Tomorrow’s Springbok Test against France falls on an auspicious date.
Tomorrow (June 24) is exactly 11 years to the day that Francois Pienaar’s Madiba-inspired Boks lifted the William Webb Ellis trophy at a packed and ecstatic Ellis Park.
It was a game the Boks were never really given a chance to win, but thanks to a Herculean collective defensive effort and Joel Stransky’s boot they pulled off the country’s greatest sporting achievement with a narrow 15-12 victory.
On Saturday Jake White’s charges have been given about the same chance of winning as their predecessors were in 1995. Injuries and contract controversies have disrupted the build-up, but captain John Smit said the preparation was much better than last week.
“It’s been like chalk and cheese. Personally I’ve trained every session and the preparation has been good despite the disruptions,” he said. Last week Smit was suffering from stiffness that prevented him from taking part in all the sessions.
Said White: “Losing Bakkies (Botha) and Schalk (Burger) is disappointing but it gives the rest a chance to prove themselves and it will test us as individuals and as a team. We are ready for the challenge.”
Smit’s response to whether any of the players, as reported in some media, were contemplating leaving if White did not get offered a contract extension was short and to the point: “As players we do not want to get involved in that circus.”
On the only other occasion that the Boks have played on June 24 – since 1995 at least – was in 2000 when they were kicked to defeat by the faultless Jonny Wilkinson in Bloemfontein. Wilkinson scored all his team’s points in Englandâ€™s 27-22 win that squared the series 1-1.
Against the French tomorrow, the Boks will be giving everything to ensure this anniversary of that most famous day in Springbok rugby is followed by a massive victory party and not defeat.
By Andrew Hollely