The Bokke are back in action this weekend and boy is it set to be another cracker of a match. They find themselves up against a fired up Welsh team who believe they have a decent shot at taking the number two team in the world. Some might argue that there is weight to the Welsh sentiment that an elusive second victory against the Africans is at hand considering their near flawless romping of their fellow Six Nations teams earlier this year. It is my feeling, however, that in true British form, they are getting slightly ahead of themselves.
It is well documented that all it takes for a British rugby team to start crowing like a cock at sunrise is one solitary win over their southern hemisphere rivals. Not a series of consecutive wins. Not an away series victory. ONE SOLITARY WIN. England are perhaps the biggest culprits of this unfounded arrogance’s. Who can forget the cries coming from within their isle professing that England had resurfaced as a power in world rugby after their shock victory over the AB’s last November? After this weekend’s victory against a horrid Wallabies team it came as no surprise to hear that the English believe they now have what it takes to steal the Bok’s number two spot on the IRB rankings. Steady on mate. That’s one victory. Mate. The Welsh seem to be following in the footsteps of the English neighbours.
Yes the Welsh did make up the majority of the B&I Lions squad who went downunder earlier this year and beat the Wallabies in their first series win since 1997. Yes their coach was Warren Gatland and yes he is the current head coach of Wales. Whilst this is all true it is impulsive to suddenly feel that you have a shot at taking a team like the Springboks. Before I too become impulsive, let’s take a step back for a second and have a look at what the B&I Lions achieved and how much gravitas it potentially holds.
Australia have been a team in turmoil for some time now. A combination of internal politics, player arrogance and a difference in coaching philosophies has seen them slowly deteriorate into the timid team we saw this past weekend at Twickenham. They lack confidence and are in need of leaders who put the team before themselves and their Twitter accounts and whilst the results have still gone their way – to a degree – in recent seasons the writing was on the wall in Australasia. The Lions beat this team and whilst I don’t wish to take anything away from their achievement – as touring Australia isn’t easy – it holds little sway when compared to the Bok season, which was equally impressive.
The Springboks produced a season unseen in the southern hemisphere since Jake White’s era almost seven years ago. Their combination of brute force, unrelenting physicality and willingness to score tries has seen them brazenly place themselves as the only team in world rugby able to make the All Blacks truly sweat. Whilst a victory over those Kiwi pricks was not achieved this season, some serious steps were made and belief garnered by the slumbering giants. Let’s not forget that during this year’s Rugby Championships they too travelled to Australia and handsomely whipped the home team on their way to an – albeit rare – double over the Wallabies. Whilst the Springboks will be the first to point out that they are by no means at their best they will take confidence from their showing at the Rugby Championships and quietly believe that they have what it takes to scoop another undefeated trip to the northern hemisphere.
It is clear that both teams have had decent season. Perhaps the real difference between the two teams this weekend is the mindsets within the two camps which are all to often accentuated by pre-match verbal battles. Whilst the Welsh feel it necessary to tell the world how far they’ve come and what they will do, the Boks are content to simply smile and humbly get the job done. They don’t need to boast about their season. The don’t need to prove that they are on the right path. They don’t need to tell the world that they are establishing themselves as serious contenders at RWC2015. For them it’s not about that. For them it’s about picking up from where they last left off. It’s about improving. Building. It’s about smashing those pesky Welshmen to the point where they won’t want to be reminded by their press as to who they played this weekend as their bodies will keep them fully aware of it.
Let’s go Bokke!
You stay classy.