The latest World Rugby rankings have the Springboks at No 3, up four places from the 2016 low of seventh.
Also, check out the latest Castle Rugby Championship table; it’s South Africa one and New Zealand two!
These are comforting Mondays when writing about Springbok rugby. It’s that much easier reporting on and describing the exploits of winners.
It’s also that much more inspiring to do so when the culture and play of the team speaks to the optimist and to an inclusive Rainbow Nation.
The Springboks in 2017 are five from five. It’s not a statistic to be scoffed at given they were four from 12 in 2016.
There aren’t many similarities to 2016 – and for that every South African would be grateful.
France were punished for arriving in South Africa with the only intention of getting out of South Africa. They were at the end of a draining season, but this is not to detract from the Springboks three-nil series win.
The focus here is on the Springboks and not on what the opposition did or didn’t do.
Equally, when the two-zero return against Argentina is anaylsed: The Springboks were dominant in the Test matches in Port Elizabeth and in Salta. They scored nine tries and impressively conceded an average of just six penalties against the most ill-disciplined and disruptive team in the competition.
The Pumas greatest weakness is a Latin temperament that seldom is channeled with positive effect. The Pumas in the past few years have been competitive against the best teams but because of poor discipline this has not been translated into any form of winning consistency.
The Pumas promised the Springboks a torrid time in Salta. They revamped their pack from the mauling in Port Elizabeth. They chose two new props, a new lock and a new No 8. They entrusted a veteran halfback combination to control the way in which the ball would be used.
They spoke of restoring pride in Salta and of matching the Springboks intent and adventure but they realistically could never match the Springboks discipline or confidence.
The Pumas tried to unsettle the Springboks with off the ball niggle and an attitude that was thuggish more than it was well thought out. They relied on upsetting the Springboks with cheap shots and hoped for an opponent who in the past has been prone to mental disintegration when playing away from home.
The Springboks, superbly led by Eben Etzebeth, didn’t even bother reading the Pumas match script, let alone following it.
Etzebeth was strong in the collisions and mentally even stronger in his thinking, and the domino effect was that the Springboks were as trusting of their rugby ability to win in Salta.
The Boks fronted every challenge and defended with calm. On attack they were not restricted to a predetermined conservatism that relied exclusively on field position.
The Boks used their eyes to attack as much as their physicality in winning the gain line collisions. If it was on in attack, the Boks used the ball to create width and space. They played the situation and scored brilliant tries.
The offloading in the tackle has been an area of huge improvement, as has the distribution accuracy in the pass.
The Boks, like most good teams, scramble on defence but in the five Tests this season have also trusted their attack because they have identified their strengths and, player for player, they believe in the way this team plays the game.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has been consistent in his selections. He has invested in the core of those who started the French series and those players have rewarded Coetzee with winning games.
Australia, in Perth on September 9, will be a different type of challenge and a week later in Albany (against the All Blacks) the Springboks will finally get to measure their progress from a year ago.
We know the Springboks have improved from 2016 but the measurement referred to is whether or not this team has the arsenal to challenge the world’s best team.
We’ll only know that at the end of September.
What we do know is they’ve owned the two teams they’ve played in 2017.
The easy part of the international season has produced easy results.
This Monday it’s about handshakes, smiles and backslaps, but with the knowledge that the season proper starts now with four matches against Australia and New Zealand respectively, and an end of year tour.
Australia, in Perth, will ask more technical questions of the Springboks than France or Argentina. The Wallabies attack will also provide the biggest test so far in the year.
The Boks, as the season lifts in intensity, will respect the ability of an Australian team who in a 40 minutes period over two Tests scored seven unanswered tries against the All Blacks.
Top 20 in latest World Rugby standings:
1. New Zealand 95.21
2. England 90.14
3. South Africa 85.66
4. Ireland 85.39
5. Australia 84.21
6. Scotland 82.47
7. Wales 81.73
8. France 79.63
9. Fiji 79.48
10. Argentina 78.00
11. Japan 73.79
12. Georgia 73.41
13. Tonga 71.72
14. Italy 71.00
15. Romania 70.27
16. Samoa 69.67
17. USA 65.84
18. Uruguay 63.15
19. Spain 63.15
20. Russia 63.13