Why Krige should captain the Proteas
Reading colleague Dan Retief's column on the unpredictability of sport got me all excited.
It was a reminder that it is entirely possible that when I go to the Newlands
cricket ground next weekend to watch South Africa play against Australia, I
will be witness to a reversal of the misfortune suffered by the Proteas at the
South Africa win by an innings and 300 and something runs in a match that is
all over in three days. Nicky Boje wraps up the second innings after Shaun
Pollock does all the damage in the first. Thanks to Kirsten's double ton and
150 from Kallis, the South Africans only need to bat once.
Ah, per chance to dream. Dan is right when he says sport is unpredictable. But
I don't think it is unpredictable enough for us to realistically contemplate
the above scenario. There again, we couldn't exactly call it unpredictable if
we could predict it, so I suppose anything is still possible. So I will cling
to that dream...
But I hear voices chiding me for digressing onto cricket when for once rugby is
providing us with something more positive to talk about. Let's move from flat
beer to something a little more bubbly. Yes, the first round of the Super 12
did provide a few surprises, almost all of them coming in the matches which
featured South African teams.
And yes, if my superiors would allow me to, I would like to join Dan in
rewriting my pre-tournament column. Sometimes you do need to see the teams play
before you can make a considered prediction.
I would probably still stick with the Crusaders as the eventual winners of the
tournament? But the Brumbies finishing lower than the Sharks? Think again! Even
if the Sharks defeat in Durban was an aberration, I saw enough from the
Brumbies in their 29-19 win over the Queensland Reds to suggest they will be
the same formidable force as last year.
My negative prognosis for them in 2001 was based chiefly on the coach and key
players that they have lost. Eddie Jones, to be sure, will be hard to replace.
And was not Rod Kafer the kernel around which so much of their backplay
But I had forgotten about the usefulness of Pat Howard, who has returned to the
Brumbies as Kafer's direct replacement after a few years overseas. And the
departure of Joe Roff has been offset by the return to fitness of Stirling
Mortlock. As for coach David Nucifora, I saw no difference to the admirable
But it is when we come to the South African teams that perhaps we should have
known better. Based on the progress the Blue Bulls made under Heyneke Meyer in
the last Currie Cup season, not to mention the good showings of the Falcons and
Pumas, there appeared good reason to believe they would extricate themselves
from the bottom of the table.
Yet there were some odd selections in the buildup which should have tempered
our enthusiasm. Why was Danie Rossouw only introduced as a substitute late in
the game? Why was there such a fuss over whether Adi Jacobs, who was the star
of the show for the Bulls last year, should play or not? Did Boeta Wessels
actually train at fullback, or was my impression that he had been hurriedly
thrown the jersey before kick-off the correct one.
And what the heck has Meyer done to Bakkies Botha, who only a few short months
ago was the second row star of the South African A tour overseas.
As for the Cats, a lot of the negativity was based on the absence through
injury of all four of their star international class loose-forwards and the
departure of Johan Ackermann and Japie Mulder.
Not for one moment am I suggesting that based on that one win the Cats are
going to do well, but the Loftus match did provide much needed confirmation
that there are still some pretty useful players in the franchise. They still
have the services of Dean Hall, Louis Koen is the last remaining established
South African place-kicker, Russell Winter is not half bad as a No8, Willie
Meyer provides experience and power in the front row - and then we have the
newcomer Gcobani Bobo.
Because the last mentioned player had only appeared in the Currie Cup before
last Saturday, we had neglected to consider him as a potential matchwinner in
the Super 12.
Which brings me to the Stormers. Allow me to admit - and this is dinkum - that
my private view was always a little different to my published view that the
Stormers would get done by the Sharks (imagine what people would have said
about my Cape bias if I had been bold enough to predict a Stormers win).
Sometimes you need to live in an area and attend training sessions to get a
proper appreciation of a player or team's worth. And while I wrote the Sharks
down as favourites, which of course they should have been in Durban, my line to
friends and colleagues (I have there names and telephone numbers if you want to
verify this) was that the Stormers team as it was constituted for the match was
not a bad one.
The loss of seven Springboks to injury has inspired some negativity about their
overall chances of doing well in the Super 12. But that is because of what
those injuries have done to their depth. At this stage the Stormers do have
enough talented players available to be competitive in the Super 12, it is what
happens when someone like Hottie Louw, Quinton Davids or Corne Krige is added
to the injury list that worries me.
But the main reason I had a feeling that the Stormers might confound a few
people in the Durban match centered on the mood emanating from skipper Corne
Krige and coach Gert Smal in the buildup.
Smal had that same "we know what to expect from the Sharks and we know what to
do to beat them" attitude that he had before two Currie Cup finals. Almost a
sort of matter-of-fact acceptance that he had Rudolf Straeuli and his charges
Krige's mood was similar to the British boxer Frank Bruno's before he fought
Gerrie Coetzee in London in 1985. "I will definitely win," said Bruno to a
television interviewer and then went into the ring and knocked Coetzee out in
Krige was never as outspoken but there was no denying his conviction that if
his team followed the plan correctly, the Stormers would come out on top.
Natalians might understand the type of conviction I am talking about. Craig
Jamieson appeared to have it before that momentous Currie Cup final victory
over Northern Transvaal in 1990, Wynand Claassen had it when his B Section team
shocked Free State in a semi-final in 1984.
If there was any evidence of that sort of conviction in the Proteas leadership
I might venture to Newlands for the second test in hope.
Sadly, the only time I
ever see that attitude in our cricketers is before they play New Zealand in a
limited overs game. Maybe the key to SA cricket's recovery is for the Stormers
to loan Corne to the Proteas for a few games.