Such was undoubtedly the case for the Western Province Currie Cup outing against the Sharks at Newlands; the Timber Technician had come to watch the Streeptruie, the Travelling Thespian to root for the Sharks.
This in itself was a contradiction, for the Technician, his heart rooted in the Western Cape, now makes his home in Durban, the Thespian, though he has not lived in KwaZulu-Natal for many years and now spends more time travelling to exotic locations than he does basking in the sunshine in the Zulu kingdom, but still follows the men in black.
But with the prospect of a Rugby Championship Test in Salta to come later in the evening and the memories of the stellar last-gasp Beauden Barrett try which had given the All Blacks a 35-29 victory over the Wallabies earlier in the day still fresh, it could perhaps be argued that there was more on everyone’s minds than the outcome of a match in a provincial competition which has lost more than a little of its glitter.
There was also the not inconsequential matter of cage fighter Conor McGregor’s meeting under Marquis of Queensberry rules with Floyd Mayweather in the early hours of the following morning to distract attention from the immediate spectacle.
In total it provoked some less than stirring debate with the Timber Technician weighing in with “We’ve got a nice young side this year” and the Thespian an “I’m sorry, I don’t know too much about the team this season” representing the general lassitude. But while the game at Newlands might have been the focus of only half an eye, there was some brisk discussion of how the All Blacks managed to snatch a win from defeat in Dunedin and, it should be mentioned, prove why you should put Australian coach Michael Cheika in a soundproof booth.
Cheika’s turn of phrase after Barrett’s dart through for the winning score would doubtless have shocked the children and frightened the horses. “You have to play a full 80 minutes against New Zealand or they will get you,” was the Thespian’s take on it. The Timber Technician agreed but was somewhat distracted by the fact that his side had taken a 20-14 lead over the visitors and it looked very much like Western Province adding a fourth win to their tally this season.
But then, with the minutes ticking down, Inny Radebe went over near the left touchline and Rhyno Smith calmly slotted a difficult conversion to complete the 21-20 scoreline. The Timber Technician ruefully shook his head. The Thespian gave his companion a wry smile and both left almost immediately without saying another word.
And in the final analysis, it wasn’t any comment on the rugby which remained hanging in the air, but McGregor’s comment that the hype generated around what was essentially always going to prove a mismatch had done more for the fighting arts – fistic and mixed martial – than anything for the past dozen years. Someone had to be right after all.