Rugby order has been restored. The Springboks played like a team closer to two than five in the world rankings. It is where they belong.
There is belief in the Bok jersey again and there is hope about Springbok rugby. Test rugby again is a joyous occasion in South Africa.
The Boks in dismantling France have allowed for this sense of euphoria.The applause is justified and the optimism is based on the tangible of just how well the Boks played in the season’s opening two Tests.
The players deserve the good cheer. Ditto coach Allister Coetzee and his support staff.
The Boks have hammered France and they’ll complete the job in Johannesburg this Saturday. I expected a 3-0 series win and backed such a result on the talents of those selected and Coetzee’s appointment of Brendan Venter as a technical specialist.
The victories against France were emphatic, but Ireland, a year ago, were a stronger contender than France. And the Boks beat them. Then it all imploded courtesy of two Test matches against the All Blacks in which the Boks conceded 15 tries and 98 points. There is seldom perspective when it comes to the Springboks and the average fan argument is that passionate support doesn’t come packaged with perspective.
The passionate therefore are already talking of Warren Whiteley’s Springboks as being special, but it would be more accurate to make a judgement of Whiteley and his men after 12 Tests in 2017, when the Boks have played the Rugby Championship, travelled to Australia, New Zealand and Argentina and also played the November internationals at the end of a long season.
The South African players are into their 17th week of the season. The French players were still going for it in Durban in the 47th week. It isn’t necessarily why they lost but fatigue certainly contributed to their inability to come close to unsettling the Springboks. The Boks were easy winners, but it shouldn’t have come as a shock that South Africa won well at home.
It should be the norm, but what makes it seem exceptional is the backdrop of the last eight Tests in 2016. What the Springboks have done in the last two Saturdays is ease the pain of how 2016 finished but until they’ve completed the season it would be premature to assess how far the team has advanced. The Springboks have instilled hope again because of how they won against France in Durban, as opposed to how they lost to the All Blacks at the same venue in 2016.
But the French series, like the Irish series win of a year ago, can’t afford to be a forgotten footnote come December. Bigger Tests and greater challenges await Whiteley’s Springboks and it would serve every passionate supporter to keep as calm a head as the Springboks did defensively in repelling the French in Durban. France offered very little in the opening two Tests and they haven’t presented much of a global challenge in the last three years.
The Springboks, well selected for this series, well prepared and well coached, were expected to be comfortable winners in this series. This expectation has been met, which is all the squad could do at this stage of the season. The applause is not misplaced and the cheer is justified on the quality of wins against France.
There is so much good about the last two weekends. Individuals, who traditionally have been strong in Super Rugby, transferred this impact to the Test stage. Collectively there was mongrel in defence and the Boks were clinical on attack. There was discipline and desire. The caution is recalling there was a lot to take from the last two home Tests against Ireland a year ago. The Boks in Johannesburg fought back from 19-3 at halftime and 26-10 on the hour to win and defensively delivered to beat Ireland in Port Elizabeth.
Faf de Klerk was the player of the series … now he can’t make the Bok squad. A week can be a long time in rugby. A year is an eternity. The Boks are in good shape midway through 2017. The start against France has been impressive but it’s the finish against France on November 19th that will be more telling of 2017.
For now all is golden.
*This article first appeared in Business Day Newspaper