It is one of those features of the usual gathering that, while Dave the Silent might have some very pointed – and often perceptive – things to say about sport, he is not a man who wears his heart on his sleeve.
A lifetime in engineering has taught him that a considered approach is generally the more reasoned and productive route to take and while he might raise a quizzical eyebrow or two at some of the more exuberant outpourings of those around him, he is not given to jumping up, fist-pumping or screaming abuse at the match official. But, like the majority of the assembly, he had followed the fortunes of the Lions during this year’s Super Rugby campaign with keen interest and, though he claims no deep knowledge of the game, can even name some of the players.
The Silent One is also intrigued with the television cameos from the coaching boxes and has remarked that it is pure theatre to watch coach Johan Ackermann’s eyes switch from the pen-eyed benign to the near-psychotic when things go awry on the field. But, having been fed a steady diet of how dangerous the New Zealand sides are, there was a hint of hesitancy about the Silent One’s demeanour as the Crusaders ran out into the Ellis Park afternoon to take on the Lions in their quarter-final.
It was not to last long, as flyhalf Elton Jantjies held back a pass before feeding wing Courtnall Skosan to crash over in just the second minute. “Well,” said the Silent One when the whooping and hollering had died down somewhat, “that showed them … but there’s a long way to go yet”. The gap on the Crusaders grew to a two-try margin just five minutes later when Rohan Janse van Rensburg muscled his way over the line.
“That is much better,” he said when the mini-riot which greeted the score had subsided to a gentle roar. “That gives our team some breathing space.” It was an interesting aspect that the Silent One had drawn the Lions into his bosom and claimed vicarious ownership. He is generally far more hands off than this. But by the time hooker Malcolm Marx scored from a maul just before the half-time, the Silent One was starting to beam.
“That should wrap things up quite nicely,” he said. Second-half tries by Ruan Combrink and substitute scrumhalf Ross Cronje did exactly that as the Silent One sat back and reviewed what had occurred. Then he did something somewhat out of character – and in doing so, stole some of the thunder from Crusaders captain Kieran Read.
“These Lions really are men of steel,” he said, the engineering pedigree shining through.