The quality of Saturday’s performance against Argentina confirms what most have suspected for some time, which is that serious long-term good is brewing at Springbok HQ.
DURBAN – On September 25, the Springboks and the All Blacks play in the 100th Test match between them and the occasion and the spectacle in prospect grows ever mouthwatering with each game Siya Kolisi’s team plays.
On Saturday, the All Blacks put 50 points past the Wallabies and then a much-changed Springbok team (from the third Test against the British & Irish Lions) made a very good Pumas team look decidedly average.
I have to confess that I was concerned that the Boks would be flat in this game and that the changes could mean a disjointed performance similar to what happened when the Bok ‘B’ team (posing as SA ‘A’) lost to the Bulls.
And this was a Pumas team boasting 11 of the players that started in their famous 25-15 defeat of the All Blacks a year ago and then drew twice with Australia. The Pumas came to Gqeberha having won five of their last six Tests, the loss having been a revenge reverse to the All Blacks.
But the Boks hit the ground running at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and were in cruise control from the thirdminute try by the brilliant Cobus Reinach to the sparkling 78th minute finish by debutant Jaden Hendrikse.
The quality of this performance confirms what most have suspected for some time, which is that serious long-term good is brewing at Springbok HQ under Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber. It was evident that the preparation for the weekend’s game began long before the conclusion of the Lions series and was utterly meticulous.
These guys do not know the meaning of the phrase “ad lib”. I have read that Nienaber is a workaholic who is at his computer way before dawn and is still pottering away after midnight. Heck, with the shaved head and the nerdy glasses, all he needs is a white coat to complete the image of a crazy scientist …
We have always known that Erasmus has a masters degree in plotting and planning and that sometimes his scheming would make Machiavelli blush.
Context also needs to be given to the rapid accomplishments of the blitzkrieg Boks. They lost the entire 2020 season to the pandemic and they played their first match on July 2, against Georgia, some 19 months after the World Cup final.
From a standing start, the Boks have defeated the Lions and then dispatched the Pumas with contemptuous ease.
Former Lion Jeremy Guscott calls the Boks “one-trick ponies” — try telling that to Aphelele Fassi and Reinach — while All Blacks coach Ian Foster said the Boks had put him to sleep; but privately the world’s rugby powers are thinking something very different about the rising tide of the green and gold.
The Springboks play Argentina a second time this week and then head to Australia for two matches against the Wallabies. By the time that date with the All Blacks dawns, I wonder if Foster will still be telling the media that the Boks are a cure for insomnia?