I don’t blame jet lag, Fikile “Moer Hulle” Mbalula or the fact that John Smit is long in the tooth. I don’t blame food poisoning or Danie Rossouw’s line-out faux pas. I don’t think it’s Ard Matthews’s fault (although I believe he should be charged with anthem abuse). I don’t even blame the coach – or his mangled metaphors. And, unlike every other South African, I don’t point my finger at Bryce Lawrence. No, the blame for the Springboks’ quarter-final exit from the Rugby World Cup rests squarely on the shoulders of the sponsors.
The All Blacks have the haka. They glare daggers and motion to slit their opponents’ necks, spill their blood, urinate down their throats and do unspeakable things to their pets. What do the Springboks have? They have shiny, silky-smooth hands!
Vaseline, the “official skincare of the Springboks”. In teenage text speak: WTF? Boks need to be dirty, nasty, repulsive, bloody, rough and rugged with cuts, bruises, contusions and pus-oozing gashes. They need to have chapped lips, blistery skin and wrinkly, wobbly bits. If there’s one thing that the Boks do not need in their arsenal it is soft skin.
The fact that the Springboks have an “official skincare” regime meant we lost the psychological edge and, as The Shrink will tell you, once you lose the psychological edge it doesn’t matter if you have a team full of Bismarcks times by Schalk Squared to the power of Hougaard, it’s game over – finished en klaar.
South Africa’s World Cup campaign ended when the Vaseline deal was signed. Too much petroleum jelly, too little Wallaby patrol.
I also can’t see how the sponsorship would have boosted the sale of Vaseline. Which rugby-crazed fan watches The Beast hurtling towards the tryline and says: “Kids, when you grow up you must be just like him. Did you see how wonderfully glossy his elbows are? Did you see how sparklingly fresh and hygienic his cheeks are? Let that be a lesson to you, girls and boys – moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.”
I can’t imagine commentators saying things like: “Bakkies may have cauliflower ears, but, boy, he sure can exfoliate!”
Vaseline sponsoring the Boks makes as much sense as AfriForum funding the ANC Youth League’s annual “Shoot the Boer” conference or McDonald’s sponsoring MasterChef South Africa.
The Boks need to follow Bafana Bafana’s example of appropriate sponsorship. The word on the street is that after the Confederation of African Football rule fiasco, Bafana has approached a law firm; not to sue CAF but for sponsorship. Expect to see this soon on a billboard near you: Bafana Bafana brought to you by Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr Inc – we’ll read the small print, so you don’t have to.
There is also talk that Judge Nkola “The writing is on the wall and so is my Jaguar” Motata has asked BlackBerry to sponsor him. Judge Motata uses BB… because crashes happen (and it’s not our fault).
Here’s a clue to mark the Rugby World Cup: Springbok sponsor’s horrible vain lies (8)* but in spite of my Vaseline theory, Bryce-bashers insist that their ire is with the umpire. I open the crossword and this clue reveals no doubt about who is really to blame: Referee’s rubbish skill one supporter backed (10).**
* VASELINE: An anagram of “vain lies” (“horrible” is the anagram indicator).
** ARBITRATOR: ROT (“rubbish”) + ART (“skill”) + I (“one”) + BRA (“supporter”) = ROTARTIBRA. Now reverse it (“backed”).