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Shades of XV play

SuperWrap 1, 2017

“There's a very fine line between pleasure and pain. They are two sides of the same coin, one not existing without the other.”

You’d be forgiven if you think that quote came from a South African Super Rugby coach reflecting on an opening round loss. It most definitely does not.

I’ll tell you where it comes from, but first I’ll tell you this: if you recognise those words you have no business reading this column.

This here is the SuperWrap; our ultra-serious, in-depth analysis of what happened on the rugby fields of our hemisphere the previous weekend. So frowns on, please.

With that warning out of the way, let’s get back to that quote. It comes from a book called “50 Shades of Grey”, which –surprisingly - is not about famous rugby players from the Kollege in Bloemfontein.

Now, I’ve never read the book myself (why would a sensible man do that when there are classics like Danie Craven’s “Rugby Handbook” to re-read?) but I did once mistakenly click on the movie while I was switching between sports channels.

I only caught glimpses of the thing, but you don’t have to see much to deduce the gist. It’s about a fancy-pants millionaire who likes to treat his women like a jockey does a lazy racehorse.

You won’t believe all the things I saw in that brief moment. Suffice it to say that one of the surest ways to see for yourself what the inside of a police van looks like is to try any one of Christian Grey’s tricks after a couple of brandies and with your Lions jersey on.

I never read the book, but I saw enough to know that the story may as well have been about what it feels like to be a South African rugby fan.

Generally I am not the sort of person that goes around calling other people names, but I’m going to make an exception here. You are Anastasia Steele. We all are.

Just like the heroine in that warm and fluffy love story, we all like to suffer through a whole lot of pain in search of pleasure.

Barely three months ago we all reached the point where we had thrown a brick through the TV screen, had entire sports sections ripped out of the newspaper before we started reading the rest, and our children banned from ever kicking a rugby ball in the backyard again. Gatvol!

But time, the great healer, would have nothing of it. Absence, the grower of fond hearts, wouldn’t either.

When the Cheetahs and the Lions kicked off local action on Saturday afternoon we were all chained in front of the screens, ready to be whipped. And it was torture, especially if you were a Bulls fan. But we loved every second of it.

Now, instead of bricks, we have kickoff reminders on our TVs. Rugby news is all we read (you’re reading this after all). The kids outside are kicking like startled ostriches. Hopeful!

What is wrong with you, Miss Steele?

“Stockholm Syndrome,” a learned friend suggested, but Wikipedia failed to adequately explain how that would make me put six beers on ice and light a Kuga-sized fire in anticipation of the pain I am about to receive.

“Habit,” said another, except no one gets that excited about something they’re doing just because they are used to doing it. Do you invite all your friends over just so that they can watch you light a cigarette?

I think the answer lies in the word context. Subconsciously we realise that winning loses all meaning if there is no such thing as losing. As sports fans we embrace bad times because we know there can’t be good times without it.

Maybe there is something in Grey’s coin analogy after all.

I don’t know if the team you support won or lost this weekend, but I’m pretty sure that you – like me – enjoyed seeing them back on our screens again.

None of our teams looked like world-beaters in the opening round, but hope springs eternal in the heart of any sports fan. Even if we can’t understand why.

This will be another year of ups and downs, no matter who you support. Here at the Wrap desk we can’t wait to share that journey with you.

The one thing I can guarantee you about our teams is that they will do everything in their power to keep us entertained. We just have to give them the chance. Even if it hurts a little sometimes.

Or as Miss Steele once described it:

“I still want more," I whisper. "I know," he says. "I'll try." I blink up at him, and he relinquishes my hand and pulls at my chin, releasing my trapped lip. "For you, Anastasia, I will try.”

Here is our SA team of the week, based only on this past weekend’s performances.

Bok Barometer for week one:
15. SP Marais (Stormers), 14. Makazole Mapimpi (Kings), 13. Nico Lee (Cheetahs), 12. Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Lions), 11. Jamba Ulengo (Bulls), 10. Fred Zeilinga (Cheetahs), 9. Cobus Reinach (Sharks), 8. Hanro Liebenberg (Bulls), 7. Siya Kolisi (Stormers), 6. Ruan Ackermann (Lions), 5. Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), 3. Wilco Louw (Stormers), 2. Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), 1. JC Janse van Rensburg (Stormers).

Top tries:

Here is a collection of the best tries scored during Round One of this year’s tournament:

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AB in his bonnet

Seems AB doesn't know what to do with all that IPL money.


Not many shades of orange

Seriously, where were you on Saturday Bloemfontein?


Stormers in a Mr T cup

Good thing the Stormers took pity after halftime.


A Savea hiding

Best way to tackle him? Don't.

White-line fever

If James O’Connor was looking for some sympathy after his recent arrest for cocaine in Paris, he certainly wasn’t going to get it back in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald referred to O’Connor as a “sad footnote” of rugby and reminded us all of the many, many failings that he and his fellow young guns – once the future hope of Australian rugby – Kurtley Beale, Quade 'No, seriously I can box' Cooper and O’Connor – have inflicted on Australian rugby over the years.

The number of scandals – many in particular happening in South Africa – of these three players is well-documented, and shows a dangerous part of rugby of talent wasted.

There have been casualties – Wallaby coach Ewen McKenzie fell on his sword because of these players antics and O’Connor’s recent brush with the law will leave another paragraph in a career that promised so much but hasn’t always delivered.

As the SMH rightly points out, O’Connor needs to own his choices and not cry foul every time these things happen.

“Maybe O'Connor decided three years ago he didn't care if he ever played again to his potential, or in an Australian jersey. Maybe he wants to live the good life - big nights out, big holidays, big haircuts - and that's what his talent will pay for until it won't anymore,” the paper wrote.

“No worries. Good luck to him. There's nothing more liberating than being honest with yourself, which often allows you to be honest with those around you, and there are few characters better to write about in sport than those few, honest characters.

“Just spare us the tell-alls next time you want a contract, James. And at the age of 26, almost a decade into your professional career, spare us these lines:

"No one taught me how to cope, how to act in this environment. I came straight out of school, I wasn't the best student, just wanting to play rugby. I wasn't planning to be anyone's role model."

“Own your choices now, because you will surely have to own them in 10 years' time when the money has dried up and the peroxide has taken its toll on your hair follicles.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Drop the mic . . . please

We made our first acquaintance with Bloemfontein’s new stadium announcer this last week whose voice has more than just a passing resemblance to SuperSport pundit and former Bok Breyton Paulse.

But the man’s game-day performance left a lot to be desired, as he stumbled his way through the game with little knowledge of the players or their actions on the field.

“That was a try to……number 12,” he would rattle off, then silence for a minute, and then a very slow reading of “Rohaaan Janse van Rensburg” as if he had picked up the name from a Chinese fortune cookie with small print.

Everyone has a bad day at the office, but we hope he will learn the names of the players in the game a bit quicker to help those who turn up at the stadium.

The Italian Job

Of course the big news on everyone’s lips was Eddie “Moans” fuming at being out-coached by Italy's Conor O’Shea and Brendan Venter this past weekend with the liberal use of the ruck laws and flouting the offside line.

While there was nothing wrong with it, Eddie – being Eddie – couldn’t control his rant, telling fans to 'ask for their money back' and compared it to the underarm bowling action of Trevor Chappell.

But we believe the real reason is that Eddie didn’t think of it first.

The best response we saw was Ben Ryan – Fiji’s Olympic winning coach and now Welsh consultant – that said it all. “I am flabbergasted with Eddie Jones’s reaction to it. It is called coaching, Eddie,” Ryan told The Times.

“He is being quite rude to people, fellow coaches who outmanoeuvred him. Good on Italy. We haven’t seen England doing anything different at all.”

He added: “It is so easy (to counter). You either make sure there is an Italian in the breakdown, so it has to be called a ruck, or you run straight through the middle, where there is a hole. Then you have the advantage against a retreating defence.”

Hey but don’t tell that to Eddie, who is still on a high after all the praise from the English press over the past few months. He isn’t a man who likes being upstaged.

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