Rob Houwing

Why Fikile on TV, mid-Test?

2014-07-04 17:00
port24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)

We have a habit in our otherwise wonderful country, I’ve long felt, of being too reverent and fawning in television terms toward our politicians ... most certainly during the apartheid days but also stretching now into the post-democratic landscape.

So SuperSport didn’t win special favours with yours truly when Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula suddenly popped up for a pitch-side interview at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium slap-bang in the midst of combat in the highly entertaining (if you’re a Bok-lover, at least) rugby Test between South Africa and Scotland last Saturday.

There’s a time and place for government bigwigs to get airtime, of course, but on sports match-day itself I avowedly believe that only rugby people should be involved in matters rugby.

 That said, I also understand -- a little grudgingly – why celebrities, in this age of lamentable obsession with them, occasionally may be snap-interviewed when spotted in the audience at sporting occasions (as long as these happen in gaps in play).

But at least “celebs” can generally be regarded as politically neutral or non-aligned in such circumstances, whereas a sound-bite opportunity – particularly for so prolific a source of these as Mbalula – by a Cabinet Minister out of his normal terrain has reason to be regarded as unnecessarily partial to his particular cause.

There just seemed no special reason for him to be given a gratuitous plug in the middle of a Test match, by my book.

Would you ever see such an occurrence during combat at Twickenham, Eden Park or Mendoza? I heavily suspect not, though I am open to any corrections.

In addition, Mbalula has a habit of putting his foot in his mouth on such opportunities anyway, and is not averse to making crude calls like “donner hulle, bliksem hulle”, as happened before the Boks went off to the last World Cup if I recall the moment correctly.

He was similarly undiplomatic here, exhorting the Boks to go on to breach the 50-point mark against the embattled Scots, when perhaps a bit of respectful etiquette toward the visitors might have been more fitting.

In short, I cringed.

My beef is less with Mr Mbalula specifically – at least he has a bit of chutzpah -- than it is with the principle of a politician, quite regardless of affiliation, getting prime-time PR outside of his or her more fitting habitat. If at all, it should have happened either before or after the game.

I don’t think I’m alone in this thought, because when I tweeted my objection it earned more than 15,000 views, according to subsequent weekly Twitter stats on my handle, and the vast majority of replies backed my view.

Maybe there are quiet “orders” from somewhere in these matters, and it was deemed opportune for the Minister to be heartily banging SARU’s drums for them or vice versa ...

Rob’s weekend Awesome Foursome:

1 Brazil v Colombia, World Cup soccer quarter-final, Castelao, Friday 22:00

SABC1, SS3, SHD3 & Maximo

So much for my minor SuperSport brickbat ... now for a bouquet. They’ve certainly gone all out in their World Cup studio coverage to bring heavyweight authority from pundits, even if the Ryan Giggs stint rather crashed and burned in week one or thereabouts! Of late the presence of such personalities as Marcell Desailly and Gaizka Mendieta has added strong credibility, to the extent that you can happily overlook their less-than-Queen’s English. But both undoubted luminaries (alas for Mendieta, his heyday preceded Spain’s golden-age period) speak the lingo acceptably enough, perhaps influenced by their respective periods at Chelsea and Middlesbrough. Ghanaian-born French World Cup and Euro Champs winner Desailly uses a few quaintly “grand” English expressions, if you like, presumably as he hastily translates from the alluring language that French undoubtedly is. But their football observations make sense, complementing the assured anchoring jobs of not only British guest John Dykes but Neil Andrews and Rob Marawa too. Be sure at least some of these names will be in the thick of punditry for the late Friday belter ... where, psst, I tip a Colombian party-spoil.  

2 Cheetahs v Sharks, Super Rugby, Bloemfontein, Saturday 19:10

M-Net, SS1 & SHD

Joel Stransky and Owen Nkumane, who traditionally exchange banter quite decently, are paired in the English commentary for this vital (to the Sharks, anyway) derby. The latter earned some inevitable stick in social media last weekend during his halftime rapid-fire interview with Schalk Burger as the player headed for the tunnel in the PE Test: towards the end of the exchange he went strangely slurry, mumbling and indecisive. It was apparently all down to his radio microphone going on the blink at an untimely moment, so he was unable to hear either his own or Burger’s voice through the headphones. An innocent enough gremlin, and these things happen ... but as we all saw, a source of acute short-term awkwardness for the poor party involved! Owen may well prefer the sanctuary of the upstairs booth in Bloem on this occasion ...   

3 Wimbledon tennis championships singles finals, Saturday & Sunday 15:00


As lamented last week, what a great pity Wimbledon 2014 has coincided with the soccer World Cup. There’s only so much live sport you can watch, so regrettably this has been one of my own less prolific viewing experiences of tennis’s supreme tournament ... at least by my biased book. But we’ve come down to the respective Saturday (women’s) and Sunday (men’s) singles finals showpieces, and there’s no SWC distraction excuse at the time not to be glued to the goggle-box – hopefully the hitherto glorious London sunshine lingers on – at 15:00 each day. Don’t forget the strawberries and Pimm’s. 

4 Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st one-day international, Colombo, Sunday 06:15


Proteas cricket enthusiasts, after a fair old off-season break, can start to lap up fresh activity by the AB de Villiers-led ODI side as they try to make amends over a three-game series for the roasting they took on ‘Lankan soil last year. On paper, I suspect the current squad is stronger and better balanced, although winter ring-rust could come into play and that’s a concern when the series will be so short. Let’s not forget that the intended main business on this tour is the Test series soon afterwards, so in many respects the ODIs serve as necessary tune-ups for those players who represent South Africa in both environments. The hosts come off an all-conquering (Tests, ODIs, once-off T20) tour of England, so will be in good physical and mental nick and must be branded favourites.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    rob houwing  |  cape town  |  rugby

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