The Springboks world class on field performance in Brisbane was matched off the field by their humility and class as individuals.
Coach Heyneke Meyer and captain Jean de Villiers are an increasingly impressive combination in showcasing the squad’s leadership. Manager Ian Schwartz completes a head table the envy of most international teams.
De Villiers has been a revelation as national captain. He has also proved inspiring as one of the game’s best inside centres. He plays the game with a smile on his face, he possesses world class skills and his perspective on the Boks and the game in relation to life always comes to the fore.
Any player asked to follow John Smit, given the monumental achievements of the former Bok captain and hooker, was going to be up against it. But De Villiers has been convincing and composed in handling the off-field pressures that come with captaining the Springboks.
Meyer this season has also settled after a very nervous first year in charge.
Meyer’s love for South Africa, the Springboks and rugby is inspiring. He commands such respect internationally because of his Super Rugby achievements as coach of the Bulls. But it is his care for the Boks and for wanting to make South African rugby supporters smile that is so obviously endearing.
His humility in victory and his hurt whenever the team struggles are always delivered equally.
It is an absolute joy to write about Meyer’s Springboks. This is a leadership that encourages debate, discussion and a difference of opinion.
There are no embarrassing post match moments. There is none of the South African rugby management arrogance and ignorance that in the past has often marred and soured Bok victories.
The Boks in 2007 were the most popular side at the World Cup in France – and they were in my opinion the best side as well.
This side is equally well liked because of the manner in which they conduct themselves and because of the quality of rugby they deliver more often than not.
De Villiers, post the history-making 38-12 win against the Wallabies in Brisbane, was humble, composed and sincere in applauding his side but in also commiserating with the Australians.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers had more sympathy for the side he had just helped take to pieces, saying a new coach, new players, a new ethos and late injuries made for a lethal cocktail.
‘They are in a sticky situation. It’s never easy. New coach, they play the All Blacks twice, their captain gets injured on the Tuesday, so it’s a snowball effect. You feel for them in a way. We’re just happy we were on the other side tonight,’ said De Villiers, who also made a point of speaking with Israel Folau and thanking him for staying in Rugby Union.
De Villiers has been on record saying it would be great for the game to get back Sonny Bill Williams and was equally enthusiastic about the value of a player like Folau in the game.
‘I told Israel Folau afterwards that it’s so great to see a guy like him signing on with union. To see a guy like him, he’s going to become a massive player in this game,’ said De Villiers.
Meyer also spoke of the difficulties any new coach has in his first international season and backed McKenzie’s Wallabies to get better in time.
‘Ewen’s a great coach. He’s got great pedigree as a coach and he and his team will get better the more they are together. I know how it feels in that first season. It’s not easy. I have enormous respect for him and for the Wallabies. We will enjoy the quality of the win in Brisbane but it means nothing when we next face the Wallabies in Cape Town.’