The Springboks were outstanding in dismantling the Wallabies in Pretoria. Get excited about it. It is not a crime to celebrate a great performance, writes Mark Keohane.
For international season openers this was one for the ages for the Springboks. I have seen the Boks struggle so often at home in their first match of the year. Just think back to Wales in Pretoria last year. The Boks were horrendous for the opening half and needed a near miracle to sneak the win.
They were a different animal against Eddie Jones’s Wallabies in playing possibly the most complete rugby they have played since the 32-12 win against the then coached Eddie Jones’s England. Eddie must hate the number 12. Two of his most humiliating defeats have come against the Boks, for two different nations, and in both instances his losing team ended the match with a meagre 12 points.
The six tries to two 43-12 thumping at Loftus flattered the Wallabies, who scored their second try on full-time. Somehow, against the run of play, they had led five nil, but then surrendered 43 unanswered points.
It is says everything about the mood and character of the Boks that they were annoyed to have given up the final try and equally unimpressed with not converting another two try-scoring opportunities.
South Africans generally don’t know how to lose and in many cases don’t know how to win. It is either a rant or a rave, and equally many don’t know how to just sit back, smile and enjoy what they’ve just seen.
Live in the moment Bok fans. Enjoy it.
Beating Australia with one team doesn’t guarantee the beating of the All Blacks in New Zealand with another team. So analyse the win that was just passed and keep context of it being specific to the Wallabies.
The naysayers were quick to take to social media in condemning the Wallabies for being hopeless. You are only as good as the opposition allows and I don’t think enough are giving the Boks credit for how well they played. They were more spectacular in many aspects of their attack and several individuals stood tall at Loftus.
Depth in playing numbers is what will translate to success at the World Cup in France later this year. The potency of a substitute’s bench will be a differentiator, but only if those tasked with starting are good enough to create a platform from which the substitutes can launch.
A very different Bok team will play the All Blacks on Saturday and the challenge will be far more demanding than it was at Loftus, given it is the All Blacks and it is an away Test.
However, the Bok coaching master minds Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber have been transparent in sharing their views on why a split squad system for the matches against Australia and New Zealand. All of their playing squad will get a run in those two matches and from then on in they will mix and match, as per the opponent or the occasion.
Those who played in Pretoria set a standard and it is now for those sent early to New Zealand to make their case. What the win against Australia shows is the quality of the next cab off the rank.
Boks No 10 Manie Libbok was particularly good in playing his natural game and while Damian Willemse is expected to start at No 10 against the All Blacks, Libbok has certainly taken a giant step towards inclusion in the World Cup squad.
Duane Vermeulen also showed the old legs aren’t wobbling just yet and it was wonderful to see Pieter-Steph du Toit giving it horns. I loved his ‘do as you are told’ hand-off of Wallabies co-captain Michael Hooper. I haven’t seen Hooper get put on his bum like that.
I agree with (Eddie) Jones that it would be a stretch calling the Boks that beat his team a ‘B team’. There were seven World Cup winners in the starting XV, including five in the pack, and Kurt Lee Arendse, as one example, isn’t exactly a ‘B team player’.
Any team that can introduce tighthead Vincent Kock and lock RG Snyman in the second half, is not a ‘B’ team. I’d suggest a more flattering expression of this being a very talented Springbok squad of players that extends beyond 15 first choice starters and eight strong finishers.
The All Blacks will provide another examination of the squad depth on Saturday, but for me there isn’t an international team currently that has the numbers in quality among their forwards and backs as South Africa.
Embrace the good times and the special wins.