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Willemse and Kolisi – A Tale of Two Springboks

The controversy and celebration of Willemse and Kolisi together tell the story of contemporary South Africa.

I have always been a fan of Siya Kolisi. I think he thoroughly deserves to be Bok captain. He is one of those players who finds extra gears wearing the green and gold.

I remember hearing Rassie Erasmus five years ago tell a group of coaches that Kolisi is one of the hardest and toughest men in the game.

He has risen from a tough life in the township of Zwide, via his schooling at Grey High, to carrying that old sacred mantle of South Africa – the Springbok captaincy…

Do you come from a land down under?

If western civilization is to be saved, we must battle for the soul of test cricket.

For me, test cricket is the only sport still worth watching.

Just the timetable of a day’s cricket is entrancing. Based on the routine of an English manor house, action only gets underway after ten. You break for lunch after only one session of two hours, followed by another session before afternoon tea. The calling of stumps at around six gives you enough time to shower and change for dinner. No need to rush – the next morning will be leisurely. What a day.

We Are All to Blame For the Springboks’ Demise

How we all contributed to our slow slide into mediocrity.

I don’t believe in collective guilt.

But every now and then, there is a time to recognise we are all somewhat complicit in something going bad – in this case, Springbok rugby.

So how can we all possibly have done something ourselves to get to the point of having to watch Damian de Allende potter around a rugby field while making millions?

Proteas, Panic, and the Unimportance of Winning

There is something so fascinating about the South African national cricket side. They so clearly have a real psychological and cultural block when it comes to knock-out cricket – yet they never even own up to it.

Capture

In fact, one could almost even say that not owning their weakness is truly their inherent weakness.

As a big cricket fan, I admit that I get far too emotionally invested in what is really just a game of cricket – a knocking about of leather by willow – and so my knee-jerk reaction after another classic case of Protea Panic is to forget about it and move on.

But this time I am truly intrigued on a human level with this bizarre and continuous re-enactment of ‘choking’, tournament after tournament, as though they were doomed to repeat the past again and again.

For some reason, one of the great and bizarre quotes from Peter ‘P-Divvy’ de Villiers came to mind on Monday morning. He once said, to general mockery,’There is no difference between winning and losing. The only difference is how you feel after.’

Of course, this was immediately dismissed as nonsense, but I wonder if he was not onto something.

The Tragedy of Dan Vickerman

What happens to a sports hero when the crowds go home?

Have you ever spent extended time with family and friends and then suddenly you were on your own again, doing mundane things? What did it feel like – that jolt from a kind of elevated communion to sudden quiet?

I think a neglected truth about being human is that we actually battle with transitions.

A few years back, I had two children, moved house four times, changed jobs twice, moved provinces, all in the space of just over two years. In the midst of this, I also had gunmen in my house.

Months later, I was burnt out.

Psychologists say even if we go through a multitude of good or even great life events, too many in too short a space of time will cause major stress in your life.

What’s Behind the Federer Magic?

Why one man hitting a ball with some framed string is just so inspiring.

Federer

Most of the time we watch sport because we want to see who wins and feel the tension as that fact gets decided. People who harp on about aesthetics in sport are usually a bit misguided. I don’t care if a South African batsman looks ugly while he makes a hundred. Some of our best batsmen could barely cover drive (see Graeme Smith and Gary Kirsten).

Which is why I have been scratching my head to try to work out why there is something about how Federer hits a tennis ball that is almost… beautiful.

Make Springbok Rugby Great Again!

Five ideas for a return to fun Saturday afternoons.

First of all, Allister Coetzee did not do this to the Springboks. Neither did quotas.

The Proteas have an inexperienced national coach with a heavy quota system, and they are on the up.

No, the rot of Springbok rugby is systemic. It starts with under 13 coaches, and goes all the way to SA Rugby’s CEO (who has been under a cloud of criminal investigation for quite some time – and note that he is a white Afrikaner from Stellenbosch).

So how to rejuvenate the system? Here are my five ideas:

The Springboks Are Losing Their Story

We are wasting our failures.

springboks vs japan world cup 2015

There comes a time for any organisation when failure is the best thing that can happen to you. Every year needs a winter. But if you don’t learn how to fail well, and fruitfully, things can start to come apart.

That seems to be happening to our national rugby team.

Yes, I know I wrote a month back how much I am enjoying them at the moment. I still am. I don’t find narrow losses to other professional teams massively disappointing. But maybe I am not competitive enough.

But the vast majority of supporters are disenchanted. And the last few weeks of fixtures and news have not represented an upward curve. When you lose your supporters, and when you lose the sense of a hopeful narrative, trouble looms.

To understand how the Springboks have lost their grip on their own story, we do need some historical context. So let’s remember some other lowpoints.