Hansie would've cut it on TV
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
It’s June 1 ... the start of winter and exactly 10 years since disgraced former national cricket captain Hansie Cronje lost his life.
There is a curious mix in this country of people quite merciless and unceasingly brutal in their appraisal of his much-publicised failings, and others who are astonishingly defensive over what he got up to in match-fixing terms while in his position of important office.
I have tended to try to put things in perspective - as one who knew and did like him before his fall from grace - by reminding that whatever the extent of his indiscretion, the man surely did not deserve to die in a plane crash on the Outeniqua Mountains.
I have sometimes been asked subsequently how I think Hansie would have ended up in post-cricket career terms, had that fateful accident not occurred near George.
Usually I have to seek a necessary elaboration: “Do you mean had he not been collared for corruption?”
In that scenario, I have little doubt he would have been greatly suited to television, a path so often chosen by prominent cricketers seeking new bread and butter ... but perhaps not after continuing to play at the top level for at least another four years or so.
Cronje was only 32 when he died, famously still pretty close to a fitness fanatic, and might well have added considerably to his tally of 68 Test caps, plus 188 in the ODI arena where he seemed to get his biggest personal buzz (as an ever-improving all-rounder, remember).
He was broadly interested in media; he was often surprisingly keen to discuss it whenever we sat down for interviews, although its wealthy barons and bosses especially fascinated him - perhaps an early signal of his mounting obsession with money?
Apart from what would have been an obvious wealth of experience, Hansie’s confident air as an individual (increasingly so, with the glare of the spotlight) and not inconsiderable ability to issue or respond to a wise crack, would have made him a comfortable and bilingual TV fit, I fancy, whether in commentary or studio mode. Anyone agree on that score?
There are plenty of folk, as I said, likely to be reluctant to concur on this score, but on this fairly poignant day in cricketing history, I carry some regretful emotions and am happy to echo the cry going up from other quarters: “RIP, Hansie.”
Rob’s Awesome Foursome
1. Bulls v Stormers, Super Rugby
Pretoria, Saturday 19:10, M-Net, SS1 & SHD
These teams are experiencing decidedly opposite fortunes in injury terms at this stage of the season, with the Bulls well nigh at full might despite it being Week 15 and the conference-leading Stormers reeling from a succession of blows. Is shrewder player management in some way responsible for the Bulls’ brighter bill of health? It is something worth at least chewing on. Now a rather cobbled-together Cape side has the humungous task of trying to silence a full house on the Highveld. The Stormers are still smart and resilient enough to make a brave fist of it, but even if they are level-pegging or slightly ahead at around the hour mark, I simply cannot suppress a feeling that defending the dam wall will prove beyond the visitors as the rarefied air takes a toll ...
2. South Africa v Ethiopia, World Cup soccer qualifier
Rustenburg, Sunday 15:00, SABC1
Back in the moderately “glory” days in the mid-1990s for Bafana, you could count on them with some confidence to be capable of seeing off a less than luminary opponent like Ethiopia. Smart money suggests that they should open their Brazil 2014 qualifying account against this 138th-ranked side with a home win at the Royal Bafokeng, but with goal-scoring a niggling problem, it may not be with the desired hatful in the “goals for” column. Personally, I still feel burly, proven hit-man Benni McCarthy would hardly let the cause down, particularly against such moderate foes, but let’s see if South Africa can satisfy us all the same without him by netting more than a mere couple ... 3. Lions v Sharks, Super Rugby
Johannesburg, Saturday 17:05, M-Net, SS1 & SHD
Just as Blues fans in New Zealand wait anxiously for a turnaround in their fortunes, long-suffering Lions enthusiasts seek the same from Josh Strauss’s side. Coming off a debilitating and winless Australasian tour, and up against a Sharks side smack in the groove, a rousing win should sadly remain elusive for the Coca-Cola Park faithful. Still, SA conference derbies can be funny old things. It’s a gloomy thought that the Lions can only finish bottom of the local table now, with all the implications that may hold ... even a massively unlikely haul of 20 points from their remaining four games would take them to 35 points. The Cheetahs? With four bye points, they’ll go to 36 this weekend! 4. Comrades Marathon
Pietermaritzburg, Sunday 05:30, SABC2
A bit like the BBC still clings to traditional, long-time events like the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race in England, our national broadcaster the SABC at least can still be relied upon to cover major road races like the Two Oceans and that 89km beast they call the Comrades. Coverage begins at 05:00 for early birds, allowing time to put the coffee on before the start half an hour later outside the City Hall in Maritzburg. This year’s “down” run ends at Sahara Kingsmead with the usual thrills, heartbreak ... and doubtless the odd medical-tent casualty. The weather looks reasonably mild and partly cloudy, with a not-too-intimidating Durban maximum of around 20 deg C.