RUGBY FORTUNES CAN TURN ON A TICKY …… or RUSTENBURG REVISITED!

This is one of the great rugby reads of all time ..

I was at the game with Mike Greenaway and got so smashed after the game .

I was given a 500m coke bottle filled with Jack Daniels and stumbled out the stadium and then we went to Traders …..You had to be at Traders to see the party afterwards .

It was a sight to behold .Never to be repeated ever .I have been friends with Mike for over 22 years ..We met at record co BMG (when the record industry worked ) and we have seen some classic matches but this was off the chart …

I saw Mike last week in Durban and we had a catch up ..All that has happened is we have gone more grey ,but the laughs are still the same ..If only Mike would write a book about the oval ball and his travels .He is by far one of the best rugby writers in SA

Mike Greenaway Column

Who remembers Andre Pretorius, the former Lions and occasional Springbok flyhalf? You can be forgiven if the memory banks need a bit of a jolt to recall the gifted but terribly injury-prone pivot.

It should not be that way given that Pretorius played a hugely significant role in the Springboks winning the 2007 World Cup, even though it was Butch James that ended up usurping the No 10 jersey from him at that World Cup.

It goes back to an almost forgotten Springbok match against the All Blacks in the less than alluring surrounds of the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace in dusty Rustenburg. The context of the match was hugely significant because John Smit’s Boks had lost five matches in a row, including copping 45 points from the same New Zealand side a week before in Pretoria. The public mood was ugly, and it was the same in the boardroom of the South African Rugby Union, which was itching to fire coach Jake White.

Smit knew that a sixth consecutive defeat would mean the end of White, and most likely himself, as a new coach came in and gave the team a spring clean. Everything the Boks had worked for from 2004 towards the World Cup would go out the window.

After the heavy Loftus defeat, White changed plans and took the Boks out of Pretoria, away from the discontented public and put them in a resort near Sun City.

Smit later reflected that his players were absolutely “gatvol” of losing and “didn’t give a damn anymore. Before kick-off there was something of a declaration of war in the change room, and the Boks ran out and played like frenzied animals. The All Blacks, who had won 15 in a row, responded in kind and the match turned into a throwback to the amateur era when it was case of “anything goes,” especially in the set scrums.

A vivid memory I have of that game was a crazed Carl Hayman rising from a scrum in which he had obviously been given a ‘Welcome to Rustenburg’ from a tight forward and chasing Os du Randt to a ruck where he split his head open with a punch.

This ferocious but fascinating struggle built up to an almighty climax when All Black No 8 Rodney So’oialo had a moment of madness in the 79th minute and dived into a ruck, palpably from the side, with his team 20-18 ahead.

That was when Smit tossed the ball to Pretorius, famously saying “rather you than me”, and then went into earnest prayer, the captain later admitted.

The kick sailed through the uprights, the All Blacks had been beaten 21-20, White was saved from the coaching gallows and a year later the Springboks had won the World Cup.

The moral of the story is that a rugby team’s fortunes can turn on a ticky. Zeroes one day, heroes the next, and that goes for the Springboks under Rassie Erasmus as well as Eddie Jones’ England, again with the World Cup about a year away and both teams on losing streaks as they enter this intriguing three-Test series.

Finally, a postscript to that Battle of Rustenburg. The relief among the Boks was reflected in madcap celebrations at Sun City. The spanner in the works was that the All Blacks were also in the building, so to speak (where else do you go out in that neck of the woods?) and both teams ended up in the Traders bar where a distinctly combustible atmosphere prevailed. The All Blacks did not like losing and the Boks were happy to rub their victory in the Kiwis’ faces. An injudicious remark by Butch James to assistant coach Steve Hansen almost caused a fracas and Smit decided that discretion would be the better part of valour and escorted his team to pastures new in the complex.

The battle-lust waned as the night wore on and there was reconciliation in the wee hours when Smit encountered an All Black sitting in a bush, looking rather ruffled. “Dan, do you need a hand?” Smit asked, and Mr Carter replied: “Thanks Smitty, that would be nice,” and off the pair went to the casino.

ENDS

When was the 2007 Rugby World Cup actually won for the Springboks?

When was the 2007 Rugby World Cup actually won for the Springboks? Was the defining moment the disallowed try by England wing Mark Cueto? Was it Percy Montgomery’s soaring penalty goals or even that long-range effort by Frans Steyn before half time?

It was many things. But what if I suggested that the first major step to the title came the year before in the less than salubrious surrounds of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg? And that quite possibly the biggest hero in the road to glory was (forgotten) Andre Pretorius?

Lest we forget … The year was 2006 and Jake White and John Smit’s Springboks had lost five matches in a row, including a humiliating 0-49 disaster against the Wallabies in Brisbane.

The week prior to Rustenburg, the All Blacks had put 45 points past the Boks at Loftus Versfeld and there were rumblings from all over South Africa, including the South African Rugby Union, that a sixth consecutive defeat would mean the sacking of White, which almost certainly would have meant a change of captain as well. There would have been an “ambulance job” appointment of a new coach and the Boks would have been overhauled.

In those days, the visiting Tri-Nations teams played back-to-back Tests, so it was the All Blacks once more in Rustenburg for a game that had massive consequences riding on it for White and Smit. Maybe it was the unglamorous setting, maybe it was the desperation of the Boks, but that game became a throwback to the amateur era in terms of the players belting the hell out of each other, and to heck with the TV cameras. It was a streetfight.

It came down to a moment late in the game when All Blacks No 8 Rodney So’oialo blatantly went offside at a ruck and English referee Chris White blew a penalty for the Boks, who were trailing 18-20.

It was not an easy kick, and 26000 South African fans at that rustic ground, and 22 Springbok players, held their breath and watched exultantly as Pretorius calmly guided the ball between the uprights.

The Boks won 21-20. A tearful John Smit almost suffocated Pretorius with gratitude, and the day was saved. The Bok celebrations that night at Sun City were epic. An All Blacks team that had won 15 Tests in a row had been beaten and the heat was (temporarily) off White and Smit. They lived to fight another day.

A year later they were holding aloft the Webb Ellis Cup at the Stade de France but what might have transpired had Pretorius missed that kick in Rustenburg?

White was on very thin ice and almost certainly would have been sacked had the Boks lost. Let’s not also forget that despite that reprieve in Rustenburg, White later that year was recalled from the Bok end-of-year tour to face a Saru enquiry after the Boks had lost their opening two tour games, to Ireland and England.

White rejoined the tour and the final match (for some reason) was a second Test against England, which the Boks won 25-14, again after a rallying ‘do-or-die’ speech from Smit.

It was a psychological turning point for Smit’s Boks. England visited South Africa in 2007 and got two 50-point hidings, in Bloemfontein and Pretoria, and the next occasion the countries met was in Paris at the World Cup. The Boks won that Pool game 36-0, and then, of course, the final.

All magnificent Springbok history … But would there have been a very different and quite forgettable tale of the Springboks at the 2007 Rugby World Cup had Pretorius missed that kick in the bundus of the highveld, and White and Smit lost their jobs?

Footnote

I was at the game with the writer Mike Greenaway (and he was not working ) and our gang of friends .The party after the game was off the chart at Traders in Sun City.I was a upset to put it mildly the All blacks lost and i paid the price

What great memories from an epic WEEKEND

BY Mike Greenaway

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