Close but no Cigar

This may well be the theme for the Proteas, going forward, unless someone finds a way of teaching them that a series starts with the first game, not the second.

My own views are rather cynical, so I asked my colleague, Bobby Londt, for his impressions:

The game in Port Elizabeth seemed to be all but won when, in true Protea style, they managed to lose this vital clash and, with it, the series. De Villiers will feel a great deal of pressure – arguably one of the best batters in the world, his status as a skipper is not quite the same. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the weakness in the side.

We can, rightly, lay some of the blame on De Villiers, Amla, Duminy etcetera for not having seen it through,  but key in this game was that the Pakistan team got 20 to 30 runs more than they should have. This required a magical knock by De Villiers to get them that close.  

The Proteas squad has great balance in terms of ability, skill, youth, experience and star quality, but it lacks the strategic leadership which defines a killer instinct – something Smith has acquired in test cricket. 

Maybe I am too harsh on AB; I value him as a master batsman with a natural instinct for scoring runs, but as a skipper? Not overly so.   

In our chat we reached consensus that AB’s ability to innovate as a batsman is not necessarily an advantage for his captaincy obligations. We believe, in fact, that it is a handicap in that department where pre-planning is far more vital than spur-of-the-moment, gut-feel instinctive decisions.

How it all began

 It is largely unknown to players and followers of the modern game that rugby started off purely as a contest for forwards opposing each other in line-outs, scrums, rucks and mauls. This pitted eight men of statuesque physique, supreme fitness and superior intelligence in packs against one another. In those days, the winner was the pack that won the most set pieces. The debasement of the game began when backs were introduced.

This occurred because a major problem was where to locate the next scrum or line-out. Selecting positions on the ground for these had become a constant source of friction and even violence. The problem was resolved by employing forward rejects, men of small stature and limited intelligence, to run aimlessly around within the field of play.

Following a set piece, the ball would be thrown to one of them, who would establish the next location either by dropping it or by throwing it to another reject for dropping. Very occasionally, a third reject would receive the ball before it would be dropped, and crowds would cheer wildly on these rare occasions.

Initially these additional players were entirely disorganized but with the passing of time they adopted set positions. For instance, take the half-back. He was usually one of the smallest and least intelligent of the backs whose role was simply to accept the ball from a forward and to pass it on to one of the other rejects who would drop it, providing the new location for the forwards to compete. He could easily (given his general size) have been called a quarter forward or a ball monkey but then tolerance and compassion are the keys to forward play and the present euphemism was decided on.

The five-eighth plays next to the half-back and his role is essentially the same except that when pressured, he usually panics and kicks the ball. Normally, he is somewhat taller and slightly better built than the half-back and hence his name. One-eighth less and he would have been a half-back, three-eighths more and he might well have qualified to become a forward.

The centres were opportunists who had no expertise but wanted to share in the glamour associated with forward packs. After repeated supplication to the forwards for a role in the game they would be told to get out in the middle of the field and wait for instructions. Thus, when asked where they played, they would reply “in the centre”. And they remain to this day, parasites and scroungers who mostly work as lawyers or used car dealers.

You may ask, why wingers? The answer is simple. Because these were players who had very little ability and were the lowest in the backline pecking order, they were placed as far away from the ball as possible. Consequently, and because the inside backs were so diligent in their assigned role of dropping the ball whenever they received it, the main contribution to the game made by the winger was not to get involved. Their instructions were to run away as quickly as possible whenever trouble appeared, and to avoid tackles at all costs. The fact that the game was organised so that the wingers didn’t get to touch the ball led to an incessant flow of complaints from them and eventually the apt description “whingers” was applied. Even though the “h” dropped off over the years, the whingeing itself unfortunately has not.

Lastly, full-back was the position given to the worst handler, the person least able to accept or pass the ball, someone who was always in the way. The name arose because the forwards would understandably become infuriated by the poor play invariably demonstrated by that person, and call out “send that fool back”. He would then be relegated well out of everyone’s way to the rear of the field.

So there you have it. Let’s return to the glory days of a contest between two packs of eight men of statuesque physique, supreme fitness and superior intelligence.

The rest can go off to where they will be happier, playing soccer.

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