Who’s afraid of the Springboks? I am, for one

Likeabute Roar Rookie

By Likeabute, Likeabute is a Roar Rookie

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    The Wallabies are back in action on Saturday, taking on South Africa in Perth, and I’m worried that the Springboks will bully us off the park. But then I’ve been worrying about the Springboks ever since I first saw them play, back in 1971 at the SCG.

    I was 11 years old and they frightened the hell out of me. As somebody sitting next to me said when the Boks ran out onto the field, “Jeez, ain’t they big.”

    A quick peek at the stats of some of their great names reveals the Boks have always been big – tighthead CJ Van der Linde and loosehead Os du Randt were both 6′ 3″ and 135 kg. Back rowers Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts were 6,4″ and 120 kg.

    Andre Venter, another flanker, was even bigger – 6′ 5″ and 131 kg!

    When you’re that size you’re supposed to be considered a lock, but the Boks didn’t want any shrimps in the second row, which is why Bakkies Botha held down the job for 85 Tests. The first time I saw Bakkies, I figured Dr Frankenstein had called up the SARU and told them their rugby player was ready.

    As for Bakkies’ partner, Victor Matfield, he owned the air rights of most lineouts. If somebody had the temerity to take the ball away from Victor, then Bakkies – sworn nemesis of evil doers – would mete out fast and suitable punishment.

    Back to Perth and why I’m scared.

    The Boks’ front row is more than a little formidable. Tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen has remarkable pace for a monster. He’s currently nursing a sore rib but is expected to start.

    Hooker Malcolm Marx, unstoppable from five metres out, was man of the match in one of the recent Tests against the French. And loosehead Beast Mtawarira, 94 caps, doesn’t just run the ball, he hurls himself at defenders. When he goes off in the second half, scrum opponents don’t get much relief because Steven Kitshoff comes on and bends arms.

    In the engine room, the Boks have Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert, the latter who gives way to Pieter-Steph du Toit, who’ll continue the torture.

    The Wallabies have a very good second row but Etzebeth is one of the best in the world (I sometimes scan the Hollywood trades to see if Eben is going to be the new Wolverine or the new leader of the Avengers but, so far, no news).

    So that’s the Boks’ front five and I cannot see our front five getting much change out of them.

    Prospects further darken when we compare back rows. Australia’s consists of a hard-working captain, an undersized No.8 with a lot of heart, and a non-carrying 6 who frowns a lot.

    The tourists’ back row, on the other hand, is pretty damn good. Siya Kolisi, at 6, keeps scoring tries and crunching people, Jaco Kriel at 7 runs like a centre and hits like a howitzer, and eightman Uzair Cassiem, with his speed and chase-down ability, gives a good imitation of Kieran Read.

    But are our backs good enough to overcome the disparity up front?

    Alas, no.

    Personally, I’ll be watching the game at home and cheering for the Wallabies. As for my phobia, my brother-in-law says I’m crazy to sit in front of a TV screen wearing a cycling helmet.

    Maybe so, but when South Africa are playing, it makes me feel safer.