Rugby, ballet and Nureyev’s testicles

Wonderfully sharp and surreal column by Harry Pearson in today’s Guardian. Sample:

During a Test match between New Zealand and South Africa in Wellington in 1994, the Springboks forward Johan le Roux bit a chunk out of the All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick’s ear. Le Roux reacted to his punishment by commenting that if he had known he was going to be banned for 18 months he’d have ripped Fitzpatrick’s lug off in its entirety and taken it home as a souvenir. As you will judge, this was before the evil wand of professionalism had cast its sordid, cynical spell over the gentlemanly world of rugby union.

Thankfully, it seems that at least some vestige of Le Roux’s Corinthian ideals lives on in the Rainbow Nation, even in this dread age of image rights and sponsored shorts. Following an altogether predictable fuss about Schalk Burger’s gouging antics, De Villiers nailed his colours, and probably several of his fingers, to the mast and declared that any young man who doesn’t want to go out on Saturday afternoon and have his eyes poked out should dress up in frills and call himself Jessica.

As someone brought up in an era when any chap in full possession of all five senses was regarded as a mummy’s boy of the most foppish stamp, I can only applaud De Villiers’s words – albeit with only one hand, the other having been lopped off during a typically bruising beetle drive at the local WI a few years back.

Any road, it is plain De Villiers is a man of the old school – several faculties short of a full university and justifiably proud of the fact. One thing I must take him to task for, however, is the suggestion that wearing a tutu would somehow preclude violence.

Ballet, or “the posh blokes’ football”, as the former Stoke manager Tony Waddington so memorably called it, is perhaps not top of the agenda with the Springboks. Otherwise they would surely be aware of the notorious business in 1962 when Dame Margot Fonteyn was banned from Sadler’s Wells for eight months after a “bag-snatching” incident involving Rudolf Nureyev during a matinee of Lac des Cygnes.

Made my day. Hope he writes in tomorrow’s paper about the defeat of the plucky, er, Scottish hero Andy Murray at the hands of some American whose name escapes me just now. If Murray had prevailed this afternoon he would, of course, be a British hero. Or perhaps even an English one.