TELFORD VICE in Palmerston North
’TWAS 13 years ago, but people in these parts still talk about the time Graeme Smith branded Hamilton the “hillbilly capital of New Zealand”.
That led to a reporter asking Smith at his next press conference on that 2004 tour whether he had been to Invercargill. The reporter was, of course, from Dunedin.
Hamiltonians were livid. And well they might have been, not least because they live in what has been marketed, expensively no doubt, as “Hamilton, where it’s happening”, “Hamilton, more than you expect”, and “Hamilton, city of the future”.
Even New Zealand’s bigger cities, like Auckland and Wellington, don’t have the feel of a monster metropolis.
They’re more like biggish towns with an apparently endless supply of excellent coffee, commuter cyclists, orderliness and hipness.
But Smith was on the right track about Hamilton, where the third test of South Africa’s current series starts at Seddon Park on Saturday.
If South Africa wanted as few distractions as possible in their bid to preserve the lead they took by winning the second test by eight wickets at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on Saturday, Hamilton is just the place.
A run along the beautiful Waikato River, a wander around the botanical gardens and a trip to nearby “Hobbiton” – where Peter Jackson shot some of the scenes for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy – more or less sums up what there is to do in Hamilton.
Unless you want to embroil yourself in one of the bar brawls that have earned the place an unwanted reputation.
Fast bowler Duanne Olivier won’t have to think about all that after being deemed surplus to South Africa’s requirements for the third test and sent home early.
Batsman Theunis de Bruyn, who like Olivier did not get a look in for the first two tests, might have hoped to be the beneficiary of a similar decision.
Unless De Bruyn is about to make his test debut at the expense of JP Duminy, who has scored only 71 runs in four innings in the series.
Clearly something is up with Duminy, who has opted out of this year’s Indian Premier League.
“It has been a very difficult decision for me to make, but it was for purely personal reasons,” Duminy’s franchise, the Delhi Daredevils, quoted him as saying in a release.
De Bruyn’s inclusion in Saturday’s team is a long shot, but whether he would rather be in Hamilton than back home in Bloemfontein is a tough choice.
This reporter would say that, of course: he’s from East London.