JJ Harmse

WP the Bafana of SA rugby?

2009-10-15 09:06
JJ Harmse
JJ Harmse

Former All Black and New Zealand sevens representative, Eric Rush, is a popular choice as a guest speaker in many places in the world.

Rush, who played on the wing and as a loose forward on the international stage, of course made his name in the shorter version of the game and was one of the stalwarts of a very successful Kiwi sevens team that dominated the world series in the first six or seven years of its inception.

He also toured South Africa in 1994 with the All Blacks and it was his elevation to the national team that has prompted one of his best stories.

A very fluent and witty speaker, Rush has travelled the world, and I was fortunate enough to attend a ‘gentleman’s’ dinner or two with him as the speaker.

The one story that always gets me is how his father reacted when he made the All Blacks. Rush tells the story that his dad was a hard drinking, no nonsense man, who often failed to see the funny side of things.

He was very passionate about his son’s progress in the game though. Often, in the early years, when Rush was not picked for a particular team, his father would console him with the following words: “Don’t worry son, it’s just one man’s opinion”.

This encouraged Rush, who was keen to please his dad and he progressed in due time and finally cracked the All Blacks. So when he heard about his inclusion in the All Black squad to tour South Africa, he immediately phoned his dad to share the good news.

Finally he could please his dad and share the joy of being picked for his country. In short, he had made it.

His dad’s reaction: “Don’t worry son, it’s just one man’s opinion!”

The moral of the story is an important lesson for all of us who tend to get carried away with seemingly crazy selections …

Something that is not one man’s opinion, though, are the SA Rugby Player Award nominations that were released yesterday. The SA rugby media share their nominations in the various categories, so it was a shock to see some of the names presented in some of the categories.

For the full list of nominees, CLICK HERE

Sure, one needs to accept the view of the majority, but some of those are beyond belief. For example: Team of the year - Western Province. What? How on earth did that happen?

I can understand the nomination of the Springboks, the Bok sevens side, the Bulls and Griquas. All have won something this year and actually have a trophy cabinet to prove it. But Western Province? Is finishing second in Currie Cup now the new first? Are WP the Bafana Bafana of rugby? Why not the Sharks if you wanted to use the Currie Cup as yardstick?

We have enough greatness in our game and enough teams who perform on a regular basis. There is no need to reward mediocrity.

Similar with the nominations for Currie Cup player of the year. We have three players from WP along with Sarel Pretorius and Stefan Terblanche. Really?

Juan de Jongh has certainly improved a lot and has become a very prominent player, Joe Pietersen played some good rugby, and Luke Watson scored a lot of tries from the back of the Province maul, but how on earth did they get nominated ahead of some very deserving players from the Sharks, Bulls, Lions and Cheetahs?

It is great to see Province finally making it into the top four as they have the potential and pedigree to be there all the time. But three of the top five Currie Cup players from one team? Again, are we rewarding second best? Has WP become the Bafana Bafana of rugby?

Some of the other categories will be closely fought. Fourie du Preez should be player of the year, but what a season for both Morné Steyn and Heinrich Brüssow! They certainly deserve a lot of credit for their first full seasons in Test rugby.

One could have easily nominated five more Boks, though. Jaque Fourie will be in the race for try of the year for his late try against the Lions in Pretoria. His name deserves to be in the player of the year category as well, but it’s not.

I thought Bismarck du Plessis had the best season of his life, but he was not nominated at all. Du Plessis was colossal in the Lions series and established himself as the best hooker in the world during the Tri Nations. He made numerous crucial turnovers during the season, was spot-on with his lineouts, and has often been a tower of strength in the Bok pack. He deserves to be there.

But then, that is only one man’s opinion!

Read JJ in Rapport every Sunday

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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