Oh my – how times have changed

2015-06-03 06:00

IN A WEEKEND so overloaded with sport it could well have broken the proverbial camel’s back, it’s difficult to know where to start. And given our country’s general obsession with the many and varied activities falling under the heading of sport, makes it even more difficult.

It wasn’t so long ago that anything the Sharks did on the rugby field was trumpeted with pride. Remember when with just a flick of its tail and gnashing of those deadly fangs the Durban lads would chalk up yet another Super Rugby triumph as easy as chomping “a piece of cake”? Not anymore. One newspaper, after the Sharks 25-21 defeat of the Melbourne Rebels in Durban last weekend, after the local team’s slew of recent defeats, headlined its report: “Two in a row for Sharks”. Missing from the headline, one felt, were three pertinent words, “at long last”.

Most of it was very dour, dreary stuff. But yes it was a win and as the second in succession in a season of six earlier Super Rugby defeats, it must have come as a huge relief to coach Gary Gold and a few others who managed to impress, like captain Marco Wentzel and Bismarck du Plessis. Others who showed flashes of promise in a largely disjointed display were backs S’bora Sithole, Lwazi Mvovo and Andre Esterhuizen, and lock/flank Etienne Oosthuizen. But generally, the less about the overall display the better.

On the other hand two fine games were reserved for late Saturday – firstly a master-class hiding from the Stormers for the Cheetahs (42-12) at Newlands, and a gutsy 27-22 defeat of last year’s champions, Waratahs, by coach Johan Ackermann’s Lions at Ellis Park. Ackermann, this season, has performed miracles with this Lions team. If they can maintain this level of excellence the Gauteng franchise’s hopes of advancing to the Super Rugby place-off stages could well become a reality.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, himself, must have been impressed by a number of Lions, including the halfback pairing of Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk, and skipper William Whiteley, while he will have taken note, too, of the likes of Stormers’ Damian de Allende and electric wing Seabelo Senatla whose individual performances helped jockey Stormers into a tight race to finish second overall on the combined log.

And so to the Comrades Marathon, Sunday’s field attracting 22 000 runners, with aptly named Gift Kelehe now R375 000 richer though his time didn’t quite beat the 5hr 24min 49sec record that would have earned him a R1.5 million bonus.

Schoolteacher and Natal rugby great, Bill Payn, didn’t earn a cent back in the old days, but he had a hell of a lot of fun. He ran the race in rugby boots that gave him blisters as big as fried eggs.

He made stops at several pubs along the way, drinking a dozen beers, ate meals of curried chicken and bacon and eggs, and accepted a drink from a lady on the roadside that must have been the “first liquid fuel for jet engines”.

He still managed to cross the finishing line in eighth place and returned to Durban on the back of a motorbike, to play fullback in a club rugby match the next day, wearing a pair of takkies. No money but plenty of fun!

For the ladies, Caroline Wostmann was first across the line

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