Luke's behaviour - a reporter's perspective

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By his own admission a fortnight ago, Luke Watson never wanted to be a Springbok.

The question is why he ever put himself through it, if it was that bad.

Watson has never come across as being happy. I can't ever remember him smiling or really celebrating on the rugby field.

And if he is seeking answers as to why his team-mates won't talk to him or greet him, he needs look no further than himself.

Watson has said some pretty damning things about South African rugby, its coaches and players - not just in his latest rant - and each time it's made the headlines.

I spent three weeks with Watson and the Springboks this year on the Tri-Nations tour to New Zealand and Australia.

There were a couple of incidents which left the travelling journalists somewhat bemused. One was the fact Watson's dad, Cheeky, was booked into the same hotels as the Boks in Wellington and Dunedin.

Cheeky was forever sitting in the hotel foyers and his constant presence was rumoured to be the reason why De Villiers picked Watson ahead of both Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski for the two Tests against New Zealand.

There was talk among some of the journalists and even team management that De Villiers felt obliged and under pressure to pick Watson because his dad had spent a fortune travelling to New Zealand to see his son in action.

It is a fact Watson Snr was asked by team management to book into non-team hotels should he again tour with the Bok team, something that Bryan Habana's dad, Bernie, also a regular tourist, does.

A second incident on the tour that had journalists perplexed came in the days leading up to the Dunedin showdown.

On the Tuesday before the match, forwards coach Gary Gold opted for a lineout session at a local club, mainly to familiarise new arrival Schalk Brits (he replaced the injured John Smit) with the team's calls.

When some journalists arrived at the venue at the set time, they found only Gold, a few of the back-up coaching staff - and Watson. He had decided not to travel to the field with the rest of his team-mates in the bus.

Then, on the Saturday in Dunedin, moments after the Boks had beaten the All Blacks for the first time at the House of Pain, came the real shocker, which stunned me and a good few other journalists.

As we waited outside the Bok changeroom at Carisbrook to chat to Ricky Januarie, out of the changeroom walks Watson, with his earphones glued to his ears and plonks himself down on the team's yellow tackle bags.

He fiddled a bit with his phone or iPod, stared straight ahead. By the look on his face you would have thought his team had just gone down by 50 points. Ten metres away, in the changeroom, a massive celebration was going on, with cheering, shouting, clapping and, I"m sure, a few beers being downed.

Team man? I don't think so. Happy and delighted with the win? I doubt it.

The next week in Perth, Watson was left out of the matchday 22. Cheeky had left for home and was no longer around. Coincidence? I just don't know, and probably never will.

Watson cut a lonely figure on that tour and there's nothing to suggest it's going to be any different on any other Springbok tour.

If Watson were a tennis player or golfer, with no one else to consider or think about he could say what he wanted. The difference is he plays a team sport where a number of vastly different personalities are thrown together.

For a team to be successful, it has to work together and put individual differences, backgrounds, languages and colour aside.

Respecting the man alongside you, who has put in just as much effort and hard work as you to be there, is what makes teams successful.

Watson has been digging his own grave for some time.





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