Those who know me know i’m not the biggest fan of rugby. i will watch if the Springboks are playing and get a little more excited when it is the World Cup. Throw me into a Superbru game [although a round late so desperately just trying to catch up] and it comes a little more alive and meaningful.
And after a couple of rounds of games, with the quarters for the most part locked up, here are some thoughts i have had or reflections from what i have seen so far.
i don’t know anyone that likes losing. But when it’s the underdogs that if any other team were playing we’d be completely behind, that makes it a little more palatable. i would rather lose to Japan than New Zealand [and i’m sure many will disagree with that statement]. It was so incredible watching this nation that had only had one previous world cup win [against Zimbabwe who aren’t even at this world cup] go on to beat us [and then Samoa a few days later to prove it wasn’t a fluke]. To see how excited their supporters got. To give one of the nations not used to competing so well [anyone remember that New Zealand 100 point plus demolition a few cups ago?] a chance to shine. Unfortunately they are going to need Samoa to play out of their socks and upset Scotland for them to make it to the next round, but stranger things have happened.
i absolutely loved the England Australia game – in a room of people who didn’t feel good about supporting either side, it was easier for me as i had picked Australia in my fantasy league. We know the sadness associated with being bundled out of a home tournament so early on [looking at you, Cricket World Cup!] and being the first side ever to do that in the world cup must have hurt even more. But the moment of the Australian players forming a human tunnel for them was the kind of moment that makes sport rise above.
# i was thinking this morning how i can’t remember a game where the Springboks won a match and my friends were all, “That was a great win, but we were really lucky with the ref cos the other side should really have won that one.” But listening to them after games we lose it is as if we are expecting the opposition fans to be saying the same thing. But i have never heard it. i believe we made mistakes and possibly didn’t have our best team against Japan on the day and so some things could have been better, but Japan played an incredible game and blew us away. It takes away from their victory if we harp on about how badly the boks played and what decisions were made and all that. i would love to see South Africa as a nation become better in defeat. Apart from one or two standout games where a ref has possibly caused us a loss, in every other game we are on the field for 80 minutes and it is usually not enough for a couple of bad or marginal decisions to affect an outcome the way it sounds like we do.
# The passion for sport is incredible. And it is heart-breaking. It was so great on the day of our first match to be in Pick ‘n Pay doing some shopping and seeing people of all shapes and sizes and colours wearing Springbok colours and grabbing supplies for the big game. i love how sport has been something that at times has helped bring our nation together. But i don’t know that i see that kind of passion in other areas of life and that to me is a huge pity. We see it in some individuals who live their lives full out for those around them and are involved in causes and missions and issues and charities and so on, but for the most part i see people’s sport passion far outweighing their passion for anything else.
If the people of South Africa could harness some of this rugby fevered passion and direct it towards eliminating poverty, towards reconciliation between races and groups, towards the education challenges and even the crime in our country we could turn South Africa on its head in the best of ways. Why is something so inconsequential as sport [there will be another rugby world cup in four years and no-one will care who won this one then – it all resets and starts again] the thing that grabs people passion?
We still have half a tournament to go and the business side of it is coming up in the next week and so things will likely get a lot more serious. i hope we still have some moments like the Japan win and the Australian tunnel coming up to remind us that being great people is better than being great sportsmen. And Go The Bokke!