An elephant on a tricycle!
When we were informed late last year about the break in the Super Rugby season after week 15, the thought of respite from the intensely focused week-by-week preparation and a possible brief holiday was welcomed by the players.
But if we knew then what we know now, we wouldn’t have been as enthusiastic. For those of us so unfortunate as to be injured, we’ve been reminded that rehab is boring and monotonous, but right now we’re probably in a preferable position to the players who are training incredibly hard.
The demands being made by our conditioning coaches on the players are a necessity but enormously tough. Regardless of the pain they are going through, I would rather be out there sweating and suffering with them. As American sportsmen say, ‘rehab ain’t no fun.’
While fitness work is always rough, it does help bring a team together – united in pain as it were. It's like Algebra; if it's easy, you're doing it wrong.
It’s great to see our stalwart loose-forward Pieter Louw back at the HPC. During Pieter's first 1,6km, which is five laps around the field, he was running impressively well and he even started sprinting on the final straight to end in the top three. The problem was that Pieter miscounted his laps and actually had another lap to go. His feeling of elation at ‘finishing’ immediately filled with one of excruciating disappointment at having to run another lap.
Rugby players all over South Africa would have envied Francois Hougaard being awarded a sponsored Audi R8 by the Daytona group in Johannesburg.
Except for Peter Grant that is. His sponsors organised a gem of a car for him too. It’s not as sporty or fast as Francois’s ride and doesn't cost quite as much, but what Peter’s Mini-Cooper does offer (which Hougie’s R8 doesn't), is to show he’s not just a tough macho-man. I think Bashie is trying to show the world that he does have a feminine side.
Of course, Bash in a Mini-Cooper still looks a bit more comfortable than Juan de Jongh in his Amarok and a whole lot more comfortable than Quinn Roux in his Golf 5. At the wheel of his Amarok, Juan looks like a 15-year-old driving dad's bakkie, as he has to peer between the dashboard and the top of the steering wheel. And Quinn Roux in a Golf 5 looks, we reckon, similar to an elephant on a tricycle!
Quinn is a big lad. We went to the Armoury Boxing Academy on Wednesday and Quinn was immediately offered a boxing contract – genuinely!
A few of us attended the Western Province Schools’ colours’ ceremony. I enjoyed being there, as I remember when I was a schoolboy not all that long ago how much I appreciated the Stormers’ players being present. I stayed until the end, enjoying chatting with the players and their parents. I couldn't believe the size of the schoolboys.
A highlight of the evening was Dewaldt Duvenage's phone ringing halfway through a very serious address by our new president, Thelo Wakefield. Dewies went blood red, and the fact that he had Rihanna or Usher (I’m happy to say I didn’t recognise the singer) as his ringtone made it even worse. He couldn't turn it off because he was too rattled, possibly due to the fact that most of the WP under-13 players are bigger than him. He ended up standing under a table so that no one could see him.
Heyneke Meyer has selected the strongest Springbok team he has available despite having already won the series. He doesn’t want the Springbok jersey to be cheapened, which I think is good for South African rugby, as it makes the achievement of gaining national colours even more substantial. It doesn't look like there will be any B teams selected during his tenure.
We are all delighted for Gio Aplon that he will be starting on Saturday. I hope he has the opportunity to do what he does best – counter attack and break defensive lines.
The way in which the Springboks started the game on Saturday would have given them plenty of confidence, as they now know what they are capable of when they turn it on. If they can play for 80 minutes with last week’s first half intensity and the early-match accuracy of execution, they could deliver a spectacular performance.
My only real concern would be that the players’ bodies are feeling the ongoing physical onslaught of the season. Having to field our third fullback in as many weeks, and being without a few other first-choice players, is a reflection of just how demanding the long season is on the guys’ bodies.
I remain confident though that the Springboks will have the firepower to beat England again on Saturday. It’s a new team under a new coach but reports from friends in the Bok camp are that they are already drawing closely together and becoming a tight unit.
How nice to see Jean de Villiers’s appointment as Bok captain extended from the series to the full year – he’ll do South Africa proud, as he’s done for the Stormers.
I thought Francois Hougaard was superb last week, especially after the amount of criticism he received the previous week. The pressure put on players by the media can really get to them mentally, and with Hougie receiving an R8 in the week leading up to the test, the pressure would have been amplified. He silenced his critics with a brilliant performance.
Feel free to add a comment or question below and I’ll tackle the most interesting ones ahead of the final test.