There are images that will live long in the memory from the last night of the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards in Shanghai. Schalk Burger sr putting Bill Murray into a hug and then a headlock at the bar at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel.
Then watching Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger jr, if one can call him that, talking to Henry Cavill, the latest actor to play Superman about rugby.
One Superman to another, with Burger perhaps the story of these awards, his comeback tale from deathbed to Springbok jersey touched the hearts of many in Shanghai.
Cavill is a huge rugby fan, having played when he was younger, but gave up after an injury.Rugby gave him his start in acting, according to a website dedicated to the man, having introduced him to Russell Crowe.
“The campus of Stowe School where Henry was educated, was being used as a backdrop for the kidnap thriller Proof of Life with Russell Crowe. The schoolboys were playing rugby in the back ground in one of the scenes, and Henry was among them. Having the courage to take a chance, Henry marched up to the movie star and introduced himself.‘I took his hand and said, ‘Hi, Mr Crowe. My name is Henry, and I’m thinking of becoming an actor. What’s it like?’ And we talked just a bit,’
Henry recalled 10 years later at the Man Of Steel film set, a movie in which he starred with Crowe. ‘A few days later I got a signed picture of him in Gladiator that said, ‘Dear Henry, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ You can imagine how I felt when I got to the end of that first journey of a thousand miles and I’m working with Russell Crowe’.”
In the end, as the world mourned and sang the praises of one of the greatest sports commentators we may ever have the privilege to listen to, Richie Benaud’s wife, Daphne, decided she would say her final goodbyes in the way he would have liked best.
She and Richie’s family politely turned down the offer of a state funeral for her husband of 48 years, saying the service would be an understated and private one for immediate family. The service would, then, echo Richie’s commentary. Richie. Not Richie Benaud. All called him Richie.
He was the commentator most admired and imitated. There are few today who come close to matching his ability to say it best in as few words as possible.
During the 2011 Rugby World Cup, the Springboks and those of us scampering after them, were gifted an extended stay in Wellington.
The capital of New Zealand is quite beautiful, one of my favourite cities for the way it embraces you with the warmth of a village and surprises you with sophistication.
There are no statues of Peter Jackson here, although there is a sculpture called Tripod that celebrates the film and TV industry Jackson has driven and cultivated. There are no statues of Ma’a Nonu, but in 2011 a 35m-tall bronze to celebrate the World Cup was unveiled with All Black Victor Vito one of those who helped pose for the Richard Taylor creation. “The scene is a stylised line-out, a rugby set piece that serves to put the ball back in play after it leaves the field via the sideline. The players from the two opposing teams struggling to take control of the ball,” read the statement.
The hollowness of desperate defeat feels like it can never be filled.
It’s a hurt of “what ifs”, “if onlys” and “we should haves”, a never-ending repeat of a show you don’t want to watch but can’t look away from in case the ending somehow, if there is any justice in the world for pity’s sake, changes.
But the story of the first semi-final of the Cricket World Cup will remain the same forever, a tale of pain and celebration, of near misses and one magnificent shot, of the tears of a loser and the consoling hand of a victor. It was a game that will be remembered forever for different reasons. Two days later, it still feels unreal.