Looking at the fixture list for the Super 15 series, the Sharks, like the Stormers, face a rather hectic schedule at the start of the tournament. They play the Cheetahs in Bloem, the Stormers in Durban, the Kings in PE and then the Brumbies, Rebels and Crusaders at Kings Park.
If there is one lesson they should have learnt last year, then it is to get out of the blocks from game one. The old tortoise and hare tale can equally describe their 2012 season. The home games, plus the one in PE, are “must wins”. Starting the season with five out of six wins or better, could make a significant difference to their placing towards the end of the competition. A key element will be the first two matches, both derbies are against sides they had problems with in the recent past.
My colleague, Billy, recently said on Facebook: “If the Cheetahs can manage to play for 80 minutes in every match this season, I promise not to throw tantrums, or chairs, or the dog.” I had to remind him of the referee, which of course led to another discussion, concerning Jonathan Kaplan, who plans to retire at the end of the year. Billy offered to start a trust to help Kaplan buy a guide dog and white cane.
I am a great Kaplan fan. He did the country proud, unlike a number of his counterparts in NZ and Aus who did a lot of harm to the image of impartiality of referees.
Juan Smith’s enforced retirement through injury, is another blow to SA rugby. It must be enormously gratifying to read the tributes following the announcement – respect from opponents for his play as well as his demeanour, says a lot about the man who was first choice when selectors convened to pick the national side. Even at provincial level, his presence lifted the Free State and Cheetahs quite a few notches.
Dan is daar natuurlik ook die hartseer nuus van Jan Ellis, een van die heel grotes in SA rugby, se heengaan. Hy en Piet Greyling het selfs by die magtige All Blacks vrees ingeboesem in die dae toe manne nog taai was van werk en vleis eet, en nie van “gym” en aanvullers nie. En anders as so baie supersterre, wat na hul aftrede bekentenisse maak oor dwelms en dies meer, groet Jan Ellis met ‘n ongeskonde reputasie.
My gunsteling Western is Monte Walsh, geskryf deur Jack Schaeffer, wat ook Shane geskryf het. Monte Walsh se lewensverhaal is dié van ‘n gewone cowboy – nie die “glamour gun slinger” wat so baie ander Westerns probeer uitbeeld het nie. Walsh se groot talent het gelê in sy vermoë om selfs die wildste perd te tem en dan te ry.
Op sy grafskrif het daar bloot gestaan: “He was a good man with a horse.”
Nou wonder ek: Wat behoort op Jan Ellis s’n te staan?
“Hy was ‘n goeie mens?”
Lekker rus, Ou Grote.