JOHANNESBURG - Aaron Smith oh, boy, does that bloke get under my skin.
There is just something about the New Zealand scrumhalf that makes me apocalyptic with rage. Every time I see his mug on the telly, I can feel the blood in my Jugular boil. It takes several moments of introspection, delving deep into the mind sanctuary, questing for my spirit-animal, to centre myself and get the emotions back in check.
Smith is a brilliant rugby player, no doubt, and perhaps that is one of the reasons I have such utter disdain for him. Yip, it could just be good ‘ol fashioned jealousy.
But methinks also that his gamesmanship borders on unsporting behaviour, especially when he takes advantage of a lazy runner, or unfortunate fellah at ruck-time laying prone on the wrong-side of the breakdown, constantly and deliberately exploiting the offside rule by passing the ball into said opposition player to milk a penalty ...
Smart rugby. Infuriating play.
This past month, during the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand, he was strumming that last nerve again, had the temporal vein bulging, twitching irregularly, and eliciting a wholly irrational grunt of exasperation every so often.
And he isn’t the only sportsman that irks me thus ... for no logical reason, it would seem.
Former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting was another huge irritant. Peter Siddle is still up there. So, too, F1 triple world champion Lewis Hamilton, despite his iridescent career. Michael Schumacher, as well, but only because of his legendary rivalry with my favourite Mika Hakkinen.
I suspect former Chelsea captain and now Aston Villa’s new signing, John Terry, is on many a most-hated sportsmen of all time list. But not mine - he is a Blues legend, always has been and always will be.
And don’t get me started on Novak Djokovic ...
If I am honest with myself, then Graeme Smith was once upon a time not on the favoured list either but as his stature as the South African captain grew, so did his presence in the consciousness.
He’s retired now, but man, I still have a man-crush on Biff. There is room to manoeuvre off the list, it would seem.
And yet, none of the above mentioned sports stars rile me up as much as Ben Stokes.
During the first Test at Lord’s between South Africa and England last week, which ended in a crushing defeat for the Proteas, Kagiso Rabada had to unfortunately interact with the New Zealand-born, rugby league wanna-be. KG got the moer in - an understandable state of mind when Stokes is around - and told the England all-rounder to “f*** off”.
Now, I can sympathise with KG, although a part of me knows that his outburst was unacceptable. As the cliche goes, it’s just not cricket.
That little paroxysm compounded Rabada’s recent disciplinary record and earned him a one-match ban. He won’t, therefore, be participating in the second Test at Trent Bridge, which started today.
Be assured, however, that during Stokes’ 258-run extravaganza in Cape Town in the second Test against SA last year, I vloeked him an inordinate amount of times. In fact, whenever I see Stokes, I will admit, some disparaging remark escapes my lips. I’m not proud of it, although I do mostly find it mildly amusing.
Unfortunately, the rules that apply to a fan, do not apply to a professional sportsman, and hopefully KG will learn to funnel his anger into a more positive way the next time the two meet.
It can only make KG a more honed and better player if he does.
As for the next few days, while the second Test screens on our TVs, Stokes will only receive a barrage of abuse whenever he appears on the tube and sadly, for Stokes, I recently discovered he was raised in Cockermouth, North England ...