In another galaxy far, far away in another time long, long ago there was a Rugby match. The Lions came to South Africa in 1980 and were an unbeaten side when they walked onto the Newlands turf. There was an electrifying atmosphere in the stands that day and expectations for a great Bok victory were high.
It was Derek Quinell who started it when he punched Morne du Plessis savagely in the face. True, Morne was close to the offside line but nothing justified such brutal play. The re-play will show the ref missed this but the crowd knew what happened. The wound over Morne’s eye was grotesquely visible. Surely Bok revenge would be swift and terrible. This game had all the makings of bloody battle. Surely now the storm would burst and the blood would flow. Everyone in the ground waited for the fighting to break out, but happily it did not.
Instead the Boks on that day the under-dogs, took on the mighty Lions pack and dropped the ball behind the visitors. The Lions were poor at their kicking and the Bok back line countered. Try after exciting try was scored before the Lions managed to claw their way back into the game. In the end it was debutant Divan Serfontein who dived over for the winning try and the final score was 26-22 to the Boks. South Africa kept their heads in the game and not on exacting revenge despite massive provocation.
There are times when revenge does seem the sweetest thing. Nothing is so urgent and as potent as the need to gauge out the eye for the one taken. In taking revenge, Francis Bacon suggests, a man is but even with his enemy. In passing it over he becomes superior. Living well is the only true revenge.
That punch has become a legend and the lessons of self-control, focus and not generally loosing the plot has become the stuff of motivational talks at many breakfast sessions. Clearly, when you can keep your head just like Morne did, when all around you expect you to loose it, you will be a man my son.