The expectation of the Springboks in the Rugby Championship has to be four wins from six. Anything less than four wins should not even be a consideration.
Do you agree?
The Boks hammered a feeble French outfit three-zero. It was a job well done. They didn’t just beat them; they smashed them.
The Boks were always in control of the series. The physicality was imposing, the gainline collisions were dominant and the brute strength combined with rugby intelligence to make for an emphatic statement of Springbok intent.
France ordinarily are difficult opponents but it wasn’t lost on the Springboks, their management or their support base that the French squad that arrived in South Africa wanted to be anywhere in the world but in South Africa.
The Springboks still had to play well to be convincing winners. They had to play well to ensure the stadium attendance grew with every Test. It was a struggle to get 25 000 to Loftus for the first Test against France but a fortnight later 55 000 were at Ellis Park as the Boks again won easily.
The Lions - and to a lesser degree the Stormers - continued the Ellis Park third Test momentum in Super Rugby’s final month.
Now the Springboks must again continue the Lions Super Rugby final appeal, which saw Ellis Park sold out and a South African rugby public put aside provincialism and unite behind the red of the Lions.
The Springboks will be in unfamiliar red when they play the Pumas in Argentina in a fortnight but the colour of the jersey should have no bearing on the outcome of the Test match.
The Springboks, horrific in 2016, have won back the faith and trust of the South African rugby public by way of their three-Test demolition of France.
Further victories are necessary in the Rugby Championship. Beating the All Blacks would be simply wonderful, but at this juncture it would be a bonus in the resurrection of these Springboks.
I don’t see the All Blacks losing at home to the Springboks but I do see the Springboks having the potential to beat the All Blacks at Newlands or, worst case scenario, coming within a score of toppling the world’s best team.
Victories, home and away against Argentina and Australia, simply have to be viewed as non-negotiable.
Australian rugby is at its lowest point in professionalism and the Wallabies, in the June international window, were as awful as their Super Rugby franchises.
The Wallabies lost in Sydney to Scotland and were leading Italy by a point with just five minutes to go.
Argentina were as disjointed in losing a home series 2-0 to an England set-up that lost 15 players to the British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand.
The Pumas and Wallabies currently are not strong enough to come to South Africa and beat the Springboks. Equally, the Boks are good enough to travel to Argentina and Australia expecting (and not hoping) to win.
The biggest challenge remains being competitive in New Zealand against the All Blacks and getting a rare win against the men in black in South Africa.
Four wins from six is par for the Rugby Championship. Five wins is progress and six from six... utopia for South Africa, even if it has been standard fare for the All Blacks on too many occasions in the Rugby Championship.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has largely invested in those players who dealt with France but it would be naïve to believe what worked against France will translate to success in the Rugby Championship.
New Zealand, Argentina and even Australia will offer more mongrel and intent than France. I just don’t think the latter two have the playing squads currently to pose genuine threats of winning in South Africa.
It all depends on how quickly the Boks come together in Port Elizabeth in the August 19 Rugby Championship opening round against the Pumas.
I’m still not convinced about the collective team back three skills of those three individuals who played against the French.
I believe there are better players to select and a combination with more presence and Test pedigree. I’d be very surprised if the back three looks the same by the time the Boks visit New Zealand.
The Boks, two months ago, looked very dynamic at No 7 and No 8 with the option of Duane Vermeulen and Warren Whiteley. Both are injured and both will be missed.
Whiteley’s absence does change the dynamic in so many ways, especially after we got a hint of how the Boks operate under his leadership.
The duo’s enforced unavailability offers opportunity to the young Du Preez twins, but this is a Rugby Championship in which the likes of captain Eben Etzebeth and hooker Malcolm Marx must be at the forefront of everything that is good about the Boks.
The French series win will seem a lifetime away if there are unexpected wobbles in the Rugby Championship, which is why this Rugby Championship must be one of expectation and not potential excuses.
The expectation has to be at least four wins if the Springboks resurrection of 2017 is to be considered real.
Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter
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