Rob Houwing

Stransky truly sidesteps bias

2012-10-19 10:26
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Whatever you think of his broader merits as a commentator, the one key thing I believe Joel Stransky routinely gets spot-on is to detach himself firmly from any obvious partisanship.

I’ve been reminded of that again in the past few weeks, where his contribution behind the SuperSport rugby mike - usually as the comments- and perspectives-geared “No 2” to a lead commentator - has shone brightly in that regard.

It’s a global phenomenon in broadcasting, I’d suggest, for fairly recent players who’ve switched to TV analysis of the game, to still have a subconscious (and sometimes even less subtle than that) foot in the team camp they’ve just departed from.

That is partially understandable, given the familiarity factor and the ability to pinpoint tactical issues through still largely first-hand knowledge.
It’s one reason for being able to forgive Victor Matfield, perhaps, for his Bulls-leaning tendencies in examination of their games - though we shouldn’t do so forever!

But given his suitably well-travelled status and the fact that he is now 45 and well out of the first-class loop, former Bok flyhalf Stransky - Natal, WP, plus Italian and English clubs - pleasingly shows no obvious leanings and calls situations firmly and sans favour, right across the board.

If he feels one team has had the benefit of a really dubious refereeing call their way, for example, you can bet that later in the game he will be just as caustic if a verdict of that nature goes the other direction.

One recommendation I have for SuperSport, by the way, is that they split their pretty routine two-person English commentary “teams” a little more often: for the Currie Cup semi-finals on Saturday we again have the Matt Pearce-Bob Skinstad alliance for Sharks v Bulls, and then Hugh Bladen and Joel Stransky for the game between the Lions and Western Province.

I know it is probably logistically convenient for SuperSport to stick to the status quo, but every now and then, Pearce-Stransky and Bladen-Skinstad would be a welcome switch in pairings, wouldn’t it?

Rob’s Awesome Foursome

1. Australia v New Zealand, Bledisloe Cup rugby
Brisbane, Saturday 12:00, SS1 & SHD


I have to admit that this nearly didn’t make the prime-attractions cut, given that the clash so strongly seems a “hangover” game – especially with the Bledisloe Cup already assured of staying safely in New Zealand hands regardless of the outcome in this closing fixture in Queensland. Countering that is that matches between the Springboks’ two most traditional southern hemisphere rivals are usually good-value entertainment nevertheless. We also have to grudgingly concede – don’t we? – that the All Blacks are thoroughly worthy masters of the oval-ball universe at present and still more comfortable than most at throwing the pill around crisply and joyously. Despite some hopeful hype in Wallaby-land, I fancy the hosts could be facing a meaningful “klap” here. 

2. Highveld Lions v Yorkshire, Champions League T20 cricket
Johannesburg, Saturday 13:30, SS2 & SH2


The spirited Lions are back on home turf at the Bullring in a lunchtime fixture which could seal their semi-final status. Simultaneously, that outcome would condemn the English county side to also-rans in a tournament which is catching fire quite nicely and occasionally luring more spectators to venues than I’d initially (perhaps too cynically, also) anticipated. Despite losing their unbeaten record to the accomplished Sydney Sixers at Newlands on Thursday, there’s enough experience and youthful talent in the Lions’ ranks to confirm their last-four berth pretty comfortably if their collective nerve holds. The game is part of a double-header, later featuring IPL rivals Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians.

3. Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea, English Premiership soccer
London, Saturday 13:45, SS3 & Maximo


The earliest game of the latest round of Premiership matches is also the most appealing of the lot, certainly on paper. It’s a cracking London derby between distinguished old foes, and both in fine current form in the league. Spurs, the hosts, lie a solid enough fifth on the table and will at least not want to lose to a Chelsea side who have already opened up a four-point lead on the pack. So with plenty of other sides willing them on to thwart Blues, perhaps Tottenham scrapping out a credible point isn’t the craziest scenario in the world? Personally, however, I have a hunch the visitors will nick all three points once again.  

4. Currie Cup semi-finals rugby
Sharks v Bulls, Saturday 16:30, Lions v WP, 19:00, both M-Net, SS1 & SHD


So here we are yet again ... after spending much of the round-robin phase lamenting how much the grand old Currie Cup dame has lost her lustre, Springboks-infused semis time changes all that and provincial passions are running just about as high as ever. Both matches have tantalising whiffs of uncertainty, even if smart money probably leans toward an all-coastal showpiece – it would be at Mr Price Kings Park, of course - a week on. Both teams for the early game have raised some eyebrows by keeping certain Boks bench-bound initially; maybe the game will be tilted by the infusion of heavyweight super-subs like Beast Mtawarira, Willem Alberts, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Francois Hougaard and Dean Greyling?

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