Episode 1 ‘THE RISE OF THE DAGGER: What Happens in a Rugby Story When Life Interrupts?’ by Gcobani Bobo

Picture of Gcobani Bobo by www.premiershiprugby.com

(‘The Rise of the Dagger’ is rugby thriller by former Springboks player Gcobani Bobo and Elvis Jack. Bobo also played for Newcastle Falcons, Lions, and Sharks)

From The Citizen newspaper, 11th April 2014:

The Golden Lions narrowly won their match against the Argentinian Pampas XV on Saturday at Ellis Park by 35 points to 21. Star of the game was young debutant winger, Xolile Dalindyebo, who scored 4 tries, one of them a long-range effort from his own half. Dalindyebo is a new signing by the Lions who won only 3 games last season.

Mike Chisholm plumped himself down on the seat next to Willem Pretorius. Below them the grounds of the University of Johannesburg was crammed with rugby players — in front of them the forwards practiced line out drills, away in the distance the back line was attempting a complex double around maneuver.

“Mike.”

“Willie.”

The two men had worked together on and off for the past two years. Chisholm was a New Zealand born ex player turned coach. Bought at vast expense by the cash rich Johannesburg Super Rugby bosses in an attempt to boost the fortunes of the chronically underperforming Lions Super Rugby team, Mike Chisholm was regarded by some as the world’s best coach. In his first year Willem had been his assistant coach. A grudging respect had grown between the two men. Willem liked Mike, thought he was smart even, but didn’t share others’ belief in his superhuman powers. For the past year Willem had coached the provincial Lions team that played in the local league. The money, though, was in the international Super 15 competition.

“I know why you here,” Willem said to him.

“Yeah?”

“Your wing crisis. I suppose you’re interested in Dalindyebo …?”

“Four tries on debut — not many players do that. What do you think of him?”

“Not bad; he’s got a bit of toe on him. Two of those tries I could have scored but one he carried three guys on his back to get to the line… and the fourth was a real beauty — from his own line cut left, cut right and when he seemed to have been stopped just exploded up the centre, beautifully done…”

Mike nodded, “Yeah, yeah, I saw the highlights package on TV. Can he tackle, catch the ball, kick? In short, Willie, do you think he’s Super Rugby standard?”

Willie kicked at the bench in front of him as though he didn’t want to commit to an answer. Far away the grunt as two scrums engaged was music to his ears. Finally he said:

“It’s hard to be certain of his potential: pace — plenty, fields the high ball very well, tackles — pretty good… but I dunno…”

“Say it,” said Mike encouragingly.

“He’s got an attitude, a funny attitude… hard to describe… but if you’re desperate, take him, I don’t think he’ll let you down…”

“What? Another strong silent sulky type? A steroid rager like that other lunatic you sent me?”

Willem laughed. “No, no, he won’t try and hit you with a dustbin this one. And he’s anything but silent, he’ll talk the hind leg off a donkey. But he’s an odd guy, that’s all I’m saying. And he’s got the weirdest tattoos on his back and chest — wait till you see him with his shirt off…”

“I don’t care about his poncy body art. I just want him to put his body on the line for the team. Call him over, Willem.”

Pretorius summoned one his hangers on a few metres away: “Jy, ja jy, gaan roep vir X, ja vir daai ou Dalindyebo .”

“X? What kind of a name is X?” Before Pretorius could answer Xolile Dalindyebo came loping over.

Chisholm’s first thought was that he wasn’t very big. If he had been expecting a giant, a Lomu or Rokococo bursting through tackles, this kid wasn’t it. Dalindyebo wore dreadlocks and had a strange tail of a tattoo curling up through his training jersey collar before fading away at the angle of his jaw.

“Xolile, this is Mike Chisholm” said Pretorius by way of introduction.

Dalindyebo shook his hand “I know you of course, I’ve seen you on TV, Sir.” His voice was soft, almost feminine.

“Don’t call him sir. We’re not in the British army here”, said Pretorius. Mike cleared his throat to speak but Dalindyebo was too fast. “Good news for me perhaps?” he asked quickly.

“What makes you think that?”

“Well you are the Super 15 coach… I assume when I’m asked to meet you that there is some interest in me for the squad. But maybe I’m wrong — you must say.”

“Yes, well you know, of course, that Van Staden’s done his knee, out for the season, Craven is suspended for 4 weeks and now Pieterse’s done a hamstring in training. We’d like you to join the squad, yes, just as backup at first.”

Chisholm realized that somehow the advantage was not with him anymore. “Can you…” he started to say but Dalindyebo cut in “I’d love to do that, really, it would be a dream come true for me.”

Chisholm was frankly irritated now: “Can you take the high ball all right?”

Dalindyebo nodded enthusiastically. “Yes, you know I spent a year in Melbourne playing Aussie Rules, only second league you understand, but the training is very strong on catching the ball in the air. So I’m fine with that.”

“What about kicking? Any good at that?” barked Chisholm.

“Ah, Coach… Ok if I call you that? That’s a real weak point of mine. I practiced it during the Aussie rules time in Melbourne but not enough — but I’m working on that part of my game.”

“You can’t run every ball back, not at Super Rugby level any way. A good fullback needs to be able to kick sometimes.”

“I know, Coach, I’m putting in a lot of hours trying to improve, as I said”. Dalindyebo was smiling now, genuinely pleased it seemed that he was being interviewed as a team member.

“Willem says you’ve got some pace. You play center or wing ever?”

“Fullback is my position. I’ve played wing sometimes but it’s not my favourite. Centre, I can’t play center, I’m just no good for that, too physical for me maybe…”

“We need a player who’ll fulfill whatever role is good for the team. If I ask you to play center I expect you to do so.” Chisholm had had enough of this kid and he had only just met him, he was later to say to Pretorius.

“No, no, Coach, don’t misunderstand me: I’ll play anywhere, do anything for the team, but I’m just no damn good at center….” His grin was wider now.

“Well, anyway we’ll see how you go. Report tomorrow at our training ground at Ellis Park at 10; go and see Mrs Arendse at the Lions office before and she’ll give you the standard 3 match contract. We’ll see after that if we still need you or whether you’ll go back to the Willlem’s team.”

(‘The Rise of the Dagger’ is rugby thriller by former Springboks player Gcobani Bobo and Elvis Jack. Bobo also played for Newcastle Falcons, Lions, and Sharks)