Happy Boks in­spire fans

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

WHEN a team wins, the crowds will pour through the gates to watch them. That sim­ple tru­ism of sport was dra­mat­i­cally il­lus­trated dur­ing the rugby Test se­ries be­tween South Africa and France.

Lof­tus in Pre­to­ria is one of the strongholds of South African rugby, yet there were plenty of empty seats when the Boks ran out for the first Test against the Tri­col­ores three weeks ago.

The fans were un­der­stand­ably scep­ti­cal af­ter last year’s hor­ror show, which saw the men in green and gold win four out of 12 Tests.

The con­vinc­ing Bok vic­tory at Lof­tus, though, boosted ticket sales for the sec­ond Test in Dur­ban.

And what hap­pened af­ter the Boks clinched the se­ries? The fans un­packed their Bok jer­seys and their scarves and opened their wal­lets (and their hearts) in sup­port of the Bok cause. And so the Boks were greeted by more than 55 000 fans at El­lis Park, de­spite it be­ing a dead-rub­ber Test.

No won­der a beam­ing coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee said af­ter the game that there is new life in the Boks.

In­deed, the Spring­boks look a com­pletely dif­fer­ent team from the shambles of last year.

Coet­zee has done well to build his team around the Lions, and they have added a sharp edge to the Bok at­tack.

On de­fence, too, there has been great im­prove­ment. Bren­dan Ven­ter has brought his or­gan­i­sa­tional skills to the team, and there have been long pe­ri­ods of sus­tained and heroic de­fence.

Im­por­tantly, you get the feeling from the side­lines that this is a happy Bok team. The smiles and celebrations af­ter the tries said a lot about the new spirit in the side.

A word of cau­tion: Coet­zee, his lieu­tenants and the play­ers will know that the true test still lies ahead. The All Blacks are the undis­puted rulers of the rugby king­dom, as they showed against the Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions in Auck­land.

They lie in wait for the Boks in the up­com­ing Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

But, in the mean­time, a hearty round of ap­plause to Coet­zee, cap­tain War­ren White­ley and the Boks.

Well done, Bokke!

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