Tank Lanning

Easy South Africa

2013-10-03 09:50
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

See Beast Mtawarira's journey to reach 50 Springbok Tests in pictures.

So 84% of Sport24 readers (according to a poll this week) are predicting a Springbok win against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, with 27% saying they will get the fourth try while denying the All Blacks a bonus point to claim the 2013 Rugby Championship title.

The average SuperBru pick, traditionally a pretty pro South African environment given the amount of South Africans that play, is a more circumspect “Boks by 4”, but it is incredible to see such huge expectation from the SA public.

The focus seems to be on not if the Boks will win the game, but more on by how much, and whether they will get the bonus point or not.

This against the best side in the world who have beaten the Boks in 49 of the 86 matches they have played, giving them a 57% win ratio in the greatest of all rugby rivalries.

Sure, things look a lot better at Ellis Park with the Boks having won 8 of the 11 encounters in Johannesburg, giving them a 72% win ratio, but most games have been pretty damn tight, with the biggest win being by 14 points.

Throwing some cold water on the party goers are those pesky realists, the bookies, with the BetFlash odds suggesting an All Black win, albeit by a grasshopper’s hamstring - the Boks are at 19/20, and the All Blacks are at 17/20.

The Boks are on the up, of that I have no doubt, but I am just wondering if this chasing of the bonus point is blurring the lines of reality a little? Will a win against the All Blacks on Saturday be seen as not good enough?

Before the tournament started, if offered an away loss and home win to the All Blacks, while beating both Australia and Argentina away and at home on the way to losing the Championship to the All Blacks by a single log point, I think most of us would have taken that.

Obviously the aim is to be the best side in the world, regularly beating the All Blacks both at home and away, but given where the Boks have come from over the last 4 or 5 years, I think a win on Saturday would be a seriously good, and highly acceptable, achievement.

To score 4 tries and deny the All Blacks any form of bonus point would be a truly extraordinary achievement, and take the most complete performance of any Bok team since readmission.

The fact that it is not completely out of the question is worthy of celebration in itself, and a credit to the kind of rugby this side is playing at the moment. And that, for me, is perhaps the most exciting thing about Springbok rugby right now – to hear coach Heyneke Meyer talking about embracing a more ball in hand type game is U2 to my ears. It is not only the way forward for Bok rugby, but rugby in general.

On August 14, 2004, South Africa beat New Zealand 40-26 at Ellis Park, scoring 5 tries to 2. Can this current crop rewind, push play, and repeat? Damn right they can, but my point remains that it would be a truly extraordinary feat, and one that we cannot rightfully expect.

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop and editor of the recently launched free monthly digital rugby magazine called SCRUM

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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