After spending most of the 80’s hearing about this legendary team called the Springboks and never seeing them in action and never seeing international rugby, in 1991 I watched as a young man the second Rugby World Cup tournament in awe.
I remember most of the games, from the opening match where New Zealand beat England to Ireland coming very close to beating Australia before Timmy Horan scored the winner, I rember David Campese starring in Australia’s fantastic victory over the All Blacks and I remember England showing guts and courage and a never say die spirit before eventually losing the final to the Aussies.
This was really the tournament that converted me into a lifelong fan of this wonderful sport called rugby. What struck me was the good sportmanship that was shown throughout the competition. I remember seeing Micky Skinner (England flanker) walking into the dinner after the final in really good spirits and I thought it is really true about these guys that play rugby, they knock the hell out of each other on the pitch and then go have a drink together after the match.
In that tournament I remember the Samoans absolutely crunching someone in a tackle then putting out an arm to help the guy back to his feet. The Samoans were so happy to be there and competing, win or lose those big men from the South Pacific had smiles on their faces.
All the values that rugby represented and the contrast of the confrontational, aggressive and physical nature of the sport drew me in and hasn’t let go right up until today.
So when morons start singing’ole,ole,ole’ in an atempt to drown out the Haka it makes my blood boil. Rugby to me has always been about humility, friendship and respect. The fact that these morons can only come up with a two syllable chant says it all.
I feel somewhere along the way as South Africans we lost our integrity and have abondoned many of the values that made us great. Self respect but never disrespect. The Haka is one of the greatest spectacles in sport and it has meant a lot not just to the privilaged Kiwi’s that have performed it through the years. After the All Blacks performed the Kapa O Pango in Durban where idiots in the crowd were singing ‘ole, ole, ole’, Joel Stransky who probably ignored the crowd said after it finished it made the hairs stand up on the back of his neck and you could here the emotion and excitement in his voice when he said it.
Joel understands the warrior spirit and that is why he has lined up to face the Haka and that is why he is still moved everytime he sees it performed. I will never forget Kobus Wiese eyeballing Jonah Lomu during the Haka performed by the All Blacks in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.
Instead of having humility South Africa were humiliated in Durban, it’s time to respect rugby, respect other teams, respect the Haka and respect yourself.