Why we play the game …

Two bits of prose written by people well above my pay grade popped into my “inbox” overnight that I thought to be fantastic reads, especially for those that don the cauliflower ears so close to The Grunt’s heart …

Up front a little something to trouble Shakespeare …

When the battle scars have faded
And the truth becomes a lie.
And the weekend smell of liniment
… Could almost make you cry.

When the last ruck’s well behind you
And the man that ran now walks
It doesn’t matter who you are
The mirror sometimes talks

Have a good hard look old son!
The melon’s not that great
The snoz that takes a sharp turn sideways
Used to be dead straight

You’re an advert for arthritis
You’re a thoroughbred gone lame
Then you ask yourself the question
Why the hell you played the game?

Was there logic in the head knocks?
In the corks and in the cuts?
Did common sense get pushed aside?
By manliness and guts?

Do you sometimes sit and wonder
Why your time would often pass
In a tangled mess of bodies
With your head up someone’s arse?

With a thumb hooked up your nostril
Scratching gently on your brain
And an overgrown Neanderthal
Rejoicing in your pain!

Mate – you must recall the jersey
That was shredded into rags
Then the soothing sting of Dettol
On a back engraved with tags!

It’s almost worth admitting
Though with some degree of shame
That your wife was right in asking
Why the hell you played the game?

Why you’d always rock home legless
Like a cow on roller skates
After drinking at the clubhouse
With your low down drunken mates

Then you’d wake up – check your wallet
Not a solitary coin
Drink Berocca by the bucket
Throw an ice pack on your groin

Copping Sunday morning sermons
About boozers being losers
While you limped like Quasimodo
With a half a thousand bruises!

Yes – an urge to hug the porcelain
And curse Sambuca’s name
Would always pose the question
Why the hell you played the game!

And yet with every wound re-opened
As you grimly reminisce it
Comes the most compelling feeling yet
God, you bloody miss it!

From the first time that you laced a boot
And tightened every stud
That virus known as rugby
Has been living in your blood

When you dreamt it when you played it
All the rest took second fiddle
Now you’re standing on the sideline
But your hearts still in the middle

And no matter where you travel
You can take it as expected
There will always be a breed of people
Hopelessly infected

If there’s a teammate, then you’ll find him
Like a gravitating force
With a common understanding
And a beer or three, of course

And as you stand there telling lies
Like it was yesterday old friend
You’ll know that if you had the chance
You’d do it all again

You see – that’s the thing with rugby
It will always be the same
And that, I guarantee
Is why the hell you played the game!


And then a little something introducing you to those stick insect peacocks that strut their stuff behind the finely tuned 8 man machine that sweats blood to get them the ball …

“It is largely unknown to players and followers of the modern game rugby, that in the very early days it started off purely as a contest for forwards in opposition in line-outs, scrums, rucks and mauls.

This pitted eight men of statuesque physique, of supreme fitness and superior intelligence in packs against one another.

In those days, the winner was the pack that had gained most set pieces. The debasement of the game began when backs were introduced. This occurred because a major problem was where to locate the next scrum or line-out. Selecting positions on the ground for these had become a constant source of friction and even violence.

The problem was resolved through a stratagem of employing forward rejects, men of small stature and limited intelligence, to select positions on the field from where, when in receipt of the ball they could be guaranteed to drop it in a random pattern but usually, as far from the last set piece as possible. Initially these additional players were entirely unorganised but with the passing of time they adopted positions.

For instance, the half-back (also known as the scrum-half). He was usually the smallest and least intelligent of the backs whose role was simply to accept the ball and pass it on. He could easily (given his general size) have been called a quarter forward or a ball monkey but then tolerance and compassion are the keys to forward play and the present inoffensive description was decided upon.

The fly-half plays next to the half-back and his role is essentially the same except that, when pressured he usually panics and kicks the ball. Normally, he is somewhat taller and slightly better built than the scrum-half and hence his name. One-eighth less and he would have been a half-back, three-eighths more and he might well have qualified to become a forward.

The centres were opportunists who had no specific role to play but who were attracted to the game by the glamour associated with forward packs. After repeated supplication to the forwards for a role in the game they would be told to get out in the middle and wait for the ball. Thus, when asked where they played, they would reply “in the centre”. And they remain to this day, opportunists and scroungers, men so accustomed to making excuses for bad hands and errant play that most become lawyers or real estate agents.

You may ask, why wingers? The answer is simple. Originally these were players who had very little ability and were the lowest in the backline pecking order. They were placed far from the ball and given the generally poor handling by the inside backs, were rarely given the opportunity to even touch the ball. This is basically why, through a process of natural selection, they became very fast runners and developed the ability to evade tackles.

But to get back to the name. The fact that they got so little ball led to the incessant flow of complaints from them and the eventual apt description “whingers”. Naturally, in the modern game, the name has been adapted to become more acceptable.

Lastly, the full-back. This was the position given to the worst handler, the person least able to accept or pass the ball, someone who was always in the way. The name arose because, infuriated by the poor play invariably demonstrated by that person, the call would come “send that fool back” and he would be relegated to the rear of the field.

So there you have it.

The fact is that if a side does not have eight men of statuesque physique, of supreme fitness and superior intelligence then they might as well play soccer.”

Sadly, I have no idea who wrote these pieces so I cannot credit them, but thanks to ex team mate Gus and hockey playing rugby wannabe Dan for sending them on …


  1. My son starts his rugby playing carreer this afternoon with “Bulletjie rugby” practice. Will definitely keep this article for future reference.

    1. That is fantastic … barefoot run arounds on the hard highveld pitches! Enjoy … My little oke is 4 and does the Rugby Tots thing once a week 🙂

  2. Tank, showed this to some mates, and this was the response I got:

    “Scrum Half: If one back must be tolerated, it is the scrum half. He is scrappy and loud, and doesn’t shy away from a fight. In fact, he starts them more frequently than anyone else on the team. This sometimes gets him into trouble because he is too small finish an altercation: usually a forward is required to intervene and save him. A good number nine will rake mercilessly and punch opposing players in the face, or worse, if they don’t release the ball. His passing and kicking skills are developed by necessity only. In reality, he is a forward trapped in a back’s body and would stick his nose in the scrums if allowed.
    Fly Half: The cockiest man on the field, the fly half is never seen in the locker room without his hairbrush and French cologne. The fly half supposedly leads the backs and directs the flow of the game, but he is usually found screaming out incoherent orders and yelling at others to ruck so he doesn’t have to. His passes are rarely as pretty as his face and his flashy runs often result in a loss of yardage or a dropped pass. For his uneducated foot, the fly half enjoys kicking far more than is productive or even healthy. Off the field, he cannot be trusted; as such, any self-respecting woman should avoid him at all costs.
    Centers: These players like to refer to themselves as a locomotives or “freight trains,” although their speed is often lacking and their statures less than impressive. They would do well to spend some time in the forward pack, to learn not to shy away from contact, and to embrace physicality. The inside center carries the ball far too often due to his proximity to the fly half and his inability to pass the ball further down the back line. The outside center has fewer chances to knock the ball on, but never fails to capitalize when the opportunity is presented. To their credit, they have an amazing knack for taking the ball into contact in such a way that it is impossible to win it back. It’s really quite an anomaly. Off the field, they boast of breaking tackles and scoring tries, although everyone else knows better.
    Wings: These speed demons hang around the outskirts of the action so as to keep their uniforms clean. Wings have great fashion sense and can be counted upon to recite tips and trends from the latest issues of GQ. On occasion, they have a chance to break for long runs and excite the crowd, although more often than not they are tackled quickly or pushed out of bounds. Their weak statures also mean they tend to be injured quite easily. Wings look more like soccer players than rugby players, and always have over-inflated egos. On the occasion the forwards provide them with an easy opportunity to score, the wings take all the credit and congratulate themselves by staunchly avoided any contact for the remainder of the game.
    Fullback: The last line of defense, the fullback usually crumbles under all the pressure that is put on him. This manifests in various ways including fumbled punts, shanked kicks, and missed open field tackles. If the stars are aligned, he may put together a worthwhile counterattack with the wings, but this occurrence is far too infrequent to merit discussion. The fullback’s status as a rugby player is questionable as he spends the majority of the game spectating from afar. In fact, this personality continues off the field; at post game functions, he is often seen drinking by himself in the corner.
    Source: http://rugbypositions.blogspot.com/

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