Happy Boks inspire fans
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!