As long as I can remember getting drunk during rugby games, there have been talks about how Southern hemisphere teams would stack up against European ones, if given the opportunity.
“Ons sal hulle opfok, man!” someone would say between sokkie treffers, while some would channel the spirit of a proud english forefather and shine a torch of wisdom with: “Ek weet darem nie! Die Engelse het daai Wilkinson klong!”
Now that Super Rugby have released the Kings and Cheetahs from the southern hemisphere rugby friendzone, a northern hand of friendship has been extended to pull these two teams from Currie Cup-only abyss. We have been given an open keyhole to have a sober look into that drunken North v South franchise fantasy.
It has the potential to become a nightmare for these two teams, but also to become the best thing to happen to them. I’m hoping for the latter.
Some would agrue that the Kings and Cheetahs do not have the nuclear codes of South Africa’s weapons of mass destruction, but I personally feel that these two teams are the perfect teams to take part in the Pro14 competition. The Kings and Cheetahs play a great “experimental” brand of rugby, they do not have the egos some of the bigger teams have and they stitch together, discarded and up-and-coming players.
They are the underdogs who bleed in the dead rubbers, they are the teams who still run the ball even if they are 50 points behind with 82 minutes gone on the clock. They are the teams who every now and then play the most beautiful and perfect game, slay giants like the Crusaders and celebrate like barefoot children playing in oversized Mr. Price shirts as if they just won a backyard world cup.
Who can deny smiling during one of Mapimpi’s “Which phone is ringing?” try celebrations or prop Ox Nche breaking the line like a centre or going on superbru and seeing Zeilinga and Cronje in the top flyhalf positions.
We might not be sending over the might of the Lions, Sharks, Stormers or the, uhm…Bulls, but we are sending the backyard spirit of rugby over.
The pure joy in South African rugby. They are everyone’s favorite 2nd or 3rd teams for a reason and that reason might be the purest love for the game, seeing yourself in the underdog, making their fight yours even if its in the quiet corner inside yourself.
My message to the Kings and Cheetahs is: you point those muddy index fingers up at God, you jump on your teammate’s shoulders and you yell macho shit into the air if you need to, ’cause your spirit IS rugby!
Written for The Pundits by @Justus_Beets