June and I were away in Tarkastad, Eastern Cape, (about 70 kms West of Queenstown), over this weekend so my view of Super 15 matches was reduced to a few glimpses. I did see the Cheetahs beat the Stormers and once again had my opinion confirmed by reports a few days later, attributed to the visiting captain, Duane Vermeulen, that poor mental and psychological preparation had led to an unlikely defeat. He acknowledged the Cheetahs were fired up and played well. So the mystery remains: how do you motivate players from a team in the top 4 to respect the talents of a team near the bottom? It’s critically important. The careless arrogance of the Stormers’ players was obvious; casual to a fault.
As I tried to watch the Sharks vs Highlanders’ match, I was distracted by conversations with the daughters of my nephew, Jerry Phillips, whose mother is June’s sister. (We had travelled down for Marlene’s 80th birthday celebrations). These girls have applied to attend Kingswood College and were firing questions at me re ‘the teachers’, ‘discipline’, ‘did you expel pupils, Uncle Neil?’, ‘how many clubs can I join?’, ‘can you play more than one sport per season?’ etc.
Behind them, on the screen, the Sharks were playing their hearts out. They were focused, each player in the zone, so far as I could see. After 30 minutes the scores were equal. When I looked later and saw the Highlanders had won by 48 points to 15 (?), I couldn’t believe it. How had it happened? The only explanation I could even entertain was that the home side must have ‘upped’ their usual front-foot relentless attacking game and, in counter-attack, run the Sharks ragged.
That’s all I watched – read later the Lions lost narrowly to the Bulls.
Back to reminiscences, I suppose I ought to have realised my cover would be blown by a former player re my remarks about Bernie Meyers and his disinclination to do the warm-up runs at Rhodes University. Sid Finlayson of Mossel Bay (big, fast wing at Chaplin, UCT, Salisbury Sports Club and Mashonaland) was quick to remind me, and all of you, that I had ducked into the fir trees when the ‘twice-times-round-the-whole-field’ run was called at Sports Club practises. Somehow , my bladder dictated I had to release the pressure and I missed out on a lap or two! Well that’s my sort of story.
At Tarkastad Sports Club, where the birthday celebrations were held, I was appalled to see the tennis courts in disrepair, the golf course gone, no rugby, no cricket, some squash. (Bowls is going well). Marlene’s eldest son, Mickey, a world authority on dorper sheep – at one stage held the world record for the highest price for a ewe – took me to see a team photo of the Tarka Ist Rugby team – 1924. His grandfather, ‘Nap’ (for Napoleon) Phillips had then captained this team to the Border Grand Challenge Trophy. How times have changed.
(Re Bernie, he and his family left Rhodesia in 1977, they to Israel, we to Michaelhouse in KZN. Tragically, Bernie and Isobel’s elder boy, Garry, centre for Milton School, was killed early on in Israel when a truck turned over and he was the only soldier who died. I don’t think Bernie got over it; he died in the ‘eighties aged 52.)
A sad note on which to end.