Columnists 8.3.2017 01:48 pm

Clash of programming opens a new episode

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

It was an unaccustomed sight, Christopher the Collected One, a regular member of the usual assembly on weekdays, scuttling in to join the gathering as the Lions trooped into the Ellis Park change-rooms holding a 33-24 lead over the visiting Waratahs.

The Collected One seldom joins in over the weekends, preferring to watch his rugby from the comfort of home and avoid what sometimes tend to be fairly heated debates over the merits and demerits of competing teams. You will understand from this that conflict, unless it has been forced on him, is not his natural habitat.

But there he was, his characteristic silver forelock even more awry than normal, and with a somewhat perplexed look on his generally smiling features, in a hurry to settle down and watch the second half.

As a student of the game – and with a number of his close relatives knowledgeable enough about rugby union to have applied their expertise to refereeing at top level – he likes to contemplate the broad sweep of decisions which can influence the result, in a calm, considered manner without the distractions of outside interference. But this was not the impression he gave this time round.

“What,” he demanded without the usual pleasantries which accompany his arrival, “is the score?” Reassured that the Lions were ahead, he looked less stressed than he had appeared mere seconds earlier. “There was something of an impasse at home,” the Collected One, now seated and ready for the next period of action. “I wanted to watch the rugby, but it clashed with a programme my wife wanted to see. This seemed to be the best compromise.”

The Collected One said little else as the Lions – despite a slew of handling mistakes and turnovers to the Australians which tended to disturb their momentum, cruised onwards to secure the victory that, despite the physicality and tightness of the match, had seldom looked like losing.

Elton Jantjies turned in a blinder to fully compensate for his somewhat lacklustre performance against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, aided by a surfeit of frontfoot ball from his forwards, as the Lions started to show glimpses of the form which got them to the final last season. And there was the type of display from Man-of-the-Match Rohan Janse van Rensburg – playing to honour his mother who passed away during the week – which fully justified the critics who had clamoured for him to wear Springbok colours far earlier than he eventually did.

The bullocking backline player was everywhere, putting in those destructive defensive tackles and weighing in with a brace of tries to round off his afternoon. The Collected One remained mute apart from the occasional grunt for the rest of the game until the final whistle brought an end to proceedings, at which stage he stood up and, as is his wont, double-checked the 55-36 scoreline before heading for the exit.

His abrupt departure brought an interesting comment from one of the gathering. “If his wife is hooked into an ongoing series,” he opined, “we are likely to see more of Christopher on Saturday afternoons … and he is likely to see more of the first half.”

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