I’ve finally processed the win and purged my body of all emotion. And then it occurred to me that many Springbok fans haven’t watched the incredible post-match press conference where Rassie drops some hard truths about South African realities and Siya sets the record straight about how his grandfather and father both played rugby.
Now that you’re an emotional mess again, let’s break down a couple of talking points from the game.
Rassie sure taught Eddie Jones a couple of tactical lessons. After tormenting Wales and every other team that mattered with a Damien de Allende battering ram, suddenly the big fella was chucking passes like the well-rounded ball player we know him to be. I’m hard on DDA and his lack of distribution because I’ve seen him pull off very difficult passes earlier in his career. In the final he clocked a career high seven passes. Immediately Am and the rest of the backline started looking much better because there was actually ball getting out to them. There were shades of this shift in style against Canada where DDA trotted out at 13 and was a key outlet for Nkosi’s try and Reinach’s third. Also in the Italy game in the lead up to Kolbe’s second – he made six passes against the Azzuri, each a thing of beauty in the context of the move.
Faf de Klerk showed all his value as the true defensive force that he is. I actually lost count how many times England tried to isolate him on the short side and he made a heroic stop. Where New Zealand tried to beat the South African rush with deep runners and cross kicks, England tried to overload the little man from tight phases. Problem was, Rassie trusts Faf to cover that side off of line outs and rucks because he can and does make incredible tackles. I’ve said before that he sets the tone on defense and it showed.
Willie le Roux was near flawless. To be fair, Mapimpi and Le Roux had their best game under the high ball of the season. Mapimpi regathered at least two box kicks, a career high for him in the green and gold shirt. There was nothing different in his deployment, just renewed confidence in his hands and off the boot. With the two tries coming from loose play and not set moves – although the running lines from Marx and Am were off the training ground – he wasn’t involved much in the scoring moves. That didn’t diminish his influence with a couple signature raids from the back.
Kolisi put in another great shift, but just how good is Pieter-Steph du Toit? Tasked with rattling the England fly half channel, the big man was an absolute mongrel and dominated his man at every opportunity. I believe Jones got his selection wrong and should’ve started with Slade, moving the more resilient Farrell to 10.
More eloquent scribes will provide better analysis, but those key victories along with the devastating scrum was the platform the victory was won on.
What does it mean to the country? Everything.
From banishing the demons of 2015 in the opening four minutes against Japan to sticking the fork in any Italian ideas of grandeur, Rassie and his charges shut the door on the ill-fated Meyer and Coetzee years for good. I sat in silence as scenes of celebration unfolded after the final whistle, emotionally spent.
What the Springboks achieved in 18 months is incredible. That the first ever South African try in a Rugby World Cup final came through the hands of an academy and Varsity Cup graduate, a true professional career redemption story and finished by someone who took the longest way to the national side you can in the professional era, is unbelievable. The names Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi and Handre Pollard are the most unlikely combination you could dream of to appear on such an important scoresheet.
It took a heroic effort from every corner of South African society and every path to Springbok glory to pull off this amazing victory. This is what our country can achieve When we embrace and harness our differences and work towards a clear vision.
This is their moment, but our victory. Thank you Springboks.