Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory



“It takes great skill – and a lot of determination – to lose that way. I mean, it’s not any old Springbok side that’d manage that, I can tell you.”

“That might be true, Vetfaan, but really! It’s becoming a South African habit, man! At first it was only the cricket team that carried the Choker’s Badge, but now it seems endemic. While some of our swimmers and tennis stars insist on being contrary by winning, we’ve developed a wonderful knack of losing – even our soccer team is on that bandwagon now.”

“I think it’s a special talent we’ve developed – the result of years and years of practice. Once we were the most developed country in Africa and in 1994 the world praised us for doing the right thing. Then Mandela picked up the ball and started running. He passed it on to Mbeki, who stumbled a bit because the team didn’t understand the rules. And then it was Zuma’s turn. He was supposed to be the speedster who’d cut through the opposition and score a few winning tries. What happened?” Servaas pauses dramatically before going on: “History happened, that’s what.”

“There’s a difference between sport and politics, Servaas. In sport your fans have a voice. They tell you what they think. If you played badly, the press roasts you. Commentators will be scathing in their criticism, and TV crews will broadcast your failures to a public that won’t hesitate to contribute their two cent’s worth. Remember, too, that sport stars aren’t paid by your taxes – they generally earn their own way through TV rights and other income from their respective clubs and unions. And, if you don’t perform, you get the boot…simple as that.” Gertruida is lecturing again. “But government? The public pays their salaries. And if the ruling party doesn’t deliver on its promises,  it is so much worse than fifteen chaps losing a game they should have won. Sadly, being booted out of politics isn’t a common South African tradition.”

“But that is why we have more and more violent protests in the country, Gertruida,” Servaas interrupts her lecture with a dismissive wave of the hand. “Even their fans are fed up.”

12019759_10207331775882988_7528779832144092590_n“My point exactly. Even the protestors are losers. What do you manage by burning the very same buses you have to use to get to work? Or by burning a library that was supposed to help kids get through school? Or by ransacking municipal offices? I can go on, but the point is this: destroying infrastructure only serves to impoverish the people that already have so little. The losers end up losing even more.”

“I get it.” Vetfaan sits back while signalling for another beer. “You’re saying we should leave the Springboks to get on with the job, while we must find a way of constructive protesting? And if we’re not happy with the situation inside the country, we should change the government?” He purses his lips in deep thought. “Nope, that won’t work.”

He gets a “Why?” chorus as Boggel pushes a full glass towards him.

“Well, as sports fans, we live with the result and use it as motivation to do better. You wait and see. The Springboks have lost a battle, but the war is far from over. We can be gracious in defeat, but that doesn’t mean we accept that our team is now a permanent national embarrassment. Come Saturday, and we’ll all be crowded around Boggel’s radio once again, wearing green and shouting at the ref. That’s the difference: sport is for entertainment.

“But politics? It’s the lifeblood of the country. And we’ve been bleeding for a long time. My take? Enjoy the rugby, at least that’s real.

“When I say we should change the government and it won’t work, it’s because our national sport isn’t rugby or soccer. It has become the Blame Game. Nobody’s being held responsible any longer. If t isn’t Jan van Riebeeck, it’s Apartheid. And if it isn’t that, they blame some poor official, who gets a golden handshake. Rugby has rules, my friends. It is governed by strict laws and the referee has the final say. Politics isn’t like that at all.”


An uninformed visitor to Boggel’s Place might find the group at the bar difficult to follow. They have an uncanny knack of stringing together seemingly unrelated opinions as they pass the time in idle conversation. After all, a comparison between the Springboks and the government is illogical, to say the least.

As Vetfaan sums it up: “Eish, guys! At least the Springboks have an opportunity to set things right again…”

5 thoughts on “Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

  1. terryconnelly

    Love this! It makes no difference what country, it is easy to blame the elected officials than do anything ourselves. When the people protest, as you say, they burn businesses in their own section of town, break windows of businesses that are struggling, and destroy cars of those who can barely afford to keep them running. You say it so well.


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