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Sun Apr 20 22:57:08 SAST 2014

Poles apart but with one ambition: to be a Springbok

Dan Retief | 20 May, 2012 09:060 Comments

"THERE'S a dream, I feel, so rare, so real ... " goes the opening line of rugby's anthem The World in Union - and it could almost have been written as the score for Friday's Vodacom Cup final between Griquas and Western Province in Kimberley.

It was a match bringing together the disparate parts of South African rugby - the city slickers versus the country bumpkins, if you will, yet all united by a singular dream that is the life force of the game in this country.

And that elemental genome is the desire to be a Springbok; to make the commitment, to do the work, to find a place to play, to do what it takes in the hope of being noticed, in the hope of hearing your name read out one evening among a group chosen to wear the green-and-gold jersey.

It is a factor overlooked by the scholastic theorists who seek academic solutions to making sport more inclusive. But without it SA would not have won two Rugby World Cups.

Rugby is a complex mixture of many different components involving race, religion, culture, language and background, but somehow that common thread is evident at every level it is played.

The two coaches involved in the Vodacom Cup final, Pote Human and John Dobson, represent this diversity yet they chose pretty much the same words to describe what motivates the players toiling away out of sight in the lower leagues.

"It is the Springbok dream that drives them ... " intoned both Human, a tough flanker in his heyday who learnt his trade as a rugby artisan in Despatch, and Dobson, whose path was more academic via Bishops and UCT.

Human and Dobson had to overcome vastly different challenges in guiding their teams to the pinnacle of their season, but delivered teams with equal ambition.

Human, who has successful coaching spells with the Cheetahs, Bulls and Ricoh Black Rovers of Japan on his CV, works with what he has - a squad of 35 mostly made up of those unable to secure Super Rugby contracts. Club rugby in Griquas' vast Northern Cape region is all but extinct.

Dobson operates in a milieu of plenty - subservient to the Stormers and vulnerable to having players plucked from his squad, but able to incorporate talent from two competitive universities in Maties and Ikeys and also scout a strong club competition.

They both use words such as "tight" and "family" when talking about their teams.

"They dream about being Springboks," says Human about the Griquas, "and they're desperate for the chance to play. They look at guys like Zane Kirchner and Bjorn Basson, who made it from here and they work very hard, listen well, and give 100% in the hope of being noticed."

Dobson's observations are similar. "All these guys have careers the ascendant and they want to play for the Stormers and South Africa. They are willing to wear the pain and my job is to make them a happy team and instil the value that in rugby, while ambition might be personal, you're nothing without the team."

As the song says:

"Gathering together

One mind, one heart

Every creed, every colour

Once joined, never apart."

Western Province beat Griquas 20-18 in the Vodacom Cup final.

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Poles apart but with one ambition: to be a Springbok

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