The Huntsman, having a bevy of family and friends across South Africa, has been inundated with a series of emails bearing the latest joke about how England cannot find the try line and the latest graphic telling us that The Springboks are going to donder us good and proper tonight. All I have to say is he who laughs last, laughs loudest.

As we managed to get to where we are on something of a wing and a prayer, we are the underdog, often the best place to start such events. In 2003 I should have been heartbroken if we had not managed it, but this time around we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. In that state we are perhaps at our most dangerous as a nation, being the best backs-to-the-wall merchants around, as The Nation of Dancing Masters and Onion Sellers, The Hun and The King of Spain have discovered at various times. So, if we lose, it will not have been for the want of trying, for the want of courage or the want of duty.

That Her Majesty should have sent a letter to be delivered by HRH The Princess Royal (a keen rugby fan herself) and read out just before the off is remarkable. The Soccer Princesses never had such.

Our Prime Minister will be there, of course, guest of President Sarkozy (who can now share his views about the vicissitudes of choking at the last minute). A Scot to his bones, he will be breaking the habits of a lifetime by cheering England.

In his missive to the team he opted to choose as his source of inspiration one Winston S. Churchill. The contrast between himself and that greatest of Englishmen could not be greater and one wonders if he really thought that one through: most Englishmen, most Britons may well find themselves repelled by even a hint of his trying to put on Churchill’s mantle. Churchill’s politics, of course, would have been an just as much an anthema to him as Margaret Thatcher’s were.

His choice of quotation is both quite hypocritical and also highly revealing:

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

Brown plainly does not do irony. Nor does he have any sense of how his deployment of an aphorism about courage jars with his own personal conduct in ducking an election and a referendum in short order and his wider reputation for personal and political cowardice.

The inundation of my email box with such a mountain of often quite biting humour has been interesting. There is a tone of anxiety in the sheer scale of it, as if bombarding us with humour will somehow dent our resolve. If so, methinks they have misjudged us. White South Africans often had this sharp edge to their humour in the days of Apartheid, when they most felt themselves under pressure. I have not felt the need to respond.

Meanwhile, trite it may be, but I leave you with this well used message, the content of which will be evident from the context.

Let battle be joined.

UPDATE: The sort of thing which has been winging its way into the INBOX might be exemplified by this link which, though it has a bit of Afrikaans in it, is easily digested, just as we hope Die Bokke will be this evening.

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