Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - With 100 days to go until the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, South African Rugby Union (SARU) CEO Jurie Roux has challenged the Springboks to become legends of the game by defending the crown they won in France in 2007.
In declaring the game in South Africa in a healthy state, Roux called on South Africans to get behind their team, which he believes could retain the title, and so become the first team in history to win back-to-back World Cups.
Roux described the challenge for the Springboks as the "ultimate carrot" and believed they could become legends of the game if they defended their title. He was satisfied with the meticulous planning that the Boks had done and believed all boxes would be ticked by the time they head to New Zealand.
"We are far down the line in terms of our preparations. We have a sophisticated plan worked out, down to the tee. The detail has been done and it has been done a number of months ago," Roux said of the Boks' preparations.
"The team itself is well prepared; it is a team that has a number of senior caps in it and a wealth of experience. What we are trying to drive at the moment is to try and get them to retain the World Cup, because none of them have done that and nobody has done that before. That is the carrot there for them, to be part of a legend in rugby and make that legend for themselves."
Roux believes the strong showing in the Super Rugby competition by local teams, back to back victories for the Blitzbokke in the IRB Sevens Series and a strong challenge about to be mounted by the Baby Boks in the IRB Junior Championship all point to a healthy state of affairs.
While the Sharks, Bulls and Stormers all have a chance to qualify for the Super Rugby playoff rounds, recent form by the perennial bottom-dwellers - the Lions and Cheetahs - has been very positive for South African rugby while the relative lack of injuries among the senior Springbok players has also been pleasing.
"We are very happy with the teams that are winning, especially the Lions and the Cheetahs. It shows there is resurgence in South African rugby and hopefully we can carry that forward to the World Cup," Roux said.
"I would like to think that South African rugby is far healthier now. We always had a team or two in the bottom teams in the competition, and it is now Australia that has taken over that position bar one team. I'd like to think our rugby is a lot healthier at the moment."