Nothing sinister had been intended by my desire upfront to listen in more to the Australian viewpoint: don’t they say a change is as good as a holiday?
Let’s face it, domestically we hear plenty of our most prolific personalities behind the microphone, plus it is always interesting to hear what “the enemy” are saying about the Proteas ... sometimes if only to chuckle at any hints of hometown partisanship.
But although I did do a fair share of Channel 9 listening too, I found myself on “language option one” (SuperSport’s English panel) for the lion’s share of the engrossing series.
Perhaps subconsciously I was ruing the changes taking place in the Aussie ranks, with former, long-serving anchor Richie Benaud having downscaled significantly – he is now 82, after all – and Tony Greig absent through his regrettable illness.
I suspect, however, that it was much more a tribute to the polish displayed by the likes of Kepler Wessels, HD Ackerman and company, who had travelled to Oz to represent SA television-viewer interests.
Those two dovetail particularly well during stints as a pairing, I feel – Wessels may be a famously no-nonsense old “taskmaster” but his humour is also an under-rated factor -- although there were also some outstanding inputs at various times from Pommie Mbangwa and Mike Haysman.
Haysman’s “In the dressing room” feature shortly after the Proteas had clinched the series at the WACA made for marvellous, up-close-and-personal television, as he made his way around the room chatting to almost all of the XI and one or two other buzzing personalities in the touring camp.
I am old enough to remember a time when, certainly at domestic and even sometimes at international level, media folk of relative seniority or longevity could have access pretty freely to dressing rooms in the aftermath of games, for immediate quotes and analysis.
Times have changed greatly in the increasingly “pro” era, of course, and these occasions are now very much the exception rather than norm, so this one was a commendable bonus.
Mbangwa, meanwhile, deftly commanded a high-quality edition of Inside Edge, from a relaxed “garden” setting in Perth, where he got Wessels and Ackerman to retrace the Proteas’ rewarding calendar year in Tests, from start to finish.
The SuperSport presentation during the Tests themselves was only enhanced by the additional, regular presence of Tom Moody (as balanced and just about neutral an Aussie as you will find) and Mark Nicholas, who yo-yoed smartly between the Channel 9 and the SA-populated booths and, I have to admit, is fast growing on me as a pundit after some earlier reservations.
Who did Sport24 readers think topped (and “not”, if you wish!) the microphone pops during the series? Let us know ...
Rob’s Awesome Foursome
1. Orlando Pirates v Kaizer Chiefs, PSL soccer
Soweto, Saturday 15:30, SABC1, SS4 & SH2
The prestigious Soweto showpiece has sometimes been rather cynically milked for frequency across competitions, so it is refreshing that this first one of the Absa Premiership campaign comes after what at least seems an unusually lengthy gap and near the halfway stage of PSL activity in 2012/13. For that very reason, I suspect, it has been particularly hungrily awaited and tickets for the cavernous FNB Stadium were snapped up like hotcakes. Apart from the important, mass-audience SABC1 offering, SuperSport have revealed that their coverage will include a feed to four ESPN broadband platforms representing 19 countries spread across the globe and including the United States, Caribbean and Australia. Prediction? Hmm, Chiefs by lone strike.
2. Sevens World Series rugby
Port Elizabeth, Saturday/Sunday 10:45, SS1, SHD, some CSN
Well, the BlitzBokke don’t exactly ride into Nelson Mandela Bay on a wave of confidence, do they? Paul Treu’s injury-hit charges ended the Dubai leg last time out as rare Bowl-level minnows and have sunk to a pretty lowly (at least for them) sixth on the overall table after two rounds of the global Sevens trek in 2012/13. Up top are the almost obligatory New Zealanders, who will doubtless also enjoy a fair quota of locally-based support in PE. South Africa’s day-one opponents are Samoa (13:12), France (16:40) and Australia (19:36). The Cup final is scheduled for Sunday from 19:20.
3. Cape Cobras v Titans, One-Day Cup cricket qualifier
Cape Town, Sunday 10:00, SS2, SHD4, some CSN
This match is basically a semi-final, for the right to play the Lions (such an admirably consistent limited-overs side generally this season) in the final at the Wanderers next Friday. It will be spiced by the presence of several returning Proteas Aussie-conquerors from Down Under ... or will it? There is always the delicate job for franchise coaches of deciding whether to field potentially tired stellar international names, or stick with the nucleus of local players who have got them that far. Newlands advantage, plus the knowledge that they thumped them in round-robin play at Paarl only days earlier, suggests the Cobras are favourites. Mind you, isn’t it time someone like the dangerous but seemingly out-of-touch Albie Morkel roared back to the party for the Titans?
4. Manchester City v Manchester United, English Premiership soccer
Manchester, Sunday 15:30, SS3 & SHD3
City did the double on their bitter rivals last season, winning 1-0 at Eastlands and by that surreal 6-1 scoreline at Old Trafford, so there is no lack of incentive for Sir Alex Ferguson to get his log-leading Red Devils pumped up for a revenge opportunity. The succulent Sunday afternoon meeting comes at a fitting time, too, with both teams well clear of the rest in the top two slots (certainly Chelsea are suddenly falling behind at a rate of knots). Mind you, both Mancunian giants lost in the Champions League in midweek – though United were already safely through – and weren’t at their sharpest in the Premiership a few days earlier: City were held at home by Everton and United edged that ding-donger at Reading 4-3. I’ll take the conservative 1-1 route here.