Columns 17.7.2017 05:01 am

On a wing and a prayer

Citizen acting deputy editor Brendan Seery.

Citizen acting deputy editor Brendan Seery.

Heads were bowed just before kickoff; then there were the exuberant thank-yous when players crashed over the line for a try.

As the wispy clouds drifted against an azure background, the hand-written sign affixed to the Pearly Gates fluttered. “We’re busy, Come back later,” it said.

Inside, God and St Peter were peering intently at a flatscreen TV. It was no miracle that they could get SuperSport … after all, even DStv recognised they were VIP customers.

This thing called rugby hadn’t always been on the agenda up in heaven. It was somewhere in 2015 that the angels staffing the prayer filter computers began noticing strange patterns in the terabytes of missives flowing in.

The staff – wingless angels at this stage, but the computer work is vital for promotion to full, winged one – were used to the entreaties that came in around the time of the Ashes Series. The English didn’t think they could beat the Aussies without the power of prayer.

A close second, in volume terms, was the prayers from England football fans around World Cup time, still hoping against hope (and logic) that they could pull off 1966 again. And, of course, there was a spike from SA every year around Durban July time, when punters suddenly lost faith in their own turf knowledge.

In 2015, though, the computer angels noticed a lot of communication from those involved in something called Super Rugby. Heads were bowed just before kick-off; then there were the exuberant thank-yous and fingers pointed skyward when players crashed over a whitewashed line for something called a try. And after victories, the same heads bowed as teams thanked the Almighty. (There were virtually no prayers thanking the heavens fo a loss, however …) God was mystified.

“Do these people think I really have anything to do with how they perform on the field?” St Peter agreed: “Do they think we have nothing better to do up here than help them win a game?”

God replied. “If they need us to help them, they can’t be very good at what they do, can they? And they get paid for it.”

She thought of something else: “It reminds me of that rubbish that happens every time people go to war. The armies on both sides pray to us for victory. What do they not understand about ‘Thou shalt not kill’?”

She was irritated, but also intrigued. “Well, I suppose we should see what all this Super Rugby nonsense is about.”

With the flatscreen installed, they needed some expert to guide them. So they called in St Jude, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes. Jude had been almost overwhelmed by the prayers from England football supporters, so for something different, he turned to rugby … and came up with a bunch called the Lions.

This bunch had been considered no-hopers, said St Jude, when they returned to Super Rugby in 2014. But, he said, they had been “pulled right” by coach Johan Ackermann. And their captain, Warren Whitely, was inspirational.

It didn’t take God and St Peter long to appreciate the talents of people like Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Lionel Mapoe and Courtnall Skosan (heavenly, chuckled St Peter). God smiled.

“Stand by for a tsunami of prayers on Saturday … from the Sharks.”

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