Why being third is good for the Springboks

By Lucky Maree

After the loss to Ireland, the Springboks have slipped to third in the world rankings behind France.

Ireland remains number one with 93.79 points, France is second with 90.59 and South Africa is third with 89.70.

While these numbers are not taken seriously by the teams themselves as they are virtually irrelevant, particularly at this stage of the World Cup, it is nonetheless a sobering wake-up call for the Springbok squad that there is still a lot of work to be done for them to win the World Cup.

There is no doubt that Ireland were the better team on the day.

Seeing Eben Etzebeth being lifted into the air by the Irish forwards was a terrifying sight. 

Etzebeth, helpless with his backside in the air, seemed so embarrassingly… human. Stuff like that doesn’t happen to the best lock in the world!

Watching Bundee Aki making that momentum-changing charge through the centre of the South African backline was unreal.

Watching Deon Fourie skewing a throw-in to the front of the line-out when the Boks were in the perfect scoring position, was gut-wrenching.

How many South African fans shouted “Don’t do it!” at their TV screens when Faf de Klerk went for a 55-metre marginal place kick with a greasy ball? And how many South Africans went, “please, please, please,” when Manie Libbok took so long lining up his kicks, only to hook them to the left of the uprights? 

Between De Klerk and Libbok, they squandered 11 points that could have swung the game in South Africa’s favour. 

And yet, there can be no better time for the Springboks, the coaches, and the fans to step back and acquire a little humility.

When the very best teams in the world compete at the pinnacle of any sport, the margins are very small.

As Springbok head coach Jacques Nienaber graciously said: “We were beaten by the better team on the night.”

And yet, South Africa lost by only five points (picking up a valuable losing bonus point) and came very close to winning the match in the last movement of the match.

The reality is the Springboks have problems and we have to confront them.

Manie Libbok may one day be seen as a great Springbok flyhalf, but he is not going to recover his confidence enough to become a reliable kicker.

Bongi Mbonambi, has turned into a great hooker (almost overnight it seems), but it is dangerous to expect him to pack in the front row for 80 minutes – and what if he gets injured?

The team for this weekend’s match is much more significant than just playing Tonga.

Nienaber and South African Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus know this. Their selection for the Springbok team is interesting.

And as for overconfidence? Losing to Ireland may just be the medicine the team needed to get them to focus a little more sharply on the job at hand.

Pictured above: Springboks leaving the pitch after playing Ireland

Image source: Springboks


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