Boks are on right track

Pretoria News Weekend - - OPINION -

THE SPRING­BOKS con­tinue to do their coun­try proud and the por­tents are good that our na­tional rugby team is lay­ing sound foun­da­tions for the Rugby World Cup a year from now.

This sea­son, SA Rugby’s di­rec­tor of rugby, Rassie Eras­mus, sec­onded him­self to the Spring­bok coach­ing po­si­tion, tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ru­inous state of our na­tional team.

The pre­vi­ous two years had been dis­as­trous for the Spring­boks, with hu­mil­i­at­ing de­feats mount­ing and sup­port­ers in de­spair. Eras­mus, who had forged his rep­u­ta­tion coach­ing Ire­land gi­ants Mun­ster be­fore re­turn­ing to South Africa mid­way through 2017, is well known as a metic­u­lous and strate­gic plan­ner. In June we saw the first fruits of his prepa­ra­tion when the Boks won a se­ries against Eng­land, play­ing a stir­ring brand of rugby. At Kings Park against Ar­gentina on Satur­day – the Boks’ first ac­tion since June – we saw them shake off the cob­webs in the first half be­fore find­ing their rhythm in the sec­ond to run in a suc­ces­sion of ex­cel­lent tries.

Eras­mus’s com­mit­ment to trans­form­ing the Spring­boks was ev­i­dent in that we saw five of their six tries scored by black play­ers. There were two apiece for bril­liant young wings Aphiwe Dyan­tyi (the Lions) and Maka­zole Mapimpi (the Sharks), with an­other Shark in Lukhanyo Am also scor­ing. Fur­ther, there was the pleas­ing sight of 20-year-old Damian Willemse (Storm­ers) be­ing given a sur­prise de­but in the fly­half po­si­tion.

An in­di­ca­tion of the good things hap­pen­ing in this Spring­bok team was the ster­ling per­for­mance of warhorse Eben Etze­beth (Storm­ers), the cap­tain last year who had not played so much as a minute of rugby since be­ing in­jured in Novem­ber in Cardiff.

The 68-cap vet­eran gave a rous­ing per­for­mance, af­ter­wards say­ing he could not get enough of the good feel­ing so ev­i­dent in the team.

The Spring­boks play the Pu­mas in a re­turn match in Men­doza, Ar­gentina, tonight. It’s not easy to play in Ar­gentina th­ese days, but we wish our Boks well.

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