Whatever the colour of the jersey on Saturday, the emblems remain that of the Springbok and National King Protea and the team plays as South Africa.
The Springboks arrived in Salta more intent on how they play against Argentina, than the colour jersey they will be wearing.
The players recognise the marketing aspect of the once-off red jersey the Boks will wear and they are not being distracted with the jersey colour diminishing the occasion. It remains a Test match.
Springbok flanker Jaco Kriel echoed the sentiments of the squad when he said the focus was on backing up the win against the Pumas in Port Elizabeth, making it five from five for the Springboks this season and getting a second successive Rugby Championship win.
The Springboks historically have always played in a white alternative jersey, with a hint of green in the collar or on the shoulders. It’s not a jersey that has been worn often and the most dramatic departure from the modern green and gold Springbok jersey was when the 2006 Springboks played against Ireland in a replica jersey of Paul Roos’s 1906 Springboks.
The Boks got hammered in Dublin that day but it had nothing to do with the jersey and everything to do with performance.
Kriel insisted whoever played on Saturday was playing for South Africa as a country and playing as Springboks.
It’s a measure of the psyche of the 2017 Springboks that they want to be remembered for performance and results.
If the Boks win in Salta and do so playing with the authority we saw against the Pumas in South Africa and the French earlier in the year, then that will be the memory of the Test. The colour of the jersey will be an issue for the greater South African rugby public if there’s a stumble in Salta.
There are many different opinions on the red playing strip but my only criticism is in how it was communicated to the South African public. I felt the South African Rugby Union missed an opportunity to sell it as a once off marketing exercise and turn it into the Test of the Rainbow Warriors, with red being a very prominent part of any rainbow.
The Boks, for years now, have trained in all sorts of colours from the blandest to the brightest. It’s a modern trend and it is also a marketing trend to have the occasional ‘gimmick’ playing jersey. Wales played in black, in green and in yellow. But it has never detracted from the red jersey that symbolises Wales. England played a Test in purple but the English rose was traditionally placed and it was England playing.
Much has been made that the All Blacks would never do such a thing. Why does South African rugby culture always have to be measured by what the All Blacks do. If the All Blacks played a Test in green would that make them revolutionary? The point is forget what the All Blacks do or do not do. The focus should be on what we in South Africa do.
No one would dispute the jersey is a marketing exercise. It should have been explained as such and the public should have been made to be a part of choosing the colour. In that way it could have been the people’s choice, instead of a marketing team who decided on red because of its appeal to the consumer.
Red, like black, is always a fashionable buy.
Personally, I like the red jersey. I think it’s powerful for a one-off exercise but what I like more than the red jersey is the make up of those players who will be wearing it.
The Springboks of 2017, from the opening whistle against France, have played with heart and head and combined effort with rugby intelligence in getting four successive wins.
I’d suggest the alternative Bok playing jersey should be yellow/gold, with green shorts. It’s the traditional ‘other’ national colour of South African sport and it mirrors the colours of MTN, the Springboks’ main sponsor.
For now the red jersey is something new and in time may become a collector’s item …
The proviso being performance and results, and that’s why Kriel, like his teammates, fortunately is thinking more about the rugby that the Boks play than the way they are dressed for the occasion.