The days when a All Black-Springbok Test generated massive hype in New Zealand are long gone.
While two Springbok wins out of the last four meetings between the sides restored some intensity to the rivalry, the Boks’ 49-0 humiliation against the Wallabies has sent us back to the dark days of Rudolf Straeuli.
When the Boks arrived at the House of Pain in 2003, they were still feeling the effects of their 52-16 thrashing at Loftus. In the end, the Boks showed some ticker and “only” lost 19-11, but it was a sign of the sorry state of our rugby that the result was regarded by many South Africans as a moral victory.
A 19-11 defeat by Jake White’s side tomorrow would bring a similar reaction from Bok supporters, who are again expecting the worst.
New Zealanders, meanwhile, are struggling to get excited about a match that promises to be little more than a training run for the second-string All Blacks.
“The South African performance against Australia last weekend was the poorest Tri-Nations display I have seen,” wrote former All Black John Drake in his newpaper column. “Sure, there have been ordinary displays from each of the three teams at various times. But never have I seen a team show such a lack of desire, passion, pride, call it what you want. They appeared not to be playing for themselves, the Bok jersey or the nation.
“If they had been playing Test cricket rather than rugby then the powers above would have been looking hard at Indian bookmakers to see if the match had been fixed. After that belting, and more changes made to the All Blacks for tomorrow night’s Test, it hints at a different feel to previous clashes between the old foes.
“Those around during the 1956 Springbok tour, when the nation decided that beating the Boks was akin to life or death, would probably struggle with the leadup to this Test. In recent times, South Africa have relied on solid set pieces, borderline defence, accurate goalkicking and tries from turnovers and intercepts.”