FUTURE Trivial Pursuit question: which two men with the initials RP were involved in the final innings of a long cricket Test match career? Answer: Robin Peterson, whose flighted spin trapped Ricky Ponting into delivering a catch taken by Jacques Kallis to end his last and final 167th Test match.

The occasion, as every fan knows, was the third and final match of the current series between South Africa and Australia, won for the second successive time by South Africa on Australian soil.

Was former South African Test match captain Ali Bacher unduly generous when he said he thought the current Proteas team the finest yet? It was Bacher who captained the South African Test team that defeated Australia in all four Test matches in the 1969-70 series. Now that is a record I think unlikely ever to be matched.

Bacher based his assessment on the fact that the Proteas have won two consecutive tours in both the powerhouses England and Australia. Seen from that perspective, he has more than a point.

Taking this further, I see John Young suggests what South Africa needs to beat Australia regularly is to send its best young cricketers to England when they are just out of school. The examples he cites are those of young South African cricketers touring England in 1963, which included Michael Procter and Barry Richards. Six years later they were an integral part of Bacher’s triumphant four-Test clean sweep.

Procter hung up his boots in 1984. That was the year AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis were born. Along with Vernon Philander, they were part of another stunningly successful tour of England in 2003. Nine years later and they have combined to humble Australia — again.

It is certainly possible that what we are seeing is an international cricketing legend in the making. South Africa’s Test rating compiled by the International Cricket Council now stands at 123. Six points behind, a much wider margin than the numbers suggest, are England, followed by Australia (114).

And, if this legend takes hold, and whether you like him or not for his personal characteristics, the nexus has to be captain Graeme Smith.

His record as a leader is awesome. He has played in more than 100 Tests, has been captain since the tender age of 22. Now 31, he has a few years left in him. He has never led his team to defeat in any match in which he has scored more than 84 runs.

A large man, he has about him all the features of the schoolyard bully, tempered by the respect and devotion he has earned from his team-mates. And he certainly can give "the eye". I watched in fascination as he gave Kallis the glare after a potential catch slipped between them.

Jaw thrust forward, his face thunder, he didn’t need to say anything. Kallis, who probably had every right to suggest that Smith was equally remiss, held his tongue.

Spare a thought in all this for Faf du Plessis, the man who withstood everything Australia could throw at him for nearly eight hours in the second Test at Adelaide and tore the heart out of Australia’s frontline pace attack. If anyone deserved the man of the series award it was Du Plessis, who twice changed the rhythm of two Test matches to South Africa’s singular advantage.

I have dwelt on cricket because it’s more than big business, though it is that too. The Proteas could not have given South Africa a better year-end holiday gift, and it’s a feel-good story the country needs and can delight in.

Savour it. These warm feelings never last long.


NAME the single most important but unseen object in the global economy. It’s the pallet, says Tom Vanderbilt.

They are everywhere, billions in the global supply chain, 2-billion in the US alone. About 80% of US commerce is carried on pallets and they account for nearly half of America’s hardwood lumber output.

Like clothes pegs, don’t you wish you held the patent on them?


I AM fascinated by the possibility that African low-cost airline newcomer Fastjet will make use of the imminent demise of 1time to muscle in on the South African market. It will give both kulula and Mango cause to work out how to combat this new and, I suspect, aggressive competitor.

One of the more telling comments from Fastjet CEO Ed Winter when announcing negotiations to buy 1time out of liquidation was that "the synergies with Fastjet would potentially increase the number of available route networks from South Africa into the rest of Africa".

Given that we parade ourselves as the Gateway to Africa, this sort of thing has been too long delayed. It is absolute nonsense that much of the time it is easier to access African countries and capitals by flying to Europe first.

If South Africa’s involvement is to be really successful at a high level in commerce across the continent we need swift and well-priced access to a multiplicity of its markets, many of them increasingly dynamic. Without access to a continent-wide network we will always be on the back foot.

But achieving this may be a lot more difficult than logic suggests. There is considerable fragmentation between competing national carriers. In West and Central Africa, and following the collapse of Air Afrique under a pile of debt in 2002, there are now Togo’s Asky, Cameroon’s Camair-Co, Senegal Airlines, the Celestair Group, Nigeria’s Arik and Air Nigeria. It seems mostly about which national flag is on the tail.

Nationalism has little place in profit. Consolidation will be necessary if a couple of viable low-cost carriers are going to be established to cover this huge, resource-rich continent, and the Yamoussoukro Decision to liberalise Africa’s skies needs to be revisited at once.