Here come the bookies!

Written by Jackie Bischof

12 October 2007

Women are generally fickle sporting creatures. Most of us (and I am grossly generalising here) would rather sit by the bar in huddled (generally naughty) conversation over gin and tonics while our ‘men’ scream their lungs out at other men screaming their lungs out. It’s not often that sporting competitions bring groups of women away from their intense conversation, choosing to watch a game instead of discussing more intense topics (religion, politics, sex, Desperate Housewives).

But as the rugby semi-finals approach this weekend, it brings a tear to my eye to see the integration of the sexes as they converge in front of the TV. Beer cans sit amongst gin bottles, Dunhill Infinite Lights and Malboro’s mix like happy members of a 60’s communal family. As we sat around the TV last Saturday, watching New Zealand get taken by France, I felt a satisfied glow as the ladies were happily accepted into the fold (of the couch) and the men beamed as they answered a variety of questions.

As I am a curious girl by nature, I learnt a lot about that game on Saturday. For example, why the coaches all wear matching shirts when they watch a game. What the ‘sinbin’ is (I love that word), and what an up and under kick is. I learnt that rugby is played backwards, not forwards, and that France has this huge Viking of a man who is better placed in a battle field then a rugby field.

I have watched the World Cup betting pools with interest (I have no money to part with, thankfully), and have found out it’s better to be educated, then well, ignorant when gambling. If you haven’t caught onto the rugby mania so far, or you haven’t placed your bets yet, there’s still a chance. I sought out the two main rugby men on campus and asked them their opinions on the Springboks performance so far, and who they predicted to win.

Charles Kirsten, head of the Wits Rugby Club believes the Springboks could be doing better, and have “not shown their true potential as yet. We almost gave the game away to Fiji who were more motivated and hungrier to win.”

Kirsten believes France stands a good chance of winning because they are on home ground and have a point to prove. They were also in the last three semi – finals.

So far, so good – I think I know what’s going on. But then Kirsten lapses into rugby boy jargon. “To win the cup the Boks need to keep the ball with the forwards, and set up the fazes, or in order for the back line to score tried. We can’t have guys trying to run it all by themselves (Francois Steyn). The Boks need just to do the basics right and will be victorious.”

Wow, looks like the boys are going to have to do a lot of explaining to me this weekend.

Kirsten predicts that the Springboks will beat Argentina in the semi – finals by a margin of about 10 points, and will end up playing in the final against France.

Mike Rowley, Wits’ Rugby Player of the Year is slightly less optimistic. He initially bet on New Zealand to win the Cup, and feels that during the quarter – final against France “they were robbed… the referee was shocking.”

Rowley feels that Argentina have had a great World Cup, and stand a chance to be in the final. He adds that most of the Argentinian players play for French clubs, and so are technically on home ground. France has been “temperamental” and he doubts that they will be able to put on three consecutively good performances – from quarters through to the final. As for the Springboks, Mike sighs, “they’ve been playing well, but they’ve also been lucky.” He agrees with Kirsten that the Boks have not been playing as well as they could’ve been.

Rowley has put his money (figuratively of course, he probably lost it all in his New Zealand bet) on a France – South Africa final, with South Africa winning with less then five points over the French. But he warns: “the French are dangerous if they’re having a good day.”

While I’m not really a betting lady, there is one thing that I’ll bet my money on for this weekend and the next. That the last thing the ladies will be doing is engaging in intellectual conversation over a Martini at the sports bar. Instead, they’ll be right next to their boys, showing their mettle as educated rugby supporters. I certainly will be!

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