Duncan Johnstone of Stuff.co.nz gives his opinion on jetlag.
There’s a new daily greeting that has replaced the traditional ”good morning” on the rushed trips to South Africa by the Crusaders and Chiefs for these Super 14 playoffs.
It goes something like ”how did you sleep?”
Sometimes expletives are added in to emphasise the enormity and significance of the query.
As the sole New Zealand media representative in their midst, players and management have even been polite enough to direct the same enquiry to me as we’ve crossed paths in the hotel breakfast areas.
They know what I’ve been going through, just as I understand the struggles they have had to get their body clocks adjusted.
I’ve just been thankful that I haven’t had to face the massive on-field challenges against the Bulls – late afternoon is normally when I have finally succumbed to tiredness and taken a wee siesta in between servicing the never-ending deadlines for Fairfax’s various publications.
My departure from New Zealand was similar to theirs although it didn’t quite involve the 3am bus trip from Hamilton to Auckland that the Chiefs had to endure before they even got on a plane to start the long trek to Pretoria.
But it was equally rushed. Like the teams we had been awaiting the outcomes of matches that would determine last minute departures. It was a case of arriving at the office to suddenly be told you’ll be on a flight in two and half hours. Go home, get packed and don’t forget your laptop or your passport.
I reckon I might have had it tougher than them in some ways. Flight availabilities meant I took the long route through Singapore with a six-hour stopover there. It all added up to a 27-hour mission to get to my Johannesburg hotel.
But it turned out getting there was the easy bit. Getting to sleep was far more difficult.
In contrast waking up was simple. The only problem was it came at 2.30am the first day. Things tended to progress by about an hour with each passing night.
The trouble for the players is they don’t have many nights before these games, hence the ”how did you sleep?” line at the breakfast bar. Everyone seems to enjoy hearing each others struggles and there have been quite a few comparisons.
Richie McCaw said he’d crashed out at about 11.30 one night and woke up thinking he’d had a great night’s sleep. When he checked his clock it was 12.30am. Been there, done that.
The trouble is getting back to sleep. Your body might be tired but your mind is awake. Stories ideas raced through mine while Richie was preoccupied with ways to counter the likes of Bakkies Botha and Pierre Spies. He didn’t say he had any nightmares about dropped goals – they are probably plaguing him now back in New Zealand.
When Andy Ellis pulled out of the Crusaders first training run with sore ribs he got a real ribbing. He’d been afforded the luxury of a first class seat (make that bed) on the flight over as he nursed the recurring injury from the match against the Blues the day before. ”Heck Andy, what a waste. If I’d known you were only going to last one training run I would have gone to first class myself,” said coach Todd Blackadder. He was only half joking.
One morning Leon MacDonald revealed he’d had a particularly bad night. Awake at 1am he tried vainly to get back to sleep until 3am. He didn’t have a sleeping pill that the players rely in so heavily. Being the gentlemen that he is, he couldn’t bring himself to wake the team doctor and ask for another ”little bluey” at that hour.
So he watched TV – been there, done that – enjoying the 23 channels that include seven sports options. Still restless, he wandered around the hotel a bit just to stretch his legs that were still on Kiwi time. And it’s not like you can walk outside here – you take your life into your own hands.
That can become apparent as you lie awake and listen to the night outside. The Pretoria hotel takes up virtually a whole block, being surrounded by three busy roads. Sirens wail leaving little to the imagination.
There was a major pileup down from my room at 3.30am the other night. I couldn’t resist getting up to check it out from the safety of my window. One car was in bad shape but fortunately no one appeared to be injured. Not from the crash anyway. People emerged from all corners, tow trucks arrived and arguments broke out. I was just waiting for the gun shot that might have woken everyone up.
Fortunately that didn’t eventuate but the departing police car couldn’t resist turning on its siren back on when it did eventually leave the scene.
So, a week and a half into my trip I’m kind of back in sync.
Now I’m feeling real sorry for the Chiefs. They are virtually a day behind the Crusaders at the same time last week after the red and blacks had broken up their trip with a Sydney stopover.
The Chiefs didn’t have time for that. It’s the nature of the business. When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go. The problem is when you’ve gotta sleep, it isn’t always that simple.Tweet