For the past three seasons, the unhappy Springbok fan has been choosing to mow the lawn on a Saturday afternoon. He’s refused to watch “until we get a new coach… and a new flyhalf!”
After what happened at Ellis Park, that guy is probably going to start paying for a garden service, and have a beer while he watches the rugby.
If you had bought a ticket to last week’s Test match, you’ll now be thinking, “It can’t get any better than that, can it?”
I don’t think it can. We won’t experience that sense of nostalgia and euphoria again. People will say it won’t be the same in Bloemfontein, but the reality is that we will never have that moment again under a new coach, the first black captain and three debutants.
In what was quite symbolic of the state of rugby in South Africa, the Boks, trailing 24-3 after 20 minutes and on the brink of getting a big hiding, needed someone to say “from here, no more”. Siya Kolisi stepped up, regrouping the team behind the poles.
Two wingers, making their debut, sparked the comeback. Obviously, with Sbu Nkosi being a Jeppe old boy, I’m proud of him scoring two tries, and Aphiwe Dyantyi scored one on the other wing. The way they combined for one of the tries – with that inside pass from Dyantyi to Nkosi – was significant. We’ve been waiting a long time to see that from players who are said to be more seasoned, and they haven’t got those subtleties right.
RG Snyman was special. In his first Test match, he was carrying up on slow ball, all the lineouts were going to him, and defensively and physically he looked like he’s been a pro for a long time.
And this was after just one week of training – the coaching group must be complemented. People say that you play as well as you train, and I’m saying the Boks must have had an incredible week of training to get all of those things so spot on.
The lineouts were good with Bongi Mbonambi, the mauling was good, the catch-and-pass was good, the defence was oiled at times, the attack was good and, if Handre Pollard had kicked well, we could have scored 55 points against a team that has won two of the last three Six Nations titles.
There were also a lot of things that were tactically spot on, such as the substitutions. It’s easy to say so in hindsight, because, when Pieter-Steph du Toit and Steven Kitshoff were introduced, it worked. But those changes could quite easily have been made earlier or later, with different results.
You have to compliment SA Rugby because they’ve given Rassie Erasmus everything he’s asked for, and the three overseas guys he brought back made a massive difference and the Boks won.
If you package all of that together, the feel-good story is that what happened in that match is a microcosm of where we are in South African rugby. Six months ago, we were staring down the barrel; now we’ve got Siya Kolisi rallying the boys for an amazing comeback against England.
To take it further, that performance has given this new era a big head start, and the challenge is making sure that – on and off the field – we don’t waste it like England did.
The Boks completed their take-off checklist at Ellis Park. We’ve got a black captain, the team is on a high, sponsors want to jump in, the product you’re selling to the fan is fantastic, and kids all over the country would have dusted off their rugby boots on Sunday.
So what do we do now, going forward? Don’t make mistakes like England did to let us back in the game. We’ve got to find a way to bottle that performance and use it again. England will go away, reflect on what happened and, because they’ve got more experience as a team, they’ll be able to make the most of the lessons learnt.
But, if the world ended today, people would say the Springboks were on the brink of a winning run. Let’s make sure we don’t blow this lead.