The singing stopped during the second half of the national anthem at Newlands on Saturday. At least it did on TV. Perhaps it didn’t at Newlands. Perhaps it was just one of those technical glitches that have directors in small, dark rooms cursing. As glitches go, it seemed perfectly timed as instead of the sameness of |another singer we heard the rumble of a stadium belting out the anthem.
The camera swung to Schalk Brits, standing in a Springbok jersey he may have thought he would never wear again. He was smiling, his eyes open, taking it all in, singing with happiness.
A little down the line Cornal Hendricks was all but screaming out the final lines of the |anthem, chest heaving, neck bulging, roaring through his gum guard, which, presumably, he had kept to sing with lest he bite off his own tongue with the effort.
When he finished, when the crowd was lost in the post-anthem cheering, Gurthrö Steenkamp, a man with the face of a hard man and the soft, considered voice of a gentle man, pulled Hendricks closer with his left arm around his shoulders and passed on a few last words of encouragement.
If those words were, “Enjoy this moment”, then they worked, for Hendricks played with joy and little fear, as solid a debut as you could wish for.
That will not be the last time we see the gum guard of Hendricks live on telly during the national anthem.
At the end of the national anthem I have to fight the urge to shout, “play ball!”
I usually just go with the urge, for bottling up an urge is a sure way to do yourself an injury, like holding your nose and closing your mouth when you sneeze, stifling a burp or pinching off a fart.
Eventually, you will explode.
So, I mumbled, “play ball”, at the 50th birthday of my friend, Paul Roos, on Saturday, although it took a while for the Springboks to do so as they creaked into Springbok mode.
The best moment of the match was the try scored by Bakkies Botha. The pass from Willie Roux to start it was flat and fast to Bryan Habana, whose jink inside and pass to Victor Matfield threw the World XV defence. Habana passed early enough not to be tackled, took the return, and gave the perfect off-load to Botha.
You cannot buy experience, they say, although Toulon seem to be buying an awful lot of it, a lot of which was on show on Saturday.
I thought the Boks of the 2011 World Cup was the end of an era, but Botha, Matfield, Steenkamp, Habana and the recalled Brits seem a rejuvenated, sprightly bunch. In with the old and in with the new could work for Heyneke Meyer in the 2015 World Cup.
Earlier on Saturday, Athletics South Africa voted in a new board. It’s an old board, with just two of the members having not served on an ASA executive before. The new president, Aleck Skhosana, is from KwaZulu-Natal.
He was accused of running KZN Athletics into the ground after a financial fraud scandal was revealed in 2011, which left the federation bankrupt. He was voted out as president of KZN Athletics. He still denies he was involved in any wrong-doing, saying it was a plot by others who wanted to tarnish his name.
A few years ago he lost the first post-Leonard Chuene ASA elections to James Evans, who was president of an ASA board in tatters.
Skhosana said that the new board, an interim one that will run the sport and the financially bereft organisation until 2016, was the “first step towards good corporate governance”.
Where were the voices of the eight of the 10 on the board when Chuene was pillaging ASA? Where was Skhosana in standing up against him? It is said Skhosana was a supporter of Chuene. That is frightening. He will need careful watching. His entire board will need careful watching.
ASA will go with a begging bowl to Sascoc and the sports ministry for money. They are|R5-million in debt. The problem with choosing people who have been executives before is that they have learnt bad habits. If they have not kicked them out, then athletics in this country will continue its downward spiral.
Count the money, show us the books and open the doors, Mr Skhosana. Be a smart Aleck.
F*** Fatigue ... enjoy French nurses
On Tuesday, as we sat at the SAB World of Beer working our way thro-ugh diaries, worries, success-es, problems and, yes, several beers, Etienne Rothbart, the legendary sports photographer, reached into the pocket of the khaki jacket so beloved of photographers and German tourists, and said he had something to show me.
It was a new camera, a compact Olympus. He had bought it very recently, an early retirement gift to himself, you might say.
The final day of the 1998 Nedbank Golf Challenge was the most dramatic ending to Africa’s Major yet. Tiger Woods, playing the tournament for his first and only time, and Nicky Price, the de facto mayor of Sun City, took the tournament into a play-off on the Sunday.
The format was simple enough. Go back to the 16th hole and play sudden death. If they were tied after the 16th, then they’d play the 17th, and, then, if need be, the 18th. And, then, if the need remained, go back to the 16th and try again. Thus followed some of the best up-and-down golf you are likely to see, a tussle that went from the 16th, to the 17th and on to the 18th.
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.