If you are reading this, chances are you are not in Paris. Neither am I. This is the story of how that sad eventuality occurred, but don't imagine I am bitter and twisted. Far from it. I shall be watching the World Cup final in the manner of the majority of South Africans, on the television with a beer in one hand and some braaied meat in the other, writes Andy Capostagno.
In 1995 it was Joel Stransky, in 2003 it was Jonny Wilkinson. Stransky's winning drop goal for the Springboks came early in the second period of extra time, Wilkinson's came with 30 seconds left in the second period, in the 99th minute of a gripping World Cup final. England at last take home the Webb-Ellis trophy.
The Springboks have not beaten New Zealand since Nick Mallett's penultimate test as Springbok coach three years ago. In Pretoria this year the All Blacks racked up a half century of points against the Boks in the most embarrassingly one sided encounter ever between the two old rivals. So why is it that there is a strange sense of optimism ahead of Saturday's quarterfinal in Melbourne?
If ever there was a chance to start with a bang then Rudolf Straeuli had to pick Schalk Burger, not Rossouw, and his fullback should have been Jaco van der Westhuyzen, not the hopelessly over praised Werner Greeff. It won't matter, of course, for Uruguay will be duly beaten, but England are next and if the coach is keeping his powder dry for that match then he is wrong to do so.
Joost van der Westhuizen is pissed off. A month ahead of his third and final Rugby World Cup he says, “When we come back with the cup suddenly everyone is going to see us as World Champions, whereas right now they simply don't believe in us. South Africans typically just support winners, and when we win they'll all suddenly become Springbok supporters again”.
The irony is that if the Springboks do make it to the quarterfinals they could easily go all the way to the final. History shows that when it comes to the knock out stages the All Blacks have a glass jaw, while the Boks tend to hang on in there. So it's not all doom and gloom, but Straeuli's men have a conspicuously hard row to hoe.
Given the column inches and air time devoted to it in this country you could be forgiven for believing that the only matches that count at RWC 2003 are the inevitable pool encounter between South Africa and England and the (almost equally inevitable) quarterfinal between South Africa and New Zealand. But there are 17 other teams at the fifth edition of the World Cup...
The most perturbing aspects of the reaction from those in authority to revelations that Deputy President Jacob Zuma is being investigated by the Scorpions unit have been the contrived silence and egg-dancing. Zuma has glibly declared his innocence and proclaimed his right to remain silent until he is called to stand before a court of law. The National Directorate of Public Prosecutions, under whose wing the Scorpions unit falls, conveniently says it does not comment on investigations into specific individuals and refuses to confirm what is already public knowledge --that it has put written questions to certain individuals about Zuma's conduct and movements.
This week's Commonwealth "troika" meeting in Abuja made one thing abundantly clear -- it is game up in Zimbabwe. Unconstitutional and often violent land seizures will continue to the end; while human rights and governance abuses will continue for as long as the ruling party needs them. President Robert Mugabe has calculated well: South Africa, the region and the continent -- and their representatives in the Commonwealth have dependably shielded him. South Africa insists it is powerless to act. It had an opportunity to do something in Abuja, and called pass.