The Springboks are on the verge of their first 3-0 Test series victory in the professional era.
This would be a landmark for the team under Allister Coetzee considering the horrors of 2016, and is something that should be celebrated.
The home series win over Ireland was unconvincing and set the tone for a 2016 season during which the Boks never got into gear. I cherish the far more impressive display against a French team that could not be sneered at.
As far as I am concerned, even if France spoils the party and wins at Ellis Park – a venue they have never lost at against the Boks – a 2-1 win is a far cry from my initial negative outlook on the series.
My faith in Coetzee has been eroded to such an extent that I even entertained the idea of him being sacked following a series defeat this June. My expectations are currently this low, so a liberal amount of egg drips from my face! This is a stay of execution for a coach working off a big deficit.
His charges look angry. An anger stemming from hurt, disgrace and humiliation. They have channelled it towards a redemptive fortnight that has many of us resetting our expectations for the season.
This was never more apparent than Siya Kolisi’s barnstormer at King’s Park, the best performance by a Springbok player in Coetzee’s tenure. Such displays are a rallying point around which the others – most of whom still have to convince as Test regulars – can form and wholeheartedly bring back the pride to the Springbok brand.
Coenie Oosthuizen shamelessly obliterating the French scrummie on the way to the try-line was the most rousing and memorable sight of physical domination by a South African over an opponent in a while. Don’t get me started on the uncompromising defensive effort in the second half, when wave after wave of Les Bleus’ attack was swatted away by determined Springbok tackling. More, please!
Coetzee was let down badly by the impostors parading aimlessly in the green-and-gold last year, and thus, the blame could not lie with him alone. Those who were complicit in the shambles appear to have recognised this and pulled finger against France, which facilitates a harmonious, settled team environment.
As alluded to earlier, Coetzee is far from safe. The damage incurred in his first year at Test level has resulted in a rolling short-term appraisal of his performance.
Whether true or not, the rumours of a gentleman currently plying his trade on the Emerald Isle (yes, ‘him’) being lined up to take over the hot seat reminds Coetzee that he is still in the crosshairs.
What we don’t know about this promising dawn is how it sets the Boks up for the ultimate test: the Rugby Championship.
The Wallabies are hungover from the dreadful form of the Super Rugby franchises. Los Pumas have stalled, falling into an alarming period of regression. The All Blacks continue to rule us all, and irrespective of how the British & Irish Lions series goes, they are still a level above ‘outright’ in the favourites stakes.
Surely the momentum built up by the Boks must be transferred into a good stab at finishing second in the competition? We will certainly get a measure of the progress made by the team in that competition.
South African rugby is experiencing upheaval, but it’s possible for the coach to isolate himself from the sideshows and mould his men into a formidable outfit. Tallying the results from the beginning up to now shows that winning the next World Cup should be the last thing on Toeties’ mind.
Paving the way to get there on the back of impressive results should be his priority. Winning takes care of everything.
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