SupeRugby is dead… Long live SupeRugby


In the face of dwindling crowds and general disinterest, SupeRugby seems to be at death’s door. The Grim Reaper himself is watching with horror, because he is, no doubt, a Crusaders fan, as the best rugby players in the world run out to play in front of a handful of die-hards with nothing better to do on a Saturday.

In the old days, when the Super12 ruled all and stadiums were full every weekend, Grim would no doubt have enjoyed his Saturdays spent watching Carlos Spencer and Justin Marshall running rings around the best the Free State Cheetahs had to offer. He would have grimaced with joy every time a fired up Willem Alberts careened through five Australians leaving a bloody path of despair in his wake.

But now? What Happened? You’re more likely to run into Grim at your local Builder’s Warehouse buying paint and chicken-wire than you are to find him at the local pub having a few beers watching the Sunwolves play the Brumbies in an anonymous stadium in Singapore…

So has Grim been sent the message? Has he been told to put SupeRugby out of its misery?

Not yet, probably, but then what do I know.

I don’t know much about how the Grim Reaper does his job… I do know a bit about how the SANZAAR guys do theirs though, and that is where the issue lies really. SANZAAR have become masters at flogging dead horses… (no offence to the Brumbies intended, or dead horses…)

First I need outline what made the Super12 so brilliant in the first place, in point form… Obviously…

  1. We got to  see the best teams and players from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia play against each other.
  2. The competition was simple, where all the teams played all the other teams, home and away.
  3. It took place over a reasonable period of time, 3 to 4 months, done and dusted vs the current format which seems to have no end and no beginning…
  4. It was fresh and exciting.

Now I’ll outline what is wrong with SupeRugby today

  1. The competition takes too long (see point 3 above).
  2. There are too many teams.
  3. There are too many local derbies, nobody cares about local derbies, nobody wants local derbies. That is what the Currie Cup and NPC and whatever Australia has, is for…
  4. The conference system does not work.
  5. Did i mention that nobody cares about local derbies?

And finally, how to make it great again!

  1. 12 Teams, 4 from New Zealand, 4 From South Africa, 3 from Australia and 1 Pacific Islanders team.
  2. Simplify the competition, no more conferences, all teams play all the other teams, home and away in alternating years, max duration of 3-4 months, so that the provincial competitions in the different countries can regain their value.
  3. No more local derby obsession!

The novelty has worn off, and the mistake SANZAAR have made is that they’ve tried to insert more novelty. That doesn’t work. That never works, you can’t take something stale and make it new by throwing some glitter on it and calling it a pig. No, you need to focus on what made it great in the first place! Great teams with great players playing against each other week in and week out. Adrenaline filled games where the result is always uncertain, where the team in 12th can beat the team in 1st on any given day. That is what I’d pay to see. I don’t want to watch the Sunwolves and the Rebels play mediocre rugby. I want to watch the best players from Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji take on the three big guns and win! I want to see the best take on the best. That’s how you fill your stadiums SANZAAR. You need to build up the suspense. People want to look forward to going to rugby! It needs to be an occasion! It can’t be just another game on just another Saturday in a never-ending stream of games on Saturdays.

“Ho-hum, I am going to rugby again, yawn…” And that is what has become of SupeRugby. It is “ho-hum”, there is no suspense, no excitement, no joy, I suppose. It is just… Blegh…



Marmalade Wielding Assassins and the Springboks


Often a massive catastrophe hits without warning. It comes out of the night like an assassin with many swords and a penchant for eating his targets eyes. Everyone is surprised, at least for a while. “How could this happen?” They say, and, “I really did not see this coming.”

Thing is though, they should have seen it coming. Why? Simply because they wronged a man who was renowned for employing eye-eating assassins to do away with those that vexed him.

So six months ago a nondescript person gets into a road rage incident with a member of the marmalade mafia, known for their brutal control of the marmalade trade in and around whatever city they happen to reside in. Said nondescript person tells the marmalade mafia boss to go f*ck himself and breaks the mirror off of his black Mercedes Benz panel van. Now this boss is well known, he does not take disrespect lightly.

And there you have it. An eyeless nondescript man in a shallow pit, dead and covered in onion marmalade.

Image result for onion marmalade

And so to the Springboks in 2016.

Alistair Coetzee’s team has the worst record of any Springbok team ever…

They’ve lost games to Ireland (fair enough, they’re playing amazing rugby this year), Argentina (Boks should have won), Australia (Boks should have won), New Zealand (twice), England, and now Italy (what!), and in the process has racked up stats that not even the most pessimistic parody site could have made up before the season started.

Everything seemed to be going “okay” until that horrible day in Durban when the All Blacks, after being disrespected by a bunch of twats in the crowd singing Ole’ Ole’, of all things, during the Haka, smashed them by 57 points to 15.

That seems to be the point at which the consequences for breaking off the marmalade mafia kingpin’s metaphorical mirror came to roost. Just prior they had managed to beat Australia at Loftus. Things seemed on the up. Something must have happened in the week between games, some event, incident or conversation that sparked a rather dramatic slide into abject mediocrity.

Image result for sad springbok

The “gees” was gone… The will to play for the coach, jersey and everything else that goes with being a Springbok just didn’t seem to be there anymore. The backbone that Bok rugby is known for, that essence of power, aggression and die-hard grit was gone.

Come back Bakkies!

Image result for bakkies botha

Suddenly they were folding like a deck chair during the last quarter of their games. Suddenly they were losing to Italy, a team unlikely to challenge any decent SupeRugby side, a team that had never come within 16 points of beating a Springbok team, a team that had just copped 50 against New Zealand.

I cannot do it captain! The strain is too much!

Image result for man caught in folding deck chair

Who is to blame? What was that gees eroding incident that so utterly depleted the players’ confidence because the group of players currently wearing the Bok jersey are not bad enough to lose to Italy?

I wish I knew, then maybe this sticky mess would make more sense than my story about marmalade wielding assassins; but it doesn’t.  No amount of whining about non-existent coaching succession, player exodus, late appointments, injuries and whatever else can explain how the once mighty Springboks can lose to Italy.

SA Rugby has always had to deal with those things.

All of those players are top SupeRugby players. The Sharks had a diabolical draw and yet managed to match all the New Zealand sides and even beat the Highlanders away and the eventual champion Hurricanes at home. The Lions were in the final and deserved to be there.

It just makes no sense.

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…

If Formula 1 Teams were Rugby Teams


Mercedes – The New Zealand All Blacks – They’re just too good, too fast and too strong. Everyone else is playing catch up. They might occasionally be challenged when the conditions are absolutely ideal for their opponents but will ultimately prevail.

Ferrari – England – They’re good, steeped in history and the architects of the game we know today. In recent years, however, they’ve fallen behind as the other teams have evolved beyond their ability. They are slowly pulling back some ground with some new personnel but still have some way to go.

Red Bull – Australia – They’re smart, very smart, and quick but generally not as powerful as their foes in the engine department. They play to their strengths and do their best to play away from their weaker areas, regularly upsetting more fancied opposition.

Williams – France – They can be blisteringly fast when everything is working for them, but when it isn’t they can fall apart and end up bringing up the rear.

McLaren – South African Springboks – They have the tools to compete with the best, but can fall short because of technical deficiencies in key areas. In 2015 so far it is an inconsistent power unit; in 2014 it was the handling at the back where they fell short. They’re always expected to do well and when they don’t their supporters get very upset.

Toro Rosso – Manu Samoa, Tonga and Fiji – On their day they can take on anyone but it only takes a few small hiccups to set them back as they don’t have the depth or funding of the other teams. They have launched many a young player’s career but ultimately battle to keep them when the big teams come calling.

Lotus – Ireland – They go through periods of dominance, usually driven by a star player and the right mix of players built around him. They can beat the best, but also have a habit of falling short on the world cup stage.

Force India – Wales – They always look the part but for some reason can’t quite keep pace with their opponents when it comes down to the wire.

Sauber – Scotland – They’re ever present but generally uncompetitive against the bigger teams. They’ve been known to cause a few upsets in the rain however, and have a solid and proud history of being a team that play with heart and a never say die attitude.


If Rugby Teams were Cars


The New Zealand All Blacks

BMW M division – Powerful, fast and reliable.  Sheer pleasure to watch and generates envy wherever they go. Also, they are unpredictable because they never indicate what they are going to do next…

The South African Springboks

Toyota Land Cruiser – Big and powerful, but as subtle as a concrete block. At its best when conditions are tough and the odds are stacked against it.

The Australian Wallabies

Mini Cooper S – Not as big or powerful as its competitors but quick and nimble, plays to its strengths and uses smarts to overcome more powerful adversaries.


Land Rover Defender – Strong engine, steeped in tradition and very capable. However can be slow to accept change. Constantly overtaken by everyone else.


Alfa Romeo – Can be sublime but prone to baffling periods strewn with breakdowns and technical issues.


Lancia – One good model every 7 to 10 years, but always peaks when it doesn’t matter.


Suzuki – Always eager and willing but simply lack the firepower to compete regularly


Bentley GT Continental – Sporty looking and heavy but at the end of the day it’s a VW underneath


Jeep Wrangler – Rugged, plenty pulling power but battles with handling at speed on the highway.

The Pacific Island Nations, Manu Samoa, Fiji and Tonga

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 – Big, powerful and fast, but lack the finesse of their better funded opponents. On their day they can compete with the best, but when something goes awry they don’t quite have the same depth of resources to keep their level consistent.



The Next Big Thing… Or is it?


There is a young man called Max Verstappen making waves in Formula 1. Not only is he a very good racing driver and a dream for any marketing team, he is also only 17 years old. People are already calling him a future world champion. He even has a new, if completely unsuitable, nickname. They’re calling him “Mad Max” because of an accident caused by a Frenchman called Grosjean. He is the next big thing! I think it is a bit early to tell really. Sure he’s definately talented, but his temperament is yet to be truly tested. He’s off to a good start though. At 17 I was still sneaking out to smoke Chesterfields and falling off my 50cc-popcorn-machine-with-wheels-motorbike.

England cricket are also thrilled to have a new star in Ben Stokes. He isn’t 17 but he is still quite young, and they are calling him the next, next, next Ian Botham, after Fred Flintoff (the first next Ian Botham) and a few others. He is their new hero after playing a large role in winning a test match against the might cricketing nation of New Zealand!

In South Africa we’ve had a few “next big things!”

Derrick Hougaard was the next Naas Botha.

Daryll Cullinan was the next Graham Pollock.

Guthro Steenkamp was the next Os du Rant.

Mfuneko Ngam was the next Alan Donald.

Eben Etzebeth is the next Bakkies Botha.

Butch James was, well, Butch James was the first Butch James and I doubt his like will be seen again anytime soon.

Why is that whenever a sparkling young talent comes along we feel the need to label him or her “the next (Insert name of famous ex sportsperson here). Why can’t they just be themselves!

Ian Botham was a legendary English cricketer. Why do anyone the disservice of calling them “The Next Ian Botham?”

So often these young stars get these labels and then fade from prominence under the weight of undue pressure and media scrutiny, instead of just being allowed to develop into the player that they were destined to be in the first place.

Derrick Hougaard springs to mind as a great example. He had all the tools to be the next Naas Botha, except one. He wasn’t Naas Botha. Naas Botha had, and still has, unshakeable belief in Naas Botha. In his mind Naas Botha is invincible; Naas can do anything, knows everything and will win everything simply because that is what Naas Botha does. Derrick was young and, by all accounts, a remarkably humble nice young lad. He was thrown head first into a rugby world cup, and then thrown a hospital pass that brought upon him the wrath of a man known as the chiropractor because of his ability to re-arrange spines in tackles. Brian Lima tackled Derrick so hard he’s probably still go bruises ten years later. Derrick wasn’t the next Naas Botha, nobody can be the next Naas Botha.

Similarly, nobody can be the next Bakkies Botha. Off the field he is a humble Christian man who lives his faith as well he can. I’ve had friends approach him for photos and he is always accommodating. On the field though, he is an uncompromising force of sheer brutality. He is the enforcer and will step back for no man. Eben Etzebeth, again, has all the tools to emulate the great Bakkies. He is big and strong and also plays lock. But that is where the similarity ends. They’re different players with different personalities. It is unfair to compare one to the other, because it does their unique talents and traits the ultimate disservice.

I say let the young players be themselves. Handre Pollard is the next Handre Pollard. He is not the next Dan Carter for heaven sakes. Just let them play the game they love without the pressure of trying to be the next whoever. I suspect they will surprise us all. I suspect people will say. “That Handre Pollard is something hey. I bet if a young Dan Carter saw him play he’d want to be just like him!”

My team selection – Cell C Sharks vs The Hurricanes


Being a confused selector is probably the toughest job in the world; just ask any badly programmed automatic gearbox. No matter how powerful the engine or aerodynamic the body, if the gearbox throws you into 6th gear when you should be in 2nd, you won’t be going anywhere fast…

So, in the interests of all involved I’ve decided to help the Sharks pick their team for this weekend’s game vs the Hurricanes.

To be clear, i have no qualifications as a team selector, nor do i pretend to know any more about anything than any body else. These are just my opinions so take them with however much salt you wish.

I’ve selected what I think will be the most defensively sound backline available and due to the lack of loose forward cover I’ve picked Andre Estherhuysen on the bench as cover. He has the size and speed to cover and did so last year with varying degrees of effectiveness. His defensive skills at 12 have been found wanting but that hasn’t been entirely his fault as there is no real backline defensive organiser in the mould of a Brad Barritt or Jaque Fourie.

Frans Steyn will have to take up the role of defensive organiser. Fred Zeilinga deserves another crack. He has been unfairly thrown into the fire, bypassing the frying pan completely. With the more experienced head of Frans outside him it should give him a bit more confidence and take some of the pressure off.

Conrad Hoffman has been the back up 9 to Reinach in the last few games, but he has been found wanting in all areas, therefore it is time to pick the youngster Ungerer and see how he performs.

The backline desperately needs a reshuffle with JP on the wing and Sithole at 13 which is without a doubt his best position. Odwa should continue at fullback in the absence of SP Marais and Jaco van Tonder.

As a side note, I would have selected Heimar Williams either as my starting 13 or on the bench in place of Waylon Murray whom I feel has added nothing to the squad all year.

15. Odwa Ndungane 14. JP Pietersen 13. Sbura Sithole 12. Francois Steyn 11. Lwazi Mvovo 10. Fred Zeilinga 9. Stefan Ungerer 8. Renaldo Bothma 7. Willem Alberts 6. Marcell Coetzee 5. Marko Wentzel 4. Etienne Oosthuisen 3. Jannie du Plessis 2. Bismarck du Plessis 1. Beast Mtawarira 16. Kyle Cooper / Franco Marais 17. Lourens Adriaandse 18. Dale Chadwick 19. Mouritz Botha 20. Andre Estherhuisen 21. Conrad Hoffman 22. Lionel Cronje 23. Waylon Murray

The Fred Lantern…


The Green Lantern is an unfairly lambasted movie in my opinion. It has all the elements inherent in any good origin story for a super hero, flawed, hot-headed hero with immense power, love interest, far off planets, space ships, villains and tight crotch punishing outfits.

The story follows a predictable path. Normal guy with issues is minding his own business and then bam! He’s chosen by some force or the other to be a guardian of the universe, not to be confused with guardian of the galaxy, lest we become subject to legal wrangling over naming rights. Once he has his power he has to learn to use it. Enter a montage of training clips where he is mentored by a great and powerful leader. He is constantly reminded about how great the guy before him was and how he’ll never be able to fill his shoes and at first he fails and is useless, and then slowly but surely he masters his powers and you think he is going to become the hero that he is destined to be. Then he faces a powerful foe and is beaten, or something, loses his confidence and runs away like a little b*tch.

After some soul searching the hero realises that it is within himself to triumph over evil, that all that stands between him and the hero he so desperately wishes he could be is his own fear, his own doubts in his own abilities. In a crescendo of uplifting music and slow motion action shots, he takes his place besides the other Green Lanterns after re-earning their trust by doing something selfless and saving the day. He gets the girl and a standing ovation for being the awesome guy that he is.

It isn’t a stretch comparing professional sportspeople with super heroes, especially the flawed ones. Earlier today I read a column by Khanyiso Tshwaku in which he examined the plight of under fire Sharks flyhalf Fred Zeilinga.

Fred has had the unenviable task of filling Pat Lambie’s shoes. Pat is an exceptional rugby player, made even more so by his calm head and eye for space. He seems to have that extra few seconds to make decisions that other players envy. Unfortunately he got injured and Fred had to take over, after very little game time. This came after the Shark’s other flawed heroes were sent to the naughty chair for a few weeks after losing their head, in one instance, and in the other simply being too strong for their own good. Having lost Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn, Fred was asked to take over the mantle and lead the backline unit and he hasn’t been done any favours. He has an inexperienced 12 outside him and an unsettled backline with little to no idea how they’re supposed to be playing. He too is young and lacks experience, yet he was asked to do the impossible.

This is where we find ourselves in his superhero journey. He is down, he is under pressure and he’ll probably be benched this weekend in favour of the returning Frans Steyn. Fred will have time to reflect on what has happened and perhaps, like Ryan Reynolds, he’ll have that moment of clarity that frees his mind so that he might play the way he knows he can.

Hopefully then he’ll get his crescendo of uplifting music and slow motion action shots. Maybe we’ll see him slicing backlines to shreds, making amazing passes, kicking impossible kicks and scoring brilliant tries. Maybe then he’ll get that standing ovation for being the awesome hero he can be!

In the end it will be up to him to make that happen. As for the rest of us, all we can do really is keep supporting the guy and the team, keep going to the games, keep cheering so that maybe he and his team mates know that they are not alone, that they are fighting for something bigger than themselves and whatever nonsense is going on behind the scenes, let them know that we are their fans and are behind them all the way, win or lose.