category: rugby news

Can history repeat itself?

Dan Retief6/9/07

As if the inspirational audience with Nelson Mandela, arguably the greatest South African of all time, was not enough Springbok coach Jake White has another surprise up his sleeve to motivate his men.
White has invited Morné du Plessis, South Africa’s most successful rugby captain and the man who managed the World Cup-winning side in 1995, to present the players’ their jerseys on Saturday ahead of their opening match against Samoa at the Parc des Princes on Sunday.

Du Plessis, a respected figure in the game whose clever touches of leadership have become legendary, was a key influence in 1995 and White is hoping he will be able to inflame the class of 2007 with the fervour and self-belief that carried Francois Pienaar’s men to victory.

And if that doesn’t do it for the Boks, the least they can do is reward the wonderful welcome they have been given – especially by the good folk of Noissy le Grande; a pristine township north of the aptly-named périphérique ring road that encircles Paris.

The Springbok training ground has been at the Stade Alain Mimoud in the village and the townsfolk have responded by adopting what they termed L’Effet Springbok - literally the Springbok effect – to welcome the South Africans.

The town has been bedecked by South African rainbow flags wishing the Boks bienvenue (welcome), the field at the stadium re-laid with manicured new lawn and the club rooms decorated with Ndebele murals.

It was odd, against this backdrop, to see the Boks in navy blue training kit and dropping passes that drew whistles from the many rugby-loving kids brought up to handle the ball but all was forgiven when the players strolled over to hand out autographs and be photographed.

France is truly in the grip of World Cup fever with whole buildings ‘wrapped’ in striking friezes, banners fluttering around some of the most recognizable monuments in the world and bars and cafes offering some or other le rugby special.

Millions of words have already been written or spoken with dispatches coming in from every corner of the land – the All Blacks holed up in Marseille, the Wallabies lurking in Montpellier and the English in the opulent surrounds of Versailles.

For those of us in media the first week has been a bit of a blur; learning to decipher the sinuous routes of the Metro or honed in on the GPRS as we maneuvered left-hand drive vehicles around chaotic roads and circles.

However, not too busy to garner some snippets to make up a diary. Here are just a few:

Best nickname: Spotting the wild man in the French team, Sébastien Chabal being described as l’homme des cavernes! Incidentally the wild-haired bearded one is also known as the "the anesthetist" for the way he knocks out opponents.

Rugby culture: A Paris museum, the Quai Branly, where Jean-Pierre Rives showed off his weird metal sculptures and hosted 19 of the 20 captains, is displaying rugby’s ties to former colonial empires and the borrowing of tribal customs. Philosophie Magazine pontificated on the meaning of violence in rugby. "General fights can exist, but the violence is tamed," a philosophy professor. Catherine Kintzler, said. "In soccer, because violence is forbidden and suppressed on the field, it re-emerges at times among the players or among the spectators." Haven’t we been saying that for years!

Presidential pardon? President Nicolas Sarkozy, an avid soccer fan, is said to be studying up on rugby facts and culture, and plans to attend as many rugby-themed events as possible.

The ultimate in chic: The fashion and perfume house of Chanel is selling a limited-edition rugby ball made of its trademark quilted leather – a mere snip at €2,000 or $2,700.

Fashion police: World Cup match officials are to launch a clampdown on players wearing excessive padding. “Several teams are wearing what can only be described as American Footbal garb,” warned Paddy O’Brien, the IRB’s referee manager. “We are going to inspect the players’ clothing in the dressing room and also when players are on the field after the anthems.” Hope it doesn’t include Victor’s famous bionic forearm!

Feet of clay? The English. First it was David Beckham, then Looney Rooney, then Andrew Flintoff and now Jonny Wilkinson who just don’t seem to have a foot to stand on! Anyhow, if you didn’t know it before, you can tell your friends that Jonny is suffering from a strained anterior talofibular ligament in his ankle.

Chasing up spooks: The Welsh have become so concerned about spies deciphering their moves during practices that they have decided to call their lineouts in Welsh. It goes something like this. “Gad i ni daflu fe i’r dyn mawr yn y lein,” is said by The Guardian to mean, “let’s throw it to the big bloke in the middle of the lineout.” Of course we have no way of knowing whether that is the equivalent of “manne as ek die woord gee dan bliksem ons hulle!”

Enjoy the rugby.

DAN RETIEF - | Thursday, 6 September 2007 | Comment on this article

Dan Retief

The Jonny Factor 17/10/07
Time of the Galácticos 23/9/07
Average JO must go 17/9/07
Can history repeat itself? 6/9/07
Who will win the World Cup? 22/8/07
The spy in from the Reds 31/7/07
Painting it All Black 24/7/07

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