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
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
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
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 -
SuperRugby.co.za | Thursday, 6 September
Comment on this article