Rob Houwing

Sofa, so good...

2009-06-12 08:45
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing’s TV sport column

There was a little curveball on offer last week when I tuned into the Tony Johnson-hosted ReUnion programme on SuperSport 1, New Zealand’s possibly edgier equivalent to Boots & All - the studio presence of Joost van der Westhuizen.

I was interested because Joost, after all, is supposedly rather persona non grata as a SuperSport critic presently, following the much-publicised “Joost-gate” featuring allegations of his starring link, if you like, to a steamy sex video and use of a certain powdery substance in it.

But there he was, alright, on an expanded chat panel including Grant ‘Nisbo’ Nisbett, Murray Mexted and another retired Bok in Warren Brosnihan.

SuperSport’s communications manager Clinton van der Berg informs me that the show was unusually done “out of town”, in Kiwi terms, by borrowing SuperSport’s Randburg studios in the aftermath of the Super 14 final.

Their panel had stayed on for a few days, for what turned out to be a fairly magnanimous “old enemy” tribute to South African rugby in general, following the Bulls’ handsome demolition of the Chiefs and the Sevens Boks’ clinching of the world spoils.

There was plenty of airtime for Joost and Broz to provide some theories on why South African rugby is in robust overall health at present – though maybe a truer barometer lurks menacingly around the corner in the shape of the roaring Lions? – and a general sense of bonhomie prevailed.

I can confirm, though, that the former’s presence was a once-off for ReUnion and that the status quo is intact in terms of the former scrumhalf’s non-participation in current SuperSport commentary business.

Speaking of joviality (and Kiwis), the witty Jeremy Coney provided customary light moments behind the microphone during that country’s engrossing ICC World Twenty20 match against South Africa this week, where the Proteas sneaked in by one run.

Black Caps players were dropping like flies through injury – both up to and then during the game – and when Ross Taylor did his “hammie” and required a runner, nobody could be quite sure whether there’d be enough fit men in the ranks to fulfil that requirement!

Co-commentator Alan Wilkins, if memory serves me correctly, suggested Coney (now 56 and a veteran of 52 Tests and 88 ODIs himself) leave the booth and go to Taylor’s aid.

“Nah, I don’t have any hamstrings left myself,” Coney confessed sagely.

Later, he admonished his own brethren when, as Jacob Oram took the crease in the chase, the player revealed in one of those pre-recorded clips that his nickname was “Big Jake”.

“Now there’s an example of New Zealand power of imagination,” said Coney ruefully.

Mind you, with South Africa featuring their own Jakes, Bouch, Japes, Boats, Biff, Roelfie, Parny and others, I’m not too sure our “lead” in that department is especially warranted …

Rob’s awesome foursome:

1. Western Province v British & Irish Lions, rugby tour match
Cape Town, Saturday 15:00, SS1 & M-Net (also HD)

The Lions combo to face Province hadn’t been announced as I wrote this, but I have a feeling many of those who did yeoman duty in the 39-3 drubbing of the Sharks will now be pretty much wrapped in cotton wool for the first Test! Even so, whoever does wear the famous red jersey at Newlands, against a fairly decent-looking home XV, will want to grab the chance to stage a late rally for Test selection. Luke Watson’s side will scrap tenaciously, but battle to get their hands on primary ball and it’s still Lions by 15-18 points for me.

2. South Africa v West Indies, ICC World Twenty20 cricket
London, Saturday 14:30, SS2 & SABC3

It will be of some comfort to South Africa that the last time they played West Indies in a World Twenty20 match – the maiden tournament on our shores in the spring of 2007 – they won with surprising comfort after being set 206 at the Wanderers! Chris Gayle went moggy, as only he can, scoring 117 off 57 balls and giving Polly and company a rough ride. But then the Proteas answered nonchalantly with 208 for two in 17.4 overs (Herschelle Gibbs 90 not out off 55 deliveries). More of the same cool-headedness here, please …

3. South Africa v Iraq, Confederations Cup soccer
Johannesburg, Sunday 16:00, SS3, M-Net HD & SABC1

The full recovery (or not) of key engine Steven Pienaar from ankle trouble may be critical to Bafana’s chances of kicking off the “Confed” with a heartening home win against the not-to-be-dismissed Iraqis. Indeed, coach Joel Santana’s tactical approach could have an important bearing, too: will he opt for an attacking midfield combo that gives the likes of Teko Modise appropriate freedom to consistently test the visitors’ defence as they grapple with the highveld altitude and other alien factors? I see Bafana repeating the Poland friendly outcome: 1-0.

4. New Zealand v France, Test-match rugby
Dunedin, Saturday 09:35, CSN & SS1

First All Blacks game of the season: inevitably something that attracts eyes and ears from South Africa. They are playing two Tests against the French (the next in Wellington a week later), who may not be quite at the top of their own game while they “rebuild”, but nevertheless will prove a decent measure of how the New Zealand class of 2009 might fare when slightly bigger fish set their sights on them in the Tri-Nations. There’s also the matter of All Blacks revenge for a certain World Cup 2007 quarterfinal to contemplate …


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