The celebrations seem a little muted, but it’s been a very big week for South African sport

2013-11-22 00:00

ALAN Paton wrote “Ah but your land is beautiful” and, if we stop and pause for a moment, yes our land is beautiful. Let’s narrow it down and look at it from a sport perspective. Then it is definitely beautiful, soul enriching, instilling pride in the heart.

There’s an advert that runs on TV showing cricket, rugby and soccer all in one place on the same weekend. Everyone is happy, sport is uniting a nation and it brings back memories of that rugby World Cup win in 1995. That seems so long ago, yet it’s worth going back just a few days and we can enjoy the triple package once again.

The Springboks beat Scotland on Sunday, the Proteas were on a roll having cleaned up the T20 series to nothing against Pakistan and on Tuesday night, Bafana Bafana produced a miracle, beating Spain 1-0 in a friendly at Soccer City in Johannesburg.

In all three forms of what are considered the big three of SA sport, the green and gold was flying high and proud.

Yet all seems strangely quiet and business has gone on as usual. Perhaps there is just too much sport going on locally and internationally, but there seems to be little celebration or people are just not aware that we are on a winning streak.

Rugbywise, the Boks have enjoyed a good season, competing for the Rugby Championship trophy, with only the mighty All Blacks thwarting their progress and getting in their way. The current outgoing tour to the UK has looked promising, with a strong win against a much fancied Wales outfit, while last Sunday’s clash against the Scots was a display of brutal power and dour defence.

It could be argued that Scotland are not the major force they once were and we were expected to win, but we only outscored them 7-0 in the second half and they definitely enjoyed the lion’s share of possession.

Still, it was a win to speak of with pride and the mighty France should give us a tough challenge. They came close to upsetting the All Blacks’ quest — which is still on track with only Ireland to come — of remaining unbeaten this season, finishing seven points adrift thanks to a late New Zealand try. A pukka physical, no-favours-asked game will be the ideal finale to the international season,

Roll on India, albeit a shortened tour, to grace our cricket fields. While we are grateful to Pakistan for stepping in to try and fill the gaps with a quick T20 and ODI schedule currently under way, it’s time for some fresh opposition.

We seem to have secured their number now and the games are a little one-sided, with not much of a contest to write home about. Having played them in all forms of the game over the past five weeks and more, we have their game in our pockets and frankly, the domestic competitions are more alluring at this stage.

Talking of the Indians, cricket enthusiasts must be licking their lips at the prospect of unleashing Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morné Morkel and the like against the visiting Indians on our pitches, which should be a true test of what a player is really about.

It’s been somewhat farcical to see their batsmen knocking up massive scores and inflating their averages on pitches where the bowlers might as well throw underhand and ask the batsman where to throw the ball.

The seven one-day internationals saw, in most cases, scores well beyond 300 being chased down with ease and plenty to spare. Indian batsmen, new to international cricket, suddenly have statistics that others spend a lifetime to achieve. It’s a travesty that commentators run out of adjectives to describe it all when it’s clear that the sub-continent pitches have been suitably prepared to allow batsmen to dominate and bowlers to be mere cannon fodder.

Boxing Day at Kingsmead should be the benchmark, especially if India bat first.

As most cricket followers know, the pedigree of a true cricketer, especially a batsman, is the ability to adapt and play in all conditions, on all surfaces. Surely the South African pitches will bring a few high-flying batsmen down to size and ensure the Proteas maintain their spot at the top of the ICC Test rankings.

The best is always saved for last and for once, let’s be proud of our soccer lads and give them the accolades they deserve.

In all honesty, the whole country, or at least more than 90% of people, saw the match against world champions Spain as one best to avoid. It was seen as a no contest before the ball had even been placed on the centre spot, with scores of beyond the five goal margin being thrown about.

Surprise, surprise, the boys pulled off a sensational win, one that could have been better after a shot hit the crossbar and another was smothered by the ’keeper. Give credit where it’s due, Spain put out a strong side and their coach was honest to admit the better side won and although it was only a friendly, it goes in the history books as a loss.

Bafana had nothing to lose. Out of the World Cup, up against the soccer rulers of the world, it was a case of let’s take the game to them and see what we can do.

As a nation, we should put our pride in our pocket and share in the joy. A few years ago, we could call them Buffoona-Buffoona after they failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, yet on Tuesday night, they endeared themselves to the nation with a display of constructive, fearless football, full of character that deserves the highest praise.

For coach Gordon Igesund, it’s rich reward and value for a man who breathes the game. He comes from the same era as former coach Clive Barker, men who grew up in the game and know its ups and downs. While disappointed at failing to board the plane to Brazil, the pride in his heart must be near bursting point as his team finally produced the football they are capable of. Beating the world champions is no mean feat.

Take a bow Bafana. Take a bow Mr Igesund. While we might not be admitting it, the nation is proud of you.

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