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Great expectations?

I always get nervous at about this time, the time just preceding a major international tournament in which a South African team is playing.

I wait, wondering what it is that is going to go wrong to play a part in compromising the spectacle.

Sport in this country is littered with so many unsavoury distractions that it is difficult to keep score.

Thus far, though, there has been a fairly seamless build-up to the Rugby World Cup, which is rare, and I hold thumbs that it will remain so. Even any reference to alleged political tinkering seems to have been put on hold.

But all too fresh in the memory is the pre-World Cup 2003 cock-up of Kamp Staaldraad.

Grown men were reduced to tears by the idiocy that was visited on South African rugby back then. Some of the most incisive brains in the world would be hard-pressed to find answers as to why and how seemingly well-educated adults got it so wrong. The men were off to play a rugby tournament, not invade Iraq.

And who can forget the outcry over the sacking of Gary Teichmann ahead of 1999 World Cup? One man’s international career came to an end and another’s was derailed to a large extent. Maybe Bobby Skinstad can exorcise some of those demons this time round.

And then there were the rumblings ahead of the 1995 World Cup over the omission of Tiaan Strauss, ostensibly so that Francois Pienaar’s authority was not undermined — a decision proved correct in retrospect.

And what of the resignation of Carlos Queiroz ahead of the 2002 Soccer World Cup? And the appointment of the controversial Philippe Troussier ahead of the 1998 Cup? These incidents, too, played their part in creating a bumpy approach to an international tournament.

The point of all this is that there so often seems to be some occurrence in South African sport that shifts focus from the event itself.

So far, so good this time round.

The expectations are ever increasing.


  • Keith Nicholls

    Keith is a journalist at the Mail & Guardian Online and is, among other things, appreciative of sport