Tank Lanning

Watson 'Bok-less' in SA

2008-09-05 02:57

Tank Lanning

With much talk about a so called "rugby revolution" taking place in South Africa - the talk being that there is a secret plan in place to rid rugby, once and for all, of the racism that several rugby administrators believe has been plaguing the sport for too long - I thought I would take a look at the speculated three-pronged process.

Those three prongs being: Appointing Peter de Villiers as Springbok coach, appointing Luke Watson as Springbok captain, and then destroying the Springbok emblem for good, thus making De Villiers and Watson coach and captain, respectively, of the Proteas.

Now I have been around the block enough times to not dismiss this theory outright. There is without doubt enough poison doing the rounds in SA Rugby for this revolution to indeed be a real possibility. So for this column, let's assume that something untoward is going down among the halls of SA Rugby and explore the reality surrounding the implementation of prongs two and three, given that one De Villiers has already been appointed as the new Bok coach.

Luke Watson is so 2006, doll!

Jake White certainly embarrassed himself and brought his "annis horribilis" upon himself by not selecting Watson to replace the injured Schalk Burger in 2006, uttering his sensationally infamous quote, "The only fetchers I know are my boys who fetch me beers on Saturday afternoons". This because Watson, at the time, was indeed the best openside flank in the country, no matter how hard White tried to justify his non-selection in his autobiography.

But that was then. And last year it was Oregan Hoskins and SA Rugby's turn to embarrass themselves by trying to force Watson upon White for the Rugby World Cup. This because Watson had already had his time in the sun, and players like Burger, Wikus van Heerden and Kabamba Floors were playing better rugby at the time.

And in 2008 this scenario has changed even further. Burger and Juan Smith are established as not only top Springboks, but as two of the top players on the planet. Watson has been stripped of the Stormers captaincy, while Smith has been made the Cheetahs skipper. So Watson would not come close to making the side on merit, and there are several captaincy candidates like Smith, John Smit, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Johann Muller and Victor Matfield with better credentials.

Tough one to justify it would seem...

"Daddy, daddy, I want to grow to be a Protea!"

Would that be a pretty, but tough piece of fynbos that needs to be burnt every few years in order to prosper, or would that be a South African cricketer, or a national netball player, or indeed, the man with a number three on his back that holds the national scrum together against the likes of the Kiwis, Pumas and Wallabies?

My first born, a boy indeed, is due his appearance into this crazy world late next month, and I pray to whomever I am allowed to pray to, that I am NEVER forced to hear him utter these words...

The Springbok is an international institution, an emblem so established that it transpires not only national boundaries, but also international sports. South African boys grow up aspiring to play for the Boks, while New Zealand boys grow up aspiring to play against the Boks.

And to say that it represents only the old and racist government is complete hogwash. We have won not one, but two, World Cups with that emblem proudly emblazoned on our chests - an emblem that represents the good that can happen in our new, but still struggling democracy. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that the Rugby World Cup wins have been the two events that have done the most for unification since the release of the grand old man, Nelson Mandela, from prison. How can anyone suggest that it is an emblem that reflects only the apartheid era?

Even for only practical reasons, it would be an insane move. I was told yesterday that licensed supporters rugby gear with the Bok on it generates in the region of R120m a year, while the licensed cricket kit with the Protea on it only generates around R20m per annum. Sure it has to do with the performance of the national side, but it also has to do with national pride and association with the emblem.

Rugby revolution?

Look, we still have Robert Mugabe on this planet, a man, amazingly, who has been allowed to single-handedly destroy what was once a magnificent part of Africa, so yes, anything is possible. But I am hoping that there are enough of us in this country who care enough about rugby to keep anything untoward in check.

I am excited about the appointment of De Villiers as national coach and believe we might get something special from him. And if he has been appointed as part of a so called rugby revolution, it would require him to be an unashamed 'yes' man - something I just do not think he is...

  • Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

  • Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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