Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Venter leaves a cult hero for exposing interview hypocrisy

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SPORT RUGBYBrendan Venter, Saracen’s idiosyncratic coach, has returned home to South Africa leaving opinion sharply divided in Britain after a surreal televison interview which has won him a cult following on YouTube.

In response to nine questions in 57 seconds, Venter parodied a parody after Saracens had lost a Heineken Cup match to Racing Metro.

Venter, who was fined for his outspoken comments in a post-match interview last October, this time decided to emulate a character in the spoof film “Mike Bassett; England manager”.

To this end he repeated or agreed to the questions asked by an increasingly frustrated Sky television interviewer.

All Blacks arrive without the aura

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allblacksRoughly once a decade throughout the 20th century, a group of South Seas islanders in the guise of the New Zealand All Blacks would invade Europe to teach the old world the ways of the new.

There were reverses, notably at the hands of Wales in 1905, 1935 and 1953, three of the first four games between the two small rugby-mad nations. But the win-loss ratio remained overwhelmingly in favour of the All Blacks, whose distinctive all-black uniform and pre-match haka (Maori war dance) enhanced their special aura.

Rugby’s hard-but-fair reputation has always been a myth

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meadsColin Meads, regarded by most New Zealanders as the greatest All Black of them all, delivers a diverting after-dinner speech in a self-deprecating “aw shucks” hill farmer’s style with a bottle of beer firmly clutched in a large fist.

It is only after the laughter subsides that the listener realises with a twinge of unease that the majority of the anecdotes involve Meads using one or both of his large fists to thump a member of the opposition. Illegal then and illegal now, it’s worth recalling now amid all the hot air spouted over the Harlequins fake blood scandal.

Tri-Nations waves goodbye to tedious kick-and-chase

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Australia’s shock win over South Africa in Saturday’s Tri-Nations breathed new life into a series that was in real danger of fizzling out.

The Wallabies’ 21-6 win not only stalled South Africa’s seemingly unstoppable march to this year’s title but also provided some much needed entertainment.

Rugby union’s black summer

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It has been a black summer for rugby as the game that likes to claim the moral high ground in matters sporting has been exposed as being perfectly able get down in the gutter with the best of them.

On Saturday Dean Richards, a former policeman and stoic rugby stalwart for three decades, resigned as director of rugby at Harlequins in the wake of the London club’s shenanigans in their Heineken Cup quarter-final defeat by Leinster last season.

South Africa survive stirring Lions fightback — your views

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odriscollA mighty fightbcak from the Lions fell just short on Saturday as South Africa held on for a 26-21 vicotry in the first test in Durban.

The Lions were outplayed comprehensively in the first half but they dominated the last half hour or so, with a second try from Tom Croft and one from Mike Phillips, and gave South Africa a real fright.

Players, fans unite behind the Lions

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RUGBY-LIONS/All professional sportsmen talk about how important their supporters are but when it comes to the British and Irish Lions there really is a special bond.

Defying the credit crunch, up to 30,000 fans are expected to travel to South Africa to follow the Lions in their three-test series against the world champions.

Things warming up nicely on the South African sporting front

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SOCCER-CONFEDERATIONS/The South African sporting public were a little underwhelmed by the early stages of the Confederations Cup and the British and Irish Lions tour but the last few days has seen a major turnaround and there is now something in the air.

Relatively high ticket prices combined with the Sprinboks’ decision to keep their players out of their Super 14 teams combined to ensure the early provincial games were played against a backdrop of empty seats.

When you don’t want to see your name on the teamsheet

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rugbyOne of the most painful memories from my schooldays was the prolonged torture of being left in the playground on my lunch break, looking on as the cool kids picked all my friends ahead of me for the lunch break football match desperately wishing I could be selected.

A similar scenario, albeit with reversed emotions, would have occurred on Monday morning in a South African hotel as British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan named his team to play against the Southern Kings just four days before the first test.

My British & Irish Lions All-Time Best XV

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guscottThe rarity value of the Lions’ tours adds to their romance. Once every four years they travel, alternately, to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand and, every four years, the temptation for pundits to choose a Lions All Time Best XV becomes irresistible.

It certainly was in my case, and here is my stab at picking the best XV.

I don’t expect anyone will agree with my choices completely, and please let me know in the comments where you think I’ve gone wrong. Anyway, here goes…

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