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Animal Farm


Admittedly, my columns have taken on the trend of my on-field appearances this season - few and far between - and I apologise for both, but lately I’ve experienced some semblance of consistency in this regard for the first time in 2012, and hopefully the columns will follow that lead as we head into these last couple of Super weeks...

What is more, I actually met and instantly admired a human female – one who doesn’t mind spending extended periods of time with me either, and indeed, this new-found phenomenon has had a serious impact on a simple concept that I like to call “time on hand”.

Nevertheless, this beautiful specimen with codename “Freebird” is a welcome addition after three years of eligible bachelorhood and having another person to play for makes the glorious game Rugby go down even better.

Then again, Zsa Zsa - the Bulldog female that I’ve had to settle playing for in previous years, doesn’t seem as enthusiastic as I am about my new relationship. I suspect it’s a case of jealousy about the pet name “Freebird”, probably since, if she were to be likened to other animals, it would be the fat ones.

Speaking of animals - there was a pretty decent exhibition in the mother of all zoos on Saturday as the Cheetahs visited us at Loftus. I’d rather die than use the utterly profound rugby cliché, “a game of two halves”, but it was a pretty weird game to be a part of.

Well, there was nothing weird about the first sixty. We enjoyed ascendancy in all the important facets of play, and there was some really good footy being played. I’ll be the first to admit that most of our processes worked really well for us, and I’ve been a part of matches where the spilt ball after the high bomb bounces into their speedy winger’s hands as opposed to your fullback’s, but that wasn’t the case on the weekend.

We forced many turnovers and, incidentally, one of the tries of the season came from one of those at ruck time. Bjorn Basson, take a bow. It’s in those kinds of moments where someone’s individual brilliance makes me feel like a kid again.

Then the weirdness came. Our 40 unanswered points were answered with 24 unanswered Cheetah ones, and for brief moments it felt like they could turn everything into gold, which, like we all know, they can.

Many people will point at the fact that we made several changes on the hour that might have hampered our rhythm, but let me assure you the subs were definitely not to blame. If anything, our lead was to blame, but not because we took our foot off the pedal. Admittedly, there were some forgettable missed tackles in the last couple of minutes, and we definitely won’t be looking to acquit ourselves.

The mistake we made was to send the bulk of our second lineup into the first line of defence, having preconceptions that the Cheetahs would run everything out of their half - the idea being to really put them under pressure. They did, but Sias Ebersohn used some deft touches that caught us with our rugby shorts down, and we ended up huddling under our poles four times.

If anything, it was the Cheetahs’ subs that swayed the rhythm.

Despite everything, it will remain one of those games I’ll remember for a while. First and foremost, coach Frans Ludeke produced one of those Lombardi-esque pre-match talks you don’t hear of every day. I’ve never been a big believer in pre-game rants and raves - if anything I’m an adherent of self-motivation. Those pre-game chats only last about five minutes into the game, up until the point where some burly Maori ace bludgeons you from left field and you forget your mother’s name. This one lasted about 60 minutes, I would say.

Another thing to stand out for me was the beauty of the game Rugby.

The difference between being the team that scores 40 unanswered points and the team that leaks them lies in the smallest percentage of detail and commitment. It’s uncanny - you’re never far away from being at your best, but you’re never far from losing it either.

Lastly, it was such a pleasure being on the field with my good friend and high school mate Jacques Potgieter for the first time since our first and only time way back in the Currie Cup of 2011. I felt like we had a pretty decent maiden voyage in Super Rugby. The game was pretty physical, which suits our playing style.

I broke the record for the most tackles ever in a Bulls game (I made 28 according to Technical Adviser Johann van Graan, but I suspect it includes double, triple, quadruple and quintuple hits). I also suspect that Jacques will be gunning for it in the next couple of weeks, and if there’s one guy that can break it, it’s him.

I was really happy for him after he made his debut for the Boks against England in our hometown Port Elizabeth. He played well, but I wasn’t too impressed with the handful of my hometown folk after they booed one of our own players. It is such a great place to play rugby, and that’s probably not the best way to secure future test-match fixtures. Since I’m an ex-Daniel Pienaar THS boy hailing from Uitenhage, I’m inclined, due to past experience, to believe that those people were from Despatch.

So between the Freebird, the fat beached whale disguised as a Bulldog, the Cheetahs and the animals of Despatch, it’s been a pretty wild couple of weeks, but I’ve enjoyed every moment of it.

This week, the Animal Farm heads down to the harsh waters of Durban where another breed of animal thrives. For some reason a Bulls v Sharks game is never just a game. There always seems to be so much riding on it. Then again, I guess neither team would have it any other way.

Hope you enjoy it.


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