These young Boks: what a RWC tonic!

Pieter-Steph du Toit (Getty)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Getty)

Cape Town – What an incredible box to tick. What a brilliant time to do it.

Even if they subside in what remains of the 2018 Rugby Championship – though the tournament spoils remain just about alive for them – the Springboks under Rassie Erasmus have earned major psychological points for themselves ahead of the World Cup, now some 53 weeks away in Japan.

READ: Hansen says shock loss to Boks will improve All Blacks

Expect the vast majority of the current squad, basking in virtual national-hero status after Saturday’s fabulous 36-34 toppling of global leaders New Zealand in one of their own dens, to also be involved in the Far East extravaganza.

In that context, chew on just how massive this achievement was mentally for them.

Only four of Saturday’s match-day 23 – Willie le Roux, Handre Pollard, Eben Etzebeth and Tendai Mtawarira – had previously tasted victory on South African soil (and three of them just once, 2014) against these foes.

And only “Beast” had done so in the Land of the Long White Cloud … until now, that is.

It is a truly tremendous feather to tuck into their caps, considering the collective youthfulness, for the most part, of this group and the fact that so few really significant honours have come their way to this point.

When South Africa last won in New Zealand, back in Hamilton in 2009 to clinch the former Tri-Nations, they were already loaded with hugely decorated individuals, many of whom had earned such laurels as World Cup triumph and victory in a British and Irish Lions series.

Into that category fell gnarly customers like Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie and Frans Steyn.

So Saturday’s Wellington triumph, against huge odds, represented a humungous moment for Erasmus’s work-in-progress troops … not to mention a well-merited reprieve in public approval terms for the chief mastermind himself after a rocky little spell of results.

It required a murderous effort, punctuated for long periods by grim, energy-sapping defence, to get over the line in the “Cake Tin”; that can hardly be disputed.

There were some elements of fortune involved, too, though they say you make your own luck … and when you are playing this particular All Black team you’ll always need some if you are to eke out a win anyway.

Yet the heart-warming fact remains that these Boks showed that the long-time world champions can be beaten; that not every game against them has to be a mere “thanks for coming” for the opposition, whether it’s South Africa or anybody else among top-tier powers.

Has there ever been such a big swing (59 points!) from one particular Test match to the corresponding fixture a year later? Remember that 12 of the Bok 23 involved in Saturday’s seismic result had also been part of the record 57-0 humiliation for them in Albany; the latest outcome will have been so much sweeter because of that uncomfortable memory.

The All Blacks were missing front-five heavyweight Brodie Retallick and one or two others from this relative comeuppance for them, but bear in mind also that the Springboks will wish to reinfuse certain robust figures of their own like Duane Vermeulen when the World Cup pool meeting comes along at Yokohama on September 21 next year.

Suddenly that particular date – and the more general assault on the Webb Ellis Cup -- looks rather more like “Mission Possible” for the Boks, given the self-belief that will have surged into their veins after events in Wellington.

That feeling shouldn’t change too much, frankly, even if the All Blacks do strike back vengefully in a few weeks’ time, as remains highly feasible, to topple South Africa at Loftus at the tail-end of the current Championship on October 6.

Erasmus and his lieutenants will not be so daft as to believe they have suddenly found all the right tools or methods to halting New Zealand mastery of world rugby – far from it, in fact.

Just for one thing, they will be all too aware of the stamina-sapping qualities required to repel them (somehow) at Westpac Stadium, and know also that you simply won’t beat them often -- or even infrequently for that matter -- while so under the cosh both territorially and in possession terms.

This outcome was a bit of a bolt from the blue, when all is said and done.

But it also strips none of the sheer satisfaction, right through the ranks, of claiming such a juggernaut scalp “on the road” … and bearing in mind how dodgy the Boks’ away Test record had been in recent times.

Maybe the sky really is the limit now for Rassie’s NZ giant-slayers?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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