The Sharks have yet another team in blue to overcome this weekend in Perth’s Western Force. And while Richard Graham’s side has been focusing on improving the defensive tactics which narrowly failed to overcome the Reds in SupeRugby’s opening weekend, the status of Kiwi flyhalf Willie Ripia, nursing a foot injury, means that Australia’s “boy wonder” James O’Connor, will likely take up the No 10 shirt on Saturday when Durban’s finest take to the field in round 3 of the competition and the first leg of the Sharks’s foray down under.
O’Connor flexed his kicking muscles in a tightly held contest between his Reds counterpart and good friend Quade Cooper at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium two weekends ago and is widely held to have won that particular duel, even though Cooper’s performance was way under par…
Whoa. Before all of you out there start doing double takes, yes, I can write straight up and down rugger previews. But I think it safe to say that I prefer throwing in a few curve-balls, journalistically speaking (and in no way a comment on John Smit’s performance at the Tank on Saturday) to look at more interesting angles.
Which brings me back, nicely, to Jim-Boy and the whole “wunderkind” scenario (for want of a better phrase) which seems to be taking SupeRugby, and rugby generally, by storm this year.
We do seem to have a lot of, um, “young” (and by young I mean late teens and very early 20s, or, as Andy Cap likes to put it, yet to use razors on a daily basis) talent in the backlines this season. Perhaps there was something in the water 20-odd years ago when this current crop of laaities was conceived. Or maybe it was those darned midi-chlorians again, producing seemingly super-human Jedi masters in the making. Who knows, but if you line up Gary van Aswegen (Stormers), Elton Jantjies (Lions), and the aforesaid O’Connor you can’t help but wonder at the amazing respective futures these “young” men have ahead of them.
In addition to the aforementioned, there’s also Gareth Anscombe, son of Auckland hero Mark Anscombe, drafted into the Blues wider squad by Pat Lam late last year and currently in the development team but yet to make his SupeRugby debut.
Talented youth is not just a southerm hemisphere phenomenon, either. The Welsh have Steven Shingler and the English Owen Farrell (Andy Farrell’s kid). So evidently the dying breaths of the 1980s and post-natal gasps of the 1990s were significant across the globe.
Perhaps it was the marvelous fashion statements that we gals wore at that stage in time that made us particularly “fruitful” in the bun-producing department? Figure-hugging ski pants with elastic boot straps, oversized T-shirts and jerseys, drainpipe jeans with leg-warmers, neon coloured court shoes and cowboy boots, curly perms with frothy lace bits (a la Boy George)… Yum (she says, sticking her fingers down her own throat).
Whatever it was back then, we are reaping the rewards of it here and now, especially in “Sunny Sarth”. Van Aswegen’s performance against the Lions on Saturday was nowhere near as bad as predicted and he acquitted himself well. While Jantjies had a much better game than the week before against the Bulls, he was still let down by a somewhat slapgat kicking performance which hopefully, for the Lions’s sake, will improve as the season wears on…
Yes. I know. I have deliberately left a name out of this tome. Why? Because all of the aforementioned talented individuals are mere footsoldiers and aspirant acolytes when compared to “The One”, the incomparable man (and I use the word expressly here, hence the highlight) who surely buried his various critics with the magnitude of his maturity, commitment and absolutely awe-inspiring presence at Mr Price Kings Park this Saturday evening… Patrick Lambie has come of age and proved beyond all shadow of doubt that age is just a number when you possess a God-given talent and breathtaking ability.
It will take SuperPat’s young peers a while to make the transition from boys to men, in my humble (yet usually right) opinion. But in that time, Mr Lambie will surely grow in stature exponentially, and put further distance between himself and those who can only hope to be fractionally as naturally gifted and brilliant.
I do not think that Morne Steyn will relinquish his crown this year. That hope is perhaps somewhat ambitious. But I do know that when the time is right, SuperPat will ascend the throne and easily overshadow not just Steyn, but all who have previously sat upon it.
I just thank God and my lucky stars that I am here to see it. And that the Black and White of the Sharks will be forever immortalised in the process.
The king is (almost) dead. Long live the king.Tweet