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Conversions and catch-ups


After a few weeks in England, I am growing more accustomed to the terminology and the way people do things here. I am becoming better at multiplying by 1.6 to convert kilometres into miles and I’m disappointed that the multiplication table at prep school failed to go beyond 12. They would have saved us South Africans a lot of trouble if they had ingrained it in us up to 14, so that converting from Pounds to Rands could be done in a flash. But maybe it's a good thing, because the constant currency conversion can be highly disconcerting.

I have recently realised that the term 'cheers' here does not mean 'goodbye' as it does back home. In fact, it means 'thanks'. So I must have confused a lot of people in the last few weeks, thanking them when I leave even though they haven't really done anything. It explains a few confused looks I've been getting.

It is getting colder every week and the other night I got into bed and my feet stubbornly refused to get warm, so I put on a pair of socks to defrost them. Ten minutes later it just felt like the socks were getting colder and not my feet warmer. So there I was at 11pm, sitting next to the bath with my feet in warm water, imagining how much more the 'bzzzzzz' sound of a mosquito at home used to annoy me. I'll take cold feet over that…

Bath achieved an awesome result on Friday evening by beating the top of the table Harlequins. This has put us into seventh position on the Premiership log, despite being only five points behind the leaders. It is really close, and any of the 12 teams can beat any other team on a given day, which makes it exciting to follow. We will be boosted with a few internationals returning this weekend, François Louw being one of them. Flouw makes a big difference to the team’s performance.

News from the Stormers camp is that their pre-season is under way and they did the 1.6km time-trial test a few days ago. De Kock Steenkamp reckons that after two laps and with two laps to go, he felt like he was running in a long tunnel with a tiny speck of light at the end of the dark tunnel, but it just wasn't getting any closer.

On a serious note, the Currie Cup victory must have boosted the motivation and belief so much, and now that the players have tasted it, there should be a few more trophies going to the Cape in the next few years.

Watching the Springboks play against England at Twickenham was an awesome experience. I drove up with Michael Claassens and his wife Helen, and we met up with cousins of Butch James. I don't know Butch very well, but I have heard some awesome stories and after meeting his cousins, I now see the effect his gene pool has had on his ability to make people laugh.

We went to a pub just outside Twickenham called the Cabbage Patch before the game and had a great time there. I met up with some family and friends before the game, and could sense the excitement all round.

Twickenham is a massive stadium. The crowd were not as loud as I expected because I think the sound gets lost in the sheer size of the place. But the passion and love of rugby was evident throughout, and the only disappointment of the day was the burgers I had before the big match. There is one thing those burgers certainly weren't, and that's beef. From which animal they originated I’d hesitate to guess, but I was compelled to concentrate very hard on the rugby to force my hunger pangs to dissipate.

I thought the Boks did well to secure the win even though England had the upper hand in terms of possession and line breaks. I thought England's kicking game didn't do much to trouble the Boks at all.

Watching a test match live is so different from watching it on the telly. You see the whole picture, where the space is on attack and how the guys are working off the ball. There was so little space for either team on Saturday, and the margins were so small that where there were gaps, they closed before you could blink. The risk of getting isolated in test match rugby makes off-the-cuff decisions a gamble.

I woke up on Sunday morning at 10am and my friend was still sleeping, so I went to a coffee shop and proceeded to spill an entire cup of extra-large coffee on my trousers. At least the embarrassment was temporary and the newly purchased dose of caffeine a welcome start to the morning, but I reeked terribly of coffee until getting home for a shower and change of clothes that evening!

I then realised after speaking to Jean de Villiers that their hotel was only a ten minute walk from where I was staying. I went to say hi to the boys, most of whom looked exhausted, whether from the game or the post-match celebrations I don’t know, but it is the conclusion of what has been a long, demanding, tough season with little respite from physical and emotional pressure. JDV has played 31 games this year – captain in each of them, which adds to the pressure – and has not been taken off the field. He and his Bok teammates deserve a good break.

I saw Juan de Jongh briefly. He greeted me with his famous welcome: ''Boooooykieeee'', with a massive smile on his face. They had two hours before they had to be at the airport, and he was buying WiFi. I don't know if he thought he could take it home to give to his girlfriend Meggie as a present, but I was perplexed by the whole scenario. It would be interesting to know if Meggie or Gio picked him up from the airport.

We play Leicester this weekend at Watford Road. The plan is for me to play next weekend against an Italian side in the Amlin Cup. After a few months on the sidelines, the coaches have chosen to introduce me slowly and against opposition that is not too tough. I guess that's the sensible thing, but I am just so keen to get out there and play now. Try to imagine how exciting it must be! It is somewhat daunting too, but the excitement of it all will take over when the moment presents itself.

I guess with the South African rugby season now done, the SuperSport website may take a backward step in your list of weekly priorities, but keep browsing it once a week at least to have a look at what's happening here in England. I will keep writing about my experience of British life and my return to the paddock will be well documented. Keep the comments coming!


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