It is little wonder that the Ferocious Fireman – so named for his biting sense of humour rather than for any innate violence in his normally placid nature – that gave the go-ahead to take the mickey out of Dave the Silent’s pre-match predictions for the Super Rugby semifinal against the Hurricanes at Ellis Park.
The Fireman, who rates the Lions as only marginally less important in his life than his beloved West Ham, turned to the Silent One almost as soon as Jaco Peyper had blown the final whistle on one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the competition’s history. The Fireman assumed the flat, poker face that signals he is going to have a substantial dig at his intended target.
“You got that a bit wrong, didn’t you?” he said after the staggering second-half comeback the Lions had engineered against the defending champions in the stadium on the decaying fringes of downtown Johannesburg, aiming his comment directly at the Silent One, who had roundly castigated the Lions after their last-gasp win over the Sharks in the quarterfinals a week previously and expansively predicted a win for the New Zealanders.
“I will give you that, I’m sure just as you must have thought,” the Fireman continued, “the Lions looked dead and buried after a mediocre first half. But,” he said dropping a broad wink at the rest of the gathering, “I have to question your commitment to the cause. Where was your faith that the Lions could come back after going 22-3 down?” The Silent One glowered, but again offered no retort.
“Have you not watched this team with us all season?” the Fireman went on, his teeth firmly sunk into the subject at issue. “By your own admission, the Lions are a side of great heart and commitment. Did you suddenly forget all that? “And, while the facts might bear it out,” the Fireman continued, “don’t even begin to give us the old excuse that this was a match of two halves.”
There was, somewhat uncharacteristically, no reply from the Silent One, who despite a sideways glare, kept his counsel. At this juncture, there were some sotto voce mutters from the gathering about that roasting the Silent One was getting. But then suddenly the Fireman provided his characteristic grin. “Just kidding,” he said raising both palms heavenward in submission. “But now you have a feel of what I get from you lot when West Ham get beaten … again.”
There was no immediate riposte, other than a slow shaking of the head, before the ragging died down and the Silent One deigned to speak. “Well,” he said, “I have learnt a number of lessons this afternoon.
“Firstly, never make predictions on the outcome of matches where much of the intricacies tend to escape me. Secondly, never underestimate the abilities of a team who fight for one another.
“But most importantly of all,” he added, casting a venomous glance at the arithmetically challenged Golfer, the self-styled expert on all sporting matters, “never listen to those around you offering long-term predictions in an area as volatile as sport”.