Possible? As they say – anything’s possible!

2015-09-23 06:00

NOT JUST rugby writers but ordinary fans, too, often talk about the “quarter-final disaster” that blew the Springboks out of the 2011 World Cup. It was Australia that did the damage and it happened in Wellington, New Zealand.

But as of last week both the amateurs and professionals can forget about that now for they have a far more shocking memory to contend with: the unbelievable that took place in Brighton, England, where little-fancied Japan beat the Boks 34-32 in the first round of the 2015 World Cup, an accomplishment most critics believed to be impossible, even if they’re known as the Brave Blossoms.

What’s more they did it in extra time: somewhere around 81 minutes-plus, with a try. “It was without doubt the single most unexpected shock in World Cup history,” said 1995 Cup winner, Mark Andrews. The journalist quoting the legendary lock described him as “wide-eyed with shock”. Not surprising as Japan’s only other World Cup victory to date was against Zimbabwe. “Now,” added Andrews, “Japan’s pulled off the impossible by beating the world’s No 3-ranked team.”

Not unexpectedly, Bok coach, Heyneke Meyer, has been lambasted with criticism. His team’s record since taking charge of the Boks in 2012 stands at 13 losses in 42 games. Many former Springboks are blaming the defeat on Meyer’s choice of too many older players. Players, too, like captain Jean de Villiers and vice-captain, Victor Matfield, who had both recently returned from injury. It should also be remembered that no fewer than 13 of the Springboks on the field at some stage of the match represented South Africa in the 2011 World Cup.

But enough. There is one silver lining. It’s not the end of the road. Captain, Jean de Villiers, for one – though looking shocked and pale after the unexpected defeat – is already squaring his shoulders for the job that lies ahead. “We mustn’t look for excuses,” he said. “We must blame ourselves – and work hard this week to get things right. All isn’t lost. There’s still light at the end of the tunnel.”

Former Springbok great, Ray Mordt, in a chat to the Express said: “I blame it squarely on too many old players. Not enough testosterone. Also the selection process needs revising. You can’t leave it all to one man (Heyneke Meyer). There must be a panel and we need more young blood. The only old guy deserving his place in Brighton last Saturday was Schalk Burger. Let’s not forget that two of our recent defeats since the last World Cup have been against lowly-placed Argentina and now Japan!”

Now Meyer’s team face Samoa in Birmingham this Saturday, and the Pacific Islanders, no doubt, are rubbing their hands in anticipation. Can the Boks bounce back? Yes, they can, says De Villiers. “We must show what we’re made of.”

But a mountain of hard work lies ahead. Theoretically, however, the Boks have the beating of all their remaining Pool B opponents – following Samoa at Villa Park in Birmingham, comes October 3 versus Scotland and October 7 versus USA. They have picked up bonus points and if all goes well they could still end sectional play as Pool B leaders, and raring to go. Stranger things have happened. In the words of an old song: “Show that you’re proud, shout it aloud” – and go Bokke! Go!

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