Ruan Combrinck says he experienced a wide range of emotions during a Bok debut that meant ‘everything and more' to him, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Johannesburg.
In the buildup to Saturday’s second Test against Ireland, Combrinck colourfully suggested to the media that he was so eager to play for the Boks that he was willing to ‘catch a cannon ball for my country’.
This passion was then plainly apparent when he came on as a half-time replacement at Ellis Park on Saturday, with the Boks trailing 19-3 and facing the very real prospect of losing a second successive Test to Ireland on home soil.
The Springboks were crying out for a catalyst to spark a much-needed comeback, and it came from Combrinck, who burst down the right-hand touchline, barged straight over the top of would-be tackler Paddy Jackson and dived over to score the Boks’ first try.
It signalled a momentum shift as the hosts regained some belief and began to play with accuracy and intent. By the end of the match, Combrinck had done enough to earn the Man of the Match award despite just playing for 40 minutes, while the Boks had salvaged a desperately important victory.
Immediately after the encounter, an emotional Combrinck described what the occasion had meant to him.
‘When I sang the national anthem and we walked off, I had this battle with myself, wondering how I did not cry, but I guess that comes down to the confidence that’s built up from playing non-stop rugby over the past few years. I was just so keen to get on the field and perform.’
Combrinck then got the call to replace Lwazi Mvovo at the start of the second half, and admits that the prospect of earning his first cap had been overwhelming.
‘We had to focus on what the coach said at half-time about executing his plans and attacking space. It wasn’t a good first half and the vibe I got out of the whole half-time chat was that we needed to pick up the intensity and stick to our processes. But once the coach told me I was going on, I could hardly remember anything, I just wanted to get out there and jol,’ he said with a laugh.
Some six minutes later and Combrinck was diving over the tryline, and celebrating with a passionate fist pump to the crowd.
‘It all happened so quickly, I need to watch it again,’ he reflected. ‘Willie [le Roux] created the space, and for my country, I’ll run through every wall I see. My mindset was just to do whatever I could to get over the tryline.
‘When we were still trailing [by nine points] after my try, though, I stood there, looked at the crowd and thought this is great to be here, but I also realised how much bigger this game is than my own ambitions. I’d happily play a crap game and have the team win rather than score a hat-trick and the team loses. This is for my country.’
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images