Recalling the time when the Boks were simply a bunch of spoilt brats

Last weekend’s rugby Test in Cape Town between the Springboks and All Blacks was one of the most exciting, passionate and talked about in recent matches between the two teams.

Robin Ross Thompson

Okay, so we lost 25-24, which under normal circumstances would have been like a death rattle.

Not a bit of it. It was inspirational, and from a player and supporter point of view one of the best ever between these two teams, especially after the 57-0 drubbing in Auckland three weeks earlier.

So where to now? There’s the end-of-year tour of Ireland, France, Italy and Wales when hopefully some of the injured players, including captain Warren Whitely, will be back in action.

It was 25 years ago that the Springboks returned to international rugby after a decade out in the cold thanks to apartheid. We were pariahs and unwelcome, and a couple of games against our old rugby championship foes didn’t raise hopes that we would set the world alight.

We were beaten by both Australia and New Zealand before we set off for Europe where thankfully in our first Test against the French, we held on to a 20-15 win.

But all was not well. There was a lot of bitchiness and moaning in the Bok camp. They were described as a bunch of whiners. Life on the road got to them and they complained that a three-hour drive through France was “tiring”.

When they arrived at the other end they found they’d been booked into a second-rate hotel.

“It’s a dump,” they cried, and the Chiel replied sarcastically: Only the best for our Boks; five-star treatment, nothing less.

Another was that they were having to move hotels every three days. So what! Plenty of time to unpack and settle down.

Even tourists spend less time in one place when touring. As for the food, they complained of “prawns, prawns and more prawns”. Hell, they should be so lucky. It showed their pleb tastes; only pap and wors for them! And the weather was foul. What else did they expect in Europe in October? Sunny skies and tanning.

Their rugby wasn’t up to much either. It was the ref’s fault, it was the linesman’s fault … No wonder they were not playing the type of rugby we back in South Africa were expecting. They spent too much time griping. They’d gone soft. Moaner van Heerden would have nothing on them.

But take note, the Chiel wrote … No mention of French wine and mademoiselles. Perhaps those were okay. These Springboks were whiners and perhaps winers too. They’d forgotten how to play good rugby; they were a bunch of ninnies. Tough words indeed.

Come on chaps, toughen up, get on with it and play the game instead of whingeing at every turn, it was said.

Well, that wasn’t the last of it and a few weeks later when the tour was completed, the Chiel wrote a letter to Bok captain, Naas Botha.

Dear Naas,

I agree with you that the tour from a win/lose point of view was not a failure. You won eight and lost five which by most standards is pretty fair especially as your players have had so little international rugby contact over the past 10 years. The Boks are on a learning curve and surely will come right.

However, from a diplomatic and sporting point of view, the tour, especially of France, was an abject failure. Unfortunately, for me anyway, the lingering memory of matches seen on television will be of you and your team arguing with the referee, throwing arms in the air in exasperation at another penalty given, fighting among the players, petulance, tantrums, niggles, elbows and knees going in during tackles and being bad losers.

This is not the thing we would like to have our sportsmen known for. Granted, the team may have been under extreme provocation at times by the “gamesmanship” of opponents, but they must learn to take the rough with the smooth.

Perhaps that will come with more experience when they understand that retaliation is what their opponents wanted the Boks to do. Tempers need to be kept in check and referees’ decisions accepted and then South Africa will be proud of their Boks.

Off the field the tour seems to have been a disaster too. Anyway, as you said, from a result point of view the tour was not a failure, but in terms of sportsmanship and manners, it certainly was.

Kind regards and peace and quiet in your retirement; you need it.

The Chiel.

And now for Europe. Let’s see what our “new” Boks are capable of. Viva Bokke Bokke. Viva! – robinrosst@gmail.com

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