Newcomers, part-time surfers or long-time fans of this blog,
I knew that this day would come one day.
I am leaving.
Okay, let me just explain my decision.
In March 2016, just after the Super Rugby fixture at Eden Park between the Blues and the Hurricanes, I got the idea of creating a rugby blog. It was a long-time dream of mine to be honest. Something I wanted to do for many years.
I have always been a huge rugby fan. I watched my first rugby games during the Six Nations Championship 2005. I remembered Ronan O’Gara’s kick charged down in Cardiff as Wales were rampant to win the Grand Slam at their home.
Through the next years, I became really interested in that game. I was mainly watching Six Nations Championship, Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, the Top14 Final, the Summer and November Tours, and obviously the World Cup.
It was only in the mid-2010’s that I decided to give my total commitment to this wonderful game. Because I was such a big fan, I think that I watched an average of 15 games per weekend and it lasted during more than four years.
I have never been good at mathematics. However, I can be pretty confident to say that it represents more than 3,000 rugby games. I watched everything, I watched every competitions, I enjoyed some incredible emotions through it.
I remember that my favourite part of the year was from February to March. Because rugby was played all around the world, there were games from the early morning to the middle of the night. I enjoyed those big marathons.
However, I finally realised that, as much as I love this game, there is much more to life than rugby. I did not take this decision lightly but following some deep reflection, I want a new direction in my life and that is the best thing to do.
As much as I love this game, I cannot keep watching games after games, weekends after weekends, while I know that there is so much that you can do. I will still be following rugby but it will not be as accurate. It will be different.
I look back at these four years as a greatful man. I have been blessed with outstanding rugby games, high-level performances, great skills and unbelievable scenarios. It also brought me so much with universal values.
That would be pointless to rank my best rugby games ever. I just covered every rugby competition which was broadcasted. I watched everything because I was a true rugby fan and I just did not want to miss a single game during that time.
Premiership, Pro14, Top14, Premiership Rugby Cup, Champions Cup, Challenge Cup, Six Nations, Super Rugby, Rugby Championship, Pacific Nations Cup, Mitre 10 Cup, Currie Cup, World Cup, Junior World Cup, Lions, Tours, …
Nevertheless, if I had to keep just one game, here is the one that I would keep and why : Free State Cheetahs vs. Western Province. Sixth Round of the Currie Cup 2019. Let me explain why I would keep that game and not another one.
The game was taking place at Free State Stadium, in Bloemfontein. The Free State Cheetahs were playing at home and were qualified for the Currie Cup play-offs before the start of the game. The sixth Round was obviously the last Round.
The Free State Cheetahs could not handle the pressure of the Western Province in the first-half, filled by numerous Springboks. The Free State Cheetahs were trailing by 18 points at the interval (10-28) and they were also virtually out.
The beginning of the second-half was even more terrible with the Free State Cheetahs now trailing by 23 points (10-33). With half an hour to go, the Free State Cheetahs were going to stage one of the greatest comebacks in History.
They scored four tries for 28 unanswered points to get a 5-point caution. On the last play of the game, the Western Province put immense pressure on the Free State Cheetahs try line. They did not surrender. They even counter-rucked.
As soon as the ball left the field of play with Marius van der Westhuizen blowing his whistle, the crowd lifted and gave a great cheer to their local heroes. The Free State Cheetahs coach, Franco Smith, was also very emotional in his box.
That was THE moment when the Free State Cheetahs won the Currie Cup. In 30 minutes, they went from out of the Currie Cup to top of the table. Two weeks later, after some great play-offs, the Free State Cheetahs won the Currie Cup.
I chose that game because of the symbol. For me, the symbol is stronger than the result. Had I choose the result, I probably would have gone for the Currie Cup Finals in 2016 or in 2019 when the Free State Cheetahs ruled the league.
These kind of memories will be over now. It is obviously very tough for me but like I said, you have to make the big decisions sometimes in your life. It has been one hell of a journey but even the good things must come to an end.
That is fair to say that it has been an enjoyable four years. That was very fun, every day, to get the news, go into the build-up for the big games. I followed the development of great players from the grassroots to the superstar status.
For example, and I have no evidence to give you, but the first ever Super Rugby game that I watched was in May, 2014. The Hurricanes were hosting the Chiefs at Westpac Stadium, Wellington. There was the heat for the play-offs battle.
That day, for the Hurricanes, was playing at first five-eighth a guy named Beauden Barrett. I did not know him well. I watched him play and I said to myself : “One day, this guy will be crowned World Rugby Player Of The Year”.
In fact, on that blog, you can find three kinds of rugby articles. Rugby reviews which gives you a short summary of most of the games I watched through the years, features on clubs and the game and Beauden Barrett’s career articles.
Like I said, I will keep following rugby and all the competitions, North and South, but it will not be as accurate as what it used to be. I think that I will still watch a few games but it will be more like a few games per year, so a real drop.
There will never ever be more articles published on the blog. That is the last one. The 387th article will be my last. However, I wanted to share with you two drafts that I wrote and that I never published for some various reasons.
The first one was about the Super Rugby re-building in 2017 with the Southern Kings, the Free State Cheetahs and the Western Province dropped for financial reasons. I really was disappointed by that move. That was just unacceptable.
The second one was about the Super Rugby preview for the 2020 season. It was a preview, franchise by franchise. It was about giving informations about the momentum, the coaching staff, the player resources and the expectations.
I am a huge fan of the Southern Hemisphere. Well, I am not here to start an argument, mostly because that is my last article, but I have always thought that the Northern Hemisphere was unfair with their Southern counterparts.
We hear for decades that New Zealand is poaching Pacific Islanders, for example. Meanwhile, all the clubs in the Northern Hemisphere, have at least one player who played Super Rugby in past days. Who has got it right ?
New Zealand strengthened their national side but their federation put the money to raise these players while their clubs are struggling. In North, clubs are stronger and when their federations are poaching talents, they don’t spend.
I will never say that North is weaker than South. I just think that South play the game like it should be played. New Zealand, South Africa and Australia are not as rich as the countries in the North but they have someting that North has not.
That is called extra soul. Since 1987, there were 9 World Cups which took place. South won 8 of them. North won 1. You could clearly witness it during the last World Cup Final, in 2019, in Japan when South Africa defeated England.
Because the Southern Hemisphere countries are poorer and are going through tough times, their players know that and get that extra soul. It may sound rubbish but that is my opinion and you have got the right to disagree.
On another note, I have never understood the lack of respect towards the Haka. You do not boo it, you do not even try to respond to it on the field. Okay, that is the challenge but you can still rise to it standing up, watching and enjoying it.
Anyway, it has been four unforgettable years. I will still be around and I will keep following what happens in the oval world. I will surely be there for the next World Cup as the global showpiece of 2023 will be held in my country.
Rugby will always hold a special place in my life. It made me a greater person. It sometimes was my only refuge. The only place in the world where I was accepted for who I was with no people judging me for the person that I was.
Rugby gives you the values that you want to fight for. That game is all about passion, pride, loyalty, respect, brotherhood and so much more. The guard of honor is probably the greatest symbol of what rugby can bring to the world.
If I am not mistaken, rugby is the only sport in the world with the guard of honor being a code. At the end of each game, there is the guard of honor from both sides paying tribute to each other. That always was my favourite moment.
You are entitled to follow the legacy of that blog. If you are interested, or if that article pleased you, do not hesitate to drop a mail or a comment. I will keep checking and answering, remembering the four incredible years of the past.
Thanks to all the rugby community for these four years.
That was great.