The Springboks will tell you that their win in the 2019 Rugby World Cup had nothing to do with luck.
They’ll tell you that ‘luck’ is the purpose of tenacity, the result of a well-coached team, a talented pool of players and a cohesiveness that peaked at the right moment in time.
No argument there.
But all sports have a benchmark and perhaps no other sport outside of rugby union has endured the longest single one – that of the All Blacks.
Going into Japan, the Boks’ last victory against the All Blacks had been on September 15, 2018 in Wellington, beating New Zealand 36-34.
A 30-32 loss at Loftus that year followed and then the 16-16 draw in New Zealand in 2019. That same year the Pumas, in a historic win, beat the Kiwis for the first time, thus securing the Boks the 2019 Rugby Championship for the first time since 2009.
Enter the Boks to the Land of the Rising Sun and their first game of the 2019 World Cup – a loss to the All Blacks to the tune of 23-13.
We know how the rest of the tournament played out. The 11th commandment sayeth that to beat the All Blacks one has to play close to error-free rugby and find that fifth gear within one’s self for every second you’re on the paddock.
England found that gear that night in Yokohama. They would not find it again a week later.
And as the All Blacks loom in a fortnight for South Africa, one has to face the stark reality that nothing has changed.
New Zealand may currently not have the silverware they are so accustomed to, but they have a dearth of talent that’s ripe for the expansive game they play at an ever-increasing pace.
The Boks need more than a fifth gear to beat the All Blacks. They need a coach to instil discipline, cultivate a style of rugby that relies as much on the backline as they currently do on their forwards.
Perhaps most importantly, they need to instil a culture of keeping one’s foot on the pedal until the final whistle and not a moment before.