Cool heads needed after such an unexpected hit of ecstasy

Sport

Cool heads needed after such an unexpected hit of ecstasy

Perspective is necessary, especially when the Boks sleepwalked through three defeats in four matches before the miracle

Journalist


Having attended SA’s 57-15 and 57-0 humblings at the hands of the All Blacks in Durban in 2016 and Albany in 2017, the huge cathartic release of a long overdue Springbok win against the old foe was expected. It felt good and it left one with a warm sense of satisfaction.
The All Blacks, who did all the playing and, as was the case on Saturday, had all the 50/50 decisions go their way, are incredibly difficult to beat anywhere.
Up until Saturday, they were nigh unbeatable at home and the Bok win – their first in New Zealand in nine years and first in Wellington in 20 – gave world rugby the necessary breathing space and belief that the All Blacks are beatable.
Now that the euphoria and emotion have worn off, perspective is necessary, especially when the Springboks sleepwalked through three defeats in four matches before the Wellington miracle. The Boks were full value for their win but they are far from the finished product.
In many ways, the 36-34 win answered some nagging questions about who is the best player for a specific position, especially in the critical 10-12 axis.
Elton Jantjies and Handre Pollard are the perfect fit for the crucial play-making roles and they operated well together. In the buildup to Aphiwe Dyantyi’s second try, Pollard took the ball up at pace and drew  the defenders, which created space for Jantjies to perform the trickery that led to the touchdown. This mixture of flair, physicality and tempered game management is the ideal combination to unleash the kind of back-three firepower the Springboks possess.
In Lukhanyo Am, coach Johan “Rassie” Erasmus has a distributing and finishing outside centre who also isn't derelict in his defensive duties. There were also brave performances from Faf de Klerk, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Warren Whiteley in positions where depth is of critical concern. In short, the Boks ticked the necessary boxes.
However, New Zealand did all the playing and were let down by their decision-making and limitless ambition. While a game is won on the scoreboard, which the Boks did, the All Blacks owned most facets of the game. Better game management and accuracy in their decision-making could have led to a different outcome but it wasn’t their night.
The key was accuracy in execution – a rarity from the Springboks that somehow clicked. While the win was unexpected, the seeds were there in last year’s 25-24 loss in Cape Town where the Springboks asked many questions the All Blacks battled to answer. One is the Boks’ physicality, when used effectively, and also a better attacking structure that made the most of their striking talents.
Perspective, though, means the Boks need to reproduce Saturday’s effort not once, but for the next six Tests starting with Australia in Port Elizabeth next week and New Zealand a week later in Tshwane.  Remember, all the hard work the Springboks put in when they lost in Cape Town was undone on one horrible night in Dublin.
Winning the World Cup should at this point remain at pipe dream level because questions of depth when injury strikes have not been adequately answered.
England, France, Scotland and Wales will be a different autumn challenge, and how the Boks approach their end of year tour will be determined by how they end the Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks haven’t become an ordinary team overnight and the Boks aren’t World Cup favourites on the same wavelength.
It’s important to remember this World Cup race has been forced open by the Wellington result. Ireland and England, whom the All Blacks meet on consecutive November weekends, will have been interested spectators.

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