Retiring after thirty years in the same job is scary. Establishing a routine for life is much harder than it sounds. Being a radio host means you are, to an extent, institutionalised.
Regardless of your slot, it dictates the routine. Everything dances around that time and, of course, the regular cheques come in and grow larger if you progress to the vital drive time shows. After you retire you have to plan your day. Sometimes it is hectic, sometimes less so. You discover a laziness that you never suspected. Having got up at 2:15 for seventeen years, sometimes getting out of the scratcher at 9:00 seems impossible. It has been a strange and challenging year and it has flown by.
The good side is that different offers can now be accepted. A comedy spot has been done, a plan to do Panto has been made, and various other projects can now be attempted. Recently I was asked to do an “In conversation” interview with Dr Ali Bacher on SuperSport. We touched on past, present and future issues. What a career he had and his reflections on it are fascinating. Watch this space for broadcast details. Ali is not even his name.
The job I am most looking forward to is a trip to Los Angeles for a week in February to cover the American visit by the Vodacom Bulls and the DHL Stormers. They will play against each other as a curtain raiser to the USA v Argentina Test on the 3rd of February. Of course the City of Angels and its attractions will be fun and the Vodacom Red customer winners will have a blast. I look forward to meeting them.
However, for me, the uniqueness is not the trip itself. It is the rare chance to be immersed with modern day professional rugby sides for a period and to see just how they operate. Western Province won the Currie Cup and consequently the Stormers under pressure to perform better in Super Rugby. The Bulls have slipped by miles of late and have called in a Baptist by the name of John to lead them back to the top. It will not be a jolly for either set of players. It will be deadly serious work.
How fit are they? We thought we trained hard in my day, three or four times a week, but weights were not a major part of it. Balancing strength & condition with stamina & speed is a real challenge. Hell, these guys train three times a day every day. What do they eat? Do they even drink after games?
The ball is in play for twice as long as it was twenty five years ago. How do you prepare for that? Defence is of paramount importance in the modern game but every old player of my vintage sees a lack of imagination and creativity in attack, especially in South African rugby. I would back Danie Gerber against any defence today. How would they keep him quiet? I want to explore this in detail.
I want to look in-depth at attack strategy, particularly the use of two lines of running. Who decides where the ball goes? I feel eight to nine moves at scrums are poor today. Jannie Breedt and I executed regular chaos from here and, in our day remember, the flanks were not stuck to the side waiting for you. How is it not possible to find space? From set piece the numbers are the same. I want to discover this and to give you honest observations and feedback.
I also want to explore what rugby means to today’s professionals. Is it still a passion or is it merely workers going to the office? What happens when they approach retirement? Are they prepared and empowered to face a life after rugby? There are only so many coaching and media openings. We all have heard stories of hardship.
You hear of unique opportunities in life but few truly are. I cannot wait for this one and will use every moment to try and learn about the professional rugby game played today. I suppose the underlying question is whether it really is attractive as a career for intelligent people. Who knows, after the trip coaching rugby might even be an option. We leave on 30th January. I can’t wait.