By Rob Davies
This morning, just a short spit out from the start of Super Rugby, life in the Brisbane suburbs is good.
A rugby fan like you has just poured a cold glass of orange juice on the patio while soaking up the early summer sunlight and tropical birdsong drifting from Jacarandas and Black Bean trees on a perfectly perfect day.
He has no worries because Australia's Super Rugby preparations are, as usual, running as monotonously smoothly as a rolling tube off the beach at Surfer's Paradise.
In fact, the only two real issues are whether the Brumbies - way over in Canberra - will have enough big blokes to keep their front-row firm enough and whether Ben Moyles has the stones to lead said franchise this season.
That really is the peachy perfection of it.
In South Africa, meanwhile, a fan like you on Monday dragged his bottom jaw from his plate of eggs, rent his clothes, dumped ash from the weekend's braai over his head, rolled into his garage and spectacularly self-immolated.
In fact, weird, weird scenes have been playing out all around Pretoria, home of the mighty Blue Bulls, for the last few days.
Insane asylums have been overrun and white-hot and buzzing electroshock machines have expired in puffs of sickly blue smoke.
Street barbers have been offering cut-price frontal lobotomies to well-dressed businessmen and drunk students, while emergency services raced hither and yon to mop up what remained of folks who swan-dived from the city's high-rises.
Things in Bulls country are terribly, terribly buggered.
And the cause of it all is a shirt.
And it is quite a pretty shirt, really: if you happen play handball for the Bangkok Ladyboys.
Nothing gives the Bulls fan as much pride as his team's history of stone-cold, pure, trouser-wetting violence happily doled out by gigantic blue-clad men who - in days gone by - debriefed post-match by folding origami out of ruptured spleens and scrumcaps.
The list of these man-monsters reads like a veritable rogues' gallery: Burger Geldenhuys, Drikus Hattingh, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Lourens, Pote Fourie, Frik du Preez, Mof Myburgh, Uli Schmidt and the most legendary of all: Louis Schmidt, the man who put the Bull into Blue.
To ask of a supporter whose very sense of identity is rooted in ritual massacre to even consider wearing pink (even if it is only an away strip) is simply a bridge too far.
It is clearly a sign of the times as the facelift coincides with the installation of Pierre Spies - he of chiseled jaw, superhuman physique and not very much else - as skipper.
I remain hopeful that the Bulls will pull together this season, but with the combination of their skipper and new-look threads, I fear it may be a season of all show and no go.
While we're talking about completely stupid decisions, we should most definitely mention the fact that the South African Rugby Union has again managed to send the world down the Crapsville River with a newspaper for a paddle.
The saga around the inclusion of the Southern Kings into next year's competition has reached the point of being so completely off-the-wall ridiculous that I can only shake my head in disbelief.
Each day brings even more news of outrageous stupidity - when the franchises aren't threatening to boycott Super Rugby, SARU wants SANZAR to expand the competition at the drop of a hat and very rightly gets told where to go - leaving everyone looking like utter imbeciles.
Why and how were the Southern Kings guaranteed a place in next year's competition and how would their inclusion be managed?
Did anyone actually think that one of the other South African franchises would fall on their sword (and lose a ton of money) to accommodate the Kings?
Who signed that paper, guys?
Of course, this kind of cretinous judgment is nothing new in the world of South African rugby where supporters have learned over the years to look away, remain positive and hold hope that problems somehow solve themselves in the same chaotic and illogical way they were created.
Well, they're doing exactly what they do this time every year. Laugh at the Saffas, dismiss the Aussies and plan on getting the silverware back home. A little boring, a little predictable, but pretty efficient nonetheless.
So, in perfect Australia and normal New Zealand only nine days of waiting remain before kick-off and an abrupt and thrilling end to perfectly boring weekends.
For the folks in South Africa, next weekend will bring a welcome escape from the madness.
In the very nick of time.
There’s no more room in the mental wards.
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