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Mark Keohane

Bumbling Boks to stumble again


Danny Care against the Boks Danny Care against the Boks

The Springboks will lose to England. It won’t be the humiliation of the Durban debacle against the All Blacks but it will be as emphatic, writes MARK KEOHANE

England don’t have the skill to score nine tries. This will be more slow poison than breathtaking knockdowns.

It is no crime to hope for a Bok win, but it is madness or absolute ignorance to expect a Bok win.

On what basis?

Nothing about the season suggests the Boks should come within a score of victory. Nothing about the squad quality supports a victorious pro-Bok belief.

So, if your support is based on the Boks simply being your team and you being South African, then go, you beauties. Invest in patriotism but don’t confuse the disappointment with defeat on Saturday with the players lacking patriotism.

They, like the current coaching staff, aren’t good enough to beat a settled, structured and well-coached England at Twickenham.

The Boks haven’t lost to England at Twickenham since 2006 and haven’t lost in 12 Tests. It will br lucky 13 for England but there will be perspective within English rugby after the win. The opposition will wear green and gold and be called the Boks, but they are imposters to those Bok teams that have kept England winless since 2006.

England will win and the Boks will drop to five or six in the world order for 2016 – and that’s a reflection of their current standing and quality.

Can it change?

Of course it can. The right coach, the right selections and the right match-day performance can turn it around in a season. Ask England.

They were the joke of the 2015 World Cup. They didn’t even qualify for the last eight of their home World Cup. Australia embarrassed them with a 20-point beating. A year later they had beaten Australia three times in three weeks in Australia.

The playing squad wasn’t very different to that which looked impotent and clueless at the World Cup but the coach was new in Eddie Jones, so too the support staff, so too a few combinations and so too the mentality.

Jones has given England an on-field arrogance and strut when at the World Cup all the arrogance and strut was to be found in purple prose on mobile screens, and in newspaper and magazine print.

The Boks are at a low point and I’d rank 2016 the equal of 1992 in terms of just how inferior the Boks are when measured against the best in the world.

It can be fixed with honesty and introspection and to acknowledge the situation is a sign of strength and patriotism because it allows for the fixing to start.

To deny it, is to combine ignorance with arrogance and that will only lead to heartache on Saturday night, which invariably will translate into social media vitriol, attacks on any black player’s right to a Springbok team and the stated view (as fact) that transformation and politics have destroyed the Springboks … FOREVER!

Again, ignorance can be a roaring giant if not mowed down swiftly by that king slayer called FACT.

Fact: This is not the worst-performing Springbok team.

Fact: That belongs exclusively to the white class of the 1960s, more specifically 1964-65, who lost seven Tests in succession to France, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.

Fact: The Boks, from 1961-70, lost 20 of 46 Test matches for a 56.5 win percentage.

Fact: The only thing black about that era of Springbok was the way some of the players drank their coffee.

Fact: Political interference dominated team selections in the 1960s more than any current-day political interference. Only then the politics was conservative, right-wing and exclusive to investment in the belief of white rugby-playing Afrikaans superiority.

Fact: Among Bok rugby’s most celebrated and greatest players, according to folklore, wore the famed Bok jersey in the decade 1960-1970.

Fact: These players, who lost to the likes of Scotland and took a beating from the All Blacks, that in modern-day scoring was worth 30 points, included: Jannie Engelbrecht, John Gainsford, Dawie de Villiers, Avril Malan, Jan Ellis, Mannetjies Roux and South Africa’s Player of the Century, Frik du Preez.

Age dulls the reality of history and allows for perception to parade as fact.

The Boks, historically, have been worse than in 2016 and they have risen again through the quality of a new cycle of players and coaches.

Think back to the era of the 1960s and take comfort that as bad as it gets at Twickenham on Saturday, it still isn’t as bad as it got in 1964-65.

And as bad as it was then, it got better again.

The good news is the Boks will rise again.

The bad news is it won’t be at Twickenham and it won’t be under the current coaching regime.

*Keohane is editor of SA Rugby ​magazine. Read his views on www.sarugbymag.co.za and twitter.com/mark_keohane

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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