Rob Houwing

Sofa, so good...

2009-05-29 08:35
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Rob Houwing’s TV sport column

I remember Bob Skinstad leading the Springboks to a Tri-Nations victory over Australia at Loftus and doing his possibly limited “northern cred” no harm by later describing the venue as the temple of South African rugby – or at least words to that effect.

That was in the 2001 tournament when the flamboyant No 8 (let’s be honest, they don’t generally “do” flamboyance in Bulls country) also scored the only Bok try – a decent ‘un, too -- as they upset the Wallabies, who would later be crowned champions, 20-15.

Ironically Bob’s close mate Robbie Fleck was maliciously pole-axed by David Giffen in the build-up to the try, an incident which earned the Aussie second-rower a three-week sit-out.

Still, praising the Loftus faithful and using some Afrikaans in the process was a shrewd point scored by the perceived southern softie, and Skinstad, once of the widely highveld-despised Stormers and Sharks, has more recently been well received as a natty-suited pitch-side analyst at the ground.

Last week he was flanked by that record rugby warhorse AJ Venter, similarly formally attired, for observations after the Bulls’ rip-roaring Super 14 semi-final victory over the Crusaders.

It will be interesting to see whether AJ, who must know every blade of grass at South Africa’s most notable rugby stadiums, is roped in more regularly by SuperSport now that he has finally hung up his boots.

But Bob is on his own as Loftus pitch-side analyst for the final this week, with Matthew Pearce leading the booth commentary and Joel Stransky as back-up man.

John van Rensburg and Gary Boshoff will take care of the Afrikaans feed.

The personable and confident Skinstad, of course, is an ideal “face” for pitch-side television, and I believe he’s better at that than being a No 2 voice during the actual commentary – he somehow tends to get his mid-game theories in a tangle every now and then.

He also keeps my wife unusually interested in rugby, even if only for her to produce the less-than-scientific gem: “Ooh, there’s Bobby!”

Of course there is another big SuperSport rugby obligation, two and a half hours before, when the British and Irish Lions open their keenly-awaited account against a “platteland” sort of combo, if you like.

Hugh Bladen and Kobus Wiese will handle English commentary, with Hennie Koortzen and Toks van der Linde in the Afrikaans saddle: hope it’s a sturdy saddle. Owen Nkumane and 1980 SA-touring Lions representative John Robbie will be pitch-side.

Rob’s awesome foursome:

1. Royal XV v British & Irish Lions, rugby tour match
Phokeng, Saturday 15:00, SS1 & M-Net (also HD)

The first game of a Lions tour is always something to celebrate: it is also a difficult one to forecast, considering that effectively two “scratch” sides will be locking horns. For the record, when the Lions opened their account on the 1997 tour, they got off on a promising enough note by beating an Eastern Province XV 39-11 in Port Elizabeth. Even allowing for Lions’ acclimatisation issues, it would be a surprise if the Griquas-dominated Royal XV came out on top. Oh, and this may be a slightly old-fashioned concept in this era of hawk-like official vigilance, but any bets on the first punch of the tour?

2. Bulls v Chiefs, Super 14 rugby final
Pretoria, Saturday 17:30, SS1 & M-Net (also HD)

Tell you what: if the Chiefs pull it off against the backdrop of a bristling, heaving sea of blue, they will probably have thoroughly deserved to see their name engraved on the trophy for the first time. I reckon Victor Matfield’s marauders will have to play inexplicably badly to stuff this one up against travel-weary customers, even given the undoubted class in parts of the Chiefs’ arsenal. I also tip the Bulls to get onto the front foot earlier than they did in the semi last week …

3. Chelsea v Everton, FA Cup soccer final
London, Saturday 16:00, SS3

I’m turning temporary Toffee for this one, if only because my neutral sentiments tend to be swayed toward the mild underdog. There is also the South African angle to consider: Steven Pienaar’s ever-plucky presence in the Everton midfield. But the Blues (the London ones) will remain pretty clear favourites, not least because they have not lost to Everton in any competition since November 2000. Mind you, David Moyes’s boys did earn draws in both Premiership meetings this season. Is it asking too much to plead for a humdinger? Modern FA Cup finals have tended to be as dull as yesterday’s peanut-butter toast.

4. South Africa v Pakistan, ICC World Twenty20 cricket warm-up
Nottingham, Monday 18:30, SS2

So you thought there’d be a TV hiatus from cricket after the daily IPL fix? Wrong! The second World Twenty20 is almost upon us and SuperSport have even nipped in to pick up the Proteas’ warm-up games against Pakistan at Trent Bridge on Monday evening and then Sri Lanka at Lord’s on Wednesday afternoon. (Not to mention several other teams’ limb-looseners as well.) The first one ought to provide a reasonable yardstick to South Africa’s chances: Pakistan were narrow runners-up to India in the inaugural World Twenty20 on our shores.


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