Hashim Amla scores South African Record 311
Hashim Amla scores South African Record 311

Hashim Amla scores 311* against England

(Photo : The Guardian - Footage : SuperSport)

“The value of sport in our upbringings”

If you ever had any doubts about the value of sport in our upbringings, this weekend was a good time to purge yourself of them. Role models are important for kids, and there were some extraordinary examples of how to manage triumph from our South African sportsmen this weekend.

On Saturday, the Sharks were sublime in outplaying the Queensland Reds in the knock-out phases of the Super 15 rugby tournament in Brisbane. His down-to-earth Eastern Cape upbringing was glaringly evident in captain Keagan Daniels’ post-match interview, as he first praised the opposition and then deflected the personal glory of an outstanding performance in his own right, in favour of his team mates.

While he always had the makings of a colossus and was inducted into the Golfing Hall of Fame last year, on his recent form, Ernie Els was a most unlikely hero of the British Open at Royal Lytham and St Annes, the scene of prior victories in the same event by South Africans Bobby Locke and Gary Player. Yet win it he did, and in the aftermath, Ernie showed himself not only as a colossus of the golfing world, but as a giant of humility, and how to behave when you’ve been victorious. At the end of the day, the “claret jug” is golf’s “outright” trophy in much the same way as the Durban July is when it comes to racing championships. This was the golfing heavyweight’s championship of the world.

And then we have the Proteas, who looked dead and buried on the first day of the Investec cricket test against England; they went into the match a little ring-rusty against opponents who had just come off series victories against Sri Lanka and Australia, and conceded 266 runs for the loss of just three wickets on the opening day. It says something for the fighting qualities of our people that they came back to bowl the English out for the addition of another 118 runs, and then proceeded to compile the mammoth total of 637 for the loss of only two wickets.

Records tumbled all over the show, the most significant of which was ex-Durban High School pupil, Hashim Amla’s triple century (the first by a South African) and Graeme Smith’s 131 in his hundredth test. Besides, Jacques Kallis, who by his own high standards has been relatively modest in his achievements on English soil, posted a total of 182, rubbing salt into an already gaping wound. With the teatime declaration, the Proteas bowlers went out and showed how good they really are, gripping the English into a very quick tumble. More importantly, our cricket players, like our rugby players and our golfers, have maintained an air of quiet dignity and humility in their celebration of a “giant-killing” achievement.

The same can be said of our jockeys, the best of whom are locked in a three-way battle for the championship. Reigning champion, Anton Marcus, is just five adrift of new pretender, young Gavin Lerena, a third generation member of the profession. Lerena’s grandfather Spike, is a leading trainer in Gauteng, his father Tex is the long-serving chairman of the South African Jockey’s Association, which incidentally was formed in a former life by the writer in his days as a lawyer (more than thirty years ago). Gavin is another who was brought up in an old-fashioned environment where manners, decorum and decency are non-negotiable. If he should fluff his lines this week, and either of Anton Marcus or Anthony Delpech (the latter looks unlikely, as he’s thirteen adrift) is victorious, the nation will salute him. Any one of these men is a symbol of the qualities that make this country great.