Rob Houwing

'Smuthy': a Kiwi we can like!

2012-02-24 09:01
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)

Although South African batting legend Barry Richards was clearly imported to provide some balance, there’s not unexpectedly been a noticeably pro-New Zealand element to SuperSport’s commentary feed from the cricket series there featuring the touring Proteas.

Don’t get me started on Craig McMillan, for instance, the chunky former Black Caps all-rounder who delighted in telling us all that “the South Africans will resort to anything” (or words closely to that effect) as wicketkeeper AB de Villiers, standing up at the stumps, accidentally knocked off a bail just as a New Zealand batsman played a stroke during that amazing final Twenty20 international this week.

It came midway through the home team’s innings as they seemingly surged to toward victory at Eden Park ... but at least the laugh was on McMillan as De Villiers’s men, without resorting to any skulduggery at all, clawed their way back courageously from the brink to win the game and series.

I can only hope his tongue was firmly in his cheek as he laid the charge, but based on his overall partiality toward the New Zealanders, I’m really not so sure.

One Kiwi commentator I have no special beef with, however, is Ian “Smuthy” Smith, the former Test wicketkeeper, who turns 55 next Tuesday as a matter of interest.

I find him mostly even-handed, knowledgeable and pleasant to listen to.

He clearly values the broader sporting heritage between his country and South Africa, and was no doubt chuffed to squeeze in one post-isolation cap against us – the World Cup meeting in 1992 when Kepler Wessels and company got horribly bogged down on a funereal surface – before his retirement just a month later.

Versatile Smith is also excellent in a pitch-side capacity at Test or Super Rugby matches, giving genuinely valuable extra input about weather conditions, activity on the subs bench and the like.

Of course no commentator ever has a unanimous fan club: I spotted a New Zealand blog titled “Does anyone else find Ian Smith slightly annoying?”

But I rather backed one of the wittier respondents to the piece, who said “Risspick, please.”

Quite!

Rob’s Awesome Foursome

1 Bulls v Sharks, Super Rugby

Pretoria, Friday 19:10, M-Net, SS1 & SHD

I’ve gone a little against the grain of overall sentiment, it seems, by tipping the Bulls to get home in this tantalising floodlit derby which opens hostilities in the SA conference. For all the talk of the hosts losing so many legends in the off-season, I reckon they’re strong enough on paper – and perhaps even more importantly in the pack – to get on the front foot and have Morne Steyn take care of various other needs from there! That’s not to under-estimate the Sharks, or the differing threat posed in their No 10 shirt by Pat Lambie, but there’s grunt missing from their early-season mix as Messrs Alberts, Mtawarira and company go through injury-related rehab. Your English-language commentators on the night? Blades and Broz, plus look out for maiden pitch-side analysis from Big Vic ...

2 New Zealand v South Africa, first ODI cricket

Wellington, Saturday 03:00, SS2, CSN & SH2

Remember those days when all rugby matches from New Zealand were daytime affairs and South African TV-watchers thus had to crawl out of bed at 03:30 or 04:00? Well, this may instead be cricket but it’s your chance for a bit of nostalgia if you’ve got the strength of mind to leap up as the alarm clock sounds. If the Twenty20 action was anything to go by, this three-game series will also be closely fought, although my own belief is that the Proteas are just about ready to “pull away” from the gritty but collectively less talented Black Caps. Yes, I know I may be made to eat my words ... especially as game one is at the Cake Tin, scene of South Africa’s lone T20 loss recently.        

3 Stormers v Hurricanes, Super Rugby

Cape Town, Saturday 17:05, M-Net, SS1 & SHD

It was a toss-up between this fixture and the later Lions v Cheetahs derby for this spot, but I chose the Stormers’ opener primarily because it features the best South African finishers in Super Rugby last year. It’s potentially a dangerous game for the hosts because nobody is talking up the traditionally free-spirited ‘Canes this year, stripped of some big guns yet still fielding household All Black surnames like Smith, Jane and Eaton. As for the Stormers, there are several notably fresh faces on view so the win is certainly not guaranteed. That said, I do tip them to win ... just maybe not with a bonus point? Behind the English mike will be Matt Pearce and Bob Skinstad. 

4 Arsenal v Tottenham, English Premiership soccer

London, Sunday 15:30, SS3, SHD3 & Maximo

Ah, the good old North London derby! It may not be a “massive” game at this stage in terms of the title race – that still looks like a two-way duel between the Manchester clubs – but the combatants do lie third and fourth (admittedly Spurs with a handsome 10-point lead over the Gunners right now) and there are European qualification issues at stake to go with the traditional local animosity. Riskily, I admit, I’ve tipped Arse to grab this one, their players perhaps motivated by reports that significant sums of money will become available for acquisitions. So we’ll see just how much some existing troops fancy the prospect of a squad cleanout ... Mr Wenger’s lad to nick it 2-1.

NEXT ON SPORT24X

In Shakes Mashaba we trust!

2014-09-01 13:55

 

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