Viva the Boks winning Rugby Word Cup 2019

IN eight previous World Cup finals there had been nothing remotely like it … I’m talking about the jaw-dropping, eyebrow-raising magnificence of the Springbok pack that blew Eddie Jones’ cocky England to smithereens, sweeping the South Africans to a 20-point winning margin, the second biggest ever in a final.

Just a week before, the world had marvelled at how England had dismantled New Zealand with a power game that their cock-a-hoop media described as the most complete England performance ever.

Very few folk outside of South Africa gave the Boks a chance, and almost none at all would have predicted such an emphatic conquest. Never had a team lost a Pool game and gone on to win the Cup…

But rugby remains an incredibly simple game. The essence of it has not changed in 150 years, and that is if you control possession by dominating the opposition in the set scrums, the line-outs, the restarts, plus you boss the breakdown battle, you control the game’s destiny.

When the two packs of forwards went down for the very first scrum, just 90 seconds into the game, and the green phalanx inched relentlessly forward, there was a collective roar across South Africa, and how Eddie’s heart must have sunk.

This was not going to be the forward arm wrestle of previous finals… And it got worse for the England pack, with Jerome Garces repeatedly blowing them for scrum infringements when they could not deal with the destructive force powering at them, and Handre Pollard duly nailed the penalty goals.

But if the pack is to quite rightly praised to the rafters, and the finishing of Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe celebrated long and lustily, there was another area of the Springbok game that trumped all else in securing their magnificent win.

And that was a seven-minute period not long after half time when England laid siege to the Bok line, sensing they could take the game by the throat. Wave after Red Rose wave foundered on the Springbok rock. Almost every England player flung himself at the line and every single one was repulsed. A few, in fact, managed to get over the line but before the ball could be grounded they were ferociously repelled.

Owen Farrell eventually settled for three points and the fact that it was not seven for all of that effort was a vital psychological victory for the Boks. The England heads went down, the South African chests puffed out, and for me that was the winning of the game.

The Boks to a man were exceptional but it would be churlish not to give praise where it is due in the case of fullback Willie le Roux. Seldom has a Springbok player been so vilified and understandably so given his wavering form in the tournament, but when it counted Le Roux came to the party. He was outstanding under the high ball and when he came in at first receiver he directed traffic commandingly.

Rassie Erasmus kept faith with the veteran and he came good when it mattered.

Faf de Klerk has also been the butt of social media jokes but he had the last laugh yesterday with a performance that brought to mind Jones’ description of the scrumhalf last year: “a painful little buzz saw.”

By Mike Greenaway

Everyone hates losing to arrogant England

What is it about matches between the South Africa and England over the last 106 years that they so often have been must-win occasions for the Springboks?

The first few encounters need no explanation given that in 1906 South Africa travelled to London to play a maiden match against England just four years after the end of the Anglo Boer war, and with a good percentage of the male population of South Africa still in prisoner of war camps in Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka).

No wonder hostilities continued on the field of play and England only beat South Africa for the first time in a Test in 1969 (there were only six Tests between 1906 and 1969)

Bu the pain of the concentration camps waned – yes England, not the Nazis, were the first to start them (in 1901) – and post Second World War, England have fared much better.

Heading into the modern era, they had that notable run of seven wins a row between 2000 and 2006 before the Boks overturned that in the second Test of 2006 to subsequently win seven in a row to date.

And many of those games since 2000 have been enormously important to South Africa, although not always of the same consequence to England. It might have something in common with the famously Colonial quote of former All Blacks flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens, who said: “Everyone hates losing to arrogant England – they are such pricks when they win.”

Mind you, England have been playing France, Wales, Ireland and Scotland forever, so they don’t know anything but “enemy” status!

But as far as the Boks are concerned, they for instance HAD to win in 1998 in London to secure a world record of 18 consecutive wins – they lost; they HAD to win the first game of the 2003 Rugby World Cup to stand a chance in the tournament and save Rudolf Straeuli’s job – they lost; they had to win in 2006 to save Jake White’s skin – they won! And have not lost since including a stunning Pool win at the 2007 World Cup and indeed victory in the final of that event. They have not lost to England since.

Which brings us to 2012, and Durban, a city that remarkably has never hosted a Test between the countries, despite being the Last Outpost of the British Empire and, more importantly, the dawning of the Heyneke Meyer era. Once again, it is a must-win for the Boks in their first match after the 2011 World Cup watershead . They have a new coach, a new captain and just six players that started against Australia in the quarter-final in Wellington are starting tomorrow – Jannie du Plessis and Pierre Spies in the pack and in the backline, Morne Steyn, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen.

The England team has been similarly revamped although where elder Springbok statesmen quietly moved on, new England coach Stuart Lancaster cut loose the pop stars that infamously cavorted about Queenstown in the New Zealand Alps.

Where Lancaster has stolen a march on Meyer is that he started afresh in the Six Nations in January and after a shaky start, his new recruits rebounded to finish second, including wins over Ireland and France to finish second in the competition.

“The last seven wins are not going to help us tomorrow, grinned Meyer. “ Statistics are nice for the supporters and media too look at but they will be of no use to us come kick-off.

“What I can say about England is that they showed a lot of mental toughness in the Six Nations because they also had a new coach and not a lot of time to prepare. They got stronger as the competition went on. One thing that stood out is that they have mental toughness and character. To beat France away from home is not easy, and they won three away games. They’ll be a confident team; you can’t look at the past.

“They’ve played six games as a new team but this will be our first but what counts in our favour is that this is South African soil and every player in the green and gold will give his all.”

Referee: Steve Walsh

Springboks: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jean de Villiers (capt), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (v/c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Substitutes: Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Wynand Olivier.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Manusamoa Tuilagi, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 Ben Foden, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Ben Morgan, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Johnson, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.

Substitutes: Lee Mears, Paul Doran Jones, Tom Palmer, Phil Dowson, Lee Dickson, Toby Flood, Jonathan Joseph

by Mike Greenaway

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