Come on South Africa. Please, please,
If there is any justice in this world, the
Springboks will annihilate England in the
Rugby World Cup final on Sunday morning and
strike a blow for southern hemisphere
rugby's mad, crazy obsession with providing
a bit of entertainment.
England are in the World Cup final. England
are in the World Cup final. England are in
the World Cup final. You can repeat these
words over and over again, and they still
sound like a crazy nightmare.
Boring and hopeless England are in the World
Cup final ... it doesn't get any better.
How about England are the world champions,
England are the world champions, England are
the world champions. That might be next
week's real live nightmare, featuring a cast
of characters all scoffing at what takes
place in southern hemisphere rugby. How on
earth did this tournament come to such a
Looking on the positive side, if there is
one, it was a great relief to see Argentina
shoved out of the tournament by South
Africa, whose pack was shoved all over the
place by the Puma scrum.
England's semifinal meandering against a
very average French team at least provided a
close and therefore gripping contest, thanks
largely to the brilliant Paris crowd and
But once again, the delights of Argentinian
rugby escaped me, to be honest.
Surely Argentina weren't the darlings of the
tournament, as some made out.
The darlings of sporting world cups are
actually teams like the Ghanian soccer
outfit whose adventure and skill blossoms
from out of impoverished ground.
Mini-me England rugby teams like Argentina
aren't darlings. They are dullards and it's
very difficult to work out why anyone would
think the Sanzar tournaments would be
enhanced by continually flying our players
all the way to Buenos Aires so they can get
mown down by a load of life-sized bowling
balls. It would take years off the players'
careers, not to mention their lives.
Yes, the Pumas face obstacles and don't get
the respect they deserve and blah blah blah
but could there have been a more tragic
Rugby World Cup final than the sight of
Argentinian beef barging into British
bulldog for 80 minutes? It would have been
rugby's answer to barking mad cow disease.
Just imagine. Had that final ended at say
two penalties and three drop kicks all, it
would have led to extra time consisting of
more of the same, followed by the most
appropriate ending of all - a goalkicking
There is actually an even more appropriate
deadlock-breaking system the IRB should
institute, having witnessed the
kick-orientated game plans employed by most
teams at this World Cup.
That would be force back, the one-tactic
schoolyard kicking game in which most of the
combatants are too slow or disinterested to
get involved, and a couple of clever clogs
take over because they can punt the ball a
This World Cup should actually have been
played on a grassy reserve, with a cluster
of feijoa trees at one end, a slippery bank
at the other, with a jungle gym and tuck
shop nearby. The conclusion to all the games
should have been signalled with a bell.
In fact, what is needed in Paris is for a
school kid to run out on to the field during
the final and invent a new World Cup by
picking up the ball and running with it.
So, a tournament of fascinating upsets and
endless kicking is near its end. This final
isn't just a game between two teams we don't
care about, however.
It was an eerie and deeply disturbing
experience being at an English friend's
place on Sunday morning, as Ashton's Army
bludgeoned France with an array of blunt
Never, in a month of Sundays, did I think
the price to pay for a superb English
semifinal breakfast during this World Cup
tournament would be watching a grown man
wriggling on the floor while singing "Swing
low, swing chariot".
What the heck is that song about anyway?
"I can't wait to get to work this week," the
friend announced, positively oozing a
new-found Jonny Wilkinson work ethic as I
swung my chariot at speed out of his drive.
"Must get to work myself," I yelled back,
while catching a glimpse of an over-sized
Union Jack tea mug in the rear vision
mirror. England's march must be brought to a
halt before the world wakes up to find it
has a Sir Brian Ashton in its midst.
For the sake of this final, the Springboks
represent all that is right in rugby, sport,
and the universe, even though in reality
they aren't much more inventive than
Argentina and live off mistakes like a
fourth term politician.
At least the Springboks have an element of
talent in their backline, and when their
halfback Fourie du Preez is on song, it is
hard to recall a better player wearing a
test No 9 jersey. Du Preez and the lineout
king Victor Matfield should be the major
difference between the sides in the final.
Even more importantly than South Africa's
small nod to a running game, they are now
the de facto representatives of New Zealand
and Australian rugby. It's now up to Jake
White and Eddie Jones to set things right on
behalf of Tri-Nations frivolity.
We can't share in South African glory should
they lift the Webb Ellis Trophy for a second
time, but we can sleep a lot easier if they
do. A lot easier.
CHRIS RATTUE |
The NZ Herald | Wednesday, 17 October ,
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