Want some scrappy, hard fought rugby games before the Super Rugby season kicks-off? Look no further, the 2012 Six Nations tournament is about to start.
Muddy rugby pitches, cold or wet weather at best – cold and wet is the norm – historical – political rivalries or personal issues at club level, all these make every Six Nations tournament unique.
Sold out stadiums are common place, crowds are vociferous and passionate and whether you are a Paddy, a Jock, a Taffy or a Southern French-man travelling to Paris to support the troops, you are going to sing, no matter what.
Every Springbok, All Black or Wallaby who have had the chance to play at Murrayfield, Twickenham or Cardiff are adamant: we don’t have the same passion down South. Fair enough. We will keep the 6 Rugby World Cups and leave you the passion.
More seriously, are we less passionate, or less expressive should I say, because of our culture, weather and overall laidback attitude?
Or is it our rather positive rugby philosophy which makes a rugby match at Ellis Park or Eden Park so different than a game in Dublin?
Bit of both really as it’s a catch 22 situation: rugby is what it is because of its environment, culture, rivalries etc. but at the same time its very own philosophy shapes the crowds, atmosphere etc.
Generally speaking, you play rugby in the south to enjoy yourself, have fun with your mates, run the ball etc. In the northern hemisphere, you play rugby because you want to show others you are tough, or prove yourself you are, and also because you don’t mind a bit of aggro on the pitch.
France’s lock Fabien Pelous recently gave an interview in which he said that violence was part of rugby and that as a junior they were fighting pretty much every weekend.
Same with Canadian Jamie Cudmore who started playing rugby as a teen because he loved fighting and he could do so on rugby pitches without getting arrested.
Martin Johnson, Steve Thompson and many more, mainly in the forwards, are no different: they like their rugby ‘hot and spicy’.
The recall of French prop David Attoub in France’s Six Nations squad after serving a record 70-week ban for eye-gouging Irishman Stephen Ferris proves again that you are never too much of a villain for the sport.
True, the arrival of professionalism in Northern Hemisphere rugby has changed this, to some extent. Yet, for many players and for supporters who are or were rugby players themselves at amateur level, rugby is a tough, physical sport where games are won first and foremost up front, and should remain so.
European fans expect nothing less from their players and their way to ‘ask for it’ is to sing and make the atmosphere as daunting as possible for the opponent.
Here in the South, we want tries, speed, flick passes, offloads and big hits, too. We want a show, and that’s what we get from our players. Nothing wrong with that. It’s just different.
And there is room in this world for both, as a 9-3 battle in the mud between 30 desperate Irish and Englishmen at Twickenham can be as enjoyable as a 38-24 show between the Sharks and the Reds at Kings Park.
It’s called diversity and that’s what makes rugby the sport it is.