A series of decisive moments from key players in Sunday’s semi-final showcased the immense character and fighting spirit that have come to define this Springbok side, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Sunday’s semi-final win over Wales threatened to turn into a horror show, with the first half in particular leaving most viewers exasperated with the over-reliance on kicking and some basic errors. If the Boks had gone on to lose this game, all hell would have broken loose.
After all, Wales illustrated that they too are a side filled with guts and gumption, but the Springboks were always expected to come up trumps. In the end, just three points separated the two teams, and the Boks will be more than happy to celebrate an ‘ugly win’.
However, Rassie Erasmus will know that there is lot more required of his charges if they are to overcome imperious England in the final, but we’ll get to that in the days to come.
For now, the Boks deserve due credit. This was a semi-final about as tense as you’d imagine a dinner date between Donald Trump and Barack Obama would be. And when a superb try by Josh Adams drew the scores level at 16-16, it looked as if it could be heading towards an extra-time dessert.
But the Boks weren’t done by any stretch of the imagination.
As Wales looked to win some territory and potentially set up Rhys Patchell for a drop goal, Francois Louw proved his immense value with a defining turnover. Give that man a Bells.
There was more to come. The Boks won territory and a penalty, which was coolly slotted by Handre Pollard under all sorts of pressure.
Then Faf de Klerk relieved the remaining pressure with a beautiful kick deep into Wales territory. Replacement Franco Mostert won the turnover at the lineout.
Then three front-row members of the ‘bomb squad’ helped deliver a powerful scrum to win another penalty. Pollard popped the ball into touch at the final whistle. Cue delirious celebrations.
The Boks are in their first World Cup final since 2007, and it will be a rematch against the selfsame England. Anyone who believes in good omens will understandably draw plenty of parallels between that successful campaign and this one.
Ultimately, for all the flaws and nerves that the Springboks displayed in Sunday’s semi-final, they were able to emerge triumphant based on a few pieces of individual brilliance, but also a fighting spirit and dogged refusal to be denied, which is a prevalent theme throughout the squad.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Springboks would have capitulated under the pressure applied by Wales, and lost belief in their plan due to the enormity of the occasion.
Yet, as Siya Kolisi highlighted in the immediate aftermath of this game, the Springboks knew that the most important thing for the Boks was to stick to what they knew best.
This is a team made of stronger stuff. This is a team under the leadership of Rassie Erasmus and Kolisi who believe they are ‘stronger together’.
The fact is that no matter what happens next weekend, win or lose, this Springbok team has already soared to immense heights just by reaching the final two of the World Cup.
Yes, a team that lost 57-0 to the All Blacks just over two years ago is in the final of the World Cup!
Where are the All Blacks now?
Just how far have the Boks come?
It’s been some journey. One that is already worth celebrating.
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