The softest part of these okes was their teeth
In the old days the game was simpler, better, faster
The hardest bastard yet to pull a Springbok jersey over his head walks into a Cape Town café. This is not a joke.
His right eye is ringed by swollen, blue-black bruised skin. He seems to have acquired a limp, which is apparent as he takes up a table with a man who has red and yellow tattoos of flames licking up his neck.
Flame fella: “Jirre, it took three of us to f**k him up, hey.”
Former Springbok: “And all for 120K. I mean, I know for a fact that he put 2.3-million down on another deal. So why don’t you just pay the 120K?
“And those cars he gives away! They aren’t even his to give away. I said to him: ‘China, my brothers are asking me where the money is. This looks bad, hey’.
“But, jissus, he’s broken now.”
Other fella: “What if he doesn’t pay again?”
Former Bok: “Then we’ll have to moer him again. I promise you, I will make that man kiss your feet. He will call you sir.”They don’t make rugby players like that anymore, which is probably a good thing. Thing is, they also don’t make rugby like they used to.
Years ago the same player burgled a late try to snatch an improbable victory over the All Blacks.
Up in the pressbox we hurried through changes to reports that had all but declared New Zealand the winners even as celebrating South Africans made the stadium shake from its foundations to its floodlights.
Would the place remain in one piece? Happily it did. But other questions swirled, and they remain unanswered.
How had the player not knocked on? Had he even touched the ball?
When something similar happens now everything stops and we are condemned to endure the purgatory of slow-motion replay after slow-motion replay that somehow must help a hapless official stuck in front of a television monitor distinguish between the ball and a player’s invariably equally pale, just as bulbous knee.
All those years ago all we had was the referee and all he had was a quick look at the touch judge, and in a flash the Boks had a try they probably didn’t score. And here some of us are with a priceless memory of that magical moment.Good luck trying to think of a moment made magical by the methodical plodding of a TV ref.
The importance of right and wrong? That’s philosophy, not sport — which if it isn’t dramatic is boring.
This is not about nostalgia. It’s about when rugby was a simpler, better, faster game. When a ruck was a ruck and a maul was a maul and we didn’t need a miked-up official to tell us the difference.
Remember scrums? They haven’t been seen for decades.
Proper scrums, that is, when front rows line up, feel their locks’ shoulders connect with that special spot where butt meets thigh, and crash into likeminded opponents. And the loose forwards hang on for all their worth.Take it from someone who was, in a galaxy, far, far away, a tighthead: the trickiest part of scrumming is avoiding a clash of heads with someone in the front row opposite. That and making sure, when your lock puts his hand between your legs, he latches onto the waistband of your shorts and nothing else.
The rest comes down to technique, competitive instinct and strength, strictly in that order.
There was none of this clumsy choreography to the tune of “Crouch! Bind! Set!”, which sounds like instructions for putting a bowl of jelly into the fridge.
You need to scrum? Get on with it: scrum already.
Part of why the game that used to be rugby has fallen victim to nanny stateism is that players are no longer built on a human scale.
The steroid-smacked behemoths who thunder around the field these days could kill one another by flexing their triceps at close quarters. They need the help of a referee, armed with Pavlovian powers, just to stay alive.
That’s not to say everything about the game has changed for the worse.
Modern tactical kicking is so accurate it looks like the ball is being dropped by drones at points predetermined on a map.
It resembles nothing like the result of a weirdly shaped object being met, briefly and brutally, by the even more weirdly shaped human foot.Lineouts have become ballet in boots with players pirouetting hither and thither until the ball is precision delivered to the anointed receiver.
Back in the day hookers threw to Nos 2, 4 or 8 and no one else, and hoped like hell the ball would get within a metre, give or take, of hitting the target.
Once every other season some atheist hooker would think it a good idea to fire a short, flat throw at the prop standing at the front of the lineout. Usually the prop had been forewarned, but when they were caught short the comedy was classic.
Tightheads in particular used to have the catching skills of a drunk sloth because they had been drilled to never so much as think about the ball.
As a prop you always played the man, and only the man. The ball? There was no ball. It didn’t exist.
Here you go: catch what doesn’t exist.
And who knows how much money in unpaid debts would be enough for today’s players to hand out a beating.
Considering Japan and Toulon fullback Ayumu Goromaru earned R14.4-million before endorsements and bonuses in 2017, a piddling R2.3-million — never mind R120,000 — doesn’t seem nearly enough.