Siya Kolisi’s triumphant 2021 squad of series winners against the British & Irish Lions are the best Springboks team in the professional era. The series win, given the circumstances, is also bigger than any of the three Springboks World Cup title wins, writes Mark Keohane.
The international season is a month away and the 3-part documentary of the 2021 Springboks and Lions series is showing on SuperSport for the rest of the month.
The documentary is another reminder of just why there has been no bigger Springboks achievement, since the game turned professional, than the dramatic 2-1 series win against the best of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Lions coach Warren Gatland, who coached the Lions to a series win against Australia in 2013 and a drawn series against New Zealand inn 2017, described his squad of 2021 as the most competitive, position for position, and strongest he had assembled. He said, to appreciate the strength of the Lions players was to recognise the quality of the those international players who didn’t make the squad.
I have been fortunate to report on and write about the 1995 World Cup-winning Springboks, the 2007 World Cup-winning Springboks, the 2019 World Cup-winning Springboks, the 1997/1998 Springboks that won 17 Tests in succession and the 2009 Springboks, who beat the Lions in a three-Test series and who won three Tests in succession against the All Blacks, including the final Test victory in Hamilton, New Zealand, that won the Boks the Tri Nations.
They were all brilliant teams, who scaled rugby’s World Cup Everest and planted their flag. The 2007 World Cup winners were by and large the 2009 Lions series winners, and the 2019 World Cup-winning group of players also doubled for the most part as the 2021 Lions series winners.
But nothing compares to the adversity that Kolisi’s modern Rainbow Warriors had to endure to tame the Lions.
For me, they stand tallest among some very tall Bok timber.
There have been some great @Springboks teams in professional era. But for me @SiyaKolisi & his mates are the greatest, based on the adversity they faced off the field & quality of @lionsofficial on the field. https://t.co/1OlXNiKDDp
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) May 18, 2022