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.
Despite the confusion created by the man who purports to lead South African sport and his, and his staff’s, use of slurs and slander, and the mis-use of transformation as a weapon, this week offered up some respite from the nonsense with the wonderful news of a development story that has borne fruit.
William Mokgopo, the young man from Diepsloot, sig-ned for the Kargo Pro Mounta-in Bike Team, South Africa’s only UCI-registered cross country squad. It is another step in the career of this young man, who has been nurtured by the Diepsloot Mountain Bike Academy from a beginner cyclist into a professional bicycle rider. Mokgopo, long of limb and skinny of frame, has a shy, wide and never-ending smile. This week the smile was given another reason not to end.
On the second-last day of the 2008 Tour de France, Valerio Tebaldi, the Italian who had won two stages of the Tour in the late ‘80s, told me to shout at John Lee Augustyn.
The young South African was about three metres in front of us as we cruised in the Team Barloworld car, crouched on his Bianchi, head down, elbows bent, forearms flat on his bars as he spun along the 53km for the final individual time trial from Cérilly to Saint Amand Montrond.
Thumbs are not the best looking or nicest of digits. They are short, fat and downright opposable. Thumb rhymes with bum. They are the backside of the hand, which explains the phrase, “pull your thumb out”.
The thumb was improved significantly by an ugly splodge of ink on Wednesday, as the people of the south voted in the general elections. It became a digit of democracy, a sign of boastful pride for those who had done what we are told is the most important thing citizens can do for their country. Well, apart from paying tax, that is. And obeying the law. And being nice to each other. So, maybe one of several important things citizens can do.
Every Tuesday, at 1pm, the majority of The Star’s sports department repairs to the SAB World of Beer in Newtown for our weekly planning meeting.
It is a short walk from the offices of The Star in at 47 Sauer Street. A left turn from Sauer, down Pritchard Street takes you past the shiny angles of the Diagonal Street building on the left, where the Times Media Group once had offices before they joined the exodus from the city centre.