Posts Tagged ‘Springboks’

Later today, at 16:00 BST, Wales will take on South Africa in the first of two Tests on their summer tour. After beating Eastern Province 34-12 in a warm-up game on Tuesday, hopefully the Wales team will go into the match with some level of confidence after a disappointing 6 Nations. Worryingly, it seems that George North is a doubt for the game, having gone down with a virus since arriving in South Africa. North scored a try in the Northampton win over Saracens to win the English Premiership title two weeks ago and joined the party late because of that match.

Wales take on South Africa in the 1st of two Tests later today

Wales take on South Africa in the 1st of two Tests later today

Despite Wales’ win over Eastern Province, I cannot see a victory for Wales today against the mighty Springboks. Not only do we have several key players not even on the tour (like Sam Warburton and Leigh Halfpenny), but in addition we were soundly beaten by South Africa the last time we met during last year’s Autumn Test series in Cardiff.

The Wales and South Africa teams for today's 1st Test, although George North is a doubt.

The Wales and South Africa teams for today’s 1st Test, although George North is a doubt.

I’m hoping to be able to see the match. I will be in Lusaka, and although Zambia does not follow rugby at all, I’ve noticed several places have a South African sports channel playing, and they’ve been advertising Saturday’s match. But, if I’m not able to see it live I will follow it on the BBC website who promise “live updates” (they’re never quite live!).

Meanwhile, very soon from now England will be taking on New Zealand in the 2nd Test of their three Test series. After a very good display in the 1st Test, when they were 15-15 with just minutes to go before the All Blacks scored a last minute try to clinch the game 20-15, I am sure the England team will be hoping for a victory. Stuart Lancaster’s squad is now boosted by the arrival of the Northampton and Saracens players who missed the 1st Test, but of course New Zealand will be wanting to show England that last week’s close game was an aberration. It should be a fascinating game.

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Wales are about to embark on a two-test tour of South Africa, after a warm up game against Eastern Province today (the 10th of June). Our first Test is this Saturday (the 14th of June) in Durban on the East coast of the country. Then a week later on the 21st of June we have a second Test in Nelspruit, which is a place I’ve never heard of before. From looking at the map, it is to the East of Pretoria, not far from the border with Mozambique. I’m not sure why they’re holding the 2nd Test there rather than one of the better known rugby venues, but I’m sure the South African Rugby Union have a plan.

The full schedule of matches on this short three-match tour is

Wales have a warm-up match before they face two Tests against South Africa

Wales have a warm-up match before they face two Tests against South Africa

Wales have a severely depleted squad, and unfortunately I cannot see us even challenging the Springboks. In fact, I think we will get roundly beaten in both Tests, which is not going to help our confidence after a poor 6 Nations. The last time we played South Africa, during the Autumn Tests in Cardiff, they tore us apart with their physicality and we were a very distant second. With so many key players missing from this tour, I cannot realistically see any other outcome than two heavy defeats, but I guess we shall have to wait and see.

The tour party has been severely depleted by injury, even though coach Warren Gatland originally intended to take a full-strength squad

The tour party has been severely depleted by injury, even though coach Warren Gatland originally intended to take a full-strength squad

Meanwhile England go on a three Test tour of New Zealand, which should be interesting to see where England stand after being, to me, the most impressive team in the 2014 6 Nations. Strangely, the first test will see them without many of their first choice players as the Final of the English domestic Premiership means the players involved in that match will not be able to join the tour until the 2nd Test. Seems crazy to me that the RFU should arrange a tour so early that this should happen, and even NZ’s coach Steve Hansen has questioned why they are not coming in July rather than June. I am sure money is the reason……

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The poem “Invictus”, written by William Ernest Henley, first came to my attention through the movie of the same name. The movie, made in 2009, is about South Africa’s attempt to win the 1995 Rugby World Cup, shortly after Nelson Mandela had become President. Rugby had always been seen as an Afrikaaner game in South Africa, so much so that the majority South African blacks would often support the opposition rather than support what they saw as a game played almost exclusively by their white racist masters.

William Ernest Henley

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) wrote Invictus in 1875, it was published in 1888.

Mandela sees an opportunity to unite South Africa by embracing this white-dominated sport, and show his willingness to let the past be the past. In the movie, Mandela is played by Morgan Freeman, and the Springboks’ captain François Pienaar is played by Matt Damon. If you haven’t see the film, then I highly recommend it.

The poem was used by Mandela to boost his spirits during his long incarceration in prison on Robben Island, and he shares it with Pienaar in the hope of inspiring the Springboks to victory. Here is the poem in its entirety.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

The best known lines in the poem are the last two lines. Recently they have cropped up in a TV commercial for the Irish stout Guinness. The commercial features a group of men in Brazzaville in the Congo who belong to “La Sape”, which stands for Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (Society for the Advancement of Elegant People). A member of this Society is known as a “sapeur”.

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