Maybe everyone is just desperate for something to write about ahead of what should be a cracking Vodacom United Rugby Championship final or maybe Irish rugby people are just hyper-sensitive, but the viral video of Joseph Dweba celebrating Munster’s win over Leinster has attracted a lot of attention.
So much so that DHL Stormers assistant coach Rito Hlungwani was asked by an overseas journalist during an online press conference at the start of the buildup week to the DHL Stadium final whether any action would be taken or words said to the Stormers and Springbok hooker.
Dweba, caught up in the mood after a home final was confirmed for his team and also fresh off his own role in the Stormers win over Connacht, was caught on a private video circulating on social media saying that his team would thump - actually his words were stronger than that - the only team that have beaten the Stormers at home in the last two years.
Hoo boy, what a very naughty man, and how affronting it must have been to the poor Munster players, who you can only assume from the over the top reaction, admittedly on the part of supporters and media and not necessarily themselves, that they thought they might be coming to Cape Town to play lawn bowls or croquet and have the red carpet laid out for them.
But it is a rugby match, it is an important final. Irish folk who got so upset with Dweba’s words need only watch any of the videos of British and Irish Lions tours, but most particularly the one following the series in South Africa in 1997, the one where former Irish hooker Keith Wood and the legendary coach Jim Telfer led the expletives in the pre-match changeroom oratory, to know that what was said in private is not unusual.
That the video of the Stormers celebrating in a hospitality suite, which of course they were right to do as they avoided the long haul to Dublin for what would have been a difficult final against Leinster, should perhaps be the issue. These days the tentacles of social media are everywhere and it is a scourge.
That the Stormers weren’t completely crazy about the way that Munster behaved when they won in Cape Town last month, and would love to get another crack at them, is hardly saying anything incendiary. It’s what makes sport the theatre that brings in the attention and the money. The intensity and what is said behind closed doors before a Stormers/Bulls game is sometimes far worse.
Hlungwani will raise the temperatures when he talks to his Stormers forwards before the game. The Munster forwards coaches will do the same. So will the captains. It’s rugby. The bonhomie and the backslapping comes after the game. Before the game the players are putting on a footing that is akin to going to ward.
But for his part Hlungwani didn’t exactly roll over and be submissive when responding to the question about Dweba. He spoke honestly and in a way that won’t necessarily reduce the temperature levels or give Munster less of the old school motivation that maybe Dweba’s comments inspired.
“Joseph is a very passionate rugby player. He has a bit of a mouth on him, but he is one guy who usually backs up his words,” said Hlungwani.
“Saying what he said wasn’t something that was meant to go out to the public. It’s not necessarily his fault. If there is one guy who I would back to back up his own words, it is Joseph.”
That the Stormers have the utmost respect for Munster is a given. Perhaps it was because he knew that the Dweba comments would create a stir that Stormers head coach John Dobson hosted a press conference very soon after the semifinal weekend - it was the Monday morning -and went out of his way to talk Munster up. And Hlungwani did the same in the most recent press conference exactly a week later.
“It (Dweba’s comments) is not something we’ve had a long chat about,” said the Stormers forwards coach. “Munster are the only team we haven’t beaten in the URC. They are coming here with a very strong squad. So it’s a team we really respect.”
But believe it or not, you can respect someone and still want to beat them. A batsman who shows too much respect for excellent bowlers would never get off the mark, and a rugby team that shows too much respect for the opposition will never win a trophy…