Mark Keohane, in his Monday morning Independent Media and IOL Sport World Cup watch column, applauds a wonderful moment in Springbok World Cup history.
Take a moment to enjoy the fact that the Springboks are in the World Cup final for the first time since 2007. Celebrate the Bokke on this glorious of South African sporting Mondays.
The Boks, 19-16, winners against Wales, won for the first time in five Tests against Wales but crucially won for the third successive time in World Cups against the Welsh Dragons.
Wales were belligerent and tough. The Boks had to be at their brutal best to subdue a Welsh team that found belief in the final quarter and for a few anxious moments threatened to take the game away from the Springboks.
The Boks, courtesy of the imposing Damian de Allende, broke the try-scoring shackle and at 16-9 seemed to have the momentum. But the Welsh, so improved in the Warren Gatland tenure, refused to go away. They came back stronger, set up a penalty after 20 phases, opted for the scrum and scored to level the match 16-all.
My Springbok matches at this World Cup have dovetailed with being the Master of Ceremonies at #BokTown in Cape Town’s Waterfront. The support and passion for the Springboks remains powerful and seductive. The capacity audience at #BokTown played every one of those last 10 minutes as if they were on the field. It was glorious to experience and to witness and it showed just how much pride has been restored to the Boks in the past 18 months.
Take the biggest of bows Rassie Erasmus and his leadership team. Equally, South African Rugby Union president Mark Alexander and CEO Jurie Roux for bringing back Erasmus from Ireland where he was coaching Munster.
South Africa’s win against Wales was as much a testimony to Erasmus’s ability as a selector and tactician as it was to the bravery and technical mastery of the Springboks, when it comes to playing to the collective strengths of the squad.
Some may argue the Boks won ugly, but for me there was nothing ugly about how they advanced to the final.
I had them to win by four points and I also had England to win by four points. All of last week, in each World Cup watch column, I wrote that there was so little between the four semi-final teams that no match result could be described as shocking. I backed a South Africa versus England final from the outset of the tournament because both teams had the best packs and enough class in the backs to last the distance.
It has proved to be the case.
The Springboks forwards substitutes were immense. Vincent Koch’s late scrum effort, Malcolm Marx’s impact and Frans Steyn’s experience were just three examples of how Erasmus got his match 23 selections so right.
Captain Siya Kolisi was so strong in the tackle. Ditto, Pieter-Stef du Toit and Duane Vermeulen.
Handre Pollard, voted the best player in the world at u20 level, stood the tallest when asked to kick the Boks to victory.
Pollard kick proved the difference against an opponent whose performance demanded respect.
England lay in wait, but for just one day, let the focus be on Sunday’s win.