Remember Madiba Magic? Basking in the warm glow of the miraculous transition to democracy, we began to feel that even our sports teams were blessed. If we had played that 1995 RWC Final ten times over I reckon we would have won only one of them and yet we did it when it counted. Would we really have destroyed Ghana again in 1996 at the AFCON if that was replayed? Okay, Nigeria were not there, but again, it felt like the Rainbow Nation was destined to win when it mattered. Cricket couldn’t quite repeat the magic in 2003 but there were special victories along the way. Remember that crazy win in the first test back in Sydney? We were outplayed for all but one session in the match and yet we won it? Days of miracle and wonder indeed.
Now we also are living in a time of cautious optimism. Some criticise Cyril Ramaphosa for staying quiet so long in the dark Zupta days. It’s a fair point, but look, now he is President. He won the long game. His timing was right. He has also disappointed in keeping some crooks in his Cabinet. However, he did get rid of ten in one fell swoop and you can bet others will go via shrinkage of portfolios or when Shaun Abrahams is finally led away to the abattoir, and the NPA starts to do its work. Suddenly there is light at the end of the long tunnel.
With the sad exception of soccer, there is light in our major sports as well. The Commonwealth Games were magnificent and, importantly for morale, most of our big wins were in big blue chip events and Wayde van Niekerk wasn’t even competing. Let’s hope the SASCOC shenanigans get sorted and we build on this new beginning. Does our new Minister actually like sport?
The cricketers are flying and there are a number of youngsters screaming to take over the baton from the veterans. That’s always important. Let’s hope there is no civil war between CSA and the players over contracts. We don’t need that.
In rugby, the Bulls have crossed the Rubicon and are starting to put their training intensity in place during matches. They destroyed the Sharks who had looked on the up in New Zealand. The Bulls players finally look like they are enjoying themselves which is a symptom of a team that is getting better. Warwick Gelant is starting to look like a special one.
The Lions confirmed that we are back on track with that incredible win in Sydney. Nobody holds the Waratahs scoreless there. Not alone did we achieve that but scored 29 points in the process. 29-0 in Sydney? The stuff of dreams surely.
The key for me was the first quarter. The home side hit the ground running and we awaited the usual capitulation under that pressure. Instead we saw controlled, aggressive, unified and intelligent defence. We took twenty minutes to transition into attack and, via the mighty Kwagga Smith and rejuvenated Andries Coetzee, the exciting Madosh Tambwe strolled over. 7-0 up after a fairly even half but the Lions were clearly growing in confidence and, even when under pressure, they looked comfortable. That is a characteristic of top sides.
The second half was a slaughter and we should have scored even more. Malcolm Marx and Kwagga were unbelievable in all facets of play. Hacjivah Dayimani negated the loss of Warren Whiteley, which is a hell of a compliment, and at times showed he has the speed of a wing. Can you imagine how quick a back row of he, Kwagga and Marnus Schoeman would be? Imagine facing that in a final quarter as the game opens up? Other who caught the eye were Harold Vorster and, in a cameo, Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Elton Jantjies conducted it all in a manner far removed from the nervous, uncertain ten we have seen recently in green. Nobody played badly in an outstanding team performance.
Rassie must be rubbing his hands with glee, and to bring in the Lions coach for the England series looks like a master stroke. Continuity within the national sides and the international team is what makes New Zealand, and Ireland let it be said, so good.
Soccer, where are you? Where is your Ramaphoria?
By the way, Faf De Klerk is playing out of his socks for Sale. More and more, in his play if not in his looks, he reminds one of Aaron Smith and there is no greater compliment than that for a nine.
If history repeats itself, and it always does, then perhaps we are leaving the Dark Ages and starting to enter the light. Nice one Cyril! Google that phrase for a chuckle.
PS: Keep an eye out for a new Podcast that will start next week, including a chat with one of our most recognisable former soccer players . Monitor The Sport Exchange website and social media for details