Baby oil gives World Cup different feel

Welcome to the Rugby World Cup in the Land of the Rising Sun, where baby oil could be a key ingredient in lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy, writes JOHN GOLIATH.

Every day I learn something new about myself. This week I found out that every time I hear or see the words ‘baby oil’ the first couple of bars of George Michael’s Careless Whisper reverberates in my head. As I’m writing this piece, that saxophone intro is all I can think of.

I’m sorry, it’s now stuck in your head as well. I can’t suffer alone.

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I blame Wales coach Warren Gatland for planting this unfortunate seed in my head after he revealed that his team has been applying baby oil to their, err, training balls. This, to try to replicate the slippery conditions they are likely to encounter in hot and humid Japan over the next couple of months.

‘We’ve been using wet balls and been using baby oil on them as well,’ Gatland said on Sunday.

‘We’ve taped them up as well and we’ve already been through that process in the camps we had before we’ve been away. We have been to two camps where one was at altitude and it was very hot in Switzerland, and then it was in the late 30s in Turkey.

‘We’ve done as much as we possibly can in terms of dealing with the heat. I think the humidity is going to be a factor … it’s how we cope with that.’

The revelation has caused quite a stir in Japan, with journalists quizzing different coaches about the dos and don’ts of baby oil. Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick couldn’t keep a straight face during a media conference, while Gatland’s arch-rival, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, poked a bit of fun at the Wales mentor.

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‘You want to rephrase what you just said?’ asked Hansen after being confronted with ‘baby oil-gate’.

‘You said Warren Gatland has been putting baby oil on his balls. That’s probably not the headline you want.

‘We’ve just been using plain old water. It seems to be working all right.’

The slippery ball is going to be a big issue in Japan and it’s rather surprising that those gloves many players wore in the early 2000s are not making a comeback. I would have thought that would have been the first idea that comes to mind. Not baby oil. Seriously?

But I’m glad those gloves were left in the previous decade. Goodness me, my lasting memory of those gloves is how terrible the Boks were under Harry Viljoen and Rudolf Straeuli during that time.

The baby oil, however, has got me excited. But it’s not what you think.

It’s another thing that’s adding to the unique flavour and feel of this World Cup. It’s different, but a good different, as the lead-up to this tournament has been fascinating to follow because the World Cup has ventured into the great unknown.

We’ll have to see what the action is going to be like on the field, especially with the slippery ball. I have a feeling we are all going to have a good time during this World Cup, and, who knows, South Africans may even be dancing after the final whistle on 2 November.

But, remember, guys, ‘guilty feet have got no rhythm‘ …

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