Marc Lewis: Sporting worlds apart

When I was in standard six (well, grade eight as it's now known) I wanted nothing more than to play fullback for my under-14 rugby team.

I had all the heart in the world and trained tirelessly every day. There were just two minor problems; I was no taller than the protective cushion that surrounded the rugby posts, and weighed a whopping 40kg.

Despite my hard work, my honest coach broke the news to me gently - I simply wasn't big enough. The position was to be filled by a kid called Wesley Andrews, a beast of a 14-year-old who was probably shaving as regularly as my father.

While I swam in my oversized jersey, Wesley burst out his. I couldn't reach the posts, he kicked the ball over the school fence. We were simply worlds apart.

Similar scenes were seen on Wednesday morning when both the national cricket and football teams hosted press conferences at OR Tambo International.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) bid farewell to the Proteas ahead of their tour to Zimbabwe. The world's number one Test team was appropriately presented with the ICC Test Mace by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula. Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers and Russell Domingo were all dressed in their national suits. Sitting in front of their advertising backdrop, the cricketers oozed confidence and class answering questions from the media.

On the other side of the airport, the South African Football Association (Safa) invited the media to welcome back incoming Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba, who was returning from national duty with his under-20 team in West Africa.

Sitting at a small wooden desk that was totally undersized, Mashaba sat in front of a cold white wall alongside NEC member Paseka Nkone.

Members of the media were awkwardly asked to stand and sing to Shakes who was celebrating his 64th birthday. As if a cheerleader at a rugby match, we were encouraged to sing the painstaking song AGAIN with better enthusiasm. I felt like I was underperforming at a primary school concert.

Safa president Danny Jordaan suddenly appeared at the press conference. He soon squeezed alongside the primary school looking desk, before being forced to move the microphones because journalists could not hear what he was saying.

The stark contrast between the press conferences (I attended both) somehow took me back to my traumatised under-14 year at school, and I was reminded of how different Wesley Andrews and I were. Simply worlds apart.

How can two popular sporting codes put on such different shows? Some might suggest it's indicative of where the teams are on the world stage. Safa, under new leadership, is trying to finds its feet again after promises of change and a fresh injection into development - while the Proteas, for the better part of two decades, have barely slipped below number two in the world rankings. At one stage in fact, they were the best team in the world in all three possible formats.

Success off the field leads to success on the field - another lesson I learned while watching my arch enemy run circles around me at practice. Today's two press conferences perhaps reiterated that theory. Just like Wesley and I all those years ago, Safa and CSA still seem worlds apart.

Marc Lewis is an EWN sport reporter. Follow him on Twitter @MarcLewisZA