Crunch time

Rugby ball

Don’t listen to any talk of expecting a home win, the locals were fearing the worst as the Autumn Internationals against the best of the southern hemisphere were about to draw to a close for another year. A display of inflatable rugby balls should not be taken as a sign of inflated expectations. The venue was still the same old Heartbreak Hotel

Millenium Stadium 2

… where the script remained stubbornly unedited. Wales just love to be in the lead against the three most successful teams in the world, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the last minutes of each match. Today was crunch time, as this would be the last of the big three arriving in Cardiff before next year’s Rugby Union World Cup, with leads already surrendered against Australia and New Zealand earlier in the month.



It was also crunch time as matches against the South African Springboks are always prefaced with terms such as physicality, brutality, and heavy crunching tackles.


Two hours to kick-off and the stats were far less significant than the all-important preparation before the match… where clearly there was no room in the inn…

The match gets under way, and in the stadium everything was going to script, as the game remained evenly balanced as the first half progressed…


But, for some spectators there was a clear preference for a sunny disposition, even if the result went the way of other visits by South African teams at the final whistle…


But, just once in a while the pain of history can be soothed by that rare experience of a win! When the final whistle came… well, it was always expected according to my ‘in-house prophet’!


It also clearly seemed to mean something to the perennial bottlers, as the final whistle provides a cue for public man-on-man kissing and cuddling. At least it makes a change from all that sniffing of arses vibe going on during the match!


Strange how this sport gives you some winners silverware when you achieve only the second win against your opponents in a lengthy history of this fixture. There must be a world surplus of silver I guess…


Wales flags




South Africa flags







So, until we speak again I have been Baffled Juno, subjected to a month of observing something resembling egg-chasing. I am sure us cats would never demean ourselves by indulging in such strange pastimes…










As for the locals, my guess is they will be oblivious to the result when they have finally dragged themselves home from the pubs and clubs of a raucous and victorious Cardiff!

[With thanks to for the image of cats playing rugby].

Nelson was a cool cat

For all he did for black cats everywhere I am truly saddened to hear the news of the passing of Nelson Mandela. Though amongst the millions of sincere outpourings of grief and reminiscence, it does leave me coughing up fur balls to witness some of the politicians clambering onto the number one bandwagon of the moment. The great man himself said in the Pretoria courthouse in 1962 “If I had my time over I would do the same again. So would any man who calls himself a man.” Fortunately for South Africa and the world he had another 51 years left, and fulfilled a considerable promise.

As I contemplate lunch…    … and lie back to    listen to the ongoing tributes, I am sure that the Gorgeous Georges’ of the US & UK (Dubya and Osbourne) would act on Mandiba’s advice, in not hesitating to do the same again. Though for them it would more likely be a case of screwing over the many for the benefit of their already rich mates. David Cameron spoke of ‘ his heart going out to [his] family and the people of South Africa’… I say prep Operating Theatre 1 for surgery quickly.

Desmond Tutu, the patron saint of the drawn match (2-2, come on, keep up!), said of Mandela “He was renowned the world over as the undisputed icon of forgiveness and reconciliation.” I am sure I can adopt that lead, when my ‘appointed servant’ gets their act together and provide me with more of that roast turkey from Cardiff Market. Bill Clinton said “Nelson Mandela taught us so much about so many things…” Personally, I do hope that Mandela was not a cigar smoker, as even Bill must have had some original thoughts of his own.

Perhaps I need to cast our memories back a few decades (or ‘dickheads’ as Nelson pronounced it) to find the true essence of the person. Some old dame or another became famous for repeatedly referring to Mandela as a terrorist… well the first thought that comes to my mind is that it takes one to know one, particularly if you build a career on terrorising the weak and the poor of your own country in order to break the spirit of the hard working people in the industrial communities. The following image sums up contrasting leadership styles: a warm smiling generous spirit who can stand upright and proudly face all people, and a hunched evil purveyor of misery always looking over their shoulder (make your own choice as to which is which)…

Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela

The only real tribute this cat can pay to the passing of an icon is to try and follow the lead he embodied through his life. With this in mind, I am stoically trying to shoulder the pressures and burdens of my imprisonment in my own personal Robben Island:

Sunshine at 14 2           Plotting an escape

And I can only sit and wile away the time as I contemplate my own personal long walk to freedom. When I am finally released I promise to treat all cats equally… the strange albino types, ginger toms, even those fluffy persian types (who I am sure have nothing to do with any accusations of terrorism based solely on their middle-eastern sounding origins). Until we speak again I have been Juno, and I can only sign off today with an R.I.P. Johannesburg Cool Cat.

A Nation Expects

It is November, and once the fireworks of the 5th have subsided the whole of the Welsh nation expect nothing less than fireworks from their heroes. European champions for the last two years, still feeling robbed in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup, but woeful against the southern hemisphere giants. It is time to step up if they are to be taken seriously as a world power in rugby union again.


First up is South Africa, and if history is not your bag look away now (particularly if you are a student of Welsh history)… as the Springboks have won 24 of the previous 26, to one solitary Wales victory in 1999. It’s four hours to kick-off and the commercial machine is well cranked up in any available space…

Scarve stand

However, the commercial machine pales into insignificance compared to the liquid machine, as the City Arms helps fans of both sides to prepare for the occasion in the shadow of the legends:

City Arms [1]Two hours to kick-off and St Mary Street is rocking:

St Mary Street [2]St Mary Street [3]






The Welsh camp have been very quiet in the lead up to the match with their special tactics remaining a close kept secret, until now that is! A couple of hours to kick-off and Caroline Street is the scene for the Welsh backs to stoke up with the fuel of choice… chips and curry sauce are essential for any self-respecting fire-breather.

Dragons [1]

Then it is the expectation of any dragon that a watering hole close to the stadium should be visited as part of the final preparations:

Dragons [2]

But the real source of fear for the mighty Springboks will obviously be at the scrum; and the Welsh scrum is fighting fit and raring to go:

Scary scrum

The anthems have been respected, the stadium atmosphere is second to none, and the time for Welsh history to be made has arrived… will this be the scene of another heroic failure, or can Wales start their platform for an assault on the next World Cup? This is more than just a game, for these two nations this is about a religion, and where better than the Millenium Stadium to provide a cathedral…

Millenium Stadium 3

Wales take the lead with a penalty kick, equaled almost immediately by South Africa for 3-3. Wales retake the lead with another penalty before South Africa show why they are the second best team in the world by scoring two converted tries with their only two opportunities, 6-17. The ‘power’ of South Africa is exerting a toll, as three Welsh players are off injured within the first thirty minutes. The ‘finesse’ of Wales is ominously absent as three opportunities for scoring a try are all repelled by the South African defence. A couple of penalties to Wales keep them in the game, and a South African player is sin-binned for ten minutes. A breath-taking final ten minutes of open attacking play by both teams as half-time arrives… Wales 12 South Africa 17.

Superlatives are liberally distributed by various pundits over the half-time break. Wales have had more possession but not taken their chances. Get strapped in, here comes the second half.

Wales continue with the domination of possession but we wait for any further chances for points. Fifty-three minutes and a penalty to Wales… 15-17; then confusion reigns as both teams lose a player to the sin-bin. A tense final twenty minutes as everyone waits to see if history or tradition will prevail. South Africa miss a penalty on sixty-one minutes; is it a portent of what could be? Three minutes later and the South Africans show why they are the second best in the world… a lucky bounce of the ball and commentators seeing reasons why an opportunist try shouldn’t have been allowed. Wales 15 South Africa 24, and it begins to look like a familiar pattern of Wales losing just at the point they were about to win against a southern hemisphere team.

Seventy-two minutes and another try scoring opportunity for Wales repelled by the Springboks. Where is the famed singing of the Welsh crowd, the extra man has been tamed by the South Africans? The ferocity of the final minutes of the first half is ominously absent as the second is drawing towards a close. The great hopes and the dominance of possession for the home team still ends up with the all-too-familiar result, with the away team scoring three tries without reply… Wales 15 South Africa 24.


The celebrations will remain on hold with local passions muted, and my appointed beer taster says it is a night of the plastic glass, something to be side-stepped if at all possible. I have been Juno, and I will aim to get over my disappointment at my adopted nation before I speak with you again.