Tour Tales – Cape Town

JON CARDINELLI on a superior sports cathedral, the Cape media scrum, and Joe Tomane’s back-three analysis.

It’s inevitable. It’s only a matter of time before Capetonians are watching top-flight rugby games at the magnificent colosseum in Green Point rather than at the rickety relic on Boundary Road.

Indeed, some of us in the local media thought the moment had finally arrived this past Monday, when a suit from the Cape Town City Council hijacked a Springbok press conference. He spoke eloquently about the honour of hosting the Boks, giving the impression that the Test against the Wallabies would be staged at the Cape Town Stadium rather than at Newlands. Had there been a last-minute change of venue?

While the Bok media manager moved to set the record straight, there were plenty of questions asked about why Heyneke Meyer’s charges were training at the Cape Town Stadium instead of at Western Province’s HPC in Bellville. Perhaps people should get used to seeing the Boks in action on the perfectly manicured pitch at the Cape Town Stadium.

What will never change is the intense media scrutiny in the lead-up to a Test match. Cape Town is arguably the biggest rugby town on the planet, and boasts one of the largest rugby media contingents in the world. During a Test week, that contingent swells significantly, as dozens of other local scribes join the scrum.

One of these days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Hugh Grant-type arriving at a press conference and accosting the Bok coach on behalf of the readers of Horse & Hound.

‘Heyneke, any chance we’ll see a few horses at the game this Saturday? No? Any hounds? Our readers deserve to know!’

The South Africans are used to the fervour of the Cape media crowd, as are a few of the more experienced tourists. That said, Israel Folau seemed overwhelmed when he was mauled by a score of hacks at a local gym on Tuesday. Then again, his pained expression may have had something to do with the fact that he had just made the taxing Sydney-Johannesburg-Cape Town journey, a sure recipe for a sense of humour failure.

On Thursday, the poker face of Ewen McKenzie contrasted the wide-eyed countenance of Joe Tomane at the top table of the Wallabies press conference. McKenzie played the majority of the questions with a straight bat, while Tomane had reporters in raptures after a colourful comparison of the two back-three combinations.

‘The Boks have a lot of speed, and speed kills!’ he offered.

An Aussie journalist then asked Tomane what the Wallabies had in their own back three, and the winger didn’t hesitate to identify Folau as the chief game-breaker. When pushed for an expansion of the Wallabies’ attributes and what would set them apart from their Bok counterparts, Tomane seemed at a loss.

‘Not sure. Maybe tattoos?,’ he said, glancing at his own ink-stained arms for emphasis.

‘And big hair,’ said McKenzie, who was trying to help, but couldn’t repress a grin.

‘Yeah, and ponytails.’

Mercifully, the Wallabies press officer ended the conference at that point.

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Jon Cardinelli