Brown is put out of kilter

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WHEN Gordon Brown, that passionately devoted full-time Scotsman and part-time broadcaster, appeared in glorious Technicolor on the television screens from Rustenburg, resplendent in bright green jacket and even more garishly red kilt, it was not the tartan of the clan Broon.

Brown had been informed by his bosses at ITV that he would be appearing in vision from the waist up only and had therefore not bothered with the formality of trousers. Instead, he was wearing a pair of old shorts but when he arrived at the ground he discovered to his consternation that he would be appearing in full vision and would have to find something more appropriate to wear.

By a happy coincidence, Brown came upon a group of Scotsmen in the car park which included the head of the clan McNeill who had, equally fortuitously, brought with him a spare kilt - presumably for just the circumstances in which the hapless Brown now found himself. And so it was that Broon Frae Troon was in flagrant breach of television's colour code and appeared looking for all the world like a traffic light.

AT 3.30pm last Thursday, South Africa came to a halt - almost. Parliament continued, though the education budget debate was interrupted with a question from the National Party's Derek Christophers: "Does the honourable member know that the score at Newlands is 12-9 in Australia's favour?" This drew an instant reply from the backbencher Kobus Bosman, who made "a point of order" that the score was, in fact, 14-13.

Shortly after 5pm no one in the country could be in any doubt about the result. In Johannesburg, horns began to blare, cars full of flag-wavers cruised the streets and those not in cars simply danced in front of the oncoming traffic. The pubs, meanwhile, were filled with choruses of "Shosholoza", a black workers' song which, post-apartheid, has been adopted as a popular chant. Perhaps, though, there were earthier reasons for the unbridled joy. A less recognised international triumph - at the Chelsea Flower Show - was additional cause for South African pride.

AS the Irish team settled down at their team hotel to watch the opening game on television, nerves were jangling. Not because of the task that awaits them; it was the heavy wagering on the the first try-scorer that set pulses racing. When Michael Lynagh touched down in the first half, it meant that the full-back Jim Staples had cleaned up.

When the Irish arrived for their first training session at Ellis Park later that day, Staples was still smiling. The stadium was magnificent, he said, and the changing-rooms so large he had got lost looking for the loos.

"THERE is an animal magnetism about Mr Carling that's difficult to ignore." So says an article entitled "Hunks" in the South African Airways World Cup Guide. David Campese is listed as "numero uno babe", followed by Joost van der Westhuizen ("Those eyes, they cause your vocal cords to clam up") and in third place our own scourge of the old farts. There then follows a sequence of Frenchmen - Cabannes, Sadour-ny and Penaud (who isn't actually in the tournament) - and the Italian Diego Dominguez. Surprise inclusions are the Welshman Neil Jenkins and Peter Fatialofa, of Western Samoa.

No piece of literature, though, is quite as ludicrous as the Canadian souvenir programme whose cover line reads: "Canada's rugby team wins the 1995 World Cup. It can happen." Sure.

TELEVISION viewers in South Africa received the opening match in three languages. For the first time in a rugby commentary, there were 30 minutes of English, 20 minutes of Xhosa and 30 minutes of Afrikaans. The Xhosas are virtually the only South African tribe who play rugby, as Zulus prefer football.

THE Edinburgh catering firm which pledged a haggis to Gavin Hastings for every point he scores in the World Cup had to order fresh stocks following the captain's 44-haggis haul on Friday.

Contributions by Chris Rea, Owen Slot and Clem Thomas