KEVIN MCCALLUM: With kant decanted, we now hold our breaths
Your guess as good as mine about what is going to happen on Saturday
Right. Now that we have just about finished decanting bile from one side to another about who said what to whom and in what language, down to the business of the World Cup final. We hope.
Except, well, it probably won’t go away too soon or all that quickly. There are too many dogs with bones to pick and wield on the interweb with abandon. One man’s “c**t” is another man’s “kant”, and never the twain shall meet, as Rudyard Kipling wrote in the The Ballad of East and West.
Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgment Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, though they come from the ends of the earth.
Those two strong men from the ends of the earth have stood face to face a few times, but it seems they don’t much care for each other. They have shared more handbags than handshakes.
There is absolutely no excuse nor justification for the online abuse England’s Tom Curry has received this week. He thought he was called a “white c**t”, told the ref, confirmed something had been said, but then didn’t want to talk about it afterwards when asked what was said: “No. It doesn’t need to be talked about. I’m not talking about it now,” Curry told media.
He didn’t have to. The rugby world was doing all the talking for him. In fact, the only two who weren’t talking this week was Curry and Bongi Mbonambi. There have been revelations about what “kant” means in Afrikaans, Mbonambi saying “kant” more times in one lineout drill than he may during a Test match.
Mbonambi has been cleared for now, much to the relief of South Africans and the ire of the “deeply disappointed” Rugby Football Union, who reported the incident to World Rugby. The investigation by World Rugby took longer than thought and arrived at a conclusion that will have suited them and the Springboks. One thing that does worry me is that Mbonambi has not publicly denied directing a racial slur at Curry. Perhaps he should have. It would have made things a little easier to digest. Ah, well, we can wait for the video.
So, again, on to the final after the bronze medal match on Friday night, which is a nothing match, a final click of the heels for England and Argentina, and a moneyspinner for the French. I made the mistake of travelling all the way across Sydney to watch New Zealand smash a French team with zero f**ks to give in the 2003 bronze medal game. It felt an unnecessary game to hold.
And, so, what will happen on Saturday night? Your guess is as good as mine. Le Beumb squad will be back and packing heat for the Boks, with a rather happy and anxious Trevor Nyakane part of the seven-one bench split that did such fun work against the All Blacks at Twickenham not that long ago. Four years ago he tore his calf muscle against New Zealand in the opening match in Japan and was ruled out for the tournament.
He will be one of a bunch of Springboks who will exit stage right after the final, no matter the result. Some are carrying their age well, such as Duane Vermeulen, who is 37, but most of the squad for the final are over 30 or thereabouts. For many, this will be a last hoorah, the chance to make history and become an SA legend.
The Boks looked utterly knackered last week against England, unable to shake off their torpor until the final quarter of the match. I expected England to play as they did. They kicked away 93% of their possession, albeit with incredible accuracy, and kept up their record of having the slowest ruck speed (average of 6.73 seconds) at the tournament with that caterpillar breakdown routine. They also became the first team not to register a single line break at this World Cup.
I could crunch more numbers, but this is the All Blacks against the Springboks, and statistics are a by-product rather than a forecast of what is to come between these two grand old enemies.
There are match winners and breakers across the park in both teams, men who can move and shake and bash. The Stade de France will be no place for the timid on Saturday. This is a game that could be won by either kant …
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