My Live Tweets – The Mancunian Derby

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The 2014 Writer’s Cup

The show was to begin shortly. The cameramen shifted the lights onto the podium and flipped the cameras to face the host’s empty chairs. The audience’s anticipation was tangible as famed hosts Billy Ngoza and Harry Simpson pranced from opposite sides of the stage. Harry was sporting his trademark smile and black suit jacket, while Billy waltzed into focus with his arms in the air gesturing for the crowd to make some noise with this neatly tied dreadlocks bouncing with every stride. The hosts took their seats behind the podium with the words “2014 Writer’s Cup” displayed in giant red letters on the swimming pool sized television screen behind them.

Billy looked into the camera, “Good evening South Africa! We welcome you to this special edition of Pens and All. As we near the final we take a look at the competitor and how he has developed over the years into the sterling young athlete that he is today.” The camera switches to Harry Simpson, lying back in his large, black leather office chair, “Yes Bill, you know I had my doubts about this kid and to be dead honest I still have my reservations about his consistency as a player. But hopefully he can prove me wrong. I just do not think he has the big match temperament one needs for this kind of competition.”

The camera turns to Billy, “Some strong words made by my co-host, let’s track back to the beginning of his career to where it all began.”

The camera cuts to a video of the young Nicholas McGregor in his first match of his career. The narration kicks in, “Nicholas McGregor always had a way with words but his first real matchup was against a seasoned veteran in the business, Mrs Maynard. No one saw McGregor coming out of this one with a victory and it is still up to speculation whether the referee made the right call in giving him the win!”

The camera cuts back to Harry and Billy at the desk, “Harry give me some commentary on the highlight reel, if you will?”

“Sure Billy! Well as we can see, Nicholas wrote a South African rendition of Moby Dick involving Cape Coloured fisherman off the Western Cape coast in grade 4, and on his debut made a vicious dart for the line by using direct speech. Well Mrs Maynard did not enjoy McGregor’s grammatical tenacity and tried to defend the surge of literary initiative by reprimanding the new contender for trying to go ahead of the class, she then even told him to change it! McGregor was pushed right back to his line before making a break out move, scoring in the dying days of term 3 and stole the game by refusing to change the direct speech!”

Billy Ngoza interrupted his co-host, “Come on Harry! You cannot tell me that kind of cheeky yet insightful play is not inspiring, especially from such a youngster?”

“Well you know Billy, it’s still up in the air as to whether he deserved the win in the first place. It could be argued that Mrs Maynard was right and by jumping the grammatical gun he did not develop as he could have. In the modern game if someone tries to add new aspects to their style of play without learning the basics they can get injured and left behind.”

Billy leaned back in his chair and pondered as the audience waited for his reply with baited breath. “I can see your point there Harry, but I think it shows that this kid had something special even in his younger years,” A large group of obese, bald-headed men at the back of the audience gesticulated at the tape and began chanting, “May-Nard! May-Nard! May-Nard!”

Billy Ngoza, unshaken by the mob’s interruption smoothly uttered, “Well I guess there are still some Maynard supporters in the crowd. Let’s go the next clip Harry, why don’t you take us through it.”

“As we can see Billy, this was McGregor’s first real loss. McGregor and some of his team mates were climbing up the table after creating their own sports blog called WhiteLineFever and…”

Billy interjected, “A big move I might add!”

“A big move it was Billy! They created the blog and after gaining some serious traction they caught the attention of Omidur! Omidur as most of you know, is an internet hacker from Iran. And just as the poor team’s website started doing really well, Omidur hacked them and turned their website into mush! It was a crushing defeat Billy. It showed me that maybe this kid does not have the staying power and the stamina to compete at this level of writing.”

Billy replied, “But surely the fact they created the website during their first year in Varsity Writing shows initiative?”

“It does, and it is commendable, but do you think some of the hall-of-famers in the writing world like Hemingway or Juvenal would have let that get them down? I think not Billy!”

“Fair play Harry, you make a decent point. Let’s go to clip of McGregor at large in high school, is there anything to point out there?”

Harry Simpson looked at his notes in front of him, he shakes his head in disapproval as he addressed the crowd once more “There is Billy. Back in grade ten, McGregor showed some scintillating form while under the tutelage of Ma’am Reyburn.” Harry Simpson said, still reading from his notes, “He wrote a commendable story loosely based on The Lord of the Rings, it would seem. It was about an amulet that brought bad luck upon anyone who wore it, starting from an Afrikaans general during the Boer War and finishing off with a teenager in the township who turns to drug abuse. To be honest, I wasn’t the biggest fan of it. The resemblance to the Tolkien novel is uncanny and in the third quarter of the short story he seems to get a bit sloppy.”

Billy frowned at his co-host while devising a reply, “Harry, despite what you have said, he was young and even though the Lord of the Rings ‘inspiration’ we’ll call it, is as clear as day, Ma’am Reyburn loved it and  he got top of the class for it. You can’t argue with the Ref’ Harry.”

“Let’s agree to disagree, Billy” Harry Simpson retorted with a feigned smile.

“We can always agree on that Mr Simpson! Can Nicholas McGregor negotiate his way through the gauntlet of third year writing? Can the young man from Johannesburg vindicate his presence in the competition with a year winning performance? Find out after the break!”

Nicholas McGregor was nervously awaiting the starting whistle to begin the term. He did not know much about what lay in front of him but the young contender strapped up for a big performance, it was his last couple of months of journalism and he wanted to end it off with nothing but triumph.

“And we’re back! It’s Harry Simpson and I, Billy Ngoza coming at you live from the Pens and All studio in Randburg for the 2014 Writer’s Cup! Today we discover if the new kid on the block, Nicholas McGregor, has the writing mettle to win the silver ware! Over to you Harry Simpson.”

“McGregor is out the blocks pretty slowly Billy, Trading Live is his first assignment and we can owe it to a lack of confidence or lack of enthusiasm but I am assuming the latter here.”

Billy Ngoza adds to Harry’s statement, “I think you’re right Harry, McGregor has done of lot of these community engagement pieces especially last season in second year! He’s also been given a camera to take photos for the event, photography is not his strong suit. McGregor is looking lethargic, I do not see him scoring any time soon with this kind of play.”

Billy Ngoza pulled his gaze away from the screen with a look of disappointment, “Yes Harry, hopefully he can produce a better performance in the ‘Being a Writer’ category.”

Harry Simpson commentates on the next phase of the final, “McGregor is typing furiously, you can see he really enjoys the new found freedom in this course compared to his journalistic work for Grocott’s Mail”

“Yes Harry, it looks like he sees this as the exposition to the rest his scribblings. He is placing himself in context rather than caring about the quality but I believe the quality is shining through!”

Harry, for the first time, nods his head in agreement, “McGregor is showcasing the writing pedigree in his family, classic move! Oh, wait! He is writing how he doesn’t enjoy having other writers in his family, it’s original!”

Billy, jumps onto his feet in his excitement, “What an original perspective, he is surely going to score! He does! What a story by my McGregor there!”

The crowd leap to their feet in celebration as the young player types the last full stop on the page.

“What a fantastic performance!” Billy bellowed as he fixes his hair bun that came undone during the commentary. “McGregor hasn’t stopped there and has started with the next phase, ‘Writing on’ Harry take us through itHarry take us through it.”

“McGregor seems to be on a bit of high from the last passage of play. There are three categories to choose from, Karen Jayes, Fear and nomenclature, I assume he is going for Fear, I definitely cannot see him choosing for nomenclature. Oh no! He’s rushed it and wasn’t paying attention in class, he hasn’t noticed the other options, he has chosen the Karen Jayes option.”

Billy covers his face with his hands, “But Fear was clearly the right choice, he could have showcased a deeper edge to his writing, what a pity! Poor time management from McGregor.”

“It is already costing him Billy, he’s left himself an hour to write the entire piece before it is due, what is he thinking! We could see him throw away his title hopes right now! An awful decision from the young Joburger, it’s half time. Let’s see what he has to say for himself, let’s go to our field reporter Tomzat Shibboins with the half time interview.”

Tomzat Shibboins joins McGregor on the side of the pitch, McGregor gingerly walks over cursing under his breath, “So Nicholas what happened with that last play?”

“I just rushed it to be honest, I had Grocott’s Mail work the whole week and I thought I would be able to do an assignment like this in no time. In the past I thought I could get away with writing in limited time but the referee penalised me heavily.”

Tomzat nodded in agreement, “Do you think you can come back from that performance? The 2014 Writer’s Cup is on the line after all?”

Nicholas McGregor drew in a deep breath, and replied, “I really think I can Tomzat, I owe it to my fans. I learnt a lot from that last play. I actually cannot leave my writing to the last minute if I expect to produce something worth reading and I will take that lesson with me  into the second half and the rest of my career.”

Tomzat smiled and faced the camera, “Back to you Billy!”

The second half kicked off with the ‘Being your own Editor’ challenge.

“Wow Harry, McGregor has made a serious turn around since the end of the second half, he has a week to do the assignment and he has started on Monday already! Maybe this kid’s greatest talent is being a fast learner because he has changed his strategy almost instantaneously!” Billy said while peering up at the giant screen behind him.

“I don’t know Billy, it shows some improvement but the story he has is a real mess. He better have a minor genocide of his darlings if he wants to claim victory today.”

“Well Harry, it seems as though he is editing magnificently. He has turned a hard defensive play into stellar attacking play, and is making a surge of brilliance! The Ref’ seems happy with it, looks like there could be a comeback from McGregor!”

Billy covers his face with his hands and peers at the screen through his fingers, “Let’s hope this run of form is not going to end soon as he seems to have come across an ethical issue!”

Sirens begin to sound as the words, “Ethical Issue! Ethical Issue!” flash on the screen behind the hosts.

“Take us through it Billy” says Harry Simpson.

“Well McGregor wrote a great piece for Grocott’s Mail about a young fly-half playing for Graeme College which his critics loved. He is the Sports Editor for Activate, he wants to publish the story there as well. The Sports Editor at Grocott’s doesn’t seem to like McGregor’s move, can the player figure a way out of this? Yes he can! He has placed the article online after it was published in Grocott’s Mail and avoids scooping his editor! Great form from the young writer, excellent awareness of his options!”

“He’s wasting no time with the next assignment, which is ‘Relationship with reading,’ again he’s starting five days before it is due and seems to be taking it very seriously. He is reviewing it and changing it with every evening of the week, he is definitely playing the long game!” Billy said.
“You know what Billy, this guy is actually showing some progress, a huge improvement from the first half! He is making some great references in this story, from his idol Hunter S. Thompson and even from Tolkien again. This is the last real hurdle before the end of term and he is really racking up some points here. One criticism I have here though is the prolonged metaphor about women, is a bit of a cliché and he could have come up with something more original, but otherwise, a great piece of writing!”

The buzzer bellows throughout the stadium, McGregor wipes the sweat off his forehead and looks at the score board, “McGregor – 95%”

Billy Ngoza and Harry Simpson fling there notes in the air, covering the studio as the crowd run onto the field in euphoria. The fireworks blot out the night sky with violent flashes of celebration. “McGregor has done it! He has taken the cup! What a thrilling performance from the young writer! Truly magical! Tomzat Shibboins is on the field with the athlete!”

“Incredible performance Nicholas, How are you feeling right now?” Tomzat asks as he launches his arm around McGregor placing the mic in front of the victor’s mouth.

“I’m feeling incredible Tomzat thanks, it’s a truly amazing feeling to come away with a win!” McGregor said while wiping the sweat from his brow once again.

“How do you feel about your performance?”

“It was pretty good, it was a very tough term. It wasn’t exactly an orthodox learning experience and I had to adjust to that. I learnt a lot, I began the term on a bad note mainly focussing on my Grocott’s work but the more I learnt in the writing course the more I enjoyed it. I definitely found a writing voice, something I was lacking when I first started and that really helped my play especially in the second half.”

“And what can you take from this experience into the future?”

“I learnt that when it comes to writing and trying to explain a picture to your reader it is not enough to tell them, “Show don’t tell” has become very important to me. But the most pertinent lessons are that time management is key and I have to read more. If I want to be able to contend with the greatest writers out there I have to read their works. Reading inspires us gives us and gives a plethora of tools to work with, if I do not read I cannot become better.”

“And what did you think of the course?” asked Shibboins.

“I really enjoyed the course, I felt out of depth a couple of times. It was an escape from the monotonous journalistic writing at first and then I realised the two styles were not mutually exclusive and they needed to be become one. I feel that the Sports beat had a confusing run throughout the term as we were always an exception to the rule and so we did not know where we stood.”
“Thanks so much Nicholas, truly inspiring! Let’s go back to the studio!”

“What an incredible performance, an incredible term, congratulations to McGregor who has now won the 2014 Writers Cup!” said Billy Ngoza as the camera fades the studio away.

The 5 stages of grief American rugby fans felt after losing to New Zealand 74-6 in Chicago.

South Africa’s greatest rivals, New Zealand were paid millions of dollars to travel around the world and play the United States last night. Despite classic American sporting hubris they were taken to the sword by the antipodean rugby giants and the reactions have been hilarious.

Check out my Storification of the dismantlement at –

Who’s that kid at No 10 for the Boks?

by Alistair Hargreaves 09/10/2014, 09:51

I thoroughly enjoy reading Alistair Hargreaves in his blog on He is unique in a South African media context. He is an English first language speaker that has played for the Springboks, the Sharks and is now captain of the Saracens, which one of the top franchises in Europe. In Australia and England it is quite common for rugby players to write columns. This is quite rare in South Africa as the top rugby players are mostly Afrikaans speaking.

He is also pretty unique in the way he is so honest. I am convinced that rugby players are given a ‘Media Survival Kit’ which includes cue cards with the blandest, most boring answers to bore the media in the hope they go away. Alistair says what he thinks and that is most applaudable in the days of professionalism and over sensitivity.

My Big Break


After a Twitter rant during the Springboks versus Wales rugby game that took place earlier this year, I was tweeted by GetRealRugby a sports site that has recently started up. The manager of the new site asked if I would write for them. I was both flattered and baffled by this arbitrary offer. I sent in my CV and a story for my official application.

A couple of days later the administrator of the website emailed me back and told me I was accepted and that my story was posted.  I darted into my room, flicked open my laptop and typed in the address. There my story stood, what I thought was the beginning of my rugby writing career.

Until I perused through the rest of the stories and the dismal calibre of their content shocked me. The first title read, -“WHY SMITH, SAVEA AND READ ARE THE DIFFERENCE FOR THE ALL BLACKS”, a blatantly obvious title, which did not bode well.

The first spelling error I came across was ‘ruby’ what they meant to type was ‘rugby’. The writer had misspelled rugby, in a rugby article, on a rugby website, for rugby supporters. Then came “others that it is the pace and finesse with which they play the game” I assume ‘say’ was missing from this sentence?

It was not my big break after all unless some serious editing was done.

A tale of two would-be rugby Springboks — Johannes and Fikile

The quota question mark is something that every white South African cannot seem to complain enough about. “It’s been twenty years, get over it!”, “If the best team was black I would support them to!” and my personal favourite- “what about Bafana Bafana? Where ‘s the quota in that team hey?” South Africa’s rugby development remains unequal as it still favours the white and wealthy. Two thirds of the rugby players in the country are of colour while less than a quarter of the national team is black. The situation is abysmal.

One writer who fleshes out the hoops in which black players have to jump through, into perspective is Liz McGregor (who just happens to be by aunt).

Liz compares two players, Johannes and Fikile. Johannes a white, middle class, Afrikaans boy who schooled at Grey College, Fikile, on the other hand is a black player who comes from a working class background in the Eastern Cape. McGregor illustrates Johannes’s free wheel to success and Fikile’s uphill battle. She does this in a way that even the biggest white-privilege-deniers can no longer refute that some are more equal than others in the South African rugby world.

Her piece is well-researched and written wonderfully and it is a brand of rugby writing from a societal stand point that I really admire.–johannes-and-fikile

Posted – BY LIZ MCGREGOR, 04 SEPTEMBER 2014, 06:27