tour diary – Week 6

Lions fans in tutus, player protests and press conference chaos. One can only hope this Lions tour isn’t remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Congratulations to the Springboks for winning the Lions series against significant odds. Twelve years from now, we’ll revisit exactly how this series transpired, but until then, South Africans need only remember the result. Cheers to that. Here’s to 12 years of British and Irish whingeing.

Between black and white mechanics, gouging of lions in the bushveld and losing his marbles in exchange for a top, it’s been difficult to keep up with Peter de Villiers’s ramblings. Bok captain John Smit has been the exact opposite when dealing with topics both mundane and controversial, providing eloquent answers to every media question.

When asked why De Villiers isn’t as articulate as he is, Smit responded, ‘Because I answer in my first language and because I’ve been doing this for five years’. Whether this was a not so subtle request for De Villiers to explore elaborate metaphors in his mother tongue is still unclear.

There are those who are for De Villiers and there are those who are against him, but there is also a third group who have taken what he says to hilarious levels. After the Lions’ deserved win at Ellis Park, a travelling fan wearing a Lions jersey and a pink tutu – in response to De Villiers’s famous ‘Go to the ballet and grab your tutu if you think rugby is too tough’ comment – breached the security barrier and raced across the field. You have to give it to the travelling supporters, they aren’t short on a sense of humour.

Some of you bloggers have appreciated the criticism of a coach out of his depth while a fair number of you feel has made too much of his inarticulate mutterings. By now, there’s not a publication or rugby website on the planet that hasn’t climbed into the Bok coach, so you won’t find us apologising for being the first. In building a positive environment you need to remove the detracting influences, and hopefully Saru realises this before the Boks suffer a defeat of consequence.

Aside from the 2-1 series defeat, the tourists have had a blast both on and off the pitch. From two-day safaris to wild nights in clubs and bars, the Lions’ players have certainly maximised their stay.

People say these tours are endangered, but from a commercial standpoint, they don’t seem to be doing too bad. Kicking coach Neil Jenkins was spotted in a clothing store picking up a few extra jerseys. ‘What’s the matter Neil, they won’t give you one of your own,’ an Englishman heckled. Jenkins explained there is such a demand for the strip that people back home are asking him to buy as many as he can. And why not, they’re much cheaper with the exchange rate.

We’re just three weeks away from the Boks’ opening Tri-Nations clash against the All Blacks in Bloemfontein. I don’t understand why Saru stage big games at venues like Vodacom Park. It’s a stadium that’s devoid of the atmosphere and aura offered by arenas like Ellis Park. Why the majority of big games aren’t staged at the Johannesburg stronghold remains a mystery.

At the time of writing, it remains to be seen what will come of the recent Bok protest against Bakkies Botha’s suspension. The players and management wore white bands on Saturday with ‘Justice for Bakkies’ inscribed, even though Smit went hard at the ruling in Friday’s captain’s press conference. Asked if the IRB would discipline the Boks for such action, Smit could only say they’ll have to wait and see.

By Jon Cardinelli, in Johannesburg