Looking back, looking ahead

2016-03-30 06:00

FOR South African sport the weekend gone by wasn’t a happy one. Almost nothing went right. Talking cricket or rugby, it most certainly was a weekend to forget.

A nail-biting World T20 cricket defeat for Faf du Plessis’s men by the West Indies (123/7 in 19.3 overs against SA’s 122/8 in 20 overs), though admittedly close, was always on the cards after the silly run-out of Hashim Amla for a single measly run.

Had the openers, Amla and Quinton de Kock, hit anything like their usual form it could well have been a runaway win.

But then, you know the old saying: “If my uncle wore dresses he’d have been my aunt!” There was a slender chance for the Proteas to squeeze into the semifinals if Sri Lanka beat England.

But Eoin Morgan’s side in Delhi made sure that didn’t happen by edging out Sri Lanka by 10 runs. This eliminated both the Proteas and Sri Lanka. It also left Sri Lanka, former T20 winners, in a “dead rubber” with the Proteas with only pride to play for.

Moving on to rugby, things got no better with the Sharks, at home at Durban’s King’s Park, going down 19-14 to New Zealand’s Crusaders.

In his usual seat in the Super Sport TV commentary box, former Springbok coach Nick Mallett put the Sharks’ defeat in a nutshell. He called the Durban side brave, but the better side won.

Sharks winger Lwazi Mvovo had produced a “brilliant twin effort”, he said, “but Crusaders were the better side on the day with three creative tries involving pretty much the team as a whole.”

Statistics in sport can be funny things. They can be boring, at times even misleading. However they very often are remarkable or startling – and occasionally even inspirational.

This was the case in Durban last Saturday. Make no mistake, on the night very definitely the better team won. Yet the most remarkable of the statistics belonged to the losers.

They spoke of pure hard work and courage going hand in hand to produce a tackle count of no fewer than 108 successful tackles on their relentlessly attacking opponents.

This, of course, reflects as well on which side had the lion’s share of possession. Yet the New Zealanders for all this domination were never allowed to parade it arrogantly. Whenever a Kiwi attacked with ball in hand, he found two or three defenders determined to block his path – a much different affair from a year ago, when the Crusaders literally smashed the Sharks to the tune of 52-10.

Hats off to the robust likes of Marcell Coetzee, the untiring efforts of lock Stephan Lewies and captain Tendai Mtawarira in a pack that never gave up.

Among the backs no one was better than Willie le Roux, superb under the high ball and kicking brilliantly from the last line of defence. He loves to go forward and did time and again.

A deserving victory for Crusaders. But with much-maligned coach Gary Gold starting to stamp his style and authority on his players, there could be even better things to come.

On Friday South Africa will have a new rugby coach. Mostly the money is on Allister Coetzee.

Another being touted is Rassie Erasmus, but what’s the point? It would only be a stopgap job; he has other official duties. Coetzee is the obvious choice, and his first most important job would be to name a new captain. Player of the Year, Duane Vermeulen, maybe? Go for it, we could do worse.

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