“What is the best way to avoid an awful thrashing,” was the question uppermost in my mind on Thursday afternoon.
It’s fair to say that my mind this week has been a bit like the ocean outside Pegasus Bay, which shelters Christchurch from the wave-tossed Pacific Ocean as it crashes into the rest of New Zealand’s South Island’s rugged coastline –restless, uneasy and with thoughts of Springbok rugby’s demise pounding away.
The lack of focus became apparent in the Sunshine Tour Media Challenge on Thursday afternoon, as Musiwalo Nethunzwi, the gifted 28-year-old from Modderfontein Golf Club, quickly dominated the front nine at Glendower Golf Club to go eight-up over hapless me at the turn.
The prospect of losing 10&8 had thankfully been averted, but the ignominy of a massive defeat was very much on the cards. At the halfway house I decided the only way forward was to stick with the things (it’s a short list) that have worked in the past and I was fortunate to also bump into Thabang Simon, the Soweto Country Club professional who has been playing on tour since 1998/99.
I suspect Simon just wanted to tag along out of morbid curiosity to watch the trainsmash that is my golf – I was having a bad day so it’s probably more like the effects of a tsunami obliterating a densely-populated area – but his presence had the effect of galvanising me and I managed to win a few holes before eventually going down 5&4.
On a serious note, the difficulties our development golfers face in trying to make it as professionals is clearly illustrated by Nethunzwi. He was magnificent off the tee, long and straight, and outplayed James Kamte, the pinnacle of Black African golf in South Africa and part of our fourball, to illustrate the talent he has.
But Nethunzwi, a thoroughly affable chap as well, does not have a full-time coach, simply because he cannot afford one, providing an opportunity for corporate South Africa to help transform the game if ever I’ve seen one.
I have a feeling most Springbok fans are expecting a “5&4” defeat at the hands of the All Blacks on Saturday morning.
It’s important to note, however, that South African rugby has been through these times of mourning before.
Heyneke Meyer’s first Rugby Championship campaign in 2012 saw the Springboks draw in Argentina before losing both games in Australia and New Zealand, the All Blacks also hammering them 32-16 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
In Peter de Villiers’ first Tri-Nations tournament, in 2008, the Springboks won just one game, astonishingly against the All Blacks in Dunedin, while Jake White started superbly, but a run of five successive defeats in 2006 left him on the brink of being fired before a 77th-minute Andre Pretorius penalty edged them to a one-point win over New Zealand in Rustenburg. Just over a year after that, the Springboks were winning the World Cup in France.
Even their 1995 triumph came after they had won just three of their previous 15 Tests against Australia, New Zealand, France and England.
The Springboks dug their way out of those troughs and came out stronger, and former star Fourie du Preez certainly believes this will be the case again.
“It’s a tough story for South African rugby at the moment and all supporters would like to believe it will get better. As a former player though, I can tell you that this experience now will really count in their favour further down the line. I remember before the 2007 World Cup it was the same for us.
“When the Springboks have their backs against the wall, they always stand up and we still have great players. I just don’t understand why we have to wait until we’re under such pressure though. It’s very unfortunate that the new coach was appointed just four weeks before his first Test and he’s going through a tough time as well,” Du Preez said.
The inspirational scrumhalf was speaking in studio as part of The Dan Nicholl Show, which so often puts matters of South African sport in perspective. The first episode of season four, which has Du Preez in the line-up, will be broadcast on Wednesday at 7pm on SuperSport 1.