On my recent 79th birthday, which happens to be a day before my oldest son’s birthday, I received much more than good wishes, when he suggested that we share a joint celebration this year.
It was early in the morning, but I was all ears.
“How about I fly you to join me in Paris so that we together get to see the semi-finals and the final of the Rugby World Cup?”.
It was very early in the morning, but it was for a rugby fanatic like me, an offer I could not refuse.
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Just for good measure, he has also arranged for my daughter and family of two young granddaughters, who happen to be in Turkey for a year or two, to join us for the final.
My son added, “Given that you are even more confident of a Bok triumph this year than you were in 2019, I am prepared to gamble on the Boks winning through to at least the semi-finals”.
So, it’s like how Edith Piaf sang, “How would you like to be down by the Seine with me?”. I can also almost hear Maurice Chevalier belt out: “Thank heavens for little girls”.
Some 10 days in Paris will afford me time to walk down Georges Haaussmann’s wide, tree-ined boulevards, and ponder why Napoleon III empowered Haaussmann to “gut Paris in order to give it air and open spaces”. Indeed some 600,000 trees were planted, and 2,000 hectares of parks and open spaces were added.
Or, were the boulevards designed to reduce the ability of protesters to barricade the former narrow streets? If so, they have failed miserably and may have in fact allowed millions to gather, as was the case in the recent mass protests over the pensionable age.
But enough of that, the Boks certainly have a tall order just to reach the final, and they will be the first to win the trophy on four occasions.
The odds are stacked against us, as they were in Japan in 2019, but this is what Siya Kolisi wrote in his biography RISE:
“After we beat the All Blacks in 2018, we knew for sure that we had it in us to win the World Cup. We didn’t know we would, but we knew we could. We heard it time and again before we set off for Japan: no one had ever won the Tri Nations, the Rugby Championship and the World Cup in the same year. It had never been done. We didn’t care. No one had ever done it? Then we’d be the first. Simple as that!”
Now in 2023, the pundits are parroting about our impossible draw. Cheslin Kobe hit the nail on the head recently when he said “every game is a final for us”.
So pity poor Scotland tomorrow. Yes, they have a sprinkling of South Africans, three in fact but we have 23, and Scotland the brave will need more than Hadrian’s Wall to keep the Boks at bay.
I recall an old Bok adage “nog ‘n Murrayfield”, which recalls the Boks beating Scotland by 44-0 at Murrayfield in 1951. Bill McClaren, the legendary Scottish commentator wrily summed it up thus: “Scotland were lucky to get nought!”.
Can Scotland, unlike the All Blacks recently, withstand a Bok onslaught from the first whistle, from the first scrum, from the first rolling maul?
And that is only in the first half, when in the second on comes “Bongi’s Ox-led machine”. I have me doubts.
Even if Scotland perform heroically, and Mannie Libbok misses penalty and conversion kicks, how will they stop our diminutive try scorers? The All Blacks could not and now want the rules changed, to prevent the use of two packs of forwards. Next there will be a call to rule out our short and light backs!
The bookmakers are not taking chances on the Boks lifting the trophy, and they are not in the business of losing, nor should you. Simple as that!