SuperSport spread net to Harro
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Watch Sonny Bill Williams and Francois Botha trade verbal blows.
There are times when constant, merry-go-round repeats of sporting broadcasts carry strong blessings.
Think of me, for instance, forced abroad for a week through illness in the family ... and to Holland, where live pictures of South Africa v Pakistan at cricket are, well, hard to come by.
So I arrived back from Amsterdam late on Monday night in the rare position of not having witnessed one ball of the first Test at the Wanderers – and grateful to SuperSport 2 for their hour-long highlights packages of each day’s play.
After four hours of marathon but very willing viewing on Tuesday morning, I considered myself pretty much back up to speed, and at least able to speak with enthusiasm and some semblance of knowledge of Dale Steyn’s six for eight and the like.
It also didn’t escape my attention that Paul Harris, the 37-Test former Proteas left-arm spinner, had debuted in the SuperSport English commentary team.
“Harro” retires from all meaningful cricket at the end of this summer and it clearly didn’t take SuperSport long to hitch up the 34-year-old for at least a try-out in a new capacity.
Full marks on those grounds alone: variety is the spice of life and if you don’t experiment you will never know.
From the bits I listened to, the popular Fish Hoek “boykie” didn’t set the airwaves alight, nor glaringly founder: an early observation was that he seemed to be trying a tad too hard to actually sound like a commentator (if that makes sense?) rather than relax and speak in a back-up comments capacity simply as the Paul Harris we know and like.
Experience from press conferences tells me that he hardly lacks chutzpah, so maybe that will yet seep into his commentary if that role is extended ... as it probably deserves to.
Just like cricketers starting out in the Test arena, first appearances can be tentative, and I remember noting that Shaun Pollock wasn’t an instant hit when he first graced the microphone.
But since then? The words “leaps and bounds” in Polly’s case certainly come to my mind.
If any readers have observations on Harris’s Wanderers effort, based on more generous listening to his stints, let’s hear ‘em ... Rob’s Awesome Foursome
1. Nigeria v Burkina Faso, AFCON soccer final
Johannesburg, Sunday 20:00, SABC1, SS4, SHD2 & Maximo
Many South Africans will have a bittersweet feeling as they contemplate the Sunday night showpiece fixture, considering Bafana Bafana’s agonising exit on penalties at the quarter-final stage, and it will be interesting to see just how full the huge National Stadium is for the final. Already, though, I would argue that this edition of AFCON has eclipsed many prior ones for spectator numbers and general atmosphere – various expat communities have turned out in healthy numbers. Picking a winner is tricky, given that both are relatively unfashionable presences, as reflected in FIFA rankings: Nigeria 52nd and Burkina Faso 92nd. But the once-mighty Super Eagles may shade it. 2. Francois Botha v Sonny Bill Williams, international heavyweight boxing
Brisbane, Friday around 13:00, SS5
Sheer curiosity, if not a whole lot else, ensures my presence in front of the goggle-box for this much-hyped, slightly unorthodox sporting occasion. Hardly surprisingly, I have heard plenty of mutterings about someone “banking a pay-cheque for a fall” and the deeper whisper is that the canvas may be rattled by the ageing White Buffalo! For broad boxing purity and experience, however, my money in an orthodox landscape would be on the South African, despite his likelier more rotund physical appearance against the well-sculpted SBW. After all, if a tennis player took on a squash player at tennis, wouldn’t you wish to back the former? Now let’s see if my attempt at logic holds water ...3. Lions v Kings, franchise rugby friendly
Johannesburg, Saturday 14:15, SS1 & SHD
I’ll repeat my contention of earlier in the week: if this is a “war”, it’s a one-sided one. Of course the marginalised Lions will go all out to make a mighty statement ... but for the Kings, this encounter was always only going to be an unwanted minefield. It is also a minefield they will largely sidestep by fielding a weakened starting XV, as Alan Solomons and company keep their eyes more firmly on Super Rugby combat-proper. After all, that is really where they have to try to chisel out some form of permanence. There is still every chance these teams will meet again in a few months in promotion/relegation activity ... only then will the Kings not cocoon some of their bigger names. But it ought not to stop Lions fans turning out in especially vocal numbers this Saturday, anyway.4. Real Madrid v Manchester United, Champions League soccer
Madrid, Wednesday 21:45, SS3, SHD & Maximo
There are some decent English Premiership games ahead of it this weekend – near-runaway leaders the Red Devils won’t have it all their own away in the visit from resilient Everton, for instance – but already excitement is mounting for this Champions League round-of-16 first leg clash between glamour Spanish and English teams respectively at the Bernabeu in midweek. Of course the extra spice comes from the presence in the Real ranks (unless he succumbs to some unlikely injury misfortune in the meantime) of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo, once such a favourite of the Old Trafford faithful. The second leg is in Manchester on March 5, for the record.