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Fri Apr 18 16:10:32 SAST 2014

The second that lasts a lifetime

DAVID ISAACSON | 06 November, 2013 06:260 Comments

WHETHER Pirates win the Caf Champions League or not, Thabo Matlaba's goal in the first leg of the final against al-Ahly last Saturday will go down as one of the classic moments of South African sport this year.

Late strikes that win contests - or in his case level the score - are the moments that go down in folklore, no matter the sport.

Boxing is probably the greatest win-from-behind code. The loser can be trailing by a trillion points, but as long as there are more than 10 seconds of the fight remaining, he, or she, can win.

People still talk about Rocky Marciano's devastating Suzie Q punch that won him the world heavyweight championship, which was just as well because his boxing skills were no match for Jersey Joe Walcott.

Way behind on points, Marciano's looping right landed flush against the side of Walcott's head in the 13th round; the iconic photograph, taken at the moment of impact, showed the champ's noggin almost being transformed into a cashew nut wrapped around Marciano's glove.

Forty years ago this month, South Africa's Arnold Taylor, after hitting the deck three times in the eighth round, came back to knock out Romeo Anaya of Mexico with a single blow in the 14th round to lift the WBA bantamweight crown.

That battle is still ranked in many quarters as the greatest bantamweight title fight of all time.

Rugby also offers the chance for dramatic last-minute victories, partly because the rules require the action on the field to be completed before the final whistle can sound.

Time was up when Bryan Habana scored that spectacular try for the Bulls that downed the Sharks in the 2007 Super 14 final.

Such moments are not uncommon in rugby, but rarely can one claim to have witnessed them live. In my schooldays, every Saturday, I used to go to Newlands to watch my team, a club from Cape Town's southern suburbs called Villagers.

Villagers were then a powerful team and in my first three years of watching them seriously, from 1979 to 1981, they lifted four trophies - including the SA Club Championships. They also once shared the Western Province League Cup with Maties in that period.

Four of those five finals were against the mighty Maties; one ended in a 3-3 draw, and the other three Villagers won convincingly - 14-3, 28-19 and 17-7. They were no last-gasp clinchers, but I remember those momentous games.

I also remember Villagers being involved in two final-second deciders that I watched with my own eyes, and on both occasions Villagers lost - first in 1981 and again in 1986.

Both matches were effectively insignificant league games. Both were against False Bay and on both occasions their flyhalf Andy Calmeyer booted the winning kick - first a long-range penalty into the old South stand, and five years later a dropped goal into the North stand.

I was on the wrong side of that perfect symmetry and 30-odd years later I remember it like I do Villagers' triumphs.

Matlaba's goal will be remembered for decades to come, and not only by Pirates fans.

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The second that lasts a lifetime

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Fri Apr 18 16:10:32 SAST 2014 ::

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