Jen Wilson settled in to watch the second half of South Africa’s semi-final against Australia in Glasgow yesterday with a beer made all that better tasting by the addition of international retirement.
Almost four years ago she was playing for South Africa in a semi-final in the Delhi Commonwealth Games. They lost that semi-final, against New Zealand, and then, heartbreakingly, the bronze medal match against England.
On the front garden of a house high on a hill overlooking JBay, a group of South African sporting icons looked down to the swell and cut of the sea, and smiled at the end of two days of an event that may just have been the most fun in sport.
The Oakley X-Over Challenge – a three-sport, two-day romp on bicycle, golf course and surfboard – had been a mad, tumbling, laughing, drinking maelstrom of fun.
Seth Hulley, \[johan.desmidt\]thesports marketing manager of Oakley South Africa and a former professional surfer, had seen it in the smiles of the 12 he had invited.
Before he announced the South African team for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Wednesday, Gideon Sam, the president of the SA Sports Confederations and Olympic Committee, spoke about selection criteria. He spoke about them at length and in detail.
“Let me start with the criteria,” said Sam, “so that we don’t have hang-ups about it later.”
When the South African team, management and administrators came back from the London Olympics, the presidents of all the federations got together. They took a “couple of decisions on the (selection) criteria going forward”.
The news that Ryan Giggs was the star signing for SuperSport’s World Cup team made the Times of London on Wednesday. “Giggs poised for World Cup pundit role,” read the headline, but the story, a brief one, was more concerned with politics at Manchester United.
“Ryan Giggs may be asked to assess Louis van Gaal’s performance as Holland coach when serving as a World Cup analyst on a South African cable TV channel next month,” wrote the Times. “SuperSport, says Giggs – who retired from playing after being appointed United’s assistant manager on Monday – will be its star studio pundit in Brazil.”
After the sweat had cooled on the brow, after the bruises had begun to turn black and after the filthy taste of defeat had been washed off his tongue, Tom Youngs, the England hooker, found the time and grace to produce an act of sportsmanship that transcended all of the madness of a frantic weekend.
Youngs, playing for Leicester in the Aviva Championship semi-final against Northampton on Friday, copped a left hook flush on the jaw from former Australian prop Salesi Ma’afu in the 56th minute. The latter was red-carded, and, no doubt, sighed the deepest of sighs of relief that his team eventually won 21-20. The picture of the hook was perfectly timed, catching Youngs’ face as it was distorted by the punch, the right side of it grotesque, like a slo-mo from Raging Bull or Rocky.