Jon Cardinelli

Ten lighter moments of 2017

Rosko Specman as a conductor Rosko Specman as a conductor looks back at rugby’s funniest, weirdest and most bizarre moments this year.


Does any rugby player know more about the Harry Potter series than James Haskell? The quirky England flanker recently played the part of ‘Gary’ Potter – Harry’s estranged step-brother, according to Haskell – in a lighthearted online video.

The clip began with Haskell, who sported a cape, the iconic glasses and a badly drawn thunderbolt of his forehead, speaking about his origins. He then proceeded to name the seven Weasley siblings as well as the Professor of Transfiguration at Hogwarts.

‘I wouldn’t mind a bit of Felix Felicis before a big rugby tournament,’ he added, referring to the potion that brings Harry luck in one of the books. Haskell and his partner have already worked their way through most of the audiobooks.

‘I get into trouble when I listen to them on my own, though,’ he laughed. At the end of the interview, Haskell declared: ‘I’m so much better at Harry Potter than I am at rugby’ and asked if he could keep the cape ‘for research purposes’.


The Blitzboks collaborated with the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra to produce a wonderful promotional video in the lead-up to the Cape Town Sevens. Shots of the stars ‘playing’ the instruments were blended with shots of them dazzling on the rugby field.

Captain Philip Snyman delivered a convincing (acting) performance on the cello, as did Seabelo Senatla on the clarinet, Chris Dry on the drums, Kwagga Smith on the triangle, and a headbanging Werner Kok on the violin. Rosko Specman stole the show, however, with his comedic take on a baton-wielding conductor.


What were the marketing types at the Sunwolves thinking when they unleashed that mascot on the rugby world back in 2016? The wolf with the demonic eyes and ragged fur turned a lot of heads when the Japanese franchise made its debut in Super Rugby. At the time, a reporter at the New Zealand Herald dubbed the mascot ‘Pinging’, a slang term for a state of increased anxious activity, typically induced by an amphetamine.

The name stuck – at least on social media, with the official Super Rugby Twitter account embracing the description. In early 2016, Pinging was replaced by a child-friendly version that is more chihuahua than wolf. The Kiwi newspaper that gave the initial mascot its name lamented the move.

’We at the Herald loved Pinging for his or her zest for life and sheer inappropriateness. RIP Pinging.’


England star Manu Tuilagi believes that he has exorcised his injury demons. Literally. After taking advice from his mother, Tuilagi visited a Samoan witch doctor on Upolu, who proceeded to exorcise an injury curse caused by three evil ghouls.

‘I saw the witch doctor for two hours a day and she said that she found what the illness was,’ the 26-year-old centre said. ‘She massaged my whole body. All I needed was a towel and a Fijian oil.

'She found that there were three lady spirits who had married themselves onto me for the last three years. The witch doctor told me that was why I had been injured. The spirits wanted me for themselves; they wanted to punish me and injuring me was the way to do it. Every time I played: Bang!’


‘This streaker has just made more metres going forward than the entire Springboks team!’ tweeted one fan during the Test between New Zealand and South Africa in Albany. There was a moment when the naked pitch invader appeared to be on a collision course with Brodie Retallick. The streaker stumbled, though, much to the All Blacks lock’s amusement.

‘I was thinking about tackling him,’ Retallick told reporters later, ‘but then I thought nah, I'm not going to do that.’


The All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen copped some stick after his appearance in an advertising campaign called 'Apocalypse Steve Hansen: Don’t Lose Your Biscuit!' A couple of clips featured Hansen, in Mad Max-attire and riding a motorcycle, offering various explanations for the apocalypse.

They end in the same manner, though. ‘Never ever lose your biscuit!’ Hansen barks, before shovelling said cookie into his mouth.

Apparently the clips serve as a trailer for a short film, and are the brainchild of New Zealand stuntwomen Zoë Bell, who is better known for her work in Quentin Tarantino’s movies. ‘I thought it would be fun and totally outside my comfort zone,’ said Hansen of his acting debut.

The players certainly enjoyed the coach’s decision to broaden his horizons. ‘We had a few laughs,’ said a chuckling Beauden Barrett at a press conference staged before the first Rugby Championship Test. ‘Everyone seems to enjoy it.’


The French are anything but conventional. Take the Top 14 awards, where Player of the Year winner Victor Vito was welcomed to the stage by a naked 63-year-old man.

Presenter Antoine de Caunes wore nothing but a pair of skin-coloured underwear and a strategically placed rugby ball. The former All Blacks loose forward, who turns out for La Rochelle these days, played along with the comedy by giving the local celebrity a friendly tap on the ball.


The British & Irish Lions defied the odds to draw the much-hyped series against the All Blacks in July. How did they celebrate? While the bulk of the squad headed back to the United Kingdom and Ireland after the last Test, prop Mako Vunipola and No 8 Taulupe Faletau travelled to Fiji to soak up the sun and to emulate their favourite ‘90s pop stars.

It didn’t take long for an Instagram post titled ‘Fiji’s very own Peter Andre’ to find it’s way into the mainstream media. The clip begins with Vunipola dancing in the waist-deep waves while Andre’s ‘Mysterious Girl’ blares from an unseen source.

The heavy-set prop tosses his hair back and points ironically at the camera, much to the delight of Faletau, who can be heard laughing in the background.


Move over Leon Schuster, there’s a new singer-comedian taking the South African rugby scene by storm! Bulls prop Pierre Schoeman posted an epic song-cum tribute on social media in the buildup to his team’s first home Super Rugby game against the Sunwolves. The lyrics celebrate, and occasionally poke fun at, the 23 Bulls players selected for the match, and are sung to the tune of ‘Living Next Door to Alice’ by Smokie.

Schoeman, who begins the performance with his head down and shoulders slumped, becomes increasingly animated as he moves through the team lineup. ‘Die Bokke daar op slotte, RG, Jason en Lood, hulle maak die ouens seer, hulle maak die ouens dood… en alles gebeur, so mooi, op Loftus!’ By the time he’s into the backs, Schoeman’s voice is hoarse as he marvels at the size of Jamba Ulengo’s legs and Travis Ismaiel’s mad aerial skills.

One can only hope that this starts a trend across the country. Can you imagine Beast Mtawarira reading the Sharks’ team-list to the tune of ‘Sweet Caroline’?


Referee Nigel Owens had spectators in stitches after he jokingly flashed a yellow card at a ballboy during a Pro 12 match between Leinster and Scarlets in March.

In his eagerness to return the ball to the pitch, the offender hit the unsighted Owens in the head by mistake. The charismatic official didn’t miss a beat, scowling at the touchline and then brandishing a card.

The Welshman was all smiles a moment later, and ran up to the ball boy to shake hands. ‘This is why rugby is the greatest team sport in the world. Anyone know the ballboy? Will send him my match jersey to keep,’ Owens tweeted after the game.

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