Super Springboks get respect but All Blacks get the result

Just for one magnificent afternoon, modern rugby’s global audience was treated to a throwback of the glory of a Springboks versus All Blacks Test in South Africa.

The occasion was truly special. This will be the last time the All Blacks will ever play the Springboks at Newlands, a ground steeped in so much history but the old lady, as a spectator experience, is a spent force.

Not so the Springboks and South African rugby.

This was a Test that will be spoken about for a long time. It was one that got away from the Springboks but don’t dismiss just how good these All Blacks are. You don’t lose just one in the last 30 Tests to Australia and South Africa if you don’t know how to win ugly.

The All Blacks, in Cape Town, did it the hard way against a team whose forwards could not have produced a more powerful collective effort. Unfortunately the Springbok backs, as a unit and individually, were not in the class of the forwards.

It’s a shame because the Boks were deserving of getting one more point. Instead history will record yet another Springboks defeat against the men in black; the 11th in the last 12 meetings, the sixth in succession and the fifth in the last six Tests in South Africa.

Somehow, Saturday’s one pointer was very different. There is seldom celebration in defeat but there was every reason to shout with joy about the manner in which the Springboks fronted the All Blacks after the 57-0 mauling in Albany.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read conceded his team lacked the necessary intensity at the start of the game but the World Champions, Bledisloe Cup holders and 2017 Rugby Championship winners found the intensity and defensive resolve to repel the Springboks’ last two minutes of attack to force a turnover and claim a 25-24 win.

The match has been described all over the world as one of the game’s great Tests.

And how world rugby’s most celebrated international rivalry needed something out of the ordinary to convince the doubters that there is still significance to the wonder of a Springboks versus All Blacks Tests.

On the evidence of the 90 minutes played at Newlands, there is again hope for the Springboks, and hope for the All Blacks that they have a traditional foe that can push them to the limit.

The All Blacks, to keep on improving, need South Africa, by way of just one example, to be strong.

It was interesting reading all the New Zealand reaction. The country’s rugby commentators, orally, digitally and in print, were probably even more delighted with the Springboks display than the most patriotic South African.

New Zealand wants South Africa to be a force, just as much as most South African rugby supporters want the All Blacks to be vulnerable. There is such rugby respect between the All Blacks and Springboks, but for this generation of New Zealand player it needed an experience of why and not just a story from yesteryear.

Those All Blacks who were at the coalface at Newlands now have their own story of what makes it so different, dramatic and delightful to beat an in-form Springbok team in the Republic.

‘Special night with the brothers in Cape Town. A Test we won’t forget for a long time. Respect to the Springboks and our South African fans,’ tweeted All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams on social media.

Mark Reason, a veteran English rugby journalist now living in New Zealand, wrote: ‘Just to hear the stands of Newlands echoing with the roars of men long dead was enough to put a song in any rugby man’s heart. The All Blacks need South Africa to be great again and, just for one glorious day, the Boks were back.’

The Springboks were indeed back and present, with captain Eben Etzebeth and hooker Malcolm Marx never having played with such excellence and impact. Marx produced the most complete performance from a hooker I’ve written about in the last 28 years.

There was so much emotion and desperation in this Springboks performance – and rightly so from a team wanting respect from their supporters and opponents who are the best team in the world.

Respect is what the Springboks got post the final whistle, but they still didn’t get the result.

For all the purple prose written and spoken of the Springboks’ response at Newlands to that awful night in Albany, defiance in defeat is to be respected and not revered.

If the Springboks were colossal in getting 24 points, what does that say about the quality of the team that left Newlands with 25 points?

All South Africans should delight in the Springboks display but equally demand that days like Saturday are not once-off occasions every five years.

*Mark Keohane’s column appeared in Business Day Newspaper 

 

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  • Hamburger

    Nonsense Keo. A loss at home should always be unacceptable. The Boks lost, yet you would want them and th supporters to celebrate like they won the Super Bowl. Take a hard look at how low our standards and expectations have fallen when we can celebrate a loss at home.

    • rangerman

      Nonsense man, how can you be so churlish?

      The game was outstanding in all facets.

      It’s my contention that this book team are on the up in a big way, let’s see if I am right.

      • Hamburger

        Of course the Bok team is on the up. I assume you are comparing against 2016? I don’t think that they can sink any lower than that, and at a minimum it really isn’t too difficult to trend upwards. That the Bok team is on the up is a given. Where we differ is how far upwards is the expectation. You, like most Bok supporters seem to consider a loss at home acceptable as long as the boys gave it their all. Your standards have dropped so low my friend. Consider for a moment that the bulk of the All Blacks had to travel from NZ to Argentina and then to South Africa in the space of two weeks, whilst the remaining players just flew in from NZ. Additionally, the All Blacks had an off day by all accounts. Finally, they were playing in South Africa where the Boks at home always start with at least 7 points over the opposition. Yet despite all of these factors, the All Blacks still won and the Boks still lost. Yes, agreed the Boks are on the up, but a draw at home against Australia and then a loss at home against the All Blacks should NEVER ever be celebrated. The 2007 New England Patriots went unbeaten in the Regular season, and in 2 of their playoff games, yet they lost the Super Bowl to David Tyree and the NY Giants. Go speak to any Patriots fan if they celebrate that season? I don’t care if we beat France and Argentina. The gold standard for us should be to beat Australia, New Zealand and England, and in the last 12 months we have failed to beat either of them, not even at home. Remember in the late 90s when the England rugby team celebrated a close loss to the All Blacks at Twickenham? Is that what the Springbks have now become? How well the Boks played the game is irrelevant. All that is relevant is that we lost. It becomes even more irrelevant if we fail to win all the games on the year-end tour. Beating France, Ireland, Italy and Wales should always be expected. Bok supporters should accept nothing less!

  • rangerman

    Great article Keo, I watched it with a bunch of kiwis and they were overjoyed at the books performance.

    Nice on on the disqus deployment!

  • Hamburger

    KEO, I’m delighted to see Keo.co.za back in business, we missed you mate. Hopefully the old gang of Pissant, Tackler, Big Hit, Wallabie, Gunther and STAAL all return too