No spring in these Bokke

2012-08-27 14:16
Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe
I have recently been persuaded, following sustained pressure from certain quarters of my extended family and against my better judgment, to sign up for Superbru.
 This is even more incongruous than the day I relented of my long-held contempt for social media and became a Facebooker, and I am regretting it already.
For those of you a little bit behind the times, Superbru aims to persuade rugby fans that there is some skill in predicting both the result (win/lose) as well as the margin of victory/defeat of a particular game. Subscribers participate in competitive pools, with points being awarded for the accuracy of one’s predictions.
Following each round of this guessing game, a revised pecking order of pool members is published, with members being shifted up or down depending on how accurate one’s guesses may have been relative to one’s peers.
Here, “relatively” is the operative word, since there are bonus points on offer for getting it right when the herd gets it wrong, while the no-brainer result (like the Boks vs Argentina) stands to earn little kudos in relation to one’s competitors.
These arbitrarily-shifting sands of one-upmanship seem to have caught the imagination of a substantial niche market of suburban rugby fans who have a fair amount of time on their hands to participate in the kind of niggle that gets sports followers hot under the collar and throwing naartjies.
I guess this is the genius of the concept: since the general male population no longer engages in mortal individual combat yet still has a taste for an enemy’s blood, we are turned on by the opportunity to sate this lust by watching gladiators going head-to-head in some or other arena. That way, we can claim the spoils of victory while avoiding the most painful costs of battle.
The peculiarity of Superbru is that it perverts the ordinary loyalties that fans have always felt towards “our” team. I am expected to guess, based on a presumably rational perspective, who is likely to win a particular match, and by how much. If I end up correctly guessing that my team will lose, I derive a benefit from this loss in the form of thinking I am clever, as well as by my elevation in the pecking order.
By way of example, a rational Sharks supporter would not have guessed that his team would come away with a victory in the Super Rugby final, since such a sentiment would have been wildly optimistic (and, as it turns out, spectacularly wrong).
Thus I found myself reflecting on the prospects of the Springbok rugby team, under the supposedly enlightened hand of new coach Heyneke Meyer, as they set sail for Argentina.
Meyer has seen fit to opt for a strategy that is built on bulk, rather than mobility and finesse. Thus world-class breakdown-thieves have been consigned to the wilderness, our most penetrating backs are twiddling their thumbs in the Currie Cup, while we must watch one-dimensional koppestamp and kick-and-charge ping-pong every Saturday.
Well, I was a voice in the Superbru wilderness: I had the Argies to take it by 5. Until a Frans Steyn charge-down in the last quarter, I was almost spot-on.
Don’t shoot the messenger, but if this is the way we’re going to play until the next World Cup, the All Blacks can relax.

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