Ever noticed how a dog instantly recognises any other dog? I mean, how does a dog knows that other dogs are also dogs? You could be strolling with your Chihuahua (for argument’s sake as no proper man would own, let alone walk a Chihuahua) in a crowded market place. There can be millions of other people. Pigeons. Circus monkeys. Tourists from the Transvaal, flame throwers and a few suicidal Zimmer-frame pilots. Then all of a sudden little Phoebe goes ape shit. She has seen a Border Collie 200 metres away. Within the blink of an eye, the Collie reciprocates by salivating and trembling. Deep in its skull, its amygdala is SMSing the bigger brain: “Meal time!” I mean, they barely belong to the same species. And yet, they instinctively know that some serious shit is going down, dawg.
This pretty much sums up the South African attitude towards derby matches. On Saturday the Bulls and the Stormers are going to try their damndest to kill one another. No, killing would be too vague, too nondescript. They’ll first try to maim and torture one another. All within the narrow confines of the law, mind you.
They do it with such ferocity, such malice of intent, that whenever the Boks are down 28 – 6 at Eden Park during another anonymous Tri-Nations Test, you always wonder why the hell they can’t summon the same urgency, the same grit and single-minded desire to pulverize their opponents as they do during derbies.
But what will I do on Saturday as a Stormers supporter? Will I go ape shit? Will I boo the Bulls? Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that, you see.
Let me explain: I was born in Prrrretoria. But not anywhere. Nee, in die Moedersbond Hospitaal in Sunnyside in 1969. Same year as when man landed on the moon. That is significant because… well, I still don’t know. So for many years I shouted (and cursed) for the Bulls. I thought Thys Lourens was hard-done because he never became a Bok. Naas Botha was an apprentice of Jesus and Pote Fourie wasn’t as ugly as everyone said. He was just, shall we say, “rugged”.
But then 8 years ago I switched allegiances. I became a Province supporter. Now some might equate this with heresy or treason on the same level as swopping support for Liverpool FC to that of Man U.
But it’s not that simple. Because look, I was only born in Prrretoria. I actually grew up around the country and then we moved to the UK. Not the UK of Shepperds Bush or Wembley and sharing a house with fellow Saffas in London. No, it was the unique charm of Merseyside – a.k.a. Liverpool. Rrrright, matey (cue Scouse 101).
When we came back to the Cape in, hmmm, 1997 I was still a Bull. But only just. I guess that living and working abroad had changed me. So after a few seasons I found myself taking a liking to Province. At first it was kind of creepy. But I couldn’t help it.
So watching rugby one Saturday afternoon, between beers five and six, I made a formal decision. I was going to support Province and the Stormers from that moment on. At first it was very akward as all my family up country still supported the Bulls. No, it was worse than awkward. It was frikken mal, china. Not to mention the fact that Cape teams then were the whipping boys of SA rugby. But with mates’ children starting to play WP Craven Week and friends of friens of distant family playing WP I got sucked in by the Province tractor beam. Like the Borg warned: “Resistance is Futile.”
I started to view Bulls supporters as people most unlikely to win Nobel prizes for chemistry or physics. As sartorially challenged. The “other”. “We” simply had to rip their frikken throats out every time we played one another. Why? Why?! Because they’re the enemy! Sheez.
Now, the clever people will tell you that, on a molecular level, the human body completely changes all cells and stuff (apart from the memories of really naughty experiences in the darkness of school hall movies) every 8 years or so. So that, in effect, one physically becomes a totally different human being.
If only. Because sometimes, during deep sleep or some unguarded moments, I still have these vague Bulls flashbacks. I can smell the wiff of brannas & Coke. Of big, fatty steaks. Hear a Hilux being revved in the Bosveld and hear a Prrrretoria oke telling a poppie at Hatfield Square: “Ek gaan jou vol soveel vleis pak dat jou oë lyk soos slaghuisvensters.”
But God willing I can handle them. Especially now that I’m going bald and the Prrrretoria jokes about “flashy WP hairstyles” are wearing a bit thin, if you’ll excuse the pun. I mean f**k, look at Wynand Olivier’s coif.