Rob Houwing’s ‘Tops on the Telly’ column
Fawlty start for ANN7 sport
In the greater scheme of things, sport is unlikely to be a huge component of the latest 24-hour news channel to hit South African television screens on DStv channel 405.VIDEO: FAIL! Is this the worst cricket report EVER?
But if doing little things well is, indeed, a pointer to larger-scale success, then ANN7 (Africa News Network) has a formidable array of lessons to learn as it seeks to establish itself in the country.
The Gupta-backed channel’s first couple of days in operation - it brazenly claims it will set 'new benchmarks in credibility and finesse' - have been marked by a mini-cult following for all the wrong reasons: let’s just say that Basil Fawlty’s inimitable presence was all that was missing from the quite dazzling shows of ineptitude.
ANN7’s sport segments certainly haven’t escaped the welter of scorn; a particular cricket clip in widespread circulation in the unforgiving online world may already have done image damage from which the fledgling organisation will do quite well to recover.
For those who may not yet have had the 'pleasure' of seeing it, one of their newsreaders – not exactly painting a picture of confidence and serenity on what was clearly a fraught opening night on Wednesday – stammered her way incoherently through description of the first day’s events in the final Ashes Test at The Oval.
“It was a bit of a see-saw affair for both teams,” she quickly and slightly quirkily informed us (er, were there any others?).
“James Anderson found some swing in the ball.” (If he’d found some swing in his left sock, he really would be the equal of our own Dale Steyn, wouldn’t he?)
“Young prospect Chris Rogers ...”: (That would have been accurate statement were it not for the fact that the Aussie opener is 35.)
“Shane Watson bullied his ... his ... his ... (way, presumably?) ... to only the third Test of the century.” (Wow, now that was a remarkable stat, indeed, even as I suspect she meant the third century of SR Watson’s own Test career.)
She then referred to “captain Michelle Clarke” (Michael might be a little bemused by his sudden fall from grace) and, no doubt hardly aided by an eccentric and/or wobbly teleprompter, described the close-of-play score as “three hundred and seven four four”.
Stumps somehow seemed a merciful release, at least as far as ANN7 were concerned.
Oh yes, it wasn’t the only obscenely screwed-up sports slot of the night; there’s another fairly aptly titled “Game On”, where not one but two hapless presenters were caught like rabbits in the headlights -- it’s headed for YouTube stardom.
Beyond just their sport, the channel has taken a swift pounding in website comment forums; I couldn’t stifle a chuckle as one wag suggested: “Is this being broadcast from a Waterkloof Air Base hangar?”
Things can only get better.Rob’s Awesome Foursome1. Argentina v South Africa, Castle Rugby Championship
Mendoza, Saturday 21:10, M-Net, SS1, SHD
Last year the Boks walked into a trap in Pumas country ... and were lucky to wriggle free and earn a fortuitous draw in Mendoza.
The same city plays host to them again, and I really cannot see lightning striking twice. In the second year of Heyneke Meyer’s tutelage, South Africa look both smarter and steelier, and put out a better match-day squad this time, too.
For their sins, the Argentineans are still grappling injuries to key players and it is hard to see last week’s rattled, undercooked troops suddenly turning things around dramatically.
I reckon it will require rare Pumas zeal under current circumstances to even keep Jean de Villiers’s team to within a 10-point margin. And yes, I also fancy the tourists to bank another four-try bonus point as well. 2. Kaizer Chiefs v Orlando Pirates, MTN8 first-leg semi-final soccer
Soweto, Saturday 15:00, SABC1, SS4, SHD4
The old firm go at it hammer and tongs once more ... this time in the first of two legs of the MTN8 semis, with Chiefs sporting home advantage at FNB Stadium (next month’s return will be a little further into Soweto, at Orlando Stadium).
Pre-ticket sales pointed to a full house, proving that this derby is still a bigger lure than even a rugby and soccer international double-header at the large venue.
The sponsors will no doubt be happy that at least one of the giants is guaranteed a spot in the final, after a slightly low-key showpiece last year when Moroka Swallows beat SuperSport United 2-1 and only some 8 000 people pitched up for it.
Sunday (Royal Bafokeng, 15:00) sees the first leg of the other semi between Platinum Stars and Wits. 3. Blue Bulls v Golden Lions, Currie Cup rugby
Pretoria, Saturday 17:05, M-Net, SS1, SHD
The Highveld derby, keynote Currie Cup attraction of the weekend in time-slot terms, should be as hotly-contested as ever.
The Bulls will seek to produce much more dynamism (you’d hope!) than they managed in a dreadfully laboured triumph over Griquas last time out, whilst the Lions are already up against it on the table with their nought-from-two status.
Mind you, with gnarly battlers Franco van der Merwe and Willie Wepener back among their tight five – hooker Wepener may well have dragged across some handy intelligence from his stint in the Loftus camp – the Lions may feel they are equipped for a minor upset.
Hmm, I’m still going Bulls ... 4. Manchester United v Chelsea, English Premiership soccer
Manchester, Monday 21:00, SS3, SHD3
It’s only round two for most clubs of this season’s Premiership – although the unbeaten Blues have played twice – and already a bit of Monday night magic quickly lies in store for us as defending champions United entertain Jose Mourinho’s side in a belter on paper at Old Trafford.
I’m not sure about you, but I do enjoy prime fixtures taking place on weeknights given that Saturday games, especially, get rather lost for me amidst the avalanche of live televised sport generally.
Early combat has shown that the Mourinho personality (er, ego?) is as large and inspirational as ever on the touchline, whilst David Moyes faces an early, acid test in the home hot-seat after his very promising start in the 4-1 win at Swansea.
Boring, I know, but the sensible tip is surely something like 1-1?