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Thu Mar 30 22:24:59 SAST 2017

Oh dear, there be dragons

Archie Henderson | 2016-11-23 07:42:11.0
Mercedes' Formula One driver Nico Rosberg of Germany drives during the qualifying session. File photo
Image by: NACHO DOCE / REUTERS

The sporting year reaches two climaxes this weekend: in Formula 1, Nico Rosberg needs to fight off a late challenge from Lewis Hamilton in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, and two former giants of Test rugby meet at Cardiff on Saturday to decide which one is the least pathetic.

The last grand prix of the year will be exciting; the Springboks' last Test of the year could be pitiful.

For all the usual claptrap of the Springboks being dangerous when wounded - the poor things seldom survive a wound - a maligned Welsh dragon is the more threatening creature.

After their lucky 33-30 escape against Japan, following a last-minute drop-goal by replacement flyhalf Sam Davies, the greats of Welsh rugby have been lining up to take pot shots at the team and the coaches.

Graham Price, the fearsome member of the British and Irish Lions, of Wales and of Pontypool front rows, said the Welsh coaches and players should be ashamed for another "abysmal and unacceptable performance".

Phil Bennett said he had never felt more flat, dispirited and turned off by a Wales victory. Another flyhalf legend, Barry John, called the Wales team a "mixed bag of total confusion".

Even Eddie Jones, always ready to stick the knife in, climbed in. The England coach pointed out that the Japan team on Saturday had been weaker than the one he coached against the Boks in that World Cup shocker last year.

"Wales shouldn't be winning by three points against a Japanese team that has seven or eight new caps. And those new caps are coming out of company rugby. You or I could play company rugby," said inscrutable Eddie, with his usual exaggeration.

Allister Coetzee can consider himself lucky he's not facing similar excoriation, but the firing squad is probably delaying its fusillade until Saturday evening.

From his seven defeats in 11 matches this year, there appears to be no way out of the hole for Coetzee and the Boks.

There seems no hope of them being other than predictable, naïve and downright bad once again this weekend.

Wales might have learnt a thing or two against Japan (to forsake width, which didn't work for the first 40 minutes last Saturday, for a Schwerpunkt assault through the middle, for example). There is not even a glimpse of the Boks having learnt anything.

Someone who has learnt much this year is Hamilton. After his petulance earlier in the F1 season, he has made a remarkable comeback in grand prix racing to force the season's decider to the final race.

Jody Scheckter, whose view of F1 racing should be taken seriously because he comes from that wonderful city of East London, believes the Englishman is the better racer in the Mercedes team. But Nico Rosberg has the inside lane, so to speak, in the championship.

Rosberg needs only to finish third or better to be certain of emulating his father, Keke, who won the world championship in 1982.

There are a host of other permutations for Hamilton not finishing, or finishing third or lower, but it's not even worth going down that lap.

If Hamilton wins the title, it will be as big an upset as the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series - or the Springboks beating Wales.

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