This is by no means a platform to defend Luke Watson. But I think we should look hard at the facts here. Let’s face it anything Watson does or has done since his ill-fated selection to the Jake White’s Springboks, in our eyes, will be negative. Nothing will make us love him and nothing will endear him to a nation who now believes he would actually throw up on a Springbok jersey.
So Watson? As a player at provincial and Super level he is a great fetcher and although in my opinion never passes the ball enough, he makes ground and is always willing to get in there and have a go. I could name several players from various teams that certainly don’t carry that attitude at Springbok level currently (just need to review the Wales game to see that). But let’s look at Springbok level – Watsons not Springbok. I agree with Jake White when he said that Watson comes with his limitations (and not just his Father). He is fairly predictable and perhaps at international level is unable to show the same flair that he occasionally carries when playing for the local sides back home. But he is a hard worker and as we all know he was voted Player of the year back in 2006. Just a shame that the following season was a far more lackluster.
But do ever look at Watson as player? Luke has made more press than anyone else in recent rugby history but none of it is for his prowess on the feild. As is so often the case in SA, it’s less about the sport than the politics behind it.
Do we HONESTLY believe that he wanted to throw up on the jersey? No. It’s a figure of speech to convey how he felt.
Should he of said it? Hell no. but it made a damn good story.
Is rugby run by a bunch of good old boys at the top (I am staying away from quoting Watson directly here…) who inevitably control the game? Who are we kidding? Of course it is! To be honest the same can be said for soccer in this country. Dutchman, Welshman or Chinamen, it’s big business and there will be those who want to get their hands on the cash and control it as tightly as they can – it’s a legacy sport and certain people feel they own it and won’t give that up for anything. The only thing he is guilty of in this case is attacking that stranglehold in public – however to get it out in the open where else do you do it?
Returning to my first point Watson is damned whatever he does – we will never love him because he attacked something we love and live by. That game we watch on a Saturday – get passionate about, scream at the ref for. However very few of us are involved behind the scenes. Very few of us know the truth and doubt we ever will. We just want to see a game being played and a team that wins. We don’t want to know about the dirt behind emblem or the fact that it’s run by an old boys club. We just want to see the side lift the trophy at the end of the day and anyone who distracts or detracts from that will be vilified and attacked – be it Watson or the Ref on the day.
I challenge anyone to look at their lives and their jobs and say that they are completely happy with the corporation that they work for. That there aren’t niggles in the system – stuff we would love to change and shout out about. Make no mistake rugby as a business is no different.
Watson sadly, in the eyes of the media, had no leg to stand on from the start. Whatever he said would get shouted down. We would find a reason to hate him even if he hadn’t offered us one on a silver platter. Largely the media’s fault and somewhat his fathers, he hasn’t chosen his battles well in the press – but I doubt that was ever his intention.
Isn’t it funny though, that when Herschelle Gibbs's is dropped from the side for breaking curfew or arrested for allegedly driving drunk, we just shake our head and say, “oh well that’s just Hersch, what do you expect from the bugger – what a character!”. But when it somebody we are trained to hate via the press, we immediately request nothing less than a roasting at the stake and nothing less ban from the sport. Had Watson been an anti-hero like Gibbs, Botham or Warne maybe we would have cut him slack and actually listened to what he was saying. Read between the lines as it were. He obviously had something to say.
At least it looked like he wanted to play, albeit he had an odd way of expressing it.