Saturday 7 December 2019

Alpha males lock horns but I fear Springboks will be buck-leppin' in D4

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The Springbok is a bouncy, deery, sort of antelopey type of a goatish sheep with huge horns that could rip a man open with a scythe-swipe, spilling his guts out on to the parched veldt.

It's the first time I've tried gratuitous violence here in this little column, or as the literary types call it "gritty realism".

I'm not even sure if the Springbok can disembowel a man, but it's a good line and you'd hate to sacrifice it to the facts.

There's even more animal lore and violence on the way. We will preview the battle of the two bull elephants on the plains of Dublin 4. Or that's the way the Matfield- O'Connell fight is being hyped up. It seems, though, that Victor Matfield and Paul O'Connell are full of man love for each other.

"I think he (O'Connell) is a fantastic player, I think he's probably the best player I've played against in my career," said Victor.

Paulie says of Victor: "I'd love to take Victor out for dinner and a few cocktails, or maybe a man pamper or a movie. I'd love if the film was from the romantic genre, with enough crying to attract water charges."

Says the Older Vic: "Paulie reminds me of a juicer. You put all the hard bits in, like the carrots and the coconuts, mix them all up and out comes a smoothie."

I made up all these comments from Victor and Paulie, except for the one where Victor says Paulie is the best he's ever played against.

The reality is they're going to tear strips of each other later on today. For some of you, the hypnotic, gymnastical athleticism and beauty of an overhead-kick drop-goal, or the sleight of handpassing of an Edward Scissorhands, is what makes the game of rugby football live and breathe in to an evocative, unforgettable tableaux. (Don't worry, I'm not sure what that last bit means either. And yes I know gymnastical isn't a word.)

For me the thrill is in watching the fronting up and the testing, with no 'pronking', which is an Afrikaaner word for Springboks showing off by buck-leppin' in the rutting season.

The real truth is the two warriors are the world leaders in tough stuff, brainy stuff and the stuff of which bravery is made. We look forward so much to what could be the last time these two national heroes play on the same field.

There's a fiction out there that forwards, and front-rowers in particular, are all brawn and no brain. Munster hooker Damien Varley, who is recovering from a foot op, is a fine singer who feels and gives meaning to every note and word. There's so much more to scrums than pushing.

But we'll still tell you the fairly true story of the Irish prop on holiday in Cape Town. He asked of his travelling companion "who is this Al Fresco lad and how did he get to own so many restaurants?" Our front-row will be smart enough for sure, but will Mike Ross last the pace after a longish enough lay-off.

Ireland play two rookies in the centre but they're big rookies. That's the way the game is gone. Last February in Twickenham the English midfield ran straight at our centres, who took them on every time but just weren't big enough to stop the forward momentum.

We wish Rob Henshaw and Jared Payne the very best today. It all starts in defence, as the mothers of old used to say when they handed the double gusset knickers with the elastication below the knee to the daughters on the night of a dance. So there you have it, gratuitous violence and sex or lack of it all in the one sports article. We'd chance anything here to keep you on the page.

COMFORTABLE

Jonathan Sexton will marshal the new boys but it takes time to fit in to the set-up and it takes time for new internationals to get comfortable in the step-up.

You have to trust Joe Schmidt. He doesn't make too many mistakes,does he? We hope Joe brings 'The Safecracker' JJ Hanrahan in to the squad at some stage. Our guess is Joe would be mightily impressed.

Simon Zebo will lift the crowd out of their seats when he is on the ball with his pace, tap dances, catching and citeoig kicking.

Simon has a tendency to come in too soon off his wing, and he must trust his backs to take their men. This was probably the reason why Zebo wasn't picked last year. Is he good enough? Yes, and he's good enough to become the best in the world if he can hold his fire until the last second when the Boks attack.

We will have the advantage at half-back. Sexton and Conor Murray are as good as any pairing anywhere. Our backs have the capability to score spectacular tries.

We might need the game, though, and the Springboks beat the All Blacks last time out. They could be buck-leppin' again this evening.

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