Nothing fuels sport like a rivalry.

All Blacks against the Springboks. Yankees versus the Red Sox. Woods and Mickelson.

It's even more fun when the rivals don't like each other all that much, or at least give that impression.

The Scott McLaughlin – Shane van Gisbergen clash in the V8 Supercars at Pukekohe was the by far the best sport of last weekend.


Saturday's race was a classic good guy - bad guy contest.

McLaughlin, the nice boy with a Ford Falcon that wasn't as fast as van Gisbergen's Holden, but who was using all his driving skill to stay just in front until he was nudged at the back by the bully behind him. That seemed to put McLaughlin off his stride, van Gisbergen squeezed past and, despite being given a five-second penalty for the touch at the back, had too much speed to claim the win.

Then to show what a schoolyard bully he was – and a complete prat as well – van Gisbergen screams into the lineup of the placegetters' cars so close to McLaughlin on the left-hand side that the second-placed driver couldn't open his car door. Van Gisbergen just looked like a very bad winner. You hoped that McLaughlin, when he finally got out, would go over and punch him.

But boy, did it have us whetting our appetites for more on Sunday.

This time McLaughlin had to battle with van Gisbergen's teammate Jamie Whincup. The Falcon was faster than the day before and McLaughlin held off the defending champion with some fantastic driving on a tight circuit to claim the win. Then in a move that happens in motorsport all the time, but is still morally questionable, Whincup pulled aside to let van Gisbergen sneak into second place.

The schoolyard bully was out of his car really fast in the winners' lineup to make sure McLaughlin couldn't block him in. Not that he would have anyway. Scott has way too much class for that.

So after two nerve-tingling 70-lappers around Pukekohe, we're now in exactly the same place as we were before the weekend. McLaughlin still has a 14-point lead in the championship and there are two races to go at Newcastle towards the end of this month.

There might be a saying in sport about the nice guy finishing last. Don't believe it.


Come on Scott. Give the Gis the jandal. Then come and spend a summer in the Mount with your family as the champion.

New Zealand cricket is being South Africanised, and it's not a bad thing.

The number of South African-born players playing for our top level teams is quite extraordinary. In the Black Caps, Neil Wagner and BJ Watling are long-standing regulars in the test team, Colin Munro and Glenn Phillips play often in the white-ball matches.

And we'll never forget the 2015 World Cup heroics of Grant Elliott against the land of his birth.

On the domestic scene, Wellington's top order has been invaded by South Africans, and Wellington is very happy about that. Andrew Fletcher's last four scores in the Ford Trophy have been 132 not out, 36, 125 and 64. He was born near Cape Town. His opening partner last Sunday Malcolm Nofal, who has a first-class century this season, is from Johannesburg. So is Devon Conway. He batted No 3 in Wellington's last match and made 203 in the Plunket Shield match against Otago last month.

Central Districts are another side with plenty of players keen on a braai. But then with Pete de Wet as their chief executive and Heinrich Malan as head coach, that's not surprising. Twenty one-year-old Willem Ludick, from Pretoria, scored a century against Wellington in his first Plunket Shield match of the season and 50 against Auckland in the next game. Then there's Dean Foxcroft, former captain of South Africa's Under-19 team who played for CD against Otago on Sunday.

In Otago Shawn Hicks, Warren Barnes and Michael Rippon are all originally from South Africa while Auckland captain Craig Cachopa arrived here with his family from the Free State when he was 10.

And don't forget Colin de Grandhomme and Wellington player Peter Younghusband who came here from Zimbabwe. There are probably others that I've missed.

No matter their reason for being in New Zealand, cricket here is the better for the presence of southern African players. The political situation in that part of the world means the influx is unlikely to stop.