Thursday, October 25, 2007
The Boks Reloaded (INCLUDES SLIDESHOW)
Rugga Zone, Supersport's infinitely inferior cousin, dished up a worthwhile show, I thought, last night. There were some interesting interviews with John Smit, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Jake White.
In the highlights package of the final, it was also easier to step back and see how the game unravelled. At the end of the first half, South Africa were poised to score. Bryan Habana was calling for the ball, and the Boks were determined to bulldoze their way through. If they had gone with the song - gee die bal vir Bryan - he could have run up and down the track 2 metres from the tryline until he found a gap. If anyone could pull that sort of thing off, it's the Habana speedster. But it was not to be, and Boks had to settle for 3 points from a penalty.
This incident was mirrored by the opposing side at the start of the second half. England came very close to scoring; but thanks to Matfield, Tait was brought down when it seemed like he had a red carpet laid out for him to the try line. Rossouw's tackle on Cueto proved to be just as valuable as JP Pietersen's lifesaver against Fiji. It was very close, but it wasn't a try. And just like the Boks, they got 3 points for the effort.
John Smit, dabbing at the few remaining stitches to his eyelid during the interview - in itself this looked painful, the hand tugging at the still healing gash to his eyelid - recalled a turning point. It was at 20/20 in the Fiji game. He reminded the boys of all the work, everything that had gone into 4 years. He points out that from there the guys went forward to the end. This was the decisive moment, but it was comprised of plenty of sweat and tears leading up to it. In this sense it's interesting to what extent the mind, and belief play. Permission has to be given to accept one's destiny. It's a real choice.
What was also evident in the final was Wilkenson's kicks. Both of his kicks that went through, only just went through. One bounced in; the other scraped through. And that was the sum of all their points in the final. Two fairly lucky kicks. They were lucky not to have lost 15-0 orm if the Boks had crossed the tryline, 22 or worse - 0.
Meanwhile, the fact that Tobie Flood wasn't sibinned for his bit of mischief (notce how quickly he repented) against Monty shows how inconsistent the standards were with the citing committees and all the rest. Good for Monty he first steered the R250 000 camera out the way before colliding into it. But it was very bad sportsmanship from Mr Flood.
On another track, just before Monty vaulted over the barrier, the GOOMPED him on the head. The Bushmen would have found that particularly funny though. Did I say 'GOOMP'? I meant: Koh KWAH!
Francois Steyn also proved instrumental in 'making a difference'. Sometimes these went awry, but crucially, they often created the vital break. This guy has an amazing future ahead of him. His coach must make sure, in the coming years, he doesn't sustain egregious bodily harm though. On the other hand, he's a big boy; he may be able to take a pounding whilst handing them out.
Jake White particularly impressed me. He gave Eddie Jones a lot of credit; saying that Jones was a sounding board for his ideas, and that Jones had 'been there before', although only managing a silver medal in the previous world cup. What impresses me about White is his ability to second guess himself alongside a solid sense of self belief. Here's a guy who is prepared to graft, ready to look at every detail, how to do it better, and then does not get lost in the successes afterward.
But right now, New Zealand and other teams, and their coaching staff are probably wondering: Is White The Right Man For An All Black Team? Er...
To watch a slideshow of the final, click here.