The Blue Bulls, the hard, dusty men from the veldt, are going to play their away games this season in pink shirts. Ho, ho goes the rest of the world. The boer has finally decided to cash in on the pink rand. Now that Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield have gone, Pretoria is getting in touch with its feminine side.
But pink shirts probably wouldn’t have bothered Botha or Matfield a jot. They are two of the more intelligent men in rugby. If pink sells more jerseys, if pink generates more publicity, then that’s the name of the game in professional sport. Even the refs, or at least Roman Poite, are wearing pink these days.
Pink’s bottom line, if you will excuse the phrase, is measured in hard cash. Maz Guazzini, the former and somewhat effete owner of Stade Francais, dressed his team in pink a few years ago. He put pink flags on the seats, pink panels on the ball. The posts were painted pink and a pink carpet was laid out by the tunnel.
Another year Stade had flowers on the shirt. Lilies or hibiscus, I can’t quite remember. Then there was the garish Andy Warhol design, with Louis VII’s wife’s head repeated in various vibrant colours. It’s business baby.
Harlequins remains one of the world’s iconic club sides because of the genius of the original jersey design. It’s a quiz question to name all the colours – magenta, French grey, chocolate, black, green, blue, am I nearly there yet?
The All Blacks jersey is one of the most famous in sport, so celebrated in fact that much of the nation thinks that black with a silver fern should be the colours of the national flag. There was outrage when England announced that their away strip in the World Cup was going to be black. No idea why. There was never going to be a colour clash and Nike were laughing all the way to the bank. The black England jersey was seen all round the country.
Nor are the manufacturers daft enough to flog the supporters the real thing. Can you imagine John Bull in a skintight number? It was bad enough when Steven Donald, a few k overweight after some r&r, tried to get in his jersey for the World Cup final. It took a team of oxen to drag it over his portly frame. And those love handles would have provided a firm grip for half the All Blacks female fan base.
All is fair in love and war and marketing. If the Bulls fans take to pink, then Puma will be happy. But it may be a big if. The blurb says that the jersey design is based on the purple jacaranda trees of Pretoria. To me, it looks more like it was based on a particularly bad acid trip.
The front of the jersey is an hallucinatory haze of pink, blue, cerise and lilac chevrons, with a huge advertising blob on the front. Supporters who wear this in a disco are likely to provoke a mass attack of epilepsy.
A lot of Bulls fans may not be offended by pink’s modern association with femininity and the gay community. Some Victorians even regarded pink as the colour for boys and blue for girls. But fans might care about the chunderous design. There were a few comments on the website, although my Afrikaans wasn’t up to most of them.
But here are two that might resonate: “I am a Blue Bull and Proud. But Pink? We are not the Pink or the Purple Bulls. I am shocked. Worst jerseys ever.”
And: “Our blood stays blue…no matter the colour of the jersey.”