The Boks have come a long way

2007-11-26 00:00

The post-match press conference and the press reaction to South Africa’s 34-12 win over Wales in the final Test match of Jake White’s reign aptly underlined just how far the Springboks have travelled in the past four years.

Whereas the Boks were the laughing stocks of world rugby when they completed the previous World Cup against the background of race controversies and the Kamp Staaldraad affair, there is now unmistakeable evidence that they are not just the champions in name, but are regarded as the game’s leaders by the world rugby community.

Wales’s caretaker coach Nigel Davies gave a first indication of the respect his nation now holds for the Springboks when he spoke at the press conference as if his team had completed a major achievement in being competitive. And yet they lost by 22 points in a game where the champions were depleted and playing a match five weeks after most of their seasons had ended.

“I am really proud of my boys, there was a huge amount of passion and effort, and we showed that we can be competitive against the world champions,” Davies said.

Perhaps someone needed to point out to Davies that his team had been outscored by five tries to two, and that the Boks never had their lead threatened once during the 80 minutes.

He could also have been reminded that the Welsh being competitive once they are out of the game on the scoreboard is nothing new — they did something similar in their World Cup pool match against Australia.

But don’t be too harsh on Davies, for in his own way he was lauding the Springboks and acknowledging how much they have grown during the Jake White years.

“They are just very impressive as a unit, they are so clinical, and when they get a try scoring opportunity they take it. They dominate the physical aspects of the game, they are very hard to score against. They are just an impressive team,” Davies said.

And then Stephen Jones, the respected chief rugby writer of the S

unday Times in London, summed up yesterday what so many people must have been thinking when watching the Boks, now imbued with the confidence that comes with knowing you are the reigning world champions, drum out their classy rugby lesson.

“On this evidence, South Africa will defend their status as world champions with a sight more success and skill than did England,” Jones wrote.

“Yesterday in Cardiff it seemed that their pride in their title outweighed the vehemence with which their players have been celebrating it.

“They came to the Welsh capital way out of seaon, missing six starters from the World Cup final, and yet still won with real ease.”

Jones was long derided by South African fans when a few years back he was critical of what was then a boorish Bok approach, but just lately he has become almost a bit of a fan, rounding off with a line about the way the Boks have conducted themselves on and off the field under the coaching of White.

“South Africa’s season is over, they are the world champions and it seems they will conduct themselves as such.”

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