Strauss Brought In with Sleight of Hand

In 1905 the first ever president of the Magic Circle David Devant had a catchphrase: “All done through kindness.”

It may seem bizarre that a society whose core concepts are misdirection and illusion would sell the idea of smiling their way to your heart. But that is entertainment and its satellite industries.  The rapturous applause will be produced at the prestige, regardless of how we all arrived at that end.

Fast forward 107 years and the Scottish Rugby Union and Glasgow Warriors may be happily misdirecting us for the greater good.

They do not do so out of malice or fraudulent activity. They just want to make you smile, and if the hand you are shown at first is not the real one, the payoff will be all the sweeter.

As Viliami Ma’afu left Glasgow Warriors for personal reasons, the public were asked to respect his privacy and send him off with good graces. This was observed and it must be assumed that Ma’afu had to leave Glasgow. He heads off with support, and rightfully so.

However, his ‘professionalism’ in the matter seems odd. Why would the Union point this out?

Perhaps it is because his replacement was announced a mere 30 minutes after he was sent off with our thoughts. Josh Strauss, a previously bearded brute from South Africa, stepped in as a surprise signing at number 8.

A dual purpose is served. A talismanic leader for the Lions, he is a major coup for Glasgow. He is also somewhat of a tonic for fans who had seen last season’s RaboDirect semi-finalist slump to two defeats and only one point in the first two games of this season. Now Gregor Townsend tells the rugby public “we are confident” as they head for a clash with the champion Ospreys.

Ma’afu played no games and may well have struggled to settle. He is ably replaced. No problems here.

However, what is not being mentioned by many is that under the current residency rules Strauss will qualify for Scotland a mere four days before the next World Cup.

It has been widely suggested that the South African back rower’s agent has been shopping about, looking for somewhere to land his boy. Scotland have already used such a system with Tim Visser and have already stated that they plan to use WP Nel in the same manner.

The Nel announcement was met with derision outside of Scotland. It even became a factor that overshadowed traditional rhetoric about style and detracted from Andy Robinson claiming progress.

Perhaps Strauss, his agent and the Union have cooked up this plan, but the fans could never be told about it. Let them revel in the great signing and let Robinson continue preaching about evolution as the Autumn Internationals creep closer. If the number 8 does well, then the calls can come in.

For now we are kept in the dark. Even the Glasgow Warriors players were kept in the dark over this big acquisition. The masters never reveal their secrets, and the Magic Circle of Murrayfield have led us to this point.

We will have to wait and see when the rabbit comes out of the hat.

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Dundonian Alan has played rugby all over the world for various teams including Dundee High School, Heriot's and the Scottish Club International. Now writing from London he covers all issues international and unreported.