What South Africans should realise is that the Springboks are no strangers to huge scores and embarrassing defeats
The Springboks deserve every bit of criticism and the jokes that are coming their way after their embarrassing 57-0 record defeat at the hands of the All Blacks in Albany.
But we shouldn’t have short memories and think that this animal that is a symbol of everything that is wrong and right, good and bad in our rugby, is dead and buried.
After enduring the worst season ever in Springbok history last year, the side – along with millions of its die-hard supporters – were lulled into a false sense of having turned the corner after a six-match unbeaten streak, which included three wins against France, two against Argentina and the draw against Australia.
In fact, that rapid rise from seventh to third spot on the world rankings fanned the fires of optimism that all was well in the world of the Green and Gold. Yes, the Springboks have shown tremendous improvement this year from the lows they sunk to last year, but they were always going to come face-to-face with reality when they played against the All Blacks.
What all rugby mad South Africans must realise is that the Springboks are no strangers to huge scores and embarrassing defeats.
We forget quickly that the All Blacks thumped the Boks 55-35 in Auckland in 1997, followed two years later by the South Africans’ maiden 29-19 loss against Wales. But the Springboks bounced back at the 1999 Rugby World Cup by finishing third.
In November of 2002, it was England’s turn to klap the Boks and they did so in style at Twickenham securing a record 53-3 win and that was to be followed up by one of the most embarrassing moments in the country’s rugby history, Kamp Staaldraad.
It was the madness of Staaldraad, that 16-52 defeat to the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld and the embarrassing exit from the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, and that record 49-0 defeat to the Wallabies in 2006 that were amongst the catalysts to the Springboks winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup.
In the aftermath of that World Cup triumph, the Boks enjoyed being on top for another four years – in the process beating the British and Irish Lions and enjoying dominance over the All Blacks, winning twice in three years – before Bryce Lawrence ruined it all on a barmy Saturday afternoon in Wellington to deny the side an opportunity of defending their world crown.
Since then the Boks have sunk to maiden defeats to Argentina at home and away, and even suffered the indignity of one of the greatest upsets in sports when they lost to Japan in their opening game of the 2015 World Cup. But in all of that the Springboks bounced back and came within two points of making the World Cup final and eventually finished third.
So where the Springboks stand today is not unfamiliar territory and their worth will be judged by how they come back from the disaster of Albany.
First, the players need to stand up and be counted and back up their words of this ‘renewed team culture’.
There are players living on borrowed time already, and they were badly exposed by the All Blacks and if anything, coach Allister Coetzee should give them an opportunity to redeem themselves before wielding the axe.
Secondly, it has left me dumbfounded how nothing points towards Springbok assistant coaches Franco Smith and Brendan Venter. After all, they were being showered with praise when the team was supposedly doing well. There is something sinister in the fragility of the Bok fans’ psyche in that Venter and Smith must take the glory when the team does well, but when things go wrong it is all Coetzee’s fault.
Everyone who has been involved with the Springboks deserves a lot of stick for how things unfolded in Albany on Saturday. However, the beating and criticism should be measured as the Springboks are known for their ability to bounce back and I hope they do because they are a better team than what we saw against the All Blacks.