Test of character

As the World Cup afterglow begins to fade, South African players will need to renew their motivation, writes former Springbok STEFAN TERBLANCHE.

What a difference a year makes. Thinking back to 12 months ago, I must admit that I and, I’m sure, the South African public in general were on a completely different rugby planet. Very few would have predicted a World Cup victory, never mind a near-perfect demolition job of Eddie Jones’ England team in the final. We may still be smiling and basking in World Cup glory, but with Vodacom Super Rugby about to kick off, we are all, to be brutally honest, in for a rude wake-up call.

I am not sure how to feel about this year’s Super Rugby challenge and I’m also very aware of a few concerns going into the first couple of rounds. The hangover for the World Cup players will be very real, and that’s understandable after such a fantastic World Cup tournament and display of precision rugby.

The South African rugby franchises were again raided by overseas teams but that’s nothing new and something that will continue, especially when our national team is doing well. Also, if we for one moment think the All Blacks will have forgotten the hurt of not making a World Cup final after winning back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2015, we are again in for a very rude awakening. The New Zealand teams will be firing on all cylinders and will have a point to prove.

I will look at the Super Rugby teams with a magnifying glass during the early rounds of Super Rugby, but for now it should all be about the players wrapping up an incredible few months, putting their boots back on and doing what they do best. It’s a well-known fact most professional sportsmen often battle to find form and real motivation after tasting success at the highest level. This is even more prevalent when taking some time off afterwards. Over the next few months players will learn a lot about themselves and the real reason they started playing rugby.

During my career I used many forms of motivation to keep me going. These World Cup winners are now not only household names in South Africa, but also ‘marked’ men every time they take the field over the next four years, until the World Cup in France. All the players will be measured by their direct opposition, who are out to prove a point, and every international team will want to knock the Boks off their pedestal.

The All Blacks handled that position remarkably well and it will be interesting to see how the Boks cope with the added pressure come Test time. It will take a while for the SA teams and the players to settle and I predict a slow start for SA teams in Super Rugby. It’s by no means all doom and gloom, but it will take character and willpower to get any of our teams through to the semi-finals.

*Terblanche is a former Springbok who earned 37 Test caps. He is now the CEO of the SA Rugby Legends Association and served as a member of World Rugby’s judicial committee at the 2019 World Cup. His column was brought to you by Tuttle Insurance Brokers.