On an August night in 2006, a letter was pushed under the Colombo hotel door of Mark Boucher. It was addressed to: “Mr M Boucher, SA Cricket captain.”
“It was from one of the Tamil Tiger leaders,” recalls Boucher in his book, Bouch: Through My Eyes. “The letter stated they had no desire to hurt us and that we had nothing to do with their war. But he said that a bombing campaign was underway in Colombo and that it would be very unfortunate if we were affected. He said they could make no promises or guarantees for our safety and recommended we leave the country as soon as possible.”
On Thursday, I talked to the man who found the extraordinary proof to go with his extraordinary accusations. On Saturday evening, I watched as tears rolled down the face of a man who called time on an extraordinary career. The first was a man who stayed true to his belief he was chasing the biggest fraud in sport; the second a man who stayed true to his ethics as he tried to make sure players around the world didn’t pull off the little frauds that come in the heat of rugby at the highest level.
Jonathan Kaplan could not hold back his emotions as he spoke before and after the Absa Currie Cup final. The decision to bow out from rugby was made in February. That’s eight months of anticipation of a final day, referring the culmination of the oldest provincial/club competition in rugby in the city the Durban-born, Joburg-educated man has called home since university. On October 26, 1881, Wyatt Earp and his brothers, Morgan and Virgil, and Doc Holliday, had their shoot-out with the Clanton-McLaury gang at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Thirty shots were fired in 30 seconds in that shoot-out. The Sharks shot 33 points past Western Province in 80-odd minutes.
Playing Pakistan is a tricky thing for South Africa. When Mark Boucher made his debut against Pakistan on October 17, 1997 at the Sheikhupura Stadium, he was given some friendly and forthright advice by the old man of the team. “Symmo looked at me and said, ‘Don’t cock it up’,” deadpanned Boucher.
It was typical Pat Symcox, who always had a word or two for the new boys in the team. The new boy didn’t cock it up. He didn’t get a chance. The weather cocked it up for everyone.
“My memories of that first Test are mostly about rain,” said Boucher. “We lost most of the Test to rain.” Only two days of play took place, although Boucher did get a chance to bat, scoring six while batting at nine. He only got to keep for 17 overs before the weather settled in and the last of only two Tests to be played at Sheikhupura Stadium fizzled out to a draw.
To be nominated for the sportsman or woman of the year at the 2013 South African Sports Awards, athletes need to fulfil the following criteria, according to the official rule book: “Produced a world-class performance at the National, Continental and Global arena (sic); continuously set world records; displayed reasonable code of conduct; and Conformed and complied with all applicable ethical codes.”
The athlete also has to have performed said world-class performance on the national, continental and global arenas between October 1, 2012 and August 30, 2013. Greg Minnaar won the downhill World Championships on September 1 this year, a day after the entries closed. Minnaar won the 2012 World Championship in September last year. He did not crack the nod as a 2012 nominee.
There was just one flag on the pier beside where the GoPro Ironman World Championships began in Kailua-Kona yesterday morning. It was a South African flag, placed there by a stranger in the night, a family member, friend or team manager of one of the South Africans who took part in this, the triathlon of all triathlons.
It lasted for much of the morning after the male professionals began at 6.30am and through the age group starts thereafter, but it was gone by the time James Cunnama crossed the line to take fourth, a result he called the “greatest of his career”. It was the greatest of days for South Africans at the Ironman World Championships, with Kyle Buckingham the first amateur home in 16th place overall.