Brains and brawn

The Bulls supporters are rugby’s most intelligent in South Africa. And who is the thickest?

It is a tie, but we will get to that in a few pars.

A Muppit discussion the other day touched on the rugby intelligence of the South African support base and Cab said the Bulls masses got his vote. I mocked him, saying they were indeed the most intelligent. I mean, have you heard how they cheer everytime Derick Hougaard kicks away possession with a 60 metre touch finder?

But Cab is right. When it comes to folk who know their rugby, there are none better than the Loftus brigade. They have no dress sense, their taste for music sucks and they’re not the best looking of species. But they know a good player when they see one and they appreciate the laws of the game and the nuances that influence the flow of a game.

They certainly understand the concept of momentum, playing for field position and creating pressure. They cheer Hougaard’s kick for touch because they know what they have in lineouts specialist Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and whoever else they pick to humiliate opposition jumpers. They know why the Bulls play such percentage based rugby at the highveld. It saves on energy, it plays to the team strengths and it is low risk rugby.

Loftus, in the last five years, has become a fortress again. It takes a quality team to beat the Bulls at Loftus, when for the first five years of Super rugby visiting Loftus was like dining at a buffet. The help yourself charity is no longer there and it has everything to do with Heyneke Meyer’s blueprint of five years ago. Meyer sold it to a support base that were prepared to be patient because they understood the intracicies of what he was trying to do.

To borrow from poker parlance, the Loftus crowd knows when to hold them and knows when to fold. They also know when to count their money.

Having toured extensively in the last decade the Loftus crowd is the most intelligent when it comes to rugby, in South Africa and abroad. The Welsh crowd rival them for an actual understanding of the game. The Kiwis know their stuff, but they can be prone to bouts of one-eyed anal disorder, the Aussie union supporters are the most ignorant and the Poms the most pompous.

In South Africa, though, it is Bulls first.

So who’s the thickest. As much as I tried I couldn’t separate the regulars who call the Shark Tank home or those from Mountain Goat country. I think the Sharks fans have always been the most ignorant, but in recent times the Stormers and Western Province support base has easily joined their mates at the Sharks when it comes to not having a clue.

Both sets of supporters jeer every decision that goes the way of the opposition, regardless of the accuracy of the call and they rubbish their players at the first sign of trouble. Go to a Stormers match when the chips are down in the final few minutes and see the wave of support leaving the ground. The same applies for the Shark tank.

Ellis Park’s supporters are as toothless as their Cats team. They pitch up and watch, cheer and jeer but half the time are a disinterested bunch. There are exceptions, but they’re the minority.

I’ve often argued the Boks should play all their tests at altitude, alternating between Ellis Park (what a venue) and Loftus. They wouldn’t lose too many, unless of course they’re having trial games on the Thursday prior to playing the All Blacks on a Saturday, as happened in 2003.

Teams are intimidated by visiting Loftus and the crowd has so much to do with it. To start with, they scare the hell out of them with appearance. Geez, it isn’t a pretty sight seeing those beards, Khaki dance suits and horns. But the dancing girls soften the initial blows and the bearded bullies’ appreciation of the game adds to the pressure of the visiting team and ensures pressure is always on the home team.

There is an expectation of the Bully Boys, based on rugby intelligence. In Cape Town and Durban, the expectation on their respective teams is usually associated with how many pints have been consumed on match day.