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.

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as it were

Let’s face it – Sport as we know it is gone. The love we have for the game is tainted by so many reactions and choices from individuals we’ve idolised.

What’s with our soccer heroes gracing the pages of Rolling Stones more than Brangelina or our political leaders crippling the motivation to fill up Rugby stadiums? Yeah, sport as we’d like to remember is dead and buried.

Be it as it may, we still take our vuvuzela’s, brace the cold and give the ‘Ultimate Fan’ thing a go. Superbru is sky-rocking. Hell, Vodacom is still making as much money out ‘Player 23’ as with BlackBerry contracts.

Yes, we put aside the grating political influence, proudly put our replicas on and chirp the next person for not supporting same team. No one knows this better than me and my sport loving boss, who celebrates Football Fridays in blue, with a big Chelsea grin, while I (and the rest of her family) insolently proclaim ‘This is Anfield: I Will Never Walk Alone’.

And when we return to the office on a Monday conversations begin with Cheetahs vs Bulls. Yes we bury the hatches, forget Tiger’s infidelity, and stand oblivious to Micheal Phelps, Marianne Jones’ or even Bakkies’ stupidity.

We swear at government for their meddling, scream our lungs out at having to wave goodbye to the Super 14 only for a (long) while and will eventually forgive the Boks for their poor Tri-Nations campaign, because as exasperated as we may be by these, at the back of our supporting mind, the game is still as it should be. At least would be.

That is more than I can say for cricket, however.

The most popular game in the Eastern and Western Cape. A discipline that sees 7/10 Indian or Pakistan households fed is forever lost. Its credibility belongs only to the History Channel.

A land where 666666’s are the miracles of the game; The splendour of hat-tricks. A museum of super-overs. Sheer sanctuary of clashes between giants like SA, Australia, Pakistan, India or England that guarantee a spectacular heartache, but money’s worth for the avid lover of the game.

A history of unsung heroes ordained by roars of crowds with what seems to be more passion than from the ones in batting helmets. Yeah. That era has ceased with a vinyl and in its place are carbon copies of broken cd’s worth the bottom of a street kid’s shoe.

While some parts of the world have joined SA for the exciting Airtel Champions T20, trouble began to brew in England, who is busy with a series against Pakistan.

The series has produced allegations of match fixing by now suspended Pakistanis. Last week a cloud began to descend upon the English when injury-prone Andrew Flintoff hung his bat up for good.

This week assembled an even greater distress, when reports that they (England) are not above match-fixing. Of course this sent Andrew Strauss and his cronies over the edge.

However, we in SA know a thing or two about smokes and fires. Whether the allegations are legit or just that, allegations is another blog, but what this means is the series is now farce that needs to be scrapped.

Cricket is not cricket but rather a massacre of greed and lies killing dreams of many around the world. Hansie Cronje (R.I.P), it seems planted a seed that is growing like unwanted weed, producing a generation that has undermined the value of the game, paving a way for endless uncertainties.

Will we ever grace cricket stadia without questioning the legitimacy of the game? Will the great Tendukar be above our scrutiny? Is Rusty Theron’s great bowling a result of his form or a lost bet?

Can Shahid Khan Afridi reach a century and claim a MOM award without raising an eyebrow? Will James Anderson ever be allowed to have a ‘bad’ game? God forbid Mark Boucher misses a run-out.

May the Great Almighty have mercy on Graeme Smith in 2011, for we will raise more than a flick of an eyebrow should the Proteas emulate the Boks’ Tri-Nations Campaign.

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!”