Rob Houwing

SuperSport, SABC gap widens

2011-01-07 09:14
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing’s ‘Tops on the Telly’ column

Because of its obviously wider reach in our economically still rather lopsided country, it just comes as a relief – before any other considerations -- that home cricket activity by the Proteas remains available to “all” on SABC3 as things stand.

Visual access to the live action, of course, must be like gold to some communities who do not have the means to acquire DStv, with the accompanying calibre of commentary a pretty secondary issue.

But the always compelling Test series, shared 1-1 by South Africa and India, did expose once again, to my mind, the gulf in standards that exists between SuperSport and the SABC in microphone terms, with the latter very much bringing up the rear.

They labour all too noticeably without many true ex-player “heavyweights”, and Neil Manthorp (though no Test or FC-capper himself, of course) and one or two others are left to fight a brave battle for respectability in the booth while some partners wallow in mediocrity.

No names, no pack drill, but keeping an ear to certain inexperienced, innocuous members of their panel is like listening restlessly to your air-conditioner rattle and hum as you battle for sleep on a sweltering night.

What hasn’t helped during the three-Test series is that I believe the SuperSport crew have actually upped their game quite impressively during it.

Whether you especially like them or not, there are some consummate “pros” in their midst with someone like Robin Jackman – the old fox has a trove of on-field memories – consistently to the fore.

For industry and insatiable enthusiasm, too, Mike Haysman’s resurfacing on southern hemisphere shores for the series (he’s done a lot of SuperSport’s “fronting” during breaks in play and so on) has been a boon – and no, I’m not saying that just because Haysie complimented me at Newlands on looking trimmer since we were last face to face.

He has not missed out too much on “South African scene” acumen while stationed in the United States and also doing a fair amount of his commentary work in series and tournaments in Asia.

Do you agree with me, too, that Shaun Pollock is blossoming as a pundit now after an arguably average start?

He has no naturally silky voice but I found especially informative his rich knowledge of the Kingsmead pitch and atmospheric conditions during the Boxing Day Test, where the Proteas had rather a comeuppance.

As his playing days fade ever-further into the memory bank, he will probably also come to assess some of his previously dressing-room pals with an increasingly independent mind – sometimes recent ex-players tend toward the “guarded” in any critique of people they used to share triumph and tears with.

Rob’s awesome foursome:

1. Africa Open golf
East London, to Sunday, mostly 13:30, SS1 & CSN

Not quite out of the top drawer in terms of its role on the international golfing calendar, perhaps, but this Sunshine/European Tour event at East London Golf Club ought to make for decent enough viewing for local enthusiasts. The field, after all, includes Retief Goosen and Louis Oosthuizen, the latter having turned down Hawaii to be there. He loves breezy east-coast courses in his home country, of course, and when I last looked at the forecast a bit more than a “breeze” was expected for Friday’s second day action – more like a sand-whipping, 50km/h north-easterly tornado! It might even be enough to rudely extinguish one of Irishman Darren Clarke’s beloved cigars ...

2. Kaizer Chiefs v Mamelodi Sundowns, Absa Premiership soccer
Soweto, Saturday 15:30, SABC1 &SS4

The freshening, Festive Season hiatus is over and we’re up and away again in the PSL. It starts with a cracker, too, as top-of-table Sundowns visit second-placed Soweto idols Chiefs at FNB Stadium – the game oughtn’t be lacking for bums on seats. We are still a little short of the midway mark in the Premiership programme, it is true, but Chiefs will be painfully aware that defeat in this potential “six-point swinger” would mean ‘Downs opening up a seven-point chasm on them which might be too much to make up. The visitors are sometimes fallible despite their present cushion – as evidenced by crashing 3-2 to AmaZulu before Christmas. I suspect a draw here.

3. South Africa v India, Standard Bank Pro20 international cricket
Durban, Sunday 14:30, SS2, SHD, CSN & SABC3

Amidst all the accompanying musical and nostalgia-based razzmatazz and CSA’s monster marketing campaign surrounding this once-off occasion, one tends to forget that there will also be a bit of cricket between two top-tier countries! Coming off a gripping Test series, purists will likely find this an anti-climax, and already the Proteas will be resting some rather key troops for more pressing assignments to come. But the Moses Mabhida Stadium novelty factor will be worth examining, and there will be lumps in many throats as the Mdingi Express thunders in one last time in a green shirt.

4. Manchester United v Liverpool, FA Cup soccer
Manchester, Sunday 15:30, SS3 & Maximo

If you think the FA Cup has lost a lot of its lustre, try bouncing that off ardent fans of Sunday’s protagonists! The mutual loathing among these Lancashire rivals goes back decades and hasn’t altered just because Liverpool are rather in the doldrums. (Er, very in the doldrums.) The Scousers visit Old Trafford for this third-round clash which might just have been tougher to call had Anfield been drawn as the venue – United’s league form and top-of-table status suggests they ought to have the measure of ‘Pool at home although this will be full-blooded. A strong cup run, after all, might be just what the doctor ordered as a pick-me-up for grumpy Merseysiders ...

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