Mind Games: A positive attitude is all it takes in sport and life

2014-04-14 10:00

The Cape Town University students trailed 15-33 with five minutes left to play, but somehow conjured up three tries to snatch the cup.

It was a fairy tale that will ensure an indelible entry into the Ikey record book for the Class of 2014, and confirmed yet again that there’s no beating a positive attitude and a winning technique when it comes to sport and life.

UCT, a team made up wholly of bona fide students and lacking the contingent of young bucks with professional contracts to be found in some of the other sides, tried throughout the season to play creative and expansive rugby.

Their coach, Kevin Musikanth, believes in the total game, but most of all, he instilled an esprit de corps in his team and faith in their method.

So when the moment presented itself, they seized it – initially to earn some consolation, but then to strive mightily and assuredly for victory when they started to sense it.

It reminded me of other famous comeback victories, especially one related to me by captain of the day, Tommy Bedford. Natal were trailing Transvaal 4-21 (in the days of four-point tries) with time running out at Ellis Park, but then produced the magical turnaround that led to the headline: “Seven crazy minutes that won’t be forgotten.”

Tries by lock Binky Kapp, flying wing Keith Thoresson and centre Rex Greyling, all converted by Tim Cocks, achieved the impossible and the Banana Boys won.

Bedford, the thinking man’s rugby player, told me how he’d exhorted his men – “We can still win this, boys! When they kick off, just win the ball.” – inadvertently capturing the key fundamental of all team sports.

Never say die is a sporting cliché, but you can’t get away from it. In the 1945 Currie Cup final – only the second final staged – Northern Transvaal were on the brink of going down to Western Province.

But a twist of fate meant that the names of Northerns’ wing, Johnny Lourens, and Province’s fullback, Con de Kock, will evermore be linked to the lore of finals.

With less than two minutes left and Northern Transvaal trailing 8-9, Hansie Brewis decided on a long diagonal touch kick in the hope that his team might win the ball from the ensuing line-out and give him a chance to attempt a match-winning dropped goal.

However, his attempted touch kick did not go out and the ball stopped just short of the touchline.

De Kock seemed to have the ball well covered as he sped to side-foot it into touch, but a slight stumble meant he missed the ball completely.

Following up, Lourens scooped up the ball and dived over in the corner for the try that gave Northern Transvaal the Currie Cup for the first time.

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