The Springboks have once again demonstrated their penchant for displaying ‘superior discontent’ in a week where South Africa as a nation also refused to be defeated, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The term ‘superior discontent’ was first coined by current Bok coach Jacques Nienaber during an interview in the popular ‘Chasing the Sun’ documentary.
Referencing a period where the Springboks defended for over 20 phases and more than three minutes in the World Cup final, he explained how the players had epitomised a “refusal to be defeated”.
It spoke to a typically South African resilience.
Indeed, when faced with adversity, when things become personal, South Africans typically respond with a fighting spirit that brings the best out of them.
Particularly over the past couple of weeks, the Springboks have found their tenacity being put to the test.
A widespread Covid-19 outbreak throughout the camp forced players and management into isolation in their hotel rooms. Some have been badly affected. Training has been severely disrupted. The second Test against Georgia had to be cancelled. Nienaber has had to coach ‘virtually’ while isolating. Captain Siya Kolisi also tested positive and has been removed from the group.
Having to leave several squad members behind, the available Bok group travelled from Gauteng to the Cape earlier this week, had a couple of days’ training, and then tackled the British & Irish Lions on Wednesday night.
As revealed by the Springbok players, they expected the Lions to “come for them” in a match that effectively served as an unofficial fourth Test, but the South Africa A side was determined to lay down a marker.
For what was essentially a Springbok team playing just their second game since the 2019 World Cup on Wednesday, the performance undoubtedly exceeded expectations.
There was a ferocity from the SA A side that rattled the Lions in the early exchanges, forced the opposition into errors, and reminded them that the strengths and fighting spirit of this Bok group remains firmly intact despite the challenges recently faced.
Just before half time, the South Africans threw themselves into an extended period of defence that was reminiscent of the effort in the World Cup final, and also served as a reminder of how Duane Vermeulen once described that Bok mentality as drawing a line in the sand and simply refusing to allow the opposition to cross it.
If the Boks are going to overcome the Lions in the upcoming three-Test series, it’s this spirit that they are going to have to channel into their performances.
The buildup to this series has been farcical at times, but South Africa has made a plan as only South Africans can, and it’s an intangible spirit that is a unique trump card for the Springboks.
The signs on Wednesday night offered hints to suggest adversity has somehow drawn this Bok group even closer together.
Don’t underestimate the value of that, particularly in relation to a Lions squad comprised of four different nations drawn together with limited time to build a defining team culture.
It also cannot be overlooked that the SA A game on Wednesday came against the backdrop of a country in turmoil as political unrest raged through KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
It’s taken a terrible toll on the country, and the costs are still being counted, but the response from many South Africans was to remain united in a time of crisis. To draw a line in the sand, to refuse to be defeated, to display ‘superior discontent’.
All in all, there have been powerful reminders of the innate strength and resilience of South African people when our backs are against the wall.
It’s why the Springboks can never be written off against the British & Irish Lions. There is a ‘superior discontent’ that courses through the veins of these players, and it’s a driving force that is as powerful as it is Proudly South African.