New darling Carlito Alcaraz aces Djokovic, Tour and Boks


New darling Carlito Alcaraz aces Djokovic, Tour and Boks

LOUIS DE VILLIERS furiously juggled between Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the Boks over the weekend, but it was Carlos Alcaraz' epic victory over Novak Djokovic that was the outright winner.


ON Sunday morning the intro of this article was still: And there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.

But then the Tour de France and Wimbledon caught fire once more. I clicked furiously back and forth before realising it would be wiser to record the ascent of Mont Blanc for later and watch Carlos Alcaraz make sporting history.

Then I suddenly also found that I liked Novak Djokovic much more: first, because he can indeed be beaten, and second, because he can lose with grace.

There is little doubt in my mind that he is the best men's player since steel racquets, but the grace with which he accepted defeat against his likely heir to the throne nevertheless almost made me shed a tear.

It’s just a game

See, I missed the first 20 minutes of Saturday's Bok test against the All Blacks.

I recorded it and spent half an hour longer under the duvet on a freezing cold morning, only to be thwarted by unexpected load-shedding. So, when I finally started watching, the score was already 17-0 in New Zealand's favour and after that the Boks played significantly better.

While I was watching, South Africa scored 20 points and the Kiwis 18. Everything was fine except for the scoreboard. I witnessed those awful first 20 minutes in Auckland only on Sunday night.

To my astonishment, there was very little wailing or gnashing of teeth among the South African rugby public.

Goodness, can it really be true that we've finally realised it's only a damn sport and that our opinions about it aren't really relevant? In fact, life as we experience it is merely an accidental coagulation of cosmic energy…

Okay, stop that immediately, Louis. Here and there the usual cads on social media who ignore spelling, punctuation and the possibility of a non-racial outlook on life were still active, but even that could not upset yours truly enough to give a shit about this sad old lot. 

As a child, I was taught that when you run into baboons in the mountains, you should ignore them. Apologies to all baboons; I didn't mean to equate them with those young upstarts who start screaming quotaquotaquota as soon as the Springboks lose.

But it's equally valid. If we ignore them long enough, they may become silent forever. Anyway, one for the All Blacks: this tune, one of Doc Danie Craven's favourites, was  written for Maori soldiers returning home from World War 2.

The devious Doc

There were other twists in the amateur days.

Legend has it that the same Doc Craven used to send touring teams to Durban before a potentially crucial Test, knowing they would not be able to resist regular swims in the warm Mozambique Current and would therefore run onto the field sunburnt and raw from the sea salt.

In those years, New Zealand apparently also had different approaches for the Lions and Springboks. Against the British they would field all the strongest provincial teams from the start; a few thrashings later and the touring team would start drinking before the first Test.

South Africans, on the other hand, devour adversity like mealiepap and drink it like brandy and Coke. The strategy was to convince them they were excellent by, among other things, stringing together rather useless provincial teams for the tour and then cutting them down to size in the first Test.

So, I couldn't care less if the Boks lose again before the World Cup starts. A little more negativity about our chances has never done much harm.

Plus, at this stage you can earn around R5.50 for every rand if you bet on the Boks to win the World Cup. Another defeat on the way to France and that becomes R6 – almost an investment. As other New Zealanders would say

Slow starters

We have to accept that Japanese club rugby provides most of the income of many of our leading players. And their careers are definitely extended in the process.

But the flip side is that they usually heat up as slowly as diesel engines when they suddenly have to play a serious version of the game. On Saturday, there were six players in the Boks' starting team who play their rugby in Japan, and a fairly erratic Willie le Roux was the only one who wasn't totally useless.

Lukhanyo Am's working holiday at the Kobe Steelers has robbed one of the most skilled players on earth of a big chunk of his abilities, hopefully only temporarily.

Either way, if you haven't played rugby in weeks or months, a rundown old stadium in Auckland's southern suburbs is definitely not where you want to start again, and the All Blacks, buoyed  by the haka, are the very last team against whom you want to spend your first 20 minutes back on the field.

Get ready for Eddie

Eddie Jones is a popular frenemy of South African  rugby.

2007 and blah, blah, blah.

That scornful grimace may just provide us with a lot of pleasure this year. After the Pumas beat his Wallabies in the 79th minute, the chance seems slim that Australia will win a game before they reach the World Cup. Only two tests against the All Blacks and one against France remain.

Jones' old-fashioned style of shouting at players and continuously stirring shit at press conferences became obsolete long ago and it will be hilarious if they turn up in France with a record of zero out of five games after his rather opportunistic return.

As that great Australian band The Avalanches famously said: “His boys need therapy." But I suspect Jones' psychology is too robust for most people with a three-digit IQ

Rugby World Cups are strange things. After the final, everyone can explain in retrospect why things ended up the way they did, but before the first game very few people have the faintest idea.

In my humble opinion, the favourites have won the Rugby World Cup only in 2003 and 2015. I would prefer that the Springboks continue to be spared this status.

Joy of Carlos Alcaraz

And hell, in the meantime, something Spanish for Carlos Alcaraz, who is going to bring us a lot of joy:

♦ VWB ♦

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