Duane Heath

Bok tears turn to cheers

2004-06-18 08:07

Cape Town - First the tears, then the cheers. The Springboks went through the full spectrum of emotions under the blue skies of Bloemfontein last week, but at least they got the order right.

"Emotional" described the home side in a nutshell as Jake White's raw rookies upset an undercooked Ireland in the first Test.

We had proud Eddie Andrews bawling his eyes out while the world watched; fellow rookie Henno Mentz did his weeping behind a screen of smoke as he galloped out the tunnel. The Sharks left wing madly wiped away the wet stuff as he navigated through the fireworks haze that erupted as John Smit led out a side wound tight by nerves and sleepless nights.

One hundred minutes later, and the emotions that flowed from wild eyes at the start, now rose from scorched lungs at the death.

The Boks had tiptoed the thorns in the City of Roses, and a new era dawned (again, noted the cynics, and not without justification) in the cold light of the Free State dusk. A biting breeze snuck through the concrete stadium and nobody wearing enough layers complained; the cauldron, after all, had to cool down sometime.

And as the merry fans sloshed out of the sluices of this chamber of cement, leaving behind quenched beer bottles and shoeprinted match programmes, those sober enough to remember the game spoke of the Springboks, once again, having a Blue Bull hero by the name of Botha.

'Druk hom Bakkies!'

"One day they're going to write songs about Bakkies Botha," wrote one of my colleagues in his praise of the hulking Blue Bull. In a packed beer garden outside the stadium on Saturday night, the first draft lines of "Druk hom Bakkies!" wafted through the merry masses. Old men spoke of Frik and shouted "Vrystaat!" while young girls stood sandwiched between boyfriends and brekers, scribbling SMSs and screaming "Where You?" into their Nokias.

Earlier, the Bok fans watched their trump card pack leave the Irish eight a crumpled green mess. It was all too much for Jake White, who afterwards was suffering from an attack of smilitis. "It sent a tingle down my spine," he said of the forward effort. The whole pullava left Eddie O'Sullivan numb and non-plussed.

But, as they say, last week is history. What can we expect on Saturday at Newlands, under the slippery shadow of Table Mountain? A lot of questions have been answered, but the exams - to use a White analogy - just keep coming for his young students.

Slaying his dragons

Will Bakkies Botha play? Can the Springbok scrum be the slow poison it was in Bloemfontein, or will the visitors have burned the midnight oil in search of an antidote? Will the weather favour Ireland, even though the home side has by far the heavier pack? (At this stage, the prediction is for "100% intermittent showers".) Will Bakkies Botha play?

Can Percy Montgomery slay those Newlands dragons of 2001 and kick his goals? Can Marius Joubert up it a level on attack? How many tries will Brian O'Driscoll score? Can Quinton Davids muzzle the critics and take that one giant leap into the international stratosphere? Will he end up locking with Geo Cronje? Will Bakkies Botha play?

Can Jake White achieve that hairline balance between winning the Irish Test and preparing for the tougher assignments to come, by reintroducing players returning from injury in the second Test? Will Breyton score the winner? Can Wayne Julies handle that man-mountain Shane Horgan? Will Eddie O'Sullivan have reason to smile?

Only time will tell, as they say, although I'd really like to know one thing so that I can get a good night's sleep: Will Bakkies Botha play?

Send Duane your views.

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