South Africa. Australia. We really are made for each other.
I cannot think of two countries more destined to face each other on the field of sporting battle than South Africa and Australia, nor any other countries that share the same desperate desire to best each other across all sporting codes.
Let me preface this article by saying that Allan Donald’s run out in the 1999 World Cup still gives me nightmares. The magnificent reply from Herschelle Gibbs’ 160 to match Ricky Ponting’s masterclass goes down in my memory as one of the best contests between two great sporting nations I’ve ever witnessed (437 game if you’re a noob).
The final hurrah of Mark Boucher’s mid-on drive by a screaming field of spectators. Breaking Australian hearts but lifting South Africans. But then also remembering the nightmare of how we were outdone in that semi-final just a few years earlier by one of the greatest cricket teams to take the field. On the verge of victory, our nemeses found a way to deny it.
I’d like to remind us all of the incredible tussles these teams have faced over the years, by way of memories.
But before I do that we have very different approaches to the way we want to win sporting contest. Australia believe above all in the beauty of a sport, and approach their play in a way that amplifies that beauty.
Australians – correct me if I’m wrong – would rather lose than play in a way that wasn’t beautiful or boring and didn’t inspire their fans to stand from their seats.
Winning this last Test against us by way of a final-minute penalty kick should not in any way confuse readers by the brilliant, desperate and quite beautiful way the Wallabies stuck to their guns and played until the last minute. This Test highlighted both the desire for Australians to beat us, but equally the desire to play in a way they consider beautiful.
I remember Greg Blewett’s and Mark Waugh’s magnificent 385-run stand to win the Test. As far as I remember, that remains one of the only days of cricket I’ve seen without a wicket.
I remember beating you lads 53-3 in Jo’burg.
I remember Allan Donald’s run out.
I remember JP Duminy playing the innings of his life to win a Test series, the first we’ve ever won against you guys away.
I remember Stephen Larkham literally giving me sleepless night after the coolest, calmest and most beautiful drop goal ever seen on a rugby field.
I probably need to stop because my point has been made. But I want to make one more.
We loved Willie O crashing into us, while you probably loved Bryan Habana dancing around the sideline.
We loved Stirling Mortlock’s ability to boss the outside channels like nothing we’ve seen before, and you probably loved the tries he scored, not the tackles and presence he made and had.
We see things differently but my goodness, what a contest. We’re made for each other. And it’s awesome. Long may it stay just this way.