Lions insider Richard Anderson looks at the pettiness of the latest row between the two rival sides
By Richard Anderson. Last Updated: July 6, 2009 12:05pm
Lions on the prowl
With the series all wrapped up, you might have thought it would be a nice quiet build-up to the third Test, right?
South Africa v British & Irish Lions 1pm, Sat, Sky Sports 1 & HD1
After witnessing one of the great Test matches and another that wasn't too far away, you'd think everybody would be talking about the rugby, right?
Considering the physicality and pace of the second Test especially, you'd imagine there'd be no scope for anybody to be precious on this tour, right?
The big furore on Wednesday concerned the all-important and necessary-to-make-public issue of whether Ian McGeechan congratulated South Africa on their series win or not.
The takes on the issue are threefold - and these are all direct quotes:
"We'll congratulate them at the end of the series" - Graham Rowntree.
"Just so you know, Ian McGeechan met Peter de Villiers twice on Saturday after the game and both times he offered his congratulations" - Greg Thomas, Lions media spokesman.
"I can tell you I didn't even go to see Ian McGeechan on Saturday and no such meeting happened" - Peter de Villiers.
So, one side says the congratulations have been delivered, another flatly denies that, and another says that it will happen in due course.
My take is that Rowntree's point of view is about right - I mean, what's the point in congratulating someone on a series win before you even know the final score?
But in truth... do we really care that much? Is it an official obligation? Are we about to get live televised 'congratulation' ceremonies where the two coaches bend our ears with even more carefully rehearsed soundbites, smile externally and exchange smart ties and a camera-friendly hug? Is it a part of the tour we have to be informed about and involved in?
Or is it maybe a case of someone in the media being a smidgeon precious about it all and trying to squeeze a little juice out of the sour grapes of defeat/ridicule (delete according to your coach loyalty)?
It's a tough task to escape from the concrete sprawling mass that is Johannesburg at the best of times. Traffic jams, road reconstructions, the daily major accident, all combine to make sure you are kept securely within her faceless plastic confines unless you plan your expedition a couple of days in advance.
But where there's a will there's a way. On Monday we made it out to the Aloe Ridge game reserve for a dining experience I suspect will remain unrivalled for the rest of this tour - maybe even this year.
It's a fair old walk from the game reserve building entrance, up a labyrinth of wooden walkways and up to a thatched-roof cabin, but once there you can only gawp with wonder at the vision of a floodlit bush valley, untouched enough that your imagination runs wild with animals to imprint upon it's.
The food - I had Ostrich in port and Ilava (a creamy liqueur) sauce - is sumptuous as well as good value and the place far enough out of town that you can quite easily get the place to yourself on a weeknight. For those who can whip a big enough group together, there is also an observatory there which, given the thinness of the air and crispness of the nights, must be worth a squizz.
But the experience was rendered truly unique not by the food, the service, the wine, the stars nor the view, but rather the impressive-sized and morose-looking zebra that blocked the entrance to the game reserve offices for a good 20 minutes as it waited patiently for someone to open the door and let him in - and which was still hanging around the porch area three hours later after the meal.
Half the reason we went specifically to the game reserve is because the Lions had gone on safari on Monday and apparently had such a good time that such a trip became a must-do.
We weren't let down! The zebra was not the only animal we saw on the game reserve! We saw a hippo! We saw a rhino! We even got to see the backside of a buffalo!
But the best moment was seeing a Lion chase down, maul and dine hugely on a plump Springbok after a long and arduous chase, which is when we all reflected on what it really means to be a Lion in South Africa...
There's been more than a few column inches on the prices of tickets, and the hoarding thereof by corporations and hospitality companies desperate to tack whatever gimmick their idiot marketeers dream up in order to milk the punters for as much cash as possible.
But with a dead rubber on the horizon, tickets still both ludicrously over-priced and finding their way back onto the market en masse after the corporate nobs failed to find buyers, the Castle promoters have at last resorted to honesty, value and Test matchday principles.
So how's this? ZAR 1,500 - about £120 - for a trip to a bar with free beer and a bit of a feed, tickets to the game, a trip to a bar after with free beer and a bit of a feed, and... that's it! Do we need more?