tour diary – Week 3

Bees-gate, hunting, and the Australians’ performances in the local hot spots of Bloem.

Another week,  and another Peter de Villiers controversy. It would be tiring if it weren’t so entertaining watching him bury himself and further tarnish what is already a tainted reputation. Those comments about the Boks backing Bees Roux 100% rightfully received most of the attention in the media, but his admission that he selected his side according to perceived public sentiment also raised some eyebrows.

This from the coach who said he wouldn’t listen to public opinion in calling up new players to the squad. De Villiers said he selected over-played individuals to give the Bloemfontein public value for money, but the crowd showed what they thought of that decision when Bryan Habana, and a few other Boks, were embarrassingly booed inside the first 30 minutes. One vocal supporter (double Brandy & Coke in hand, obviously) even shouted to the press, tell Saru I’m going to sue them over Habana. I’m still not sure how that would work, but his point was taken.

Needless to say after Monday’s self-inflicted drama-filled day for De Villiers, before Tuesday’s press conference, his response was to mutter under his breath about some of the members of the press (those that he probably classifies in the ‘against us’ category). You stay classy, P Divvy.

While the Australians were shark-cage diving off the Durban coast on their day off, some of the Boks went hunting on one of Bloem’s nearby farms. Morne Steyn proved the most successful and transferred his kicking accuracy to the hunting, shooting a buck in the head.

From Thursday our moods were perking up as we realised there were no more De Villiers pressers. The way assistant coaches Gary Gold and Dick Muir – who were rolled out for the first time this year in response to an SA Rugby magazine article that stated how much influence they have in the squad – provided honest, rugby answers was refreshing.

Cardinelli and I decided to celebrate that evening with a visit to the famed Barbas on Bloem’s Second Avenue. The fact that there aren’t many other options to go out to in Bloem didn’t get us down, and I responded by claiming the Barbas hat-trick of three nights in a row. JC is getting old before his time so he missed out on the weekend’s happenings, but Gavin Rich was back in town by Saturday after his Durban sojourn to follow the Aussies.

JC and I had forgotten there was a post match presser with PdV, and again it wasn’t surprising to hear him blame a refereeing decision late in the game as the reason for the defeat. Delusional.

After their promising performance on the pitch in Bloem, Rich and I were interested spectators in the way the Australians also out-played the Boks on their night out, with Quade Cooper, James O’Connor and Anthony Fainga’a especially popular with the ladies. The trio had two to three girls on their arm throughout the night, and you could see in the eyes of the young ladies they saw this as their ticket out of Bloem.

Personally, my favourite moment of the week came when Griquas scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius was asked by a fan whether he thinks he’s better than Ricky Januarie. Pretorius’ simple response: he smiled broadly and just rubbed his stomach. Classic.

Bloem has its detractors, but I’m not one of them. The City of Rose in Spring, there’s nothing like it.

By Grant Ball, in Bloemfontein

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