Rugby is and always has been a game where dark arts have been used to conjure an advantage over your opponent.
Without it, we might as well give the men a tutu each and tell them to dance – like former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers once suggested.
Yes, with all the rule changes and the camera angles of the modern age, the game has become a lot softer and therefore safer in recent years.
In that regard, it’s great.
Now I want you to close your eyes and picture the perfect rugby hooker.
Some of you might see Uli Schmidt, some might see Dale Santon, others will see James Dalton en so kan ons aangaan.
Santon and Dalton were known as harregat players – manne wat nie terugstaan nie. Maybe even vuil. Depends on who you ask.
With all the cameras around, that sort of player, the ones who would klap you dissnis if you messed with them can’t do that any more.
So they have to adapt. Pinch a bum here, druk ’n ou se gesig in die grond there – physically intimidate opponents just to get that bit of a mental edge on them. And if the referee doesn’t pick up on it, even better.
Anyone who has played rugby at club level, at least, should know what I’m talking about. It’s what makes rugby rugby. That blood marks on your shins in the shower afterwards after getting rucked. Rugby. Regte rugby.
As I’m typing this I can smell Deep Heat and feel the ice bath on my seer lyf.
Anyway, this is where I really don’t like social media. This past weekend against Australia, the hosts beat us in the dark arts department. I respected that.
Social media then ran with it and voor jy weet blame almal die ref for the defeat. Stop it people. You know we don’t have to have a single narrative for everything?
Anyway, I wasn’t going to blame referee Luke Pearce for missing Wallaby players possibly blocking kick chasers and his interpretation of the scrum law.
Kyk, here I look to the captain. And if he misses it, then the team missed a trick on the day.
Instead of opting for the blame game, South Africa should have adapted on the field. If they felt the ref missed a block on a kick-chaser for example, the player who was blocked should have gone to his skipper Siya Kolisi.
From there, Kolisi should have told the referee to look out for this and chat to his touch judges to keep a close eye on the situation.
If it happened again, I’m sure the flag would have gone up.
Instead, Sbu Nkosi had to field questions in the post-match press conference about not being able to contest the aerial ball as he would have liked to – for whatever reason.
Same applies to the scrummaging. If Wallabies props go in on the angle, Bok props should tell Kolisi, who then lets the ref know that they are struggling in that department.
If it happens again and no penalty is given, do the same thing.
Clearly this particular ref is then not as strict on that particular law as he is supposed to be. Refs differ, players must adapt.
The captain must suss out the ref and manage his team accordingly. That’s probably why a water boy like Rassie Erasmus is such a good idea.
He is close to the action and can manipulate things on the ground, according to what he sees.
That’s how you counter the dark arts – you shed light on it in-game, you don’t complain afterwards.
If Kolisi then fails to make an impression on the referee and he doesn’t get his message across, then questions must be asked about his leadership.
And this is where I want Kolisi to be in the face of the referee on Saturday, net soos Australia’s Michael Hooper was last weekend.
Just as it’s the referee’s job to manage the game, it’s Kolisi’s responsibility to manage his players and bridge the gap between them and the official.
South Africa would have done their home work and they will talk to the man in the middle about off the ball stuff in the build-up to Saturday’s rematch.
Dave Rennie and his Wallabies will know this and they will adapt. They probably won’t do the same things, but would have spotted another department which they will be looking to spoil.
The key is for the Springboks to pick up on it early and relay that message to the referee.
Each time it happens, the captain must tell the ref – be irritating to the point where he can’t ignore it.
To complain about it after we lost just makes us sound like a bunch of suurgatte.
The Springboks lost because they didn’t play well.
As for Saturday, the Boks should be able to pull one back… but remember, test the ref. Test his strictness and see what you can get away with.
Get in there and get your hands dirty, Richie McCaw-style.