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Defying the odds

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Our government officials and Springbok rugby players may as well be peas in a pod as, over time, both have mastered the art of over-promising and under-delivering

Rassie Erasmus

Anyone who thinks that our national sports teams don’t adequately represent our nation, is wrong.

In nothing else, our government officials and Springbok rugby players may as well be peas in a pod as, over time, both have mastered the art of over-promising and under-delivering.

Time after time we watch our top politicians and players alike, do anything but cover themselves in glory as the current “cream of the crop” have bungled their way from worshipped to woeful, legendary to ludicrous, revered to ridiculed.

Worse still, be it the name of the game or the government, each and every South African needs to be wary of emerging forces from Asia as our best and brightest have demonstrated just how fallible they really are.

And … as next year draws ever closer, both players and politicians have their work cut out for them with a general election and the Rugby World Cup coming at us like a freight train.

There is plenty to play for, nothing to gain and everything to lose, in 2019. Until then, with every passing game and/or gathering, expect more assurances and less performances.

After all, that’s what South Africa does, both in the game and government.

We over-promise and under-deliver and we’re damn good at it.

This wasn’t always the case. Let’s rewind a few decades. Let’s go back to the beginning and relive some firsts.

Prior to the elections in 1994, canned food was a hot commodity as many expected the worst once the masses had cast their vote. It was a terrific but terrifying time as the change was welcoming but worrying.

It had been a few years since Mandela’s release failed to result in a civil war. Now, as Madiba was on the brink of becoming president, that “imminent”, concocted by naysayers, was no longer around the corner. It was overdue.

Now, let’s jump forward a few months to mid-1995. Most South Africans had been able to cast their votes for the first time and their visit to the ballot boxes had ended without bloodshed.

Many a can of tinned food was nearing its expiration date and those who had been expecting the worst were still waiting – armed but unharmed.

Optimists were yet to be proven wrong but pessimists had been given plenty of food for thought and cause for complaint.

Government was one, the game was another as readmission to the global sporting arena had hardly resulted in the Springboks’ slaughter of all before them that many had dreamed of for decades.

In fact, by the time the 1995 Rugby World Cup kicked off, the safe money wasn’t on the host nation. Many expected the worst but it never came.

Instead, the odds were defied, the dream unfolded and the legend developed. We won.

Which brings us to the present day and my point. In less than three decades we have gone full circle. Our players and politicians have mastered the art of overpromising and under-delivering, disregarding a track record of success by doing exactly the opposite.

As was the case in the finals of the 1995 World Cup, and the 1994 general elections for that matter, pessimism was rife and expectations weren’t great.

In both instances, South Africa under-promised and over-delivered and the rest is history.

The same rings true for the Boks’ win over their old nemesis on Saturday when they went from lacking a hope in hell to surprising friend and foe, defying expectations and delivering.

We will have to wait and see what happens on the floors of Parliament and fields of Japan in 2019, but until then let’s hope that both our politicians and players alike stick to what works and value performance over praise and profit.