Jaco van der Merwe
Head of Motoring
3 minute read
9 Feb 2017
1:24 pm

What’s in a name? Everything, it seems…

Jaco van der Merwe

We have a long-standing joke going around our sports desk that the poster boys of American Football – the quarterbacks – are born into that position.

Our flimsy theory might be purely based on the names these guys are given at birth, but you have to admit it makes an interesting point nonetheless. I mean, c’mon, from the day Elisah Nelson Manning was written on the birth certificate of the guy who made a name for himself as Eli Manning, fate had clearly been decided. He went on to win two Super Bowl titles.

His boet, Peyton Williams Manning, has also won the top prize twice. How many siblings do you know named Eli and Peyton?Then you get Tom Brady, who last weekend became the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl five times. The shortened version of his name doesn’t support our theory, so please allow me to address him by his full name: Thomas Edward Patrick Brady … Junior. You have to admit, that is impressive.

I realise of course that not all quarterbacks are blessed with these fine names – like the Atlanta Falcons’ Matt Ryan who lost this year’s Super Bowl for obvious reasons – and that there are players in other positions in gridiron with quite inventive names too. But the beauty of being the orchestrator of a theory is being allowed to dismiss unsupportive material at free will.

That is the territory that comes with the title, okay? Back to the beauties who have etched their named into gridiron history: Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Brett Favre – and remember, these are only the main mackies.

Even Peyton Manning’s understudy when he won the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos last year, is named Brock Osweiler. I kid you not. It was only in the midst of Joost van der Westhuizen’s death this week that I realised our theory applies a lot closer to home than we could have ever thought. Every now and again someone tweeted, RIP Joost Heystek van der Westhuizen. Wow … Joost is uncommon enough, but add the even rarer Heystek to that and we have pure gold.

There is no need for me to elaborate on his extraordinary achievements, they have been on the television, radio, internet, social media and newspapers ever since he was rushed to hospital on Saturday. The tributes made by the Who’s Who of the rugby world, and even far beyond, tells you in what high regard our beloved Springbok hero was held.

A true warrior who once defied captain Bok captain Francois Pienaar’s order along with Joel Stransky to set up the famous World Cup-winning drop goal and later defied the odds in bravely outliving the general life expectancy of three years after he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease. A former colleague of mine was interviewing Muttiah Muralitharan during a Sri Lankan tour of South Africa many moons ago.

It turned out the spin wizard was an ardent fan of rugby, a popular sport at school level in his country. ‘’We watch Super Rugby on television. “I like the Bulls and my favourite player is Joost van der Westhuizen,’’ said Murali.

To think a South African rugby player was a folk hero on a tiny cricket-crazy island. I would expect nothing less from a Joost Heystek.