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Cricket | SA Team

A matter of life and death

It was the famous Liverpool football manager, Bill Shankly, who is credited with the quote: “Football is not a matter of life and death – it’s more important than that.” Sometimes, however, the subject of life and death comes up in sport – for real.

Graeme Smith faced such a moment during his captain’s press conference before the second test match against Pakistan at Newlands in Cape Town on Wednesday.

In the aftermath of a brutal rape, mutilation and murder of a 17-year-old girl in the Western Cape, and the history of violent crime in the country, Vernon Philander ‘Tweeted’ on Wednesday morning for the death penalty to be brought back for rapists and murderers. It was hardly the sort of question the Proteas captain could have prepared for, but he answered it without pause or hesitation: Were issues like that discussed in the change room?

“I would think it does get discussed, yes. Grown men have opinions on different matters in life. We spend a lot of time together whether at dinner, having a drink or in the changing room. People have opinions in all walks of life,” Smith replied.

“Obviously Vernon will have to discuss that opinion with you. I think there has been a lot of campaigning around rape and murder and sorting out the crime in South Africa and, as role models, we want to play our part in putting that right. All of us know our responsibility,” Smith said.

Asked whether the team had limitations or guidelines on what players could Tweet about, Smith replied: “Regulations from ICC, or CSA, mean that obviously we can’t speak on DRS, or umpiring, but when it comes to guys’ opinions on life, their future and their family, and what they believe in the country, I don't see a problem with that.”


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