You might have thought from the heading that this was aimed at conserving the last of a dying species, but it isn’t. It’s a celebration of local, provincial and national highlights from the weekend’s sports, and since our readers come here principally for news of the gee gees, let’s cut to the chase.
Viewing entries in
Mick Goss hosts the Chinese Horseracing Delegation,
Box 3A Racing and Peter Gibson (Racing South Africa)
(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
“A bit of a tough weekend for the Old Country”
The headline to this article could be misleading, so don’t show it to persons under the age of 18. That said, while the Irish economy may well be under the “kosh”, you can’t get the Irish spirit down. About a month ago, we penned a piece about a €40 billion export success which Irish Thoroughbred Marketing had engineered with the Chinese authorities. Whatever else may be wrong with the finances of that remarkable little country, they continue to dominate the thoroughbred world in a manner no other country has done in modern times. As mankind’s history has taught us so many times, it’s often down to the labours of a few, and that’s very much the case with Ireland, where John Magnier’sCoolmore group have led the charge.
Nonetheless, this little country of ours, at the southernmost tip of what the civilized world to the north of us likes to call the “darkest continent”, has a more impressive history in the broader commercial world. Professor Nick Binedell (who’ll be a keynote speaker in our School of Excellence on Wednesday 11th July), head of the Gordon Institute of Business Studies (one of the top twenty business schools on the planet,) likes to remind us that South Africa has produced more great companies than any other country of its size. That says something for the courage, the sense of enterprise and the pioneering spirit of this nation.
You might say then, that it’s hardly surprising we were one of the first countries in the world (after Ireland) to receive an official government delegation of citizens from the People’s Republic of China, but that’s not only to do with enterprise. It must be seen in the broader context of the value of our membership of the BRICS group of countries, and the fact that, of the bigger thoroughbred producing countries of the world, we’re better placed politically than most. The Americans and the Chinese are competitors; the Europeans are sceptical about Chinese money, and while they might have to take it one day, they’ll do so with reluctance; the Australians have been battling the Chinese about access to their mineral resources, and the Japanese have been at war with China for several centuries. It makes sense then, for China to talk to us about horse matters, hence the first delegation’s visit last week.
They were at Summerhill on Sunday, and we couldn’t have had a better group to accompany them. The fellows from Box 3A, are the new hopes for racehorse ownership among young people in this province. These fellows bring the camaraderie and the fresh spirit to racing that our generation once knew. If you haven’t yet heard of them, go to Greyville - you’re bound to hear them.
We did say at the outset that the title to this piece could be misleading. The reason is, if you’re a rugby man, you were watching the Springboks flatten the English on Saturday, and the Baby Boks take Argentina apart (35-3) on Sunday evening (if you weren’t in the blackout zone on the outskirts of Mooi River.) Both teams are in sublime form (in patches,) and while the Springboks need to put together 80 minutes of the kind of football they played in the first half of Saturday’s test, the fact is they’ve got the Poms cold. It will take a miracle turn-around to change next week’s outcome. Before we get too cocky though, remember the old bugbear, complacency.
And back to the Irish. Their junior team also gave England a good slap Sunday evening, so it was a bit of a tough weekend for the “Old Country”.
South African Pride
(Image : SA Rugby Fan)
“By Saturday evening,
it was good to be South African again!”
The Springboks big win in the Rugby World Cup over Fiji on the weekend, evoked memories of PJ Power’s rendition of her version of the World Cup song in the opening match against Australia at Newlands in 1995.
This weekend, that wonderful voice was nowhere in evidence at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, so was it some sort of divine intervention that our own “PJ” (Pierre Jourdan) should’ve delivered such a stirring performance under 61kgs at Turffontein?
His ¾ length second to Igugu in the Vodacom Durban July (conceding that heroine 2kgs) was always going to have him at the top of the boards, even if he’d been standing around in a paddock for much of the intervening time (just about 2,5 months), and he started the race at the tight odds of 17/20. That he didn’t run like an odds-on shot until the last 150 metres had more to do with his condition than his ability, Derreck David having to niggle at him with his stick within 2,5 furlongs of the start, and then handing him a couple of reminders to get him going with 200 metres to run. He looked like he was “gone” at that stage, but he suddenly decided he had just enough “puff” in him at the 150 mark, to get him home.
The transformation was instanteous, he suddenly changed into overdrive and motored his way through a gap, asserting his class in a matter of strides.
Where to now? The talk is of the Summer Cup, and that will probably be preceded by the November Handicap (or Charity Mile, as it’s known these days), though for a horse that has to carry the impossible imposts they burden him with, we might’ve preferred a trip straight to the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate (at weight-for-age,) and then the J&B Met, where the top weights are suited by the conditions of the race.
PJ’s in good hands though, and their exemplary handling of the horse in his “prep” for the July, tells us the Alexanders will come up with a sensible programme.
P.S. The Springboks are back as well. Naas Botha was right after the game: everyone of them, “one to twenty-two”, put his hand up. By Saturday evening, it was good to be South African again!
Bismarck du Plessis
(Image : SA Rugby)
“But this isn’t a sentimental business…
especially in South Africa.”
Summerhill is not traditional Blue Crane country, so when six of our national birds checked in for the weekend at Ntaba Nqumo (Decision Hill) at the foot of the farm, the portents were good for a Springbok victory. They had chosen one of the most serene spots in the district, with views stretching across the length and the breadth of the Land of Legends. Named for the dilemma faced by the two generals on their next strategic move, this “koppie” is where former prime minister, Louis Botha, took command of the Boer forces from the hero of Majuba, General Piet Joubert, in November 1899. The sight before them surely inspired these two soldiers that this was a country worth fighting for.
In the end, the Springboks got home on Sunday, but it was a close-run thing in which the Welsh played out of their socks, and where our countrymen were anything but convincing. A margin of a single point was hardly suggestive of a team on its way to retaining the World Cup, and in the process the match took its toll in the way of injuries. Our go-to man, Victor Matfield, pulled a hamstring, and Jean de Villiers, whose pained expression as he left the field with a rib injury was a replay for him of the opening match at the 2007 World Cup, could be on his way home.
What the outcome may well have done, though, was signal an early warning of the shortcomings of the kick-and-chase game plan the Springboks persevere with, despite its lack of success in the last year since the rules changed. The modern game calls for the ball’s retention, and you kick your possession to attackers like the All Blacks and the Wallabies at your peril. The match probably also resolved a few selection issues, with Francois Hougaard’s try in the closing ten minutes underscoring the fact that Bryan Habana may well have reached his sell-by date. It took the replacement 10 minutes to score : Habana hasn’t done so in his last 10 matches. Bigger than that though, was the impact Bismarck du Plessis made when he replaced our captain. John Smit has been a talismanic leader of the Springboks for some time, and his 100 test matches are testimony to one of the finest captains to wear the green and gold.
But this isn’t a sentimental business, especially in South Africa, and if the Springboks are going to be at their effective best for the rest of the tournament, John Smit will have to do his inspiring from the bench, and from the change room. He may well have a role to play in the impact department in the closing 15 to 20 minutes of a match, especially when his experience and his leadership will be most needed, but to have him grinding away for 80 minutes is not only asking him to go beyond his most effective range, but it is to deny the Springboks the services of the most destructive Number Two in the world.
Webb Ellis Trophy
(Image : WRNews/SA WP)
RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011
For South Africa, the Rugby World Cup started in 1995. Prior to that, we were excluded for reasons that had nothing to do with rugby or the players, and since South Africa had ranked for almost a century among the world’s leading rugby playing nations, the real games only began when the tournament came to this country. The favourites that year were the reigning world champions, Australia, and they came to the first match against the Springboks as the only team in the tournament to have remained unbeaten in 1995. Names like Campese, Lynagh, Horan and Little were commonplace in one of the most glittering line-ups the tournament has known. If there was an Achilles heel, it lay in the fact that the team was laden with veterans, and they might not have quite been the players they were when they demolished the All Blacks in the semi-finals at the 1991 version at Dublin’s Landsdowne Road. I was there that day, and the Wallabies were awesome. It wasn’t surprising when they rolled England in the final, nor was it surprising, given their “seniority”, that the Boks thumped them 27-18 at Newlands in 1995.
South Africa’s bid to become the first country in the world to retain the William Webb Ellis trophy starts this weekend, and there’s a bit of déjà vu with the Springbok team of 2011 and the Australians of 1995. Like them, we are the reigning world champions, and like them, we have a massively experienced team, indeed, the most capped group of players ever to attend the World Cup tournament. And like those Aussies of yore, it’s probably fair to say that Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, John Smit, Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana are not quite up to the game they were able to put on when they last hoisted the trophy in Paris in 2007. No fewer than 10 of them are north of 30. The lead-up to this year’s tournament tells us their form is not the same, and yet there is one stock difference between South Africa now and Australia in 1995. That lies in the fact that our performances going into this year’s tournament have been anything but inspiring, though the suggestion is that we’ve kept our best game until last, and that other sides might have peaked already. Even if it were not so, we’d have to be telling ourselves that, otherwise there’d be little purpose in attending, and so we’ll have to wait for the next few weeks to find out.
As matters stand, the international rankings consider New Zealand and Australia to be ahead of us, and deservedly so. There is nothing about the Northern Hemisphere sides to prompt the belief that the Cup could find a new home in that direction, but knock-out tournaments of this sort have been known to produce the unexpected. Who could believe that the All Blacks, who have undoubtedly been consistently the best team in the world for the past two decades or more, have not lifted the trophy since 1987? That, we guess, is all we need to know in trying to find a winner, and that breathes hope into the sails of every country in attendance with a pretence for the Higher Things In Life. The mind games started long ago: it’s time for the real games now.
(Photos : Telegraph/Scrum/Chirundu/Summerhill Stud)
1996 - 1999
In the rich annals of South African rugby history, there has been no more successful captain than Gary Hamilton Teichmann, who led the national team during what many considered to be its most glorious period, between 1996 and 1999. Not only a remarkable footballer, Gary Teichmann happened to be one of the most respected men of his craft.
Under his captaincy between the period 1997 and 1998, the Springboks embarked upon a world record winning streak of 17 consecutive test matches. As part of their unbeaten run, they chalked up record victories over Australia (61-22), France (52-10), Scotland (68-10) and Wales (96-13), as well as levelling out Ireland (33-0) and Italy (74-3).
Teichmann, who was respected throughout the rugby world for his humility and sense of fair play, was a winner in the real sense of the word. It’s little wonder that he should take time to visit the home of fellow champions, Summerhill, and their award-winning hotel and restaurant, Hartford House. Like so many sportsmen do these days, Gary and his lovely wife, Nicky, came “home” last weekend.
British and Irish Lions Tour of South Africa 2009
If you’re a sporting connoisseur, South Africa’s the place to be right now. The Confederations Cup is in full cry, and there’s some vintage football being played. We got the visuals on the World Twenty/20 cricket, and while the Proteas crashed out in the semis, they were nonetheless spectacular on the way there. The odds in that game make racing look like a kindergarten, and you never know when your day is up.
On the religious front, we played the British & Irish Lions on the weekend in the first of three tests (if you didn’t know that, you’re not South African!). Yes, we got home, but this is a very good Lions side, and those of our readers who hail from those regions can take heart from the way your team finished.
What a helluva series we can look forward to, and what a helluva atmosphere at the stadium on Saturday. Besides the fact the red shirts outnumbered the green within the stadium – you had to see it to believe it - you could say with some certainty that it would’ve taken a barrage at Delville Wood to out blast the sound within the stadium. If this is any sort of portent of what we can expect from the rest of the series, roll on the next two Saturdays.
In good old British style, it would be remiss of us if we didn’t end with “may the best team win”.
Victorious Springbok Coach Jake White celebrates with IRB Player of the Year Bryan Habana
At an intimate gathering Monday night at the Rupert’s household in Somerset West, Mick and Cheryl renewed their acquaintance with victorious World Cup winning coach, Jake White and old-time friend and Avontuur Stud owner, Lindy Taberer. A delightful evening in convivial company, and when they got down to the rugby, they agreed to play by Clarence House rules, which means they could talk about coaches and coaching and the general state of rugby, without worrying about secret recordings or blackmails for positions in national teams, as we’ve read so much about in the press of late.
While we’re not sure he could be persuaded to take up the “hot seat” again, “The Coach” is in great shape, and was on his very best of form. A touch bruised, mind you, after 45 minutes on the park, as a substitute in the “Legends” match against Scotland. Jake was among youngsters Joost v.d. Westhuizen, Breyton Paulse, and despite Ian “Macs” assurances he wouldn’t ask him for more than 5 minutes of game time. Jake knows how fickle coaches can be!
The reassuring thing is that he wants to renew his association with this year’s Emperors Place Ready To Run Cup, where he, John Smit, Schalk Burger, Francois Steyn and Jean de Villiers joined us a week after their big party in Paris last year.
So it’s more than on the cards that we’ll have Jake aboard again for the first Friday and Saturday in November, at both the Ready To Run cocktail party at Emperors Palace, and the “Big” meeting. As a victim of the horse racing business already, he could even land up having a dabble when the horses enter the ring on the Sunday.
While it’s still to be settled finally, we’re looking to celebrate the swansong of Percy Montgomery on the same couple of days, as part of a fine blend of nostalgic “oldies” (How does the thought of “Os” sound?) together with a few of the new kids on the block.
Of course, our net will not be limited to the rugby fraternity alone. Like the “Ready To Run”, which has a horse for everyone, we’ll have a celebrity to appeal to most tastes, so watch this space in the weeks ahead.
Greig Muir, Nerine Pienaar, Francois Pienaar and Bruce Gardner
Summerhill is blessed in its visitations by famous names, and as celebrated as any among our friends is Francois Pienaar, captain of the 1995 World Cup winning Springbok rugby team who famously donated his No.6 rugby jersey to Nelson Mandela on that historic occasion. Francois first came to Summerhill courtesy of a friendship with one of our oldest customers, Bruce Gardner, and his lovely wife Jo, and they were back at the farm on a nostalgic visit on Friday. It used to be that the party included the coach of that great team, Kitch Christie, who has sadly passed on since then. But it is evident from the picture above, that Francois has lost none of his zest nor love of the competitve nature of the horseracing business.
At the height of his Springbok’s seventeen consecutive victories, Summerhill introduced Francois to racing courtesy of a filly whose name was appropriately changed to Amabokoboko, as an acknowledgement to the achievements of his side. It was in his association with this filly that Francois rediscovered the meaning of humility, on an evening that he, his lovely wife Nerine and the Gosses were invited to join Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for supper on her gracious boat, Britannia. As we mounted the gangplank, he lamented the fact that Amabokoboko had finished 2nd on five consecutive occasions, only to be reminded by the Summerhill contingent that after 17 consecutive victories, it was time he learnt to lose!!
During the course of the evening, much of which Her Majesty spent talking horses with our party, which included cricketer Jonty Rhodes, Bafana Bafana captain Neil Tovey and former Natal and Western Province sportsman and erstwhile “Star” editor Richard Steyn, the Queen enquired of Francois what the secret was to his and his fellow forwards great size.
In typical diplomatic Francois Pienaar fashion, the retort was short and to the point:
Galant Gagnant and Kahal
(Gold Circle / Summerhill Stud)
If money ever had anything to do with the outcome of a race, it was always going to be prohibitive odds-on that Russian Sage would prevail in the ten furlong nominal championship event for the Classic generation, the Daily News 2000 (Gr.1).
Whether his sale last week to the master “picker”, Barry Irwin’s US-based Team Valor was at the reported $1,2 million or $1,75 million is immaterial here. The fact is, he won, even if it was a last stride affair, and pocketed a cool R625 000 in the process, not bad for a couple of days old investment. And he looked like he’s got some improvement in him, so he’s bound to make his presence felt in Dubai next summer.
We did say though, that while we appeared (we speak of Summerhill now) to be outgunned with our three entries from the perspective of pure handicapping, we simultaneously cautioned that you should never count us out. And so, till the last stride of the race, that very nearly proved to be the case as Sheikh Mohammed’s Galant Gagnant (G.G.) seemed to have it sewn up with 150m to go, having turned for home abreast of Russian Sage.
A week in racing is a long time, and so it proved as there has been a miraculous transition in Galant Gagnant’s (G.G.) powers of concentration since he was fitted with blinkers, and we’d say this performance, which puts him up there with the best of his generation at the trip, was close to a stone better than his previous. He was acquired by His Highness at the for a mere R150 000 and like 2006 Ready To Run Imbongi and Umngazi, was a runner in last November’s R500k Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup.
Galant Gagnant (G.G.) is another product of the “lethal cocktail” that exists between his sire Kahal and Northern Guest mares, already revered for producing Champion Bold Ellinore and her massively talented brother, Emperor Napoleon, while the same pattern has thrown Bhekinkhosi, Evening Attire and Khebraat.
This chap was bred in partnership with (you guessed it again) the old rugby mate, Barry Clements of Australia, and American based Robert Lynch. The former’s hit rate (he co-bred Imbongi too) verges on the early years of Cassius Clay, when it comes to big race successes, and it seems that for all his prowess as a Provincial class winger in his day, he’s an even brighter breeding prospect.
Ryan Kankowski (abc)
At a near-capacity Absa Stadium in Durban this evening, the Sharks ran out against a formidable Chiefs opposition. With everything to gain, they needed a 4-try score or an 18 point victory margin in order to secure a berth in the Super 14 semi-finals. Starting with a tense determination, all pistons were soon firing as the Sharks Machine kicked into overdrive. In a brilliant performance, and a special game of Rugby, the Sharks demolished the Chiefs by 47 points to 25.
Simple as that.
It was an evening of glitz and glamour at the recent Emperor’s Palace Ready to Run cocktail party. The function was held in the setting of the beautiful pool at Emperor’s Palace, where a sumptuous array of snacks and drinks were served. The evening was attended by the who’s who of racing, together with members of the Springbok rugby team.
Mick Goss and Francois Steyn
(you can see why Francois is a Springbok legend and Mick isn’t!)
Mick and Cheryl Goss with Bob Yearham, General Manager, Emperor’s Palace
At Turffontein racecourse the next day, the Summerhill team were seen in full force enjoying the glorious weather and the excitement of the Charity Mile and the Ready to Run Cup.
Tarryn Liebenberg, Michael Booysen, John Motaung, Mali Zuma and Michael Ndlovu
Stephen Gill from Shadwell UK was spotted pondering in the parade ring
The winner of the Emperor’s Palace Ready to Run Cup, Umngazi (Muhtafal/Bahama Palms), ensured the trophy for Winning Breeder came home to a very proud Summerhill!
There is no prouder nation on this earth this morning, as the Springboks came away with the William Webb Ellis Trophy following their close-call victory over England in Saturday night’s World Cup final. These things mean a great deal to any country, yet in South Africa, with all of its complexities and the issues that divided our past, it means all of that and a whole lot more.
While we’re very much a work in progress, to see our President, Thabo Mbeki hoisted high on the shoulders of the predominantly white players that stood beneath him, was a signal of considerable proportions, and in spite of the contradictions and confusions, we remain a country on course.
Sport has done more for the unity of South Africa than all the politicians and businessmen put together, and racing is no exception to that rule.
From the perspective of its advancement of the previously-disadvantaged community, racing is at the forefront in discharging its responsibilities to the nation, and without any prompting, Summerhill has been championing this cause long before we became a fledgling democracy in 1994.
Our hope is that in the years to come, our rugby champions will reflect the demographics of this country more evenly, because unleashing all the available talent will make us a stronger, more cohesive rugby-playing unit than we’ve even been, and that will save us having to recruit too many “Islanders” from the All Blacks.
Meanwhile, and because history tells us no nation has held the championship for more than four years, please come and visit us during that time, so that you can see the champions in action, for fear we give it up to some other country when New Zealand host the event in 2011. Until then, greetings from the champions!
It would be remiss of us to end this note without a word about the opposition. In true British style, England stuck to their dogged guns manfully, and tested us to the whistle. There were more than a few of us that remembered we had English blood coursing through so many of our veins, not to mention those of our horses. They were big in defeat too, in good old English fashion.
History will remember this world cup as a second Isandlwana, and we fear it will be four long years before you English get a shot at a repeat of Rorke’s Drift!
Images courtesy of sarugby.net
Whilst on the subject of the Springboks, it was a lovely surprise to find among a host of foreign guests from Austria, Holland, Bavaria, Germany, Scotland and the UK last evening, that Springbok front ranker, B.J.Botha and his lovely wife Taryn, were guests at the hotel last evening. Those that watched our front row agonizing in their struggle against the Argentineans on Sunday, would’ve given anything to have B.J on the tighthead, not to mention the fact that in the World Cup Final he is the only South African player equipped to cope with Andrew Sheridan, who’s pretty much put to waste all his opposition thus far. Supremacy in the pack, particularly in Europe, is critical to the stability of the set piece ball, and there can be no South African who isn’t lamenting B.J’s absence. No doubt, everyone joins us in wishing him a happy stay while he’s here.
There is of course, another dimension to his visit. Like him, some of us are also deeply rooted in the hallowed portals of the Durban High School, which incidentally, also spawned the “father” of Argentinean (or “Pumas”, as they’ve come to be known) rugby, Izak van Heerden.
Durban High School
The last World Cup-winning Springbok team to take to the field was Francois Pienaar’s 1995 version, which conquered New Zealand in an epic extended final by 15-12, following Joel Stransky’s famous drop goal. Sunday evening’s events in Paris, when South Africa put the Argentineans to the sword by 37-13, cemented their place in the final against the World Champions, England.
Click here to watch the highlightsAbout two months ago, we wrote to all our English friends expressing the hope that, if we didn’t win it they would, little realising it would get down to a match between our two countries.
We love our English friends, but we don’t love them that much that we should give away the laurels on Saturday. That said, we remain fixed in the hope that if we don’t win it, they do and so its a case of, as our Colonial masters so often taught us, that the best team should win, and in the process, we wish them the very best of British luck.
Of course, every Englishman will recall the events at Isandlwana on the 22nd February, 1879, and that you can’t treat the Zulus too lightly!