.

Unfortunately this human error is within the confines of this magnificent game, only.  In 2010 World Cup Fifa President Sepp Blatter had to apologise to the Football Association over Frank Lampard’s disallowed goal in England’s World Cup defeat by Germany.

Just like my legitimate but unaccredited removal of that youngster in my little league game, Lampard’s disallowed goal shifted momentum and had a fundamental effect on how the game ended, much in the same way that Bismark’s legitimate tackle was not only unacknowledged but unfairly judged.

Although my baseball team made it to the semi-finals by the skin of our teeth, unfortunately that disallowed goal forever altered England’s chances and they crashed out of the World Cup.

That is the sad outcome of these unjust judgements; it is not just the decision taken in that particular game, but rather the ramifications of the decision in terms of the overall tournament, as witnessed by our rugby squad on the weekend.

Forget history not being on our men in green and gold’s side.  Even World Rankings should not be taken into account. If ever there was a side to break this record, it was that outfit on Saturday.  But the point is that now we will never know for sure.

Nick Mallet summed it up accurately with his words, saying “this is an utter disgrace”. And unfortunately this is true when unfair judgements turn a game on its head. Like the umpire in my youth, Poite, despite his added advantage of having all the technology at his disposal, put the final nail in the historical Bok coffin, making an irreversible error in a decision that changed the outcome of a game which held the potential to make history.

We will just never know.

you have gone too far

England Rugby players should be safely tucked up in their comfortable beds by now, following a brutal Three-Test series in South Africa, which like all test series ended with its casualties on both sides.

A day after the Baby Boks were crowned World Junior Champions, cementing a bright future of SA rugby, our senior chargers walked on that wet floor, slipped.

With a 2-0 series victory over England, the third in PE on Saturday was a mere technicality. Only it was not. Stuart Lancaster’s men needed redemption. Heyneke Meyer needed validation. Certain players needed recognition – a recipe which was to make this match a tougher challenge than anticipated.

That still doesn’t justify sharing a 14 all spoils, which may be acceptable when certain English football clubs face each other; that can never fly when the Boks face anyone. Least of all the Poms. Yet, here we are….

winning boot

winning boot

When the stuff that hits the fan, hits the fan, we are a country that will not be satisfied until we find a reason for the cause and even better if we can single out a single culprit: enter Morne Steyn.

Usually the darling of South African crowds, Steyn was booed by some spectators at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium after a second-half drop-goal effort drifted wide.

Avusa Media Sport Writer Sbu Mjikeliso tweeted ‘#MorneSteyn deserves a lot of things (death, torture, getting dropped from the squad), but not getting booed by South Africans’. While Sbu has propensity for the dramatic, he makes a valid point: we have gone too far.

I have witnessed this ethos at Coca-Cola Park, home of the Golden Lions Rugby Union. My commitment to go to as many (Lions) home games as possible has become a regrettable vow each time an opposing kicker steps up.

Lions’ supporters (apologies to the few that don’t fit this coming description) in my opinion have very little sportsmanship. And the biggest disappointment of all is the Union Management’s somewhat ‘encouragement’ of this behaviour.

Without fail when Elton Jantjies or Jaco Taute take their kicking duties, spectators are reminded to be silent, while Brumbies’ Christian Leafliifano didn’t stand a chance. Neither did Beauden Barrett or any other number 10.

I have never been to Newlands, but I am told the crowd there is no better. In fact 20 year-old Ihaia West, a (young) Kiwi fell victim to this treatment only on Friday during their finals against South Africa. Despicable!

The Poms avoided a whitewash simply because the Boks were utterly poor. There is no getting around that. They made poor decisions, failed to execute well-grounded advantage. Saw the 9m mark a number of times only to be turned-over. Desperate and simply dire circumstances, with Steyn even worse than Jerome Boateng of Germany against Greece.

Having missed 12 of 22 kicks at goal and several drop-goal attempts during this series has undoubtedly given Meyer enough headaches. I shall not add to that.

Meanwhile, at 27:

• Fastest 100 points by a Springbok (8 Test matches, 3 as a replacement)
• Fastest 200 points by a Springbok (16 Test matches),
• Fastest 300 points by a Springbok (24 Test matches),
• Fastest 400 points by a Springbok (33 Test matches),
• Most drop-goals in a Super Rugby season (11),
• Most points scored against the All Blacks for a Springbok (31),
• Most points in a Tri Nations match (31),
• Most drop goals in a Super Rugby game (4) (in the 2009 Super 14 semi-final against the Crusaders),
• Most drop goals in Super Rugby (22),
• Most drop goals in a Super Rugby season (11 in 2009),
• Most penalties in a Super Rugby season (51 in 2010),
• Most points in a Super Rugby season (263) – Beating Dan Carter’s record of 221 set in 2006,
• Most points by a Bulls player in Super Rugby history (1,157),
• Most points by a South African and first South African to reach 1,000 points in Super Rugby (1,157),

These do not exonerate Steyn, just a reminder of who’s head you’re a calling for. While you may be inclined to say ‘drop him’, he has a number of times settled the arguments of who should wear the No. 10 jersey.

Sure, maybe this time, it should be re-opened. Patrick Lambie? Considering HM’s style he is well suited at 15, then there’s Peter Grant, Johan Goosen and even Elton Jantjies. This however is why you and I are not the coach.

Don’t get me wrong I do believe something needs to be done, maybe not as drastic as Sbu’s suggestion, but booing him is not the answer. No man or woman in green and gold should ever be subjected to such utterances by their fellow country man. This has gone long enough.

Once golden boy Bryan Habana was the recipient of such, with many putting pressure on those in charged to get rid of him, not so long ago. How soon we forget, because Habs seems to be on his way back to that sparkly status.

Funny, how the stalwart is on the receiving end of this again. I’m sure he hoped he’d gone past it, for he responded in the best fashionable way (last time); came back to win a game for the Boks against the All Blacks. This too was in PE.

Now there’s got to be a word for that.

well…now that’s a first

It’s been an excruciating week…..well, for (some) sports fan anyway: Lions fans are running around with excitement (shame, who can blame them?). I, however, am in agony! Not to mention still confused as to what to wear on Fridays. I work for a sports organization, so supporting ‘Magnificent Fridays’ is sort of expected..

Okay fine, I don’t mind one bit. In fact I look forward to Fridays (even if they were a lot easier a couple of weeks ago). It’s just that my problem is having to settle on a decision of what to wear. Despite the fact that my gender are often (rightly) accused of having this dilemma, my challenge is entirely different…as you may have imagined.

I went to watch the Proteas receiving a whipping at SuperSport Park, Centurion on Wednesday – thank you Cricket SA – and today I’m wearing their top. It should be simple enough. But before this, I had my Bulls top on for a whole two minutes this morning. Then, doubting my choice, I changed. See what I mean? Confused.

Then to complicate things further, there are the Bok jerseys. I have to admit that it is exciting to see so many SAffers in Bok jerseys. It makes me realize that SA Rugby will flourish. We will be holders of that cup in no time. The timeline will solely depend on SARU and their selection of new leaders. For now: we move on and I’m moving on.

Although I think that I haven’t cried enough, I have stopped. Besides I have got other things to smile about (move over clothing dilemma).

For one, I got that tattoo I’ve been screaming about; I got a great job (call me the new girl at SASCOC) and just the other day I got my car. You’d think that for someone who’s been an employee since 16 I would’ve been a wheels’ owner ages ago, but nee, I had other ‘priorities’.

Like how many piercings my body can hold, of course much to my mom’s delight (clearing my throat here) – who by the way has no knowledge of said tattoo, ‘Christ Forever Reigns’, forever indelibly printed on my rib-cage… sigh… interesting December holidays await…

she shall be called Xena

Anyway back to the new car; I got the Ford Figo 1.4 Ambiente…she shall be called Xena (my very own Warrior Princess). And the guys from Garmin) saw my potential hapless situation and decided they couldn’t let an Eastern Cape girl cruise the street of Jozi on her own.

So they are giving me one of their toys: a nuvi 1310 device worth just over R7.000! So for the next Month British accented Daniel (I didn’t name him) will be ensuring that I take the longest routes to find my way….I am hopeful 😉

A big thank you to Fraser McHenry and his team for this baby. I cannot wait to see if this thing is worth that price tag.

And while I”m saying my thanks:

I owe Mark Harris from Paul Maher Auto for the great service. Xena drives like a dream and my friend Barry-John Robinson for ensuring Mark and his team are not cleaning me out or just making a sale.

And most importantly Mark Biagi of Accredo Financial Solutions(Pty)Ltd for his work around the clock to ensure insurers give me my worth…well money’s worth that is. If you need financial service, give this guy a shout. He’ll make you rich….okay not really, but he sure can try :P. and seeing that his site is under construction – go ahead and email him – mark.biagi@accredo.co.za

daniel

Okay, cheers, gotta go and test this Daniel boy out.

Enjoy the games. Well done Wallabies. Gooo All Blacks! Goo Lions! And for the love of all that is soccer: Goo Man City!
#YNWA

irb gets it right in craig joubert


The word’ ‘gutted’ will forever be an understatement when one thinks of the Boks bowing out of the 2011 Rugby World, following that ‘lack of balls’ defeat at the hands of the Wallabies.

Many may have felt something similar when the Proteas failed to take down the Black Caps earlier, but this day reminded me of 1999 when one Alan Donald dropped his bat and forgot how to run…altogether. The look of disbelief on Victor Matfield’s face vaguely reflected Lance Klusners that fateful night in England.

Like many SAffers, hearing the news that our very own Craig Joubert will take charge of the final contest between New Zealand and France excites me (God knows the last thing the game needs is the likes of Bryce Lawrence). Provided we don’t ‘pretend’ this is a Boks final, like we did Proteas when Gary Kirsten led India to gold.

My last work for Varsity Cup was one of my favourite interviews I’ve ever conducted, a chat with – yes, you’ve guessed correct – Craig Joubert, before he was to jet off to New Zealand. I didn’t know anything about him, apart from what was online, therefore; didn’t know what to expect. However, by the time he put down his phone I had dubbed him ‘the favourite’

Here’s ‘Whistling while he works’

its in the rule book mate

Craig Joubert is a name extremely familiar in world rugby. This professional rugby union referee initially spent five years in corporate banking, following his graduation in Business Finance. He holds a B.Com and Honours degree in the financial field, completed at UKZN, but – of course – it’s all about refereeing for him at present.

The 33-year-old has an incredible record: he was a touch judge at RWC 2007, he has handled over 20 Tests – including the Tri- and Six Nations – and he will be at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand later this year.
Last year was a memorable rugby season for him, having been handed the double – reffing the Super Rugby and Currie Cup Finals in one season.

varsitycup.co.za caught up with the former UKZN student to chat about Soweto, Jonathan Kaplan, time-zones and, as one would imagine, all things rugby:

(1) Good day, Craig. A huge thank you for taking time out of your super busy schedule. To kick things off, please tell us about your time at UKZN?

“Good afternoon Kate, only a pleasure. Well, after being schooled at Maritzburg College I went to UKZN with mates. What I can tell you is, like most students, I had a helluva ‘jol’! The typical varsity stuff. Last-minute work… while the social life was taking the major priority. I mean, I passed and did my work; but that was all in between having a great time.”

(2) [Ha, ha ha.] Yeah, that sounds awfully familiar. When did you decide you wanted to officiate full-time? Did anyone influence that decision?

“My late dad was a referee actually, and that was the main influence. I started officiating at school through him. Then I went to Maritzburg College, as you know, a highly sport-oriented institution and they gave me the freedom and opportunity to continue with this passion. The teachers there were very supportive. I would travel overseas often and they would arrange make-up tests for me, ensuring I wasn’t behind on any work. From then on I never looked back. I went to the bank for years before going pro, but I started international games in 2003, doing Super Rugby, then Super 12.”

(3) So what does the life of a world-class referee entail?

World-class, huh? [More laughter.] Traveling, traveling… and more traveling. It’s managing the travels. I do travel a lot. I’m in Europe about three times a year. Australia and New Zealand two to four-times, maybe Argentina once or so. It’s the best and the most challenging tasks in my line of work. The different cross-zones often mean early travels. It’s great to be involved in the game, but I’m hardly ever home and that’s difficult.”

(4) You were in charge of the Bulls-Stormers Super 14 Final in Soweto last year. What did you take out of that game? And how big was it for our country?

“It’s, by far, one of the highlights of my career. For so many reasons… It was my first Super Rugby Final (of course), but also an historic event that involved two SA teams, which meant that the whole country was involved. The atmosphere was something else: vuvuzelas blaring the entire 80 minutes, something most of us never experience. It was noisy, communication with the captains was a challenge at time, but man was it special! It was also a reminder of what Nelson Mandela did, allowing the country to embrace rugby. People who have never been and probably would never go to Soweto… lives were changed. That game meant greater things for SA!”

(5) You are one of the three SA officials to be invited to this year’s IRB World Cup, who was the first person that you told of this news? And what about your relationship with fellow RWC ref Jonathan Kaplan?

“I was in Oz [Super Rugby duties] and my wife, who never travels with me, was there. So it was really special to share that with her. On Jonathan, we’ve been good mates over the years. When I started he was here in Durban and he became a mentor of mine.”

(6) Coming back to more local rugby. Briefly give us your overall views of the Varsity Cup competition… how big is it for South African rugby?

“It’s definitely a magnificent tournament. I work closely with guys, mentoring the officials. It’s a great platform for the youngsters, an opportunity to get out there. And this is evident in the number of these lads in Super Rugby and Currie Cup already. It is a great platform not only for the players, as we also use it to recruit officials. I love the different initiatives, like the Pinks Shorts campaign. It embraced the student vibe with the Monday Nigh Lights advantage. The universities have embraced it; it’s well-supported and looks great on TV.”

(7) For the first time this year a first division – the Varsity Shield – was introduced. Do you think such tournaments should have more than one division?

“I think teams like UKZN would’ve looked at the Varsity Cup some time ago and thought, ‘Hey that looks great! Geez, I’d love to be there, participating.’ The Shield provides this opportunity. It means more teams will get into it, putting pressure on the main tournament as they strive to get there. This will ensure growth in the Varsity Cup as a whole.”


(8) What are FNB UKZN’s chances of making it into the Varsity Cup (proper)?

“I would like to believe they’ll get there soon. If you look at the great players produced by the varsity, there’s a great chance. The university may not be as big on rugby as say Cape Town (with UCT and Maties), but they definitely have the resources to foster progress into the premier division.”

(9) Teams like FNB Tuks, FNB UJ, etc have shown they have what it takes to go all the way. What does this mean for powerhouses like Maties and Ikeys – the only two winners thus far?

“It’s great for the contest. Each year a new team steps up. This is great because it has that element of surprise; you never know what’s going to happen, who’s going to lead the pack. It benefits the so-called ‘powerhouses’ too. Their players move onto Stormers/WP rugby, which means that they get an opportunity to groom more youngsters, which introduces new talent into the game.”

(10) Thank you Craig, I have taken enough of your time, but I can’t let you go before I know what do you miss most about your UKZN days?

“That’s easy. On a sunny day you would have a choice between a golf course and a boring finance class. [Laughter from both ends.] No really, during your varsity days, you are only just starting out; the only responsibility is doing enough work to pass. I miss that flexibility and time spent with my mates – just dreaming, with no cares in the world. I have great memories of those days, although these days I get to enjoy the privilege of living my dreams and creating great memories on the rugby field.”

By Kate Nokwe: a product of Varsity Cup

crossing the line

The Springboks saved face to the delight of a nation whose ‘ego’ could not afford any more bruising. The stands at the Nelson Mandela Stadium in PE roared. Much like a small sports club situated at the heart of the Border Bulls dogs home in East London did in 2007, after a mere 15 points proved enough to own the rights to lifting the much coveted Webb Ellis Trophy.

At long last our men in Green and Gold gave us something to smile about (if only for a weekend). ‘Restoring’ the pride of a nation that has this elusive thing called pride in all sort of bags.

For many South Africans this country, this over-sized – yet communal community, these men running on these fields – whether it be a cricket, a white elephant stadium, a swimming pool where young hearts’ pride carries them through. Let it be a track field where the word obstacle is just another motivating fact to keep fighting. Yes, to many SAffers the pride of this nation is a prized possession.

Oh never mind the ‘special cases’ who bodily place their pride in a black jersey (it’s their decision). The ones who trash and tarnish our name at every corner.

Do excuse the ignorant souls who fully embrace ‘the ends justifies the means’ approach. That is all minor compared to the SAffer who celebrate Bok Day, misses Football Fridays (because the new kit is just kak).

Look at the ones who welcomed Graeme Smith with opens arms even after ‘deserting’ them. That’s the SAffer who has your back.

The long-suffering stranger that knows where this country has been and thanks the Lord for what it could be. That’s the brother who will paint a stranger’s house to honour a man he has never seen anywhere other than his TV screen and would probably never meet.

That’s the one whose pride for South Africa will never waver. That’s the one to look at.

The one who raised his glass an notch higher when George Clancy blew his Irish whistle signalling a ‘no whitewash’. That SAffer exists in many households. That’s me.

I didn’t raise mine (not right there and there anyway for I was working) but I did jump out of my chair half-way to the ceiling, screamed my lungs out in celebratory manner that on an average day would’ve had the neighbours rushing in, only not today because they had just caused ear-drum damage themselves.

However, I couldn’t ignore the terrible taste in my mouth left by Bismarck du Plessis as he made his way to the bench, after John Smit was called to sub him. I have never been less impressed with a pro-athlete.

As I tweetted I’m a huge du Plessis’ brother’s fan. That said, I have always and will forever raise the sportsmanship flag first and foremost (that is why Indian skipper MS Dhoni is one of my favourite people).

In his Front Row Grunt blog Sport24 publisher Tank Lanning took the words out of my mouth saying

“Bismarck du Plessis’ reaction to being hooked for John Smit, no matter the situation, was despicable.

Sure he had enjoyed an excellent game, and had just been instrumental in sneaking a tighthead against the All Blacks, but what was he expecting – a full 80 minutes? 

That smacks of disharmony in the team, and management are going to have to sort that out quickly”.

While Tanks’ blog (read HERE) goes into a bit of detail on who the better hooker is, this is not about that.

Please understand I am not disputing that the youngest du Plessis had an incredible run, and is arguably the best hooker we have (if not in the world) he does however needs a serious attitude adjustment…..and fast!

You may join the number of sport lovers on Twitter who have done everything but slay me for the above statement, saying he was justified, kindly accept that I have to disagree.

I do admire and appreciate his passion for play and to want to win. But when passion is placed before respect it is useless. Best hooker in the world or not, his attitude did not honour that status.

It didn’t serve the game, disrespected management who made the call. Undermined his long-standing captain and it most certainly didn’t honour the sportsmanship code which I value beyond any talent.

I have been a ‘below-amateur’ athlete since primary school and today most of my Saturday are spent at a volleyball court in University of JHB colours, while on Sunday afternoons I don my soccer boots for NCC.

My (volleyball) captain has never warmed the bench while I’m on court (thank God). But we have butted heads when she pulls a look of disappointment to her players.

I’ve missed training and coach punishes me by putting on someone else in my spot. I don’t always approve, and sometimes throw my toys. But at the end of the day in team-sport no one is bigger that the code, and no one should be allowed to think they are.

With the weight of criticism (already) sitting heavily on his (massive) shoulder, dare imagine how learning that his own team-mate has no faith in him must’ve made him feel.

He’s the captain. Whether we choose to question, accept that or not. Fact is he IS the captain. The one given the responsibility to lead. Placed in authority by people who trusts in his leadership. Oh never mind that it was his last (ever) test match on home soil!

Jannie  received the same fate, only the older du Plessis was a good sport about it.

I can only hope big brother can remind Bismarck that sport – especially team-sport – has no room for unprofessional, immature brats, regardless of ‘standings’

Rugby pundit Morgan Piek summed it up nicely when he said

“Bismarck reaction was nothing less than pathetic and immature. I have never seen John Smit react like that when he (Bisie )replaces John Smit on 60 minutes.

That is why John Smit is our super captain and that is why John Smit is the starting hooker

In pride, there are just some lines one doesn’t cross. And in my eyes (whether intended or not) Bismarck jumped over this one and that should not be unacceptable.

vapor in the wind

Professional sport. The life of a chosen few. A glorified manor that a selected need not magazine pictures, blogs or someone’s mother to get the idea, but live to tell many tales of its existence. That God-given, though not always driven, rare talent that cannot be confused with ‘luck’ nor could it be pinned down to just ‘hard-work’.

Often a sanctuary of success, a dream come true stature. The real ‘Fast and the Furious’ franchise, the nature of rock and roll. The life. The tragedy. The tragedy of a flower quickly fading; here today and gone tomorrow.

Only just over a year Tiger Woods was the number golfer. 2008 Olympics Michael Phelps was the pot-head hailed king of the pool. The fall off Zinedine zidane. Troublesome Joost van der Westhuizen, Herschelle Gibbs…and and…


Monday July 4th, while many Americans caused havoc (much like we South Africans do on December 31st) ATP tennis rankings were released and confirmed Novak Djokovic as the new world number one. After the Serb’s 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 victory over Rafael Nadal in the Wimbledon finale.

No surprise (of course), considering he was already guaranteed to move ahead of the Spaniard following his semi-final defeat of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

What this means though is that Nadal’s 56-week rein since he took over from Roger Federer in June last year is over and now the 2008 and 2010 champ is merely a forgettable number two.

Yeah sure he vows to hit back and probably will, but that’s a story for another day. What is quite unnerving is Serena Williams’ new standings. From world number one to 175th – her lowest position since 1997 – in just under two years. Yeah sure injury and illness kept her off court for a year, but slumping 150 places is something else altogether.

Once again I find myself at the receiving end of all that can be ‘fun-cruelty’ because of my affiliations. I don’t need to tell you that my rugby team of choice is the Vodacom Blue Bulls and their premature exit in this year’s Super Rugby meant one thing; find a deep hole and crawl into it – FAST.

I will fully admit, though I had hoped, I didn’t see the Bulls retaining the title this year. I sat at a cold Coca-Cola Park stadium to witness their kick-off to the Super Rugby campaign. A 24-5 lead into the second-half had me and many in Bulls replicas fooled into a coy that perhaps the new format will take nothing away from the two-year champions.

The 24-20 victory aroused many jitters… with that said the format, undesirable to many (count me in) did in fact save the Pretoria giants from one of the most atrocious season destined.

And a (less) memorable end for the brave Crusaders’ 100,000km journey. Receiving the raw end of the stick from kick-off, its a wonder this side made it this far. Devastation of the worst kind at home could leave any team disoriented.

However, Todd Blackadder’s men took the entire season with stride that had many pinning them down as ‘the team’ of the season. Making the 2011 finale one of fairytales.

Only four years ago the men from Queensland were the ‘minnows’ of Super Rugby. Who can forget the 92-3 whipping in 2007 at the hands of the Bulls? Now there’s an irony – this Reds team taking the reins from that very same Pretoria outfit. And in the process wreck the Crusaders’ hopes of an eighth Super Rugby title, in a finish that is only predicted in a book of fairytales.

Sure the Quade Cooper versus Dan Carter contest is always a ticket seller. Carter‘s drops goal skills taking on the lethal tactical kicking of the fullback will be mouth-watering any day. Some blogger (whose name and page escapes me) summed it up nicely:

“The Crusaders looked knackered and played like it”.

Classy and rugby genius he remains, but the All Blacks pivot lost this battle, as Cooper, with a little help from the other Wallaby – Will Genia – closed the book with a much anticipated ‘happily ever after’.

Well done Reds. Take a bow Crusaders. Reaching the final under such conditions is commendable.

With so much more sport coming up in the next few months – the Currie Cup, Tri-nations, World Cup and the return of the soccer season, yeah I’ll even pay attention to the US Open – I am excited to see what this season will unfold for these men and women in tracksuits.

Currie Cup picks:
Game 1: Lions v Pumas: Lions by 10

Game 2: Western Province v Griquas: Western Province by 13

Game 3: Cheetahs v Leopards: Cheetahs by 9

Game 4: Sharks v Blue Bulls: Blue Bulls by 5

Whats yours ?

absolutey. utterly. gutted.

It was destiny. That the greatest captain in green and gold would reach a milestone that only few in the world could ever boast about. These legends, of course, include SA’s incomparable full-back, none other than the retired Percy Montgomery.

I can vividly recall the week the world joined us, as we made a fuss about Monty’s acquisition.It was a first for SA, and we stood proud, in unity, celebrating the greatest of greats.

No one was as pleased as my pastor, Rev Dave Gernertzky. Monty’s boot became a feature in Sundays sermons for an entire season, his love for Monty knew no bounds.

This was it for Smity, this was the moment we will tell our grandkids about. John Smit. Jake White’s protege, the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning captain; would receive the standing ovation from over 94 000 fans as he reaches one of the greatest accolades in rugby history; his 100th cap.

Only God could have orchestrated this meeting, that Smit would earn his glory on home turf. And more fitting was that this would take place in Soweto, with more history than I dare remember.

That FNB Stadium, worldly know as Soccer City – the stadium that hosted the battle between Spain and Netherlands for the ever contested Soccer World Cup Trophy – would host this phenomenon. It was just meant to be.

I can only imagine the atmosphere at the Smit household the morning of this event. One can only envision what was going through the man of the moment’s head during the captain’s run.

Was he calm? Was anxiety the main factor? Or just plain excitement and pure pride? Did the opposition matter at all or only just the reason why all the attention is on him?

Having gone past old City only two hours before kickoff, the atmosphere was electrifying, only I wasn’t to experience it to its core, Dros Pub it had to be. Dressed in my ‘Body Classique Personalised Bok’ jersey I joined the predominant male species.

As he (Smit) walked in ahead of his mates, I’ve never been prouder. I’ve never seen a nation more proud. This is our boy. This is not only his day, but OUR day too.

As we stood, I swear the balding man across our table’s stained-with-tears-face reflected Smity’s. We raised our beer glasses (ok mine had something else), lumps in throats, there really were no words.

By the end of the first half, it seemed the Boks would (prematurely) hold the Kiwis from claiming 2010 Tri-Nations (Not today Haka boys, Schalla and (Juan) Smith’s play demonstrated such).

Title lost to the Boks, pride was on the way and Smity would get his day with absolutely no hindrance, for it is meant to be.

And then, *sigh* then two minutes remaining, it all went sour, particularly for Smit as he missed an all important tackle that simply crushed an entire nation.

Blackstars’ humiliation at the hands of Suarez surely was not this excruciating. Bafana’s crushed dreams by Uruguay was somehow expected. But this? It couldn’t be! Surely Nigel Owens blew his Welsh whistle a tad bit early.

Someone tell him his watch is wrong! Tell him Smity has paid his dues and he has a legitimate claim! Play on! Somebody! Anybody…?

It was all over. Smity wasn’t to reign (Not today Ole Ole boys, Richie McCaw’s grin seemed to say), like Monty’s 19-0 defeat, they will be no victory.

What was suppose to be the greatest day of his life turned into an ‘I will be disappointment for a long time’ (Smit, at a presser’) Maybe Sharks victory was for their captain, but man, if ever there was an irony…

Pierre Spiers summed up the day with this tweet:

“Not nice but that’s sport…we leave it all on the field. Proud of our boys and well done to the All Blacks. Well done John Smit you legend!”