Two Sides, a tear-jerking tale of how the Boks bearded the Lions in the Covid-19 den

FILE - Springbok captain Siya Kolisi (C) holds the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after sealing the British and Irish Lions. Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP

FILE - Springbok captain Siya Kolisi (C) holds the trophy as he celebrates with teammates after sealing the British and Irish Lions. Photo: Rodger Bosch/AFP

Published May 14, 2022


Cape Town - The documentary Two Sides tells of what transpired in the Springbok and the British and Irish Lions camps during last year’s tour of South Africa when the country was deep in the throes of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic curse bedevilled the tour at every turn and every day. It reigned supreme from start to finish, and twice the hierarchy of the two camps deliberated over the cancellation of the tour. In the end, the infamous bio-secure bubble offered salvation. Henceforth, the tour continued with all facets such as accommodation, training sessions and matches behind closed doors, effectively contained in a bio-bubble.

The month-long tour, which took in eight matches on SA soil, eventually triumphed over adversity as it closed out with a three-match Test series which the Boks won 2-1. There were times when many players in both camps were laid low by the pandemic. At one stage, Bok captain Siya Kolisi and coach Jacques Nienaber both tested positive just ahead of South Africa’s final warm-up game for the Test series.

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In the absence of Kolisi, midfielder Lukhanyo Am captained the extraordinarily strong SA A team that included 18 Rugby World Cup winners. Am and his family feature prominently at stages during the documentary with stirring footage of Am’s mother and family in their humble Eastern Cape home during the tour matches.

The documentary premieres tomorrow on SuperSport and offers unbelievable fly-on-the-wall footage after film crews enjoyed special dispensation to join teams in the dressing and meeting rooms.

Gareth Whittaker, the executive producer of Two Sides, talks about the uniqueness of the documentary because never was a high-profiled rugby tour bedevilled by Covid-19. Whittaker rose to prominence a few months ago when he produced Chasing the Sun which showcased the Springboks’ triumph at the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

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In an exclusive interview with Independent Media, Whittaker said the human element made this documentary special. He said both the Springboks and the Lions felt it was important to capture the emotional, passionate and profound moments in both camps during the tour.

“Two Sides is a story told from both sides. In a world first, both the Springboks and the Lions gave production crews unrestricted access to their change rooms,” said Whittaker.

“The production itself has been a story of incredible teamwork. There was a commitment from the Lions and SA Rugby to do something special.

The coming together of the (content creation agencies) T+W of SA and Whisper of Wales to co-produce the story, and the backing from SuperSport, to accomplish this feat typifies the unique spirit of camaraderie that exists in rugby.

“This documentary is entirely flyon-the-wall footage. As producers, we were committed to capturing the story authentically, with no set-ups, no intervention, just pure unscripted, unbelievable drama.

“The players and management teams showed incredible trust in the production crews. They allowed us access and treated us as part of their teams.

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“A large part of the skill of working with professional sports teams is to respect the culture and environment. Our teams embedded in each camp are some of the best in the world at what they do. It was their ability to capture the magic, whilst respecting the values that allowed us to get some good content.

“The brief to the crew was to capture the drama! Respect the space.

Have fun and realise that this is one of the great privileges of your life.

“The footage we got was remarkable, and resulted in a one-of-a-kind story of sacrifice, dedication, and the overcoming of immense obstacles.

“The human element that comes through so strongly has made this special. Remember, there were no crowds during the tour. As filmmakers, we spent time watching games with players’ families all over the world, from the Du Toits (Springbok flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit) to the Williams, from Cape Town to Cardiff. We came to know the personal stories

of sacrifice, ambition and everything in between.

“The human touch really is the secret sauce of this special show.

“I don’t want to give it all away by saying too much but there are many moments that will live long in people’s memory. What I will say is to keep an eye out in Episode 1 for a very special moment with Lukhanyo Am’s wonderful mother.

“I’ve been consistently inspired by this story; both by the men and women it features and the many talented people who contributed to getting it made.

“It is intense and it is powerful. It is also a world first. To be granted access to the inner circle of these two sides was a great privilege and I am very proud of the story we have told.”

The first episode of the threepart documentary, narrated by Irish actor Aidan Kelly, will be broadcast tomorrow at 6pm on M-Net DStv Channel 101, and on the same night on SuperSport Rugby, DStv Channel 211 at 7pm.

¡ Episode 2 will be broadcast on May 22, with the concluding episode on May 29.