Keo, in his News 24 column, writes of the places and players that suck when South Africa’s players go Down Under.
We now know that the Aussie players think Pretoria is the worst city to visit during the Vodacom Super 14, Loftus is the worst ground to play at and De Wet Barry is the dirtiest player they’ve confronted in the competition. Then there’s Jerry Collins, whom they fear the most when it comes to being tackled.
So what if the South African players, like their Aussie counterparts, were asked to complete a similar questionnaire on the likes and dislikes of touring Australia and New Zealand. What would they rate as the best and worst of life on tour Down Under?
Having toured with most of the players for a decade and having been involved with the national set-up for three years I can tell you that a fair amount of banter and bitching goes on when it comes to getting on a plane and trekking to the other side of the world.
There is far more ‘worst’ than ‘best’. So based on this experience, here’s an unofficial list of what goes and who doesn’t go when South Africa’s franchises hit the road for a month in Australia and New Zealand.
Worst place to visit
Australia: Canberra. It doesn’t get worse for the SA players than Australia’s capital. If the Aussies think Pretoria is bad they obviously don’t do too well in the introspection department. Canberra is a dive that lacks soul, character and any kind of appeal. They boast a Casino and that’s about it.
New Zealand: Hickville Hamilton. More often than not SA teams opt to stay in Auckland for as long as possible in the week and then they count down the minutes to Hamilton and the miles back to Auckland on a motorway that is a glorified back road. There is nothing more dangerous than an inbred, who has bumped into a bit of sophistication somewhere. That’s Hamilton for you. The town is awful and the cow bells are indicative of those who ring them at every home game.
Best place to visit
Australia: Sydney. The boys absolutely love the place. It reminds them of home and it is a place where they can roam and do their own thing. Good shopping, good coffee bars, good women and Ribs and Rumps, the steakhouse owned by South Africans on Manly’s promenade.
New Zealand: Queenstown. For those who get to play the Crusaders or Highlanders away, they always hope the schedule takes in a couple of day at New Zealand’s most picturesque town.
Least favourite ground
Australia: It would have to be the Bruce Stadium or whatever they call it these days in Canberra. It is like a big club ground and the depressing nature of Canberra usually has the necessary effect on the South Africans. The town has put them to sleep long before the Brumbies need to deliver any sort of knockout blow.
New Zealand: Every ground. When you win a handful of games in a decade, it doesn’t matter how they doll the ground up, defeat after defeat brings with it terrible memories. The old Athletic Park was a shocker. And the psychologically the ground that haunts the South Africans the most is Dunedin’s House of Pain, especially one Gaffie du Toit.
Australia: Justin Harrison was the idiot South African players all despised. He was in a class of his own.
New Zealand: Troy Flavell and Jerry Collins. Hard and dirty. If the left one doesn’t get you, the right one will. And if they both miss, you’ll either get a head or a boot.
Player(s) they can’t stand
Australia: Ben Tune (given what happened around the performance-enhancing supplements and no suspension) and Clyde Rathbone (for obvious reasons). New Zealand: Justin Marshall (for obvious reasons) – and the boys were never particularly fond of Carlos Spencer. Generally, though, they enjoy playing against the Kiwis and have far more respect for them than they have for the Aussies.
Player they most respect
Australia: Stephen Larkham. There is a huge appreciation by the SA players of his talents. They also think he’s a genuine bloke.
New Zealand: Richie McCaw. Walks the walk and never feels the need to talk the talk.
Australia: Stuart Dickenson. No one comes close, although they do think George Ayoub is a bit of a laugh. New Zealand: Steve Walsh, with Paul Honiss as a close second.