John Robbie shares his thoughts on the South African movie Beyond the River. Photo: @John_C_Robbie via Twitter

Beyond the River is a marvellous movie. If you haven’t seen it yet, employ modern technology and do so.

Whether it becomes to our movie industry what Picnic at Hanging Rock was to the Aussies remains to be seen. 

However, as with all great sporting movies, it is about so much more than just sport. South African issues of crime, poverty, inequality and racism are explored using the Dusi Canoe Marathon as a vehicle. 

It is about what people and understanding each other can achieve in terms of sport, life and success. Even if it was all fiction it would be heart-warming, but the fact that it was based on a true story makes it even better. Watch it.

My favourite sports movie of all time is Somebody Up There Likes Me. It’s based on the life of middleweight boxing legend Rocky Graziano. He was a poor inner city American kid abused by his father who fell in with the gangs and ended up in prison. 

On release he was drafted but ran away from the army. Desperate for money, he took up fighting and discovered he was good at it. 

In the heel of the hunt, Rocky rose to prominence and took part in one of the greatest series of world title fights ever – his three clashes with Tony Zale. In reality, Rocky only won the second fight but that, after his initial defeat, is where the movie ends.

Hollywood loves a winner. James Dean was due to star in the movie but inconveniently died in his Porsche crash, so a youngster named Paul Newman got the part. The rest is history.

If you look carefully you can also see a bit part played by a kid called Steve McQueen. The great thing is that in real life, Rocky married his sweetheart, had two kids, opened a pizza restaurant that became a franchise, and he lived happily until 1990 and died at 71.

The Wayde van Niekerk story is wonderful, isn’t it? Even though he missed the double in London, he makes us all so proud. 

He is modest almost to a fault, polite, good looking and oh so talented. His Mum was a wonderful athlete but our past denied her the chance to make it. Wayde has done so and who knows how far he can go in the sport and in life?

However, his is not the great SA story in sport at the moment. That belongs to his teammate Luvo Manyonga. Without a doubt.

I remember reading a story about him when he was on tik. It outlined the poverty and dysfunction tof his childhood and despite this, his amazing achievements in junior athletics. 

But he succumbed to addiction and was banned. His family circumstances and the failure of sufficient support by athletics resulted in a reduced ban.

In fairness, Sascoc did then send him to the High Performance Centre in Pretoria, and with the help and support of coaches and friends, and massive hard work, he remained clean and prospered.

Since then, Olympic silver has been won and of course, world championship gold in London last weekend. His personal best is 8.60 metres and many believe he can break Mike Powell’s world record of 8.95 set in 1991.

Luvo has spoken about his addiction and how it will never go away, and we wish him well in his fight.

But just consider what he has achieved. He has sunk to the depths of despair and instead of drowning, has reached the pinnacle of his sport. 

In a country where we are surrounded by bad news and horror stories, we tend to miss the great and inspirational ones. 

They are there and should be told and celebrated. You cannot but be inspired by this story regardless of circumstance. I wonder who will play him in the movie?

* Robbie is a former Transvaal, Ireland and British and Irish Lions scrumhalf.


Saturday Star

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