Bounce of a ball defines lives
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Imagine being the guy who’s job depends on a single right shoulder of a scrum, the bounce of a ball grubbered through by a scrumhalf, or the timing of an injury to a key player? The fact that a single moment in a 32-match season can define several people’s livelihood’s never ceases to amaze me.
Try a line like “But it’s just a game” or “Not to worry, the sun will still come up tomorrow” on a coach who could lose his job because of a loss in a semi-final due to the bounce of a ball!
Good or bad, and I think there is a fair amount of the latter, sadly, rugby is no longer “Just a game”.
Take the Baby Bok’s game against England at the Cape Town Stadium last week. Down 3-0 at half-time, and being put to the sword physically up front, the Boks needing nothing less than a four-try win to make the semi finals of the Junior World Cup, Dawie Theron must have been picturing life as the UWC head coach under Peter de Villiers.
But he made the bold and decisive call to replace Oliver Kebble, who was struggling at tighthead, not with Allan Dell, the better known tighthead prop in the squad, but with Maks van Dyk, who was down as Player 23 for the night. William Small-Smith, Jan Serfontein and Shaun Adendorff might have taken the accolades for the truly magnificent revival in the second half, but it was all made possible by Van Dyk, who turned the tide up front.
A single, decisive, and very brave call …
Up 28-10 against the same foe on Saturday evening, the senior Springboks had completely demolished England up front via some granite busting runs from the likes of Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Pierre Spies, and the stats men were running for the record books.
Less than ten minutes later, it was 31-27! England had brought on Thomas Waldrom and he was proving effective as their physical battering ram, but at the same time coach Heyneke Meyer made the call to substitute the Du Plessis brothers with Adriaan Strauss and Werner Kruger, both Willem Alberts and Juandre Kruger got injured, meaning there was a 50% change to the Bok pack at the same time.
Waldrom on, half the Bok pack off and a ridiculously unlikely loss was suddenly on the cards …
Enter JP Pietersen for his single moment of magic, and Meyer was hauling out his series winning speech for the press conference again!
Brilliant for us fans as this is the theatre we seek in return for our entertainment Rands, but terrifyingly scary for a coach … Perhaps they do deserve the big bucks they get?
Speaking of the England tour - and how splendid it is to see a good old fashioned tour back on the schedule - which bright spark decided to ruin it by including these half-arsed midweek games?
A tour means setting the likes of Adri Geldenhuys and Garry Pagel loose on the tourists in the first game to “soften” them up, then having fourth and fifth unofficial “Tests” as the WP and Bulls players try and play themselves into the Test team courtesy of a midweek game that needs an extra doctor on hand to handle the stitching at half time …
Not pesky North and South BaaBaas games that gift the tourists 50 point wins!
I know it’s all nice and PC to “Take rugby to the people”, but stuff that. Let’s give the fans what they want, and more importantly, let’s make it as tough as possible for the tourists.
A warm up game against a proper South African BaaBaas team including a few players who just missed out on Bok selection, and then midweek games against WP at Newlands and the Bulls at Loftus … That would have been more like it! Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt
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