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The gentleman's game

Rugby may be a hooligan's game but the adage of the gentleman who play it has never been truer than after this weekend – especially in comparison to 'that other sport.'


The rivalry between the All Blacks and the Springboks is one steeped in history, festooned with emotion and draped in glory.


It is an occasion that all 46 players want to win, nay all 52.98 million South Africans and 4.47 million New Zealanders desperately want to win.


During the build-up week of such a momentous occasion it would be expected that emotions would rise and perhaps even tempers would flair.


This coming together of two proud nations that was described in a message to the Springboks by Bombardier Boy Louw of the Sixth Division in 1949 thusly: 'When South Africa plays New Zealand, consider your country at war.' 


In these wars, there is blood, there is ferocity but there is no bitterness or sourness or even trivial bickering – that would be unbecoming of the spectacle.


It was put best recently by Paul Dobson on this website: "… But it is war without hatred and when it is over the combatants are friends again, shaking hands, smiling and looking forward to a beer."


Cast your mind back to the game between The All Blacks and the Springboks in Wellington. Jean de Villiers, a man who will go down in history as a humble and skilled player, was called up by the victorious captain Richie McCaw on the occasion of his 100th Test for his country, to accept a small token from the New Zealand team.


It did not stop there, Bryan Habana, another losing centurion (this time against Australia a week before), was also called up by the enemy captain to receive a similar 'token'.


It is clear that during the 80 minutes on the field there is no love lost between the players, but prior to the game, and afterwards, there is the utmost respect and friendship between these titans.


It does not stop with the infantry, the generals of these great nations have an incredible amount admiration and respect for each other.


Steve Hansen, the man in charge of the All Blacks, said ahead of the Test against South Africa in Wellington: "I myself have a huge amount of respect for their coach [Heyneke Meyer]. I think he's a good man and a good coach."


Meyer has extended a similar olive branch to his rival in times of peace with Hansen enjoying a Braai (barbecue) at Meyer's house last year during the Rugby Championship.


"We had a barbecue… and if we were in Christchurch we'd be doing the same there. Probably not a barbecue, but we'd have a meal together and we do speak and, like I said, I've got a lot of respect for South African people," Hansen added.


After the Springboks inflicted what must have been a hammer blow to the All Blacks by smashing their 22-match unbeaten streak, (one short of the world record 23-match unbeaten streak from 1987-1991, by the All Blacks again) it could be expected that Hansen would be bitter and disappointed.


On the contrary, Hansen was full of heartfelt admiration for the Boks: "They showed a lot of composure and heart,” said the coach when describing the second-half comeback in Johannesburg.


Now, let us compare the rivalry between Chelsea and Arsenal in the English Premier League and what happened on the same weekend.


Chelsea boss Jose' Mourinho and Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, it seems, were eager to 'discuss' each other’s playing style. 


See video below:



When researching the famous 'gentelman's game' quote it was not straight forward in its origins, but it seems that the quote may have come about as early as the 1890s.


Chancellor of Cambridge University said, at an unknown date: "It is clear that one is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans; the other a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen.” (c.1890s)


Now, in 2014, it seems that this idiom has never been truer.


By: Darryn Pollock



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