Agent Orange

How do we choose a team?

Written by Gary Theron (Agent Orange)

Posted in :Cheetahs, Original Content, Sharks, Stormers, Tri Nations on 17 Feb 2008 at 18:23
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So how does one choose a sports team to support? I’ve written on this before, but I thought it might be time to write my definitive opinion on the issue.

One rainy evening in 1997 I was on the Tube heading from Earls Court to Fulham Broadway, which happens to be the local stop for Stamford Bridge – home of Chelsea Football Club. There was a game on that evening, and the train was absolutely packed with people wearing blue, singing, chirping, and basically being a bit of a nuisance. I was quite irritated until the Bangladeshi train driver’s rather resigned voice came over the intercom, letting us know that “if you can’t beat them, join them”.

I grudgingly regain control of my sense of humour, and on this rather arbitrary basis I decided to support Chelsea. I organised tickets to a match (against Liverpool), and got into the swing of it. But can it be that simple? Can allegiances to clubs be such an ephemeral thing? Given the passion and commitment that fans show, surely there needs to be a far deeper reason to provide a team with one’s support? Or not?

I grew up supporting Vrystaat, because that’s where I lived. Simple. When I watched the British Lions playing in 1980 at the DP de Villiers Stadium I had my first conscious experience of A Greater Power – the Mighty Bok. And so my allegiances were sealed. I got into trouble in high school one day for entering “Springbok Rugby” as my religion on a school census form, but that’s another story for another day. So much for inherited allegiances then, but what about chosen allegiances? What about all the Man United supporters living in Mumbai, or all the GP cars you see in Joburg sporting Sharks stickers? Is this just a triumph of marketing departments over substance, or is there something more to it?

I moved to the UK last year, and while my Sky Sports subscription still gives me all my Currie Cup and Super 14, I wanted to get stuck into the Guinness Premiership too. So what basis for support does one use? Closest to where you live? Bugger, no premiership rugby clubs in Kent. How about the one with the most South Africans? Difficult and transient. How about the underdog? Could work, but better get used to losing. I ended up remembering a day at Vicarage Road 10 years ago when I watched Francois Pienaar’s Saracens play Joel Stransky’s Tigers, and wondered if Sarries could provide a local home for my support. When I realised that Brent Russell (South Africa’s most overlooked talent of the last 5 years) was signed up, I relished the prospect of seeing him finally have a fair run, so Sarries it was – signed sealed and delivered. For someone who takes his rugby very seriously, I appear to have bit of a history of flighty support decisions. Or must this of necessity be the case?

Perhaps the real truth that we all come to realise eventually is that the game is more important than our own team. I drank in a pub in Dublin some years ago with a behemoth called Big John, resplendent in his oversized Irish jersey. Fortified by a breakfast Guinness or two, I asked him who was going to win today, the Irish or the Boks? He looked at me with a broad smile and in a thick brogue said “dat dosn’t matter. As long as you stoff d’ English next week!” We roared with laughter, and the scene was set for a great day out. As it happened, we did beat the Irish, but the day remains more memorable for the simple gesture from a man far wiser than I.

When the Kiwis made their unplanned (but not unexpected) exit from the World Cup last year, they went into mourning. The rest of the rugby world revelled in a misplaced sense of schadenfreude, pleased that the “arrogant” All Blacks had had a wake up call. What bollocks was this? My (extremely disconsolate) Waikato mate Jeff told me that although some teams may be better than others, there is no reason why a fan should consider himself superior to others just because his team is better. And he’s right. And this goes to the very heart of what makes rugby so special – the fact that as fans we do not need to be separated by barbed wire or adjacent stands. As I grow older I realise that enjoying the sport with opposition supporters is not just a right. It’s a bloody obligation.

So while my first love remains the Boks, I believe less and less in the sanctity of one’s one team, and more and more in the fantastic joy that rugby brings. And although no one team’s fans can claim to be better because of who they support, rugby fans generally CAN lay claim to being the best sports fans in the world, simply because of this fundamental tenet. So next time you see a miserable Province supporter close to suicide because his team’s lost again, stop and have a beer with him. The beer’s worth more than the result, even with a Province supporter.


  • Thanks for this, AO. A bloody good read and something to keep in mind as local derby season continues in SA.

  • Comment 1, posted at 17.02.08 18:42:04 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • schadenfreude: “Germanic. Referring to the state of a nation’s sorrow following their arrogant belief that they are the best.”
    Not to be confused with “Zeitgeist” or the spirit of the rest of the world in enjoyment of the ABs coming down to earth RWC after RWC!

    Lovely read Agent!!!!

  • Comment 2, posted at 17.02.08 18:49:11 by hellbent Reply

  • Hang on, there are certain things I would not do. I would draw the line at eating dog$#!T a la Stiffler in American Pie 3 and drinking with a Province supporter….”The beer’s worth more than the result, even with a Province supporter.”

  • Comment 3, posted at 17.02.08 18:51:09 by hellbent Reply

  • Agent has been dying to use that word in context!

  • Comment 4, posted at 17.02.08 19:24:55 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • What an awesome read.cmon hb,im buying.

  • Comment 5, posted at 17.02.08 20:08:47 by provincejoulekkading Reply
  • Howzit Claytie!

  • Comment 6, posted at 17.02.08 20:21:00 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • PJLD, In that case, how could I turn you down! See you at Absa this Saturday when the mighty Sharks crush the Stormers, and I will celebrate and you can drown your sorrows 😈

  • Comment 7, posted at 18.02.08 07:15:55 by hellbent Reply

  • For me it’s really simple.

    I chose my team because that is where I was born and raised, except for that difficult little patch in Kroonstad. 😉 So my team are the Sharks and they will be for life unless something drastic happens.

    I cannot get my head around someone being born and raised in CT for instance and then supporting the Sharks or the Bulls.

    Your team should be like family really, you can pick your friends but not your family.

    To me choosing to support a side because they are winning at the moment is a bit of a “groupie” thing. 😀

  • Comment 8, posted at 18.02.08 07:19:58 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Actually.

    I should say my team chose me!!!!!

  • Comment 9, posted at 18.02.08 07:21:06 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Works for me 😛

  • Comment 10, posted at 18.02.08 08:22:45 by provincejoulekkading Reply
  • You could also of course choose a team on they way their website looks.

    But then who would support the OTHER teams in SA? : 😉

    Just go and have a look at the gallery on

  • Comment 11, posted at 18.02.08 08:39:06 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • I picked the Sharks cos I’m from Durban. We’ve been through ups and dpwns but there is no other team I would rather scream for than the Sharks.

    Sharks forever!

  • Comment 12, posted at 18.02.08 09:17:57 by shark_time Reply

  • dpwns = downs

  • Comment 13, posted at 18.02.08 09:19:45 by shark_time Reply

  • Same here ahsrk_time! Born & raised in Natal, born & raised in SA! I even support Bafana Bafana when they play (even if they DO disappoint me)because I am a South African!

    Man.U. also my team..all started 50 years ago when I read about the Munich Disaster & started following their recovery…no TV in those days…had to rely on pics & newspaper reports & the new reels in our local cinema (actually the Town Hall)!!!

  • Comment 14, posted at 18.02.08 09:34:17 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • Although I was born in Pretoria, I spent my formative years amongst the green hills of Northern Natal. Going back to Bull country, I found the ethos of that support base completely foreign to me.

  • Comment 15, posted at 18.02.08 09:35:30 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • “Although I was born in Pretoria”

    Bold thing to admit in public. 😀

  • Comment 16, posted at 18.02.08 09:46:26 by Sauce Reply
    Worcestershire Sauce
  • All the foreign soccer teams that I support (Liverpool, Barcelona, Inter etc) I chose them because I admired their style of playing and also the team culture.

    I was a big Andre Agassi fan because he played well and he was UNIQUE. I support Federer now because he’s a hell of a player and he has a link to South Africa.

    I supported Ferrari solely because of Schumacher and now I’m stuck with them for life…unless one of the teams can sign a South African driver. I’m super-PATRIOTIC and I’d never turn my back on any of our national teams (even when they disappoint us Me2 😉 )

  • Comment 17, posted at 18.02.08 09:49:42 by shark_time Reply

  • shark_time … I still remeber those dark days when Natal rugby was demoted to the B Section…best thing that could have happened…the Ntal Rugby Supporters Club was started…I was a student then & could not afford to go on those long bus journeys all over the country, to support the sister & swaar did…; “the braai after the match” also started at that time & we had some really good ones!! Some of guys used to join us after the “after the match function”…..and so the tradition started…no wonder we have the best franchise in SA, if not the World!!

  • Comment 18, posted at 18.02.08 10:07:35 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • Well, can’t say the same for me and my family. None of us were born or lived in Natal. Jhb born and bred (unfortunately). Have always supported the Sharks though – have always liked the team and the way they play. Travel all over the country to watch them and will always support them. Have always wanted to live in Natal – maybe that’s why?

    Also been following Saracens and enjoying watching Brent have some really good runs in conditions that South African selectors have always said he would battle in.

  • Comment 19, posted at 18.02.08 10:07:36 by Nessa Reply

  • Sauce – you should see my therapy bill.

  • Comment 20, posted at 18.02.08 10:23:37 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Ive supported natal/sharks since 1991 i believe, i cant exactly remember why though. As a kid i never watched rugby although i loved playing the wonderful game. In 1995 i saw every world cup game and after that provincial rugby was boring. Halfway through the 2004 S12 season i started watching my team lose and lose and i suddenly realised how much i love the game, how much i love my team. I still dont know why i support the Sharks but i always will. The sad thing is, i still havent seen them or any club live in action.

  • Comment 21, posted at 19.02.08 01:20:10 by jarsonx Reply
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  • Oh yeah, ive was born and raised in gauteng and still lives here.

  • Comment 22, posted at 19.02.08 01:21:46 by jarsonx Reply
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  • I know my team… 😆

    Laureus Sports Team of the Year 2007- The Springboks!

    “Brilliantly won their second Rugby World Cup, in France, beating England 15-6 in the final, after going through the tournament unbeaten. Coach Jake White has inspired a major turnaround in the team’s success since taking charge in 2004. Percy Montgomery was the highest points scorer in the competition, but Bryan Habana was acknowledged as the player of the tournament as top try scorer. John Smit played a captain’s role and Francois Steyn was hailed as the most prodigious young talent in world rugby. Os du Randt, who played in the 1995 World Cup winning side, retired after the tournament as the most capped forward in South African rugby history.

  • Comment 23, posted at 19.02.08 03:43:32 by bryce_in_oz Reply


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