SPRINGBOKS PUSHED TO THE LIMIT AT TWICKEMHAM
This near to the all important Rugby World Cup, the end-of-year tour was never going to be used primarily to blood new ‘boks as has become the tradition. Make no mistake, these ‘boks understand the importance of cohesion and battle-tested combinations
Last weekend’s game against the Irish was always going to be the trap game.
Coming off an emotional, physically taxing Rugby Championship, it was clear the Bok’s would be hard-pressed to bring their trademark physicality on tour with them. Predictably, the ‘boks were unimposing in the collisions and were unable to match the Irish intensity for 80 minutes.
The test against the English then, was set up to be a more accurate barometer as to where the ‘boks really were. Despite still lacking the ‘edge’ we’ve come to associate with Springbok home matches, Heynecke Meyer and his coaching staff can at least be gratified that his men showed grit and character, managing to sneak away with a victory in front of a fiercely parochial 80 000 strong Twickenham crowd.
Perhaps pre-empting criticism for the unconvincing nature of the victory, Meyer made it clear after the game that while the match wasn’t pretty, World Cup rugby often devolves into battles of attrition. With the English doing much to counter the Springboks set-piece dominance, particularly in the rolling mauls and in the tight stuff up-front, the bok’s were forced to dig deep and find other ways to win.
Pat Lambie and Willie Le Roux , despite one or two critical errors, provided the backline spark when provided with clean ball to work with, and the ever-green Schalk Burger was immense, bringing his own particular brand of hard graft and physicality to the proceedings.
Perhaps the biggest take-away from this match, is that while it’s long been known that the ‘boks are relatively poor tourists, they’ve proven they can win against a talented, invested squad on the road. Individual performances from the likes of Lambie and Reinach will no doubt give the coaching crew something to think about. With a much-improved Italian side next up, anything but a convincing win will be regarded as a step backwards, and a reminder that next year’s World Cup will potentially be the most competitive perhaps in the modern history of the tournament.