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Two sides of the same coin

On Saturday afternoon, under the Grand Stand at Newlands, referee Jonathan Kaplan will take a coin from his pocket in the presence of Deon Fourie and Keegan Daniel. The coin will have heads on one side and tails on the other.

Kaplan will hand the coin to Fourie, the home captain, and Fourie will spin the coin, Daniel will call, Kaplan will check, show the result to both captains and then he will put the coin back into his pocket.

The coin that he puts back into his pocket will be the same coin with the same value that he took out of his pocket. Winning the toss is a good idea but the coin is unchanged, its value unchanged.

Winning and losing a match are a bit like that – two sides of the same coin.

Willie-John McBride one said: "Winning is not everything – it's the only thing." It sounds smart and has become accepted as a truth, but it's not true. It is not the only thing – the match is.

The match is like the coin. It has its own value for those who play and those who watch. That value is not changed by one side's victory and the other side's defeat. And both sides are intrinsic to the value of the match – at whatever level the match is played.

It takes two to tango and two sides to make a rugby match. You can practise tango steps on your own, but it is not the dance for that requires two people. You can have unopposed practice but it's not the match, however skilful it may be. For a match you need opponents – opponents not enemies, opponents with the same rights as you have – to play the game, to enjoy the game, to enjoy the protection of the game's laws and to win the game.

At the end of the match, the game's value will be the same. Winning is much nicer but the value of the game remains, enhanced by skill and good manners.

That applies to spectators as well as players. They have the right to enjoy the game to the full but should do so with good sense and good manners.

The greater the game, the greater the skill required and that greater game will be more greatly enhanced by good manners.

The Currie Cup Final is a game, a great game. Let's hope that the game itself is enhanced by great skill and good manners and that the huge crowd at Newlands will enjoy it thoroughly – and with good manners.

I am going to glorious Newlands tomorrow to watch a Currie Cup Final, as I did for the first time in 1947. I will be hoping ardently that Western Province will win, but above all I will be hoping that it is a game of skill, a happy occasion of good manners, with lots to be proud of and nothing to be ashamed of.

Paul Dobson


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