THESE are the times that try men's souls. One match in a thunderstorm, the next in a sauna bath. Both of them games we could have won and should have won and in fact I myself on both occasions thought we were going to win. Yet we didn't. And, probably as you read, the lads are the other end of the world and up against Canterbury. It doesn't come much tougher.
What went wrong last weekend? Well, everything was wrong. Maybe someone put bluestone in their tea they just weren't up for it. When you see a side dropping passes the way we did, the threequarters taking the ball flat-footed then running sideways, there's something wrong with the chemistry. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the individuals as players they've all proved themselves but successful rugby is a game where the whole is greater than the sum of its constituent parts. 'Twasn't so here. Serious questions are in order.
Mind you, Free State weren't that brilliant either. Referee Jonathan Kaplan had to leave the field at half-time as he was feeling sick. Who can blame him? All those spilled passes and aimless kicks. It was enough to make anyone sick.
Much hinges on this morning's match. If we can turn things round and stranger things have happened in rugby then suddenly the boys will be on a high and all kinds of great things are within grasp. But if the malaise of the past two weeks continues, I'm afraid we're staring down the barrel of a gun.
And I don't just mean log position. I mean the fan base, enthusisam. Already you hear people saying: "At least we can still support the Bulls and the Stormers." This is one of the consequences of the deliberate undermining of the old identities and loyalties that (quite unnecessarily) accompanied the switch to professionalism.
When Natal were relegated to the B Section of the Currie Cup did their supporters switch allegiance to Northern Transvaal or Western Province? Like heck! The B Section was a kind of punishment cell from which we emerged to beat Free State in the semi-finals, then came damned close to beating Province in the final. (The tickets preprinted at Newlands actually read "Western Province v Free State"). And very soon we were back in the A Section and on our way to dominating the Currie Cup for a decade. The true fans never wavered.
Do today's fans have that kind of staying power? I've ma doots! They've been fed a diet of success and hoopla, they won't like the hard yards. If this current Down Under tour should turn out a disaster, the hole will be a very deep one from which to clamber.
Much depends on what happens this morning in the Land of the Long White Underpants. May it be good news! Meanwhile, a diversion tomorrow from our Super 14 difficulties England versus Ireland in the Six Nations will without doubt be a humdinger. See you at the Filler! Time for a Morris dance and an Irish fiddle. A luta continhua!