“He’s a cheat!”

“He should be banned for life!”

“He is a disgrace!”

We’ve all heard these things. People take a very dim view when sportspeople take “drugs” to enhance their performance on the field, court, track etc.

The kind of drug doesn’t seem to matter. When the drug was taken doesn’t seem to matter. The circumstance in which the drug was taken doesn’t seem to matter. It is all considered cheating and the people who do it are all labelled “dopers” or “cheats”.

But hang on a minute…

I work in an office. I work with numbers all day, most days. I am a professional number cruncher if you will. It is my job to do budgets, write reports and analyse data for decision making purposes.

I also have ADD. Some days are worse than others. Some days I can’t even string twenty minutes of work together without losing focus and potentially making a hash of things. So I take a performance enhancing substance. I take Ritalin, 20mg a day, slow release capsules. They allow me to perform my work at optimum capacity. I get the numbers right. I don’t make many mistakes. I don’t make a hash of things.

Now my company doesn’t care if I take Ritalin, as long as I do my job properly. They don’t call me a cheat and ban me from working with numbers for five years. They don’t consider me a “doper”.

Rugby is a professional business. It is no longer an amateur sport played by butchers, accountants and landscape gardeners. It is played by professional rugby players. Rugby is their job. It is their livelihood. If a player is injured he cannot do his job. If he can’t do his job then he can’t get paid. He can’t provide for his family. His career is short. What options does he have? So what is different between the professional rugby player and the professional number cruncher?

I don’t think there is any difference to be frank. I believe that if a player is injured and has the opportunity to speed up his recovery by getting an injection, he should take it and not be punished for it. It’s an archaic way of thinking. If it is done under the supervision of a doctor and is not harmful to the player then why is it considered wrong?

I recently read an article concerning a doping hearing concerning Andre Russell. He plays cricket… A Sri Lankan player was recently banned as well, Perera I think it was…

Cricket, that game where people stand around in a field whilst a bowler runs in and throws a ball at a guy who tries to hit it with a piece of wood. I love cricket. I’ve enjoyed playing it and watching it my whole life. Do I care if the cricketers are taking some or other banned substance? No, quite frankly I don’t. I care if they’re actually cheating, like losing on purpose because they’re being paid by a betting syndicate.

In my opinion the only sports that should be subject to the current draconian doping regulations are amateur sports, athletics and swimming.  Even cycling, which pretty much mastered the art of performance enhancement, shouldn’t be as regulated as it is. It is a profession. It is not a sport anymore.

Springbok Trials


No, I don’t mean tribunals where the rugby public publicly lynch under-performing coaches and players.

What happened to the good old trial match? The simulated test match where the best 60 or so players in the country play against each other over two weeks to prove who is the best, and who is simply not going to cut the mustard…

Off the top of my head –

If I were coach I would pit the following teams against each other, based on what I’ve seen this year.

15 Johan Goosen 15 Jesse Kriel 15 Clayton Blommetjies
14 Bryan Habana 14 Courtnal Skozan 14 Travis Ismael
13 Lionel Mapoe 13 Francois Venter 13 Nico Lee
12 Rohan JVR 12 Andre Estherhuysen 12 Clinton Swart
11 Lwazi Mvovo 11 Sergeal Petersen 11 Jamba Olengo
10 Elton Jantjies 10 Pat Lambie 10 Inny Radebe
9 Faf du Plessis 9 Francois Hougaard 9 Stephan Ungerer
8 Hanro Liebenberg 8 Warren Whitely 8 Philip van der Walt
7 Jean luc Du Preez 7 Oupa Mahoje 7 Jannes Kirsten
6 Francois Louw 6 Jaco Kriel 6 Albertus Smith
5 Eben Etzebeth 5 Lood de Jager 5 Reniel Hugo
4 Franco Mostert 4 Pieter Steph du Tiot 4 Jason Jenkins
3 Vincent Koch 3 Julian Redlinghuys 3 Thomas du Toit
2 Adriaan Strauss 2 Malcolm Marx 2 Acker van der Merwe
1 Beast Mtawarira 1 Steven Kitshoff 1 Corne Fourie
16 Bongi Mbonambi 16 Chiliboy Ralapelle 16 Robbie Coetzee
17 Lourens Adriandse 17 Dylan Smith 17 Ruan Dreyer
18 Ox Nche 18 Trevor Nyakane 18 Lizo Gkboka
19 Stephan Lewies 19 RJ Snyman 19 Ruan Ackerman
20 Paul Schoeman 20 Willem Alberts 20 Roelof Smit
21 Piet van Zyl 21 Jano Vermaak 21 Rudi van Rooyen
22 Morne Steyn 22 Robert du Preez Jr 22 Niel Marais
23 Curwin Bosch 23 Andries Coetzee 23 Anthony Volmink
Players excluded –        
  Francois Steyn   Ruan Combrinck    
  Duane Vermuelen   Jan Serfontein    
  JP Pietersen   Daniel du Preez    
  Willie le Roux   Ruan Pienaar    
  Handre Pollard        
  Bismarck du Plessis        
  Jannie du Plessis        
  Coenie Oosthuysen        

The coaches would be able to mix and match combinations, see what works and what doesn’t, who is good under pressure and who isn’t. I think that is far more valuable than playing a series against Ireland for example, where you only really get to see one match-day 23 tested.

Now some might say, “But the players could get injured?”

Yes of course, but they could also get injured getting out of the shower or playing badminton or even, heaven forbid, playing Currie Cup… From the teams above it is clear that there is more than enough talent in South Africa to put together more than one competitive team and they even comply with transformation requirements for the most part.

If the players don’t like the idea then they can go home. It should be about survival of the fittest, bravest and most committed. Test match rugby is hard. Nobody ever played a Test Match against New Zealand and said afterwards, “well that was easy”. It is the pinnacle of the sport. It is where legends are made, reputations cemented and pretenders exposed.




Why are we even surprised?


Times are tough for rugby fans, unless you’re from New Zealand that is… The mighty All Blacks look unbeatable. They’ve swept aside their traditional rivals like yesterday’s newspaper.  The Springboks and Wallabies have no answer. The All Blacks are just too good.

Now I hear many people talk about how South Africa has politics to deal with and how Australian rugby union has to compete with ARL and NRL and whatever other funny sports they play in Melbourne.

Yes well, nothing has changed there. South African sport has always been awash with political meddling and Australian rugby has always had to take on other sports. So it isn’t that… What is it then? Why is New Zealand so much better these days?

To illustrate I’m going to use an example from my other favourite sport…

In 1997 Ferrari recruited a gentleman called Ross Brawn from Benetton racing, along with a certain young driver named Michael Schumacher.  They formed a formidable team, and despite being slower than the McLarens of the day, the team of Brawn and Schumacher ended up making Ferrari the most successful team of that era. Schumacher won many championships, all of them in fact, from 2000 to 2004. During that time Ferrari also had Jean Todt and Rory Byrne as part of their F1 team. They had recruited the best and then left them to do their job.

Mercedes didn’t even have a racing team at the time.

Fast forward to 2008. Ross Brawn was recruited as team principle for Honda racing. Honda pulled out and left Brawn a bit stranded so he said “screw this, I’ll make my own team”, which he did. And Jenson Button won the world championship with Brawn racing in 2009.

Brawn racing was then bought by Mercedes. Mercedes implemented a long term strategy to make the best of Ross Brawn’s talents and put in place a brilliant succession plan which is responsible for their fantastic success of the last few years. They’ve dominated F1 completely under the current set of regulations. Nobody else comes close.

But what of Ferrari, that great and passionate team that dominated under Ross Brawn? Well, their succession plan wasn’t very good. They’ve had more team principles in the last eight or so years than my brain allows me to remember. They haven’t managed a world title since Kimi Raikkonnen won it thanks to Alonso and Hamilton sabotaging each other in 2007, that despite having some of the best drivers of all time in Alonso and now Sebastien Vettel leading the driver team. There is meddling from management, no clear strategy and no clear idea of where the team is going or at least it appears that way.

And that is what has happened in rugby.

While the South African Rugby Union has made short sighted decisions and replaced entire coaching teams every four years, New Zealand rugby has had the foresight to groom coaches in a successful team environment. Steve Hanson worked under Graham Henry for eight years. They didn’t fire Henry after New Zealand were dumped out of the 2007 world cup, despite his head being demanded on a platter by many disgruntled fans. No, they kept him on, and what happened?

They got even better. They won the 2011 rugby world cup and then Hanson took over and won the 2015 world cup, and when he moves on they have Ian Foster, Wayne Smith, Chris Boyd all ready to take over, and now New Zealand, with close on twelve years of coaching continuity, are untouchable.

What about South Africa then?

Let’s start in 2004, I could go even back further to Nick Mallet but that would take too long and you’d all get bored.

South African rugby appointed Jake White as Springbok coach. He put together a good coaching team and built up a squad of players that ended his tenure as the most capped Springbok team ever. He made the inspired decision to appoint Jon Smit as captain. He developed world beating combinations like the lock pair of Victor Matfield and Bakkie Botha and centres Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie. He made Bryan Habana a worldwide superstar.

His pragmatic approach involved using the traditional strengths of South African Rugby to build a team that was feared the world over and emerged triumphant at the 2007 Rugby World Cup…  The sky was the limit; South African rugby was on the verge of returning to greatness.

And then the geniuses that run South African rugby fired him…

Pieter de Villiers was then appointed ahead of White’s assistant Alistair Coetzee and Bulls coach Heyneke Meyer.

The 2011 World Cup ended with South Africa losing to Australia in a game that I still consider one of the biggest robberies of all time. Referee Bryce Lawrence lost his contact lenses (and his mind) and completely missed a blatant shoulder charge into Heinrich Brussow’s ribs by Dan Vickerman and ALL of the rules pertaining to the breakdown area allowing Australia to spoil and break every rule known to man with being penalized.

But I digress. South Africa didn’t win the world cup…

And then the geniuses that run South African rugby fired Pieter de Villiers.

Enter Heyneke Meyer, the man who coached the Bulls from Pretoria to unprecedented success.

2015 world cup, Springboks finished third, narrowly losing to New Zealand in the semi-final.

And then the geniuses that run South African rugby fired / forced Heyneke Meyer to resign and took their sweet time appointing his successor. The same Alistair Coetzee that had been Jake White’s assistant, the same man they should have appointed in 2008…

Every time SARU makes a decision, the Springboks had to start again. New coach, new assistant coaches, new gameplan, new captain…

So, like Ferrari, the foundation for unprecedented success was laid, but thanks to short sighted decisions and meddling from people who have no business running a corner café, never mind a national rugby union. South African rugby has gone backwards.

It’s no wonder people in New Zealand are lamenting the lack of competition. They’ve moved forwards but everyone else has either stayed still or gone backwards.  There is no continuity in South African rugby coaching and zero foresight. The people running it are buffoons and are frankly not capable of doing any better. Had they kept Jake White as coach, South Africa could well have won two more world cups and kept pace with the forward thinking New Zealanders. Instead they replace coaches more often than most people replace cars and then give those coaches impossible to achieve performance criteria, whilst limiting their decision making ability.

It doesn’t matter who they appoint. It is the organisation that is stifling progress. It is the organisation that is holding them back. It is the organisation that simply doesn’t know what the hell they are doing.


SupeRugby 2016 – Not so Super


The showpiece of Southern Hemisphere rugby is about to kick off. Usually around this time of year, I have a complicated spreadsheet designed and the fixtures posted up on my wall and saved in my calendar. I know all the player movements, I’ve done research on new coaches and I’ve predicted who the surprise team of the year will be!

This year I haven’t..

SANZAR, the body that run SupeRugby have finally tinkered with it too much for me to be passionate about it anymore. They’ve added three teams, one from Argentina (yes!), one from South Africa, the Southern Kings (the union can’t even pay salaries and the president is holding onto power by using Mugabe-esque tactics) and the Sunwolves from Japan.

Now, SANZAR will tell you that the old format is stale, that it needs to be updated to keep people interested… I disagree. People were interested when it was the Super 12 and even the Super 14. The games were good, the teams were all pretty strong and the stadiums generally full or at least close to full. The English Premier League doesn’t tinker with its format. Why? Because it works!

I’d like to ask a question. Why a team from Japan? Japan would be better served in an Asia or Americas competition.

Why didn’t they give a franchise to Manu Samoa, Fiji, Tonga or even all three?

If anyone deserves a Super franchise it is them. Long ignored despite their abundance of talent and skill they have been overlooked again. Imagine what good the investment in these countries would do? Imagine the joy it would bring their fans!

I’d watch The Blues from Auckland vs The Mighty Fijians every day of the week, as opposed to say, the EP Kings vs The Melbourne Rebels? Who really wants to see that? Be honest, only people from Port Elizabeth and Melbourne…

The Smoke and Mirrors Rewards Program


“You need insurance” they say. You need to pay money every month in case something happens and you lose all your stuff. If you do, then they might replace some of it. In the case of life insurance they’ll give your beneficiaries some money, or settle your debts. It’s called a necessary evil much like taxes and politics. I think most people can agree that taxes and politics, and by association, politicians, are amongst the most reviled things on planet earth. Insurance is a close third. Every month we plough money into a bottomless pit enriching a few clever people who are very good at selling nothing for something.

But fine, we need insurance or so we keep telling ourselves. I guess if we didn’t have so much unnecessary stuff we wouldn’t need it at all. I didn’t need it when I was younger and poor and had a car worth nothing because it was made of rust. Now that I’m older and a bit more wise (debatable) and have a lovely wife, house, three cars, pets, pool and furniture I do, just in case someone or something takes away any of the above.
These monthly cash outflows can be justified.

Monthly outflows that, for the life of me, I cannot logically justify, are paid “rewards” programs. Most medical aids have them. You pay an extra few hundred rand every month and you get to belong to their great wellness and lifestyle benefit program. But what do most people get out of this great wellness and lifestyle benefit program?

Well, they say you get discounts on certain things, including a gym membership at a big fancy completely horrendous commercial gym. They say you get discounts on your life insurance, but only if you accumulate enough points. They say you get discounts on other things too, but only if you accumulate enough points again.

So basically you’re paying them for the opportunity to score valueless points that you can’t use for anything unless you dedicate all of your time to their accumulation! People don’t have time for all that nonsense. I tried accumulating points last year after my gorgeous wife convinced me to sign up for the gym benefit, and by the end of it we’d gotten to bronze level, which meant absolutely nothing to me. I didn’t get anything for getting to bronze level, except an email congratulating me on getting there.

Rxxxx a month for a congratulatory email? I could have invested that money in unit trusts or shares or something (which is what I’m doing now).

They have once again very cleverly sold you nothing for something. I suppose you have to congratulate them. I wish I’d come up with that business plan.

Stop! you’re under duress… I mean arrest!



If you get a chance, read Blind Faith by Ben Elton. It gives you a glimpse into a world where social media has invaded everything, privacy is considered illegal and the anti-vaccination lobby has won their fight against logic and reason. Books are considered contraband and public trials and executions are commonplace for anyone who dares defy the new-age but somewhat fascist regime lead by “clergymen”.

What did it take for this to happen? A natural disaster struck London and many people died, fictionally…

I read the book in 2008 although it had been written quite a bit earlier, and sadly, many of the things that Ben Elton satirised in the book are starting to emerge in reality. The most prevalent is public execution by social media.

Now, social media, in my mind, is meant to be an easy means of communication and innovative way to engage like-minded individuals on…

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Why do people buy horrible cars?


I spend too much time questioning peoples’ motives. I shouldn’t though. It isn’t very productive and peoples’ motives are none of my business but sometimes I just can’t help it…

For example, why would an otherwise ordinary sane person buy Crocs, or anything gluten free if they’re not suffering from celiac disease? Why do some people think it is a good idea to drive like an idiot at rush hour or completely forget how to drive when it rains? Why do people eat couscous or peas? What could possibly motivate them to do these things? Now I know these are all fairly pointless things and have no real bearing on the world. I also wonder about more serious things but I’d rather not touch on those today, lest I get angry and post defamatory things about Daesh and politicians.

Most of the time I come up empty and put it down to personal preference or just accept that some people have no taste.

When it comes to cars though, I can’t… I just can’t put it aside like yesterday’s bacon and for the following reason. A car is a big purchase. It is the second most expensive thing most people will buy in their life, after their house, if they can afford either, which many people can’t. So when I see someone driving around in a new Etios Cross or a Smart Car I’m struck with a certain measure of both sadness and intense frustration.

Why would you buy that? Why! Why would you spend good money on something so awful? You’re going to be stuck with it for at least five years of your life. Most people only live to about seventy five, so that is 6% of your life, spent owning an awful car that you spend at least an hour in every day. People will throw out things like, “oh, it’s economical” or “it is good for the environment” but the truth is it makes little difference to the environment if you drive a little three cylinder car with a juicer for an engine or a big V8, because factories will manufacture, foresters will keep chopping and mines will keep mining. Your little four cylinder saving won’t even make a dent.

People also say, “but I can’t afford anything better” which is also nonsense. There are many, many great used vehicles for sale. You can get an Audi A4 from 2011 for the same price as your Aygo, and you can get an extended warranty for it as well. For that you get to feel great for an hour a day instead of just existing in your little car made of plastic that has the horse power of half a dead donkey.

So please put a bit more thought into the cars you buy. I bought a Renault Megane 1.6 hatchback a few years ago, and while it is a decent car and it looks alright, it still isn’t the best car I could have bought for the money I paid. I could have found myself an older Mitsubishi Pajero or a Golf 4 Gti perhaps. I could have bought a Citroen C4 2l hot hatch, but I didn’t. I was too impatient.

A year ago I bought a 1989 Toyota Land Cruiser 4l petrol 4×4. I think it’s the best car in the world, sure it may be old, but what a machine. Once the Renault is sold it will be my only car. Sure it may be old, but what a nice place to be! When the engine starts it sends a tingle down your spine. It grumbles for a few minutes after getting wrenched from peaceful slumber, much like its owner. A pull on the choke sorts that out, like a strong cup of coffee; it is just the kick it needs to get going. You might only be going to work, but the fact that, if you want, you can drive it to Sani Pass and get up without too much trouble, or to Mozambique for a bit of fishing, makes it something different. It’s the possibility of the thing that makes it special. To me car needs one of three things, it either needs to be fast, capable off road or interesting in some other way in terms of design or technology or even just history.

There is none of that in an Aygo or Nissan Micra. There is no fizz about an ordinary Hyundai or a middling 1.4 Golf. Maybe people who own these cars care about other things or have other interests. Maybe they’re interesting in other ways. Maybe they ride fast motor bikes or fly airplanes. Maybe they’re artists who take lots of drugs on weekends at trance festivals. Maybe they’re parents who’ve given up on their own joy to concentrate on the joy of their children. Maybe they actually like small horrible cars with no power. Maybe they’re aliens with questionable driving skills. I’ll question all of that but I’ll do my best not to judge them because that would make me even more of a hypocrite than I already am.

I don’t know.

What I do know is this. Cars are a major part of our lives and it makes sense that one should buy the best, most capable vehicle for the money you have to spend, and I’m sorry, that is not a Nissan Qashqai or an Opel Astra diesel.