The past week or so has seen startling results in two of suburban South Africa’s most favoured sports.
A supposedly full-strength Springbok side went to Dublin and received a lashing from an understrength Irish team last Saturday night. Then on Sunday, in the decider of the three-match T20 series between the Aussies and the Proteas, it was the former who stunned the so-called form side.
The hubris of that T20 series loss would no doubt have been fresh in the Proteas’ minds heading into the first of the five-match ODI series on Friday.
So fresh, in fact, they were unable to lift morale in the camp despite the 50-over side being bolstered by the likes of AB de Villiers (named ICC ODI player of the year on Friday), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Dale Steyn.
One might argue that apples should be compared with other deciduous fruits; that the worlds of T20 and ODI are so far apart, one would be forgiven for thinking they’re two different sports.
Nevertheless, and speaking of fruits, they’ve been losing in both formats – unable to pick the low-hanging kind afforded by their recent form, unlike those who “broke the internet” harvesting images of Kim Kardashian’s.
They lost the match in true Proteas fashion: first they showed signs of promise; then they kind of solidified that promise with some good individual performances (Vernon Philander’s 4/45, AB’s 80 and David Miller’s 65); generally put in an average batting, bowling and fielding performance (they dropped at least five vital catches throughout Australia’s innings, their bowling, barring Philander, was pedestrian, and their batting, well?…?); then they lost disappointingly.
Apart from a cameo by the woodland beaver Imran Tahir is sporting on his face these days and that spark of hope from Philander early in the day, the outing was entirely forgettable from a South African perspective.
As the Proteas head into another home game away from home in Perth today, they’ll do well to be cognisant that laurels don’t provide much respite in sport, particularly against Australia.
A wounded Proteas squad looking to redeem themselves in front of a crowd of relatively new Australian citizens (née South Africans) provides a mouthwatering setup for the second match of the series.
But do our boys have the conviction to back their talent, or is Tahir just a beard on a date about to go horribly wrong?
Either way, today’s match at the Waca will determine who’s who in the fruit basket and separate the bananas from the guava rolls, as it were; the macadamias from the sour grapes.
Another Australian win today will make the rest of the series rather predictable.
But as that great Irishman Oscar Wilde wrote: “To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.”
I guess South African sports people have a long way to go until each victory is unexpected.