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The long and winding road

Jake White was upbeat about the fortunes of the Sharks over the next few weeks after his side thrashed a willing Stormers team on Saturday. With limited possession, they managed to score the points that were on offer, and resisted the temptation of trying to achieve the almost impossible margins required to end second on the log.

An interesting point White makes is that the Sharks will only have to travel once after brushing off the Highlanders. This can of course be interpreted in two ways, but let’s stick to what he meant to say. They will not have to travel back to South Africa, after they beat the Crusaders – it’s just a short hop across the Tasman Sea to polish off the Waratahs, and then home to celebrate. This is not quite what White said, but how I choose to interpret it.

Over-used and much abused

The above title, from a Janis Ian song, may well apply to a problem in SA rugby which is taking on epidemic proportions.

Gary Teichman expressed grave concerns about the demands made on top local players. The long list of injuries is a symptom of a system that is going from bad to worse.

Jake White was forced to rest some of his top players for the play-offs, and ended up being beaten by the Cheetahs. He is now satisfied that it was the right thing to do, but in the process, faces a far steeper hill than he would have preferred.

A major contributor to the problem is the growing number of players who ply their trade off-shore. This increases the demand on those who elect to play here, as there are only a limited number of top players, and for the team to perform, they cannot be rested. In New Zealand they can afford six month sabbaticals for the likes of Carter and McCaw , and still perform well.

Players who choose “softer” options, like Fourie du Preez, extend their shelf life by a few years. Given the limited time span in which a rugby player can accumulate a pension, it makes sense that they do so.

The exodus of top players is turning into a domino effect, and needs to be curbed, but how? I do not have the answer, but I believe the top rugby brains need to make this their top priority if we are to remain a force in world rugby.

The Boys are Back in Town

The historic series victory by the Proteas in Sri Lanka is important for a number of reasons.

The most important one for me is the number of newer kids on the block who emerged from the ones given the chance to prove their worth. Ryan McLaren was the pick of the bunch, while young Quentin de Kock emphasised his value to the team at crunch time.

Sadly, Jacques Kallis failed in all three innings, and was unable to bowl as well. This may well be the end of the road for the finest ever cricketer in South Africa’s history, but I hope not. I still think that he will be the Victor Matfield of our national cricket side when they endeavour to lift the elusive World Cup Trophy next year in Australasia.

Soccer World Cup 2014

It takes a special event to keep me up after twelve on a Sunday night. The Soccer World Cup final was a fitting tribute to this event, and the final goal as good as the first one scored by Robin van Persie for the Netherlands against Spain. The actual first one, an “own goal”, does of course not rate anywhere in the rankings as far as achievements are concerned.

I loved this comment in the Guardian after Germany’s World Cup semi-final clash with Brazil. This was a big night for BBC sport – and its team generally did a creditable job of avoiding crass wartime analogies in describing the winners. However, several BBC viewers complained on Twitter after commentator Steve Wilson referred to German fans singing “Deutschland über alles” – not part of the country’s national anthem since the end of the second world war, and a matter of some sensitivity.

The response from the commentator was callous, if nothing else:

If I upset anyone with my mistake on the German anthem, of course I apologise.

Perhaps he should concentrate on cricket until the Germans decide to extend their sporting achievements to this sport.

You can read more about the German anthem by clicking here.

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