tour diary: Week 2

Peter de Villiers on why the Springbok job is the ‘easiest in the world’, what Shaun Edwards does with his bananas, and why you can’t get a draught in Bloem.

The week started like any other on tour with De Villiers the topic of discussion. De Villiers called in the editors of South Africa’s newspapers and told them that being Bok coach ‘is the easiest job in the world’ (obviously forgetting how ‘easy’ it was during last year’s Tri-Nations when the Boks claimed the wooden spoon). This arrogant exclamation was due to the ‘lack of knowledge of the local journalists and their inability to ask him technical questions’. He also griped about the hype around Ian McGeechan – can anyone say ‘insecure’?

PdV is not acknowledged as a straight shooter at press conferences and his explanation for some of his selections has been laughable – Ruan Pienaar is apparently the Tiger Woods of rugby after all. But a personal favourite, showcasing his ability to answer those apparently absent ‘technical questions’, is a beaut. This one, in the latest edition of SA Rugby magazine on John Smit’s minimal game-time at tighthead is yet another Peter de Villiers pearler: ‘I expected to be greeted by sunshine when I woke up this morning and I got my clothes but it was overcast. I don’t worry about how it’s going to be, what’s important is how I react to what happens. I just put those clothes back and changed. That’s life.’ His technical summary of the tighthead problem is another reason for the Bok faithful to be concerned.

Onto more important matters, by Tuesday were into their eighth day at altitude, and as the experts say, we were fully acclimatised and only getting stronger. At a quiz evening hosted at the World of Beer in celebration of David O’Sullivan and Kevin McCallum’s new book, Cardinelli, Ball and the ‘Cape Doctors’ secured victory with a whopping 37 points. The young pair were ably assisted by veteran journos Gavin Rich and Craig Ray, as well as Leigh Weir-Smith.

Even though the Golden Lions live at altitude, they seem to grow worse as time progresses with their embarrassing defeat on Wednesday a case in point. The one positive of this game is it allowed the touring Lions to let their hair down, with some of their celebrations at the team hotel interesting to say the least. Joe Worsley showed his softer side as he tapped away on the hotel piano, playing all his favourite Robbie Williams tracks. Meanwhile, defence coach Shaun Edwards disappeared into the bathroom with two bananas and a cigar. The less investigated about that the better.

On Thursday, the Hyundai Atos (which was quickly dubbed ‘The Clown Car’) made record speed in a south-westerly direction. Once in Bloem, we hit every local dive from the Mystic Boer to the Wild Boar Saloon. The latter was a disappointment as they stopped serving before 2am, but our self-proclaimed guide Danie (who seemed as though he had just escaped from the local penitentiary) offered to escort us to West End. We politely declined.

Friday witnessed another first as we couldn’t get any draught beer because all the taps were frozen. The chilly conditions hadn’t perturbed the touring fans, however, as they got down to some tanning alongside the hotel pool earlier in the day. Yet another awesome sight of the pasty Poms in action.

Saturday saw Heinrich Brussow stealing the limelight on the pitch, but off it the travelling fraternity were in full cry with R12.50 double brandy and Cokes on sale at Barbra’s on Bloem’s famed Second Avenue. The Welsh ‘ladies’ can drink more than most, while former England flyhalf Stuart Barnes knocked Rich off the pedestal to claim the mantle of best dancer on tour. The diminutive Pom produced a total body workout, giving Shakira and Wycliff Jean’s ‘Hips don’t lie’ new meaning.

All in all the British & Irish are good value. Their claims that the team is gelling like never before are no smokescreen. Players from different countries such as Ronan O’Gara and Andy Powell could be seen walking together around the team hotel, with no qualms about inter-country rivalry. This unity should make them a more than competitive unit come the Tests.

The potentially Bulls-dominated Boks are still favourites, however, with even Adolf Hitler at a loss to counter the marvel of their Super 14 triumph (to watch, click here). McGeechan remains a more composed individual than the Nazi dictator, and after two weeks on tour, it’s clear he will be the Boks’ major threat.

By Grant Ball, in Bloemfontein