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Category Archives for "Sport"

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? Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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: Continue reading

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. Continue reading

It Ain’t Over till It’s Over

South Africans aren’t done yet.

Wayde van Niekerk

Four years ago, I wrote the piece below for the Mercury, a daily newspaper in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

It was written in the afterglow of Chad le Clos’s defeat of Michael Phelps to win his first Olympic gold, and Ernie Els’s stirring come-from-behind victory in golf’s British Open.

Re-reading this, after the inspirational performances of the likes of Wayde van Niekerk, Caster Semenya, Sunette Viljoen, Luvo Manyonga, and Cameron van der Burgh at the Rio Olympics, the note it sounds still rings true.

Beneath all the problems of South Africa, the mismanagement of state bodies (including the shambolic Athletics South Africa among others), and the corruption, our country is not down and out. We keep picking ourselves up off the canvas.

The recent election results show people still want to fight for their country. Olympic sport is just sport, yes, but the love for country it shows is real and echoes beyond the arena.

That echo is a reminder that beyond the headlines and the politics, the dream is still alive. Continue reading

Why I Love the Stumbling Boks

Struggling to win is glorious.

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There is a lot of pessimism about the rugby Springboks at the moment – not all of it unfounded.

No longer can we bash the likes of Ireland and Argentina over. We have to struggle for every win. The Bulls template no longer works. It is all about skill in getting out of your half and then holding onto the ball on attack with offloading and quick recycling.

And that’s hard for our players, raised on a diet of schoolboy koppestamp on the platteland. For decades we believed our ultra-competitive schoolboy game was our biggest asset. Now it is a liability, because all our young players learn how to play ultra-conservative rugby without much freedom to express themselves and take risks. Continue reading