Narrow view overshadows vast panorama

Jon Swift

There is very little the Lydenburg Farmer has not seen first-hand in the often chaotic world of top rugby, but he has been inured to these swings and roundabouts by a lifelong battle trying to wrest the promised bounty from the unremitting red soil of Africa.

From the eyrie of his stoep high in the uplands of Mpumalanga, his eyes often turn inwards on the savagely majestic panorama that greets his day, and contemplates the vagaries of the slow passing of the seasons in contrast to the highs and lows 80 minutes of a game that is deeply imbued in his very being can wreak on the psyche.

The eminent agriculturalist is prone to scratching his luxuriant beard, now tempered at the fringes with the white of winters past, as he mentally balances the differing demands of two of the things he has found most important in his life.

It is well that the Stormers had been given a bye over the disastrous past weekend, where South Africa’s Super Rugby sides had collectively failed to produce a single win, as he would doubtless have focused his spleen on the side from the Western Cape, an area of this polyglot nation he considers fit only for producing wine and providing the road north.

Instead, his thoughts were centred on the ineptitude of referee Paul Hoffmann and TMO George Ayoub as the Sharks sank to a 33-18 defeat at the hands of the Waratahs in Sydney.

The Farmer has even less time for the Aussies than he does for the inhabitants of the Cape – it is a cause for advanced dyspepsia that the Stormers continue to head the SA Conference – and has on more than one occasion voiced his displeasure at their ability to whistle a game. Hoffmann’s blasts of displeasure aimed at the Sharks effectively relegated him to the scrapheap of the son of the soil’s displeasure list.

Here he is joined by Ayoub, whom the Farmer takes great delight in relating is called Mr Magoo by his fellow countryman after the notoriously short-sighted cartoon character with whom he shares a hairstyle and according to the eminent agriculturalists a similar distance from the clarity of 20/20 vision.

It is a point of some conjecture that if Ayoub were to suddenly emerge on the north side of the Farmer’s southbound tractor during ploughing season, his ressurected career as a TMO – he retired from refereeing at the end of 2007 only to be reinstated to the video booth the following year – would reach an abrupt end.

“I support any South African team – even the Stormers – against any Aussie side,” he has often said, showing a patriotic bias perhaps tending towards the fanatical. “Especially when the refs Down Under are on record as saying they will get the boere.”

It is doubtless the second part of this oft-quoted mantra that really stings, said as it was in a slighting manner, giving scant acknowledgement to the stature he firmly believes the taxing business of agriculture deserves or the respect South African rugby holds on his list of priorities.

“What really gets me,” he has been known to comment, “is that our own referees never try to level things out against the Aussies or New Zealanders. They fight fair.”

This last passing comment leaves little doubt that given a whistle, the calmness that farming brings to a man’s outlook, would rapidly vanish and passion would assuredly take over. It is well that the stoep and the virtually endless view stands between this and what the Farmer would see as justice.

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