It’s been a year of unfortunate interruptions, but the Springboks still have every hope of creating a lasting dynasty, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
On Monday, recollections and memories flooded in as we celebrated the first anniversary of the Springboks’ World Cup triumph.
In a year in which the Springboks have been unable to play any Test rugby due to the pandemic, and during times when there was no sport on the go, highlights and reruns were played over and over again.
It was a much-needed way to provide rugby-mad supporters with some semblance of enjoyment during lockdown, but it’s probably fair to say that the celebrations of the 2019 achievements are now a thing of the past.
It’s time to start looking ahead and, rest assured, the Springbok management has begun in earnest to plot and plan for the 2021 British & Irish Lions series. This started the moment it was confirmed the Boks would not be participating in the Rugby Championship this year.
One of the things we were reminded of during the insightful ‘Chasing the Sun’ documentary series is just how meticulous the Springboks prepared for the World Cup campaign, and it will be no different as the Lions series looms.
Of course, it’s a major setback that the Springboks weren’t able to ride the wave of World Cup momentum into an unprecedented 2020, but this will hardly be a factor anyone is dwelling on.
What the Boks can control is ensuring every possible piece of analysis and preparation is undertaken, with the national coaches already heading round to the various franchises to continue working towards alignment and collaboration.
With the focus remaining firmly on a full-strength local competition, the Springbok coaches will have been thrilled to see the emergence of youngsters such as Stedman Gans, the renewed form of the likes of Marco van Staden and even a throwback to the good old days from Morne Steyn.
Some players – and teams – have battled to hit the ground running after such an extended break from action, but this performance trajectory should naturally show an upturn as the competition progresses.
Overseas, there have been a few worrying injuries to top players, but the likes of Lood de Jager, Handre Pollard and RG Snyman should all be fit for the Lions series, while it can’t be forgotten that assistant coach Felix Jones remains based abroad to serve as the go-between for all parties.
The fact remains that the Springboks’ coaching staff has remained largely intact from the World Cup group, while just Beast Mtawarira, Schalk Brits and Francois Louw have headed into retirement.
If one takes a look at the original 31-man World Cup squad that was selected – excluding the recent retirees – the average age of the players is a very healthy 28.
The majority of players, who now boast the experience of 2019’s historic achievements, still have another World Cup cycle in them.
It’s a formidable prospect, especially when you factor in the all-important coaching succession of the Erasmus-Nienaber dream team.
After all, it’s been particularly rare for Bok coaches to be afforded the opportunity to continue after a World Cup year.
And, yes, the World Cup-winning Springboks have ‘lost’ a year, but there is no denying the potential for this group to remain poised to achieve sustainable success that goes far beyond a fairytale 2019.