Viva Varsity Cup!


Viva Varsity Cup!

For once, LOUIS DE VILLIERS could watch a rugby match without swearing. He also writes about one-sided F1 races and names of sports stars that evoke flights of imagination.


SOMETIMES you are lucky enough to watch something like the Varsity Cup final on Monday night, and for an hour and a half you can sit back and forget about all the crap happening everywhere else on earth.

The world is neither better nor worse off today as a result, but for almost four dozen young Ikey and Shimla rugby players it made a huge difference. And for an old geezer it was wonderfully relaxing to see a scoreboard reading 42-42, with putrid defence rarely being the main cause of the points.

What a wonderful game.


Boom! The Shimlas shut the door; 45-42, which sounds like a half-time score in a pedestrian basketball game.

But without ever having to incite my neighbourhood with the involuntary cry of TACKLE, YOU (pick any ugly word, but in capital letters). 

The other day I learnt where the name Shimlas comes from. It was on the Facebook rugby group Pale Toe and the informant was the school rugby brain box Hannes Nienaber. Apparently a cheerleader, one Keppie Landau, was tasked in 1918 with finding suitable nicknames for Kovsie rugby teams. 

At the time, Maties was an insult from the University of Cape Town for Stellenbosch students, because a matie was synonymous with an oaf. The Maties hinted at rich Jews by naming UCT students Ikeys.

Both quickly learnt to frustrate their provokers by cherishing the insult.

Landau got hold of a map of India and the names of the city of Shimla in the Himalayan foothills and the Irrawaddy river struck him, and that's why Kovsies' first team are called the Shimlas and their second team the Irawas.

Well, on Monday night, players like the Shimla scrum half Jandré Nel and the Ikey winger Ntokozo Makhaza reminded us once more that our rugby may only now be starting to produce properly.

Now we have to keep our fingers crossed that someone coughs up big money for such a tournament for open clubs as well. It's going to be a struggle — it's much easier to attract a student to rugby on a Monday night than your average pissed off salary earner or other toilers. And the expensive pros play on weekends.


Lees hierdie artikel in Afrikaans:

Of course, the irony that the Kovsie rugby teams were named after an Indian city and river should not escape us, since nothing resembling an Indian was allowed in the Free State after dark until the 1990s. Nevertheless, badhai ho, Shimlas, well done.


An impression from the world of sport in the past week was that Formula 1 is only fun if it is your favourite who is mostly in front in the best car. Not that I want to hold a candle to Lewis Hamilton, but I resent most of his haters and find their pain priceless. And I obtained my driving licence in an old Mercedes.

My laughing days are over for now as Max Verstappen is clearly the best driver out of the 20 and Red Bull, mushrooming through the sporting world after relatively humble beginnings as a Thai energy drink, clearly has the best car out of the 10 teams.

Now I don't really watch any more.

Because it's no longer my guy who mostly wins.

But why is it almost always the same guy who wins these days? And am I right in imagining — I'm a layman — that this problem has been getting worse over the years?

This season there have been far more arguments and reports about Christian Horner's scurrilous WhatsApps to a female employee than about who will win next weekend's race.

Because it's almost always the same guy.

In the meantime, a tune for Horny — sorry, Horner:


However, I have never had complaints about my own name.

There have been one or two other names over the years that I would have appreciated almost as much, such as Japanese film legend Beat Takeshi or especially former Fiji rugby captain Akapusi Qera.

Q serves as -ng in Fijian, therefore Akapoesiengera. I can imagine myself saying “Ngera. Akapoesiengera.”

But with the London Marathon, my favourite alternative name has changed — Kenyan Olympic women's champion Peres Jepchirchir not only holds the marathon world record in a women's-only race after Sunday in London, she's in the running for Coolest Name I've Ever Heard.                                                   


Marathon runners always impress me because I'm a lazybones. You pretty much have to beg me to Uber 42km, let alone jog.

The mere historical tradition is quite unimpressive. Pheidippides literally ran himself to death between Marathon and Athens just to let the Athenians know as soon as possible that Persia had been defeated.

A normal person would have realised that Athens could probably have waited three hours longer for the good news — after all, it's not as if the mostly dead Persians were chasing him, foaming at the mouth — and he could have walked here and there, but for some reason this overeagerness is encouraged as an act of heroism and an example for our decadent modern selves.


Nevertheless, I admire anyone who can, and I disappeared into one of those dangerous ADD internet eddies the other day on the trail of the Hopi Lewis Tewanima (a fascinating story for another day), who ran the marathon in the 1908 London Games.

In the process I remembered Charles Hefferon, South Africa's silver medallist in that very race, when poor Dorando Pietri was disqualified after he also ran himself almost to death in a completely Pheidippidean manner.

Pietri became famous enough that Arthur Conan Doyle raised money for him and Irving Berlin wrote a song about him. After that he made a mess of a few businesses.

Hefferon, who took silver after Pietri's disqualification, was South African in a very loose sense — there was no such country in 1908 and Hefferon was a Canadian who really only came here for the Boer War and served as a Khaki prison guard in Bloemfontein.

However, his predecessors in 1904 were properly local — the Tswanas Jan Mashiani and Len Taunyane, who were part of a Boer War show at the St Louis World's Fair in Missouri.

The initial winner of this marathon was also disqualified — Fred Lorz simply jumped into a car for quite some distance. He was banned for life but the sentence was suspended in time for him to become the Boston champion the following year, presumably without petrol.


But speaking of cool names, Tigst Assefa of Ethiopia has one herself and she set the women's world record, 2:11:53, in Berlin last year with male pacers. Poor old Pheidippides wouldn't have kept up.

Unlike Assefa, Pheidippides didn't have R9,000 Adidas running shoes which are discarded after each race.  


And I will almost never again have an excuse to play some Ethiopian tunes for you in a sports column, so thank you for that too, Tigst, Adidas and my dark heart.

Ethiopian bluesiness for the heartstrings:

Enough brass, with enough reverb to kick off Friday afternoon properly:

Another one for greetings: 

♦ VWB ♦

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