JJ Harmse

Pick the best team and coach!

2011-10-27 11:53
Sport24 columnist JJ Harmse (File)
JJ Harmse

The Rugby World Cup is finally over and by the time you read this, all of the South African journalists who travelled to New Zealand to cover the Springboks and their glorious defence of the Webb Ellis Cup, will be back home.

Some of them returned shortly after the quarter-final defeat against Australia, but most of us stayed until the end. Having some good mates in the New Zealand media who stuck around in Paris in 2007, I only now realise how brave they were to do that.

New Zealand is a wonderful country and we will long remember the great times of RWC 2011. The reality though is that, without the Springboks being part of it in the last two weeks, it was just horrible from a rugby perspective.

I honestly believe that we were the only team that was capable of beating the All Blacks on any given day during the tournament, especially with the shackles of knock-out rugby that seems to grip them, but the fact is that we could not do so because we lost to the Wallabies.

In a way, the fact that the Boks were out of town very early the next morning, and as I understand, some of them had to fly via Bangkok and Dubai, was good justice served on them.

But even if I did want to curse them, I could barely bring myself to that. I think they all know what a great chance they blew. Yes, they did let the country down and they did let all of their supporters down, but they also let themselves down. And knowing how proud a group of players they were, I am sure it will haunt them for a long time. I hope it does.

But also, having to stay behind in New Zealand was a good thing for me as a rugby fan. It was incredible to see how much passion they have for the game and how much rugby is part of their daily lives. New Zealanders live and breathe the All Blacks. That is the way it is and it makes me jealous.

Of course the Springboks had their opportunities to become the soul of South African society and in 1995 did more for national building that will ever be fully understood, but at the moment they are not where they need to be.

I am not suggesting that the Springboks should equal the All Blacks in their national standing, as New Zealand only have just over four million people and with their cricket team being pretty average, the All Blacks have almost sole claim to the hearts and minds of the public.

The Springboks have to battle with soccer, as poor as Bafana Bafana are, the Proteas (outside of World Cups) and even the likes of the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks for support. But the reality is that the Springboks also have to fight their own demons as well as those created by politicians.

In the perfect world we are trying to create and in our efforts to be politically correct at all times, we make mistakes that cost us World Cups - and will cost us another one in 2015 if SA Rugby does not make the right calls with regards to a coach for the next four years.

We need to be sensitive because of past discrepancies in our game, but we must also move on. The average fan does not care what the colour of the Springboks are or, more importantly, what the colour of the coach is. They support the team because they represent us and because they win. Because they are good enough to be the world champions. Or at least, that should be the expectation.

The Springboks can beat any other team in world rugby. They have showed that again and again. What they have also showed, is some inconsistency and that is the one element we can get rid of. Forget about World Cups and building towards them. The two disgraceful defeats suffered in Sydney and Wellington during this year’s Tri-Nations, in the name of World Cup preparation, must never, ever be repeated.
The Springboks should play every Test match to win and the only way to achieve that and to give them the best possible chance is to pick the best team and the best coach. That cannot be THAT difficult, can it?

Allow me to say ‘Ka kite ano’ to all those wonderful people who made the last two months in New Zealand a great experience. Enjoy that Webb Ellis Cup, your team deserves to lay claim to that. But be warned, the 'real owners' want it back in 2015. As we say over here, “hier kom die Bokke!” 

Read JJ every Sunday in Rapport.

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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