Sitting in the grandstand at Danie Craven Stadium on a warm, humid late summer’s evening with a close- knit group of UCT rugby devotees, including two of the best Varsity props ever, Derek van den Berg and Keith Andrews, should be a pleasurable rugby experience.
I had not experienced a live game at Danie Craven against the old enemy since the very first Varsity Cup Final, and had forgotten how passionate the Matie fans are, how beautiful the early evening backdrop of mountains and early evening shades and colours can be.
Watching the Ikey Tigers go through their lineout drill behind the posts I could not but reflect that the timing and rhythm of the hooker throwing in to the lineout jumpers did not look slick and coordinated, but, as it was drill time, I reassured myself that we would see the timing and rhythm in the real time of the game.
As the great Russian writer, poet and what we so quaintly call a ‘struggle survivor’, Alexander Solzhenitsyn said in his famous reflection on life, ‘Sharaskas’; “Don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn after happiness; it is after all, all the same; the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing.”
I have thought about those words quite a lot since the final whistle blew at Dannie Craven Stadium last night, not so much for us lifelong UCT rugby devotees, but for Footey, Snoopy Dave, Paul, Lisa and the squad. We are still enormously proud of all of you, and look forward to seeing the squad take out of the past month of the 2012 Varsity Cup, the lessons contained in rugby’s cruel maxim, namely that you are only as good as your last game, and that next week is a whole fresh opportunity. As critical as we old armchair experts tend to be in the heat of battle, we all recognize that every man jack of the Ikey Tiger’s squad gave it their everything. In our beleaguered pack I choose to single out two players for commendation; Levi Odendaal and Rayn Smid. Levi played himself to a standstill and Rayn Smid is a very exciting prospect.
As to the flow of the game, I am a little confused as to why we kept choosing to take the ball into contact when the Matie Monsters were thriving off our sapped energies from their incredible scrummaging machine and relentless lineout dominance. When a university team can pop a complete second front row on the field at halftime, which would be the envy of the rest of the teams in the competition, one knows that the physical energy expended in defending our ball is going to be huge. So it proved to be, and it simply was not our night behind the scrum; then again it was not our night in the scrums or the lineouts. Again, these things happen in rugby. We all know the huge character and expertise of the coaching personnel will filter through to this relatively inexperienced Ikey Tiger squad, and next Monday at the Green Mile will be the end of boot camp for the squad, which will look back next year, and the year after, on the last few weeks as a painful but constructive rugby journey to the next uplands of UCT rugby. This is the painful birth of the next excellent Ikey Tiger squad.
We will not be testimony to the old maxim; ‘Victory has many fathers; defeat is a lonely orphan.’ We all still believe in the Varsity Spirit and the bite of a wounded Ikey Tiger. See you all at the Green Mile on Monday.