There are several signs pointing to another successful Springbok World Cup campaign, writes SIMNIKIWE XABANISA.
Of the many things that keep rugby hacks busy, the inordinate amount of time we spend looking for signs so we can pretend to be able to tell the future is underrated.
For example, when Tendai Mtawarira starts whispering not-so-sweet nothings to his opposite number – like he’s taken to doing this year – after pick-pocketing him for a scrum penalty, we exchange knowing looks in the press box about the Beast being, ahem, in beast mode.
In a World Cup year, that search for omens has been known to reach fever pitch, with the links particularly tenuous at times.
Because we have no clue who will emerge victorious in Japan, in a year in which any of the All Blacks, the Springboks, England, Ireland and Wales all have realistic claims for would-be world champions, we scour the past for coincidences which might inform our predictions.
And so you get missives like this one, drawing parallels between the Springboks’ pending World Cup campaign and victories past.
I did a similar story before the Proteas left for their World Cup in England earlier this year, but in the midst of all that hope springing eternal, I ignored the choking elephant in the room as they have never won the tournament before.
Having won the Webb Ellis Cup twice before (in 1995 and 2007), the Springboks have no such glaring issues. If anything, the 12-year gap between the first two World Cup victories has suddenly become instructive for us would-be clairvoyants as a broad hint that the Boks are due another win, what with the last victory having taken place a dozen years ago.
As steadily as he has grown – and some may say as slow as he’s become – over the years since his introduction to international rugby as a man-child with angelic features 13 years ago, utility back Frans Steyn might object to similarities being drawn between him and ex-Bok prop Os du Randt.
Like Du Randt in 2007, though, Steyn is the only player in this World Cup squad who has actually won the thing.
While Du Randt rescued what might have been an understated career for a man of his outrageous gifts by coming back from retirement to win a second World Cup, Steyn finds himself in a similar position, having received only 60 Bok caps in 12 years despite being a once-in-a-generation player.
Prop Mtawarira will have no qualms being compared to Du Randt as he, too, approaches his third World Cup as the Boks’ most-capped loosehead prop in history.
For some reason there seems to be a need for a Maritzburg College product to be in a Rugby World Cup-winning squad. Flyhalf Joel Stransky was that man in 1995, and fellow stand-off Butch James took over the mantle in 2007, and now centre Jesse Kriel has it.
Thankfully the latter is sturdily built for the weight on his shoulders, given that his missed tackle ensured that he features prominently in the lowlights from the Boks’ horror movie against Japan in Brighton at the last World Cup.
There are other, more frivolous, serendipities within the squad, such as a lock forward in Eben Etzebeth who loves hurting the opposition as much as Bakkies Botha did all those years ago, and a long-haired lock (RG Snyman) whose offloading game means he has ambitions as a centre, like a certain Victor Matfield did.
And of course, how can we forget a foreign consultant named (Felix) Jones joining the team on their last week before departure? Remember Eddie Jones in ’07?
Not to put too fine a point on it, the Rugby Championship win has shown that the Boks have a bit more than coincidences going for their chances of winning the World Cup. And should they reach the final this year, they must remember that the magic number of points is 15 (the final score in 1995 was 15-12 and 15-6 some 12 years later).
Photo: EPA/Jan Touzeau