There’s a reason why rugby is such a booming sport globally. It may not be as gentlemanly as the sports of golf and cricket, not as lucrative as basketball and boxing, nor is it as graceful as athletics or figure skating – but it’s a helluva lot more entertaining than most other sports.
The story goes that in 1823 William Webb Ellis decided to put one over on his football-playing peers by sprinting across the goal line with the ball in his arms. He was trying to score a goal (see what we did there?). And this is, apparently, where rugby parted ways with football. This was probably the moment rugby players also decided to ditch the drama and leave the acting part to career footballers.
Of course, there are a lot of other reasons why rugby hails as a more rugged pastime than many other popular sports. Firstly, playing with balls originally made from pig’s bladders, which carried a real risk of death from inflating by mouth, is kind of gnarly. And, of course, rugga blows cannot be softened by being strapped into makeshift mattresses like those ‘strapping’ lads a la NFL. Add to that a sport that often kicks off with an ancestral Mãori war cry (haka), and you know you’re in for an entertaining time.
It’s the burly nature of the sport that nails us to our seats. It represents a struggle for victory that reminds us ordinary humans of even greater struggles – those of economic freedom, emancipation and equality (yes, we’re being slightly dramatic, but that doesn’t make it any less true). It’s infused with a patriotism which finds us glued to our screens irrespective of time zone. It’s the green and gold that gathers us all around a braai in the warm-up to each match. And in 2015 which marks the 20 year anniversary of South Africa’s first (and famed) World Cup victory, we are all hoping the bokke can go the distance again.
We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to hear the blow of that famous Gil Evans whistle on Friday, 18 September, when Fiji tackles England.
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