Farmer unearths Boks’ greatest downfall

Jon Swift

There are times when the Lydenburg Farmer’s mind drifts upwards as if drawn to the mystical timeless uplands of Mpumalanga and to things beyond the ambit of the generally mundane discussion.

It is advisable to leave him to his reverie as he tends to impart his inner thoughts in the manner you would expect of a Roman senator. “I remember,” the eminent agriculturalist started out, “something that Frank Oliver said when he toured here with the All Blacks in 1976.

“He was a hard man, a lock who earned his first Test cap against the Springboks and in those amateur days, before they started turning players into millionaires, he gave his job as a “bush clearance officer”. “He had been asked why it was that the New Zealanders came so strong in the last 20 minutes.

“Frank, who later became an All Black captain his son Anton followed in his footsteps as skipper of the New Zealand side in 2001 didn’t even hesitate. “He came straight out with one of the better replies in world rugby: ‘We don’t,’ he said. ‘We train to play 100 minutes. You only train to play 80’.

“I thought about that again during the final 20 minutes of the Test at Ellis Park and what Big Frank had said all those years ago. “Tell me that you don’t believe he could have made exactly the same remarks over a beer after Saturday’s match.”

What, the gathering seemed to feel, had a chance comment from some four decades ago, to do with the intensity of the modern professional game? “I can see from the looks on your faces that you are not following me,” the Farmer continued. “So let me ask you another question.

“When was the last time you can remember the Boks playing all out for a whole game?” It was indeed an interesting query, for the Farmer had pinned down the most serious of the problems that had beset the Springbok Rugby Championship campaign.

“Ja,” he said offering a shrug of the shoulders and a silent sigh, before continuing. “The Boks can’t put more than an hour’s rugby together. “Coming up to 60 minutes, The Boks were 27-24 ahead, had got the bonus point try and were looking good for a first win over New Zealand since 2011.

“You could almost feel it. This was our day and it was 1995 all over again. The Boks were going to do it. “Then the clock ticks up the hour and even with the New Zealanders sitting out a second yellow card, die drol is in die drinkwater, and the All Blacks land another 14 points.”

The Farmer shook his head, left the high ground and returned to terra firma and a glass of cold amber lager. “Ja,” he said, using the back of his workworn hand to clear the foam from his ample beard, “we have to play all the way through.

“Maybe I should phone Heyneke Meyer and pass on what Frank Oliver said.”

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