A fan is fanatic, by definition.
Partisan, irrational, demanding, and rabid.
But a Springbok is a special animal.
A Bok fan has been driven mad, because of decades of finishing second by one syrup-drenched bite at a rugby version of a pancake-eating contest and second is the last place you want to finish in an eating contest.
Yes, every dozen years we are rewarded with a World Cup.
Yes, we have held the official (and before that, the unofficial) title of world number one far longer than anyone else besides the All Blacks.
Yes, the Lions find it almost as difficult to win a series in South Africa as in New Zealand.
Yes, the head-to-head records show the Boks a clear second.
But we are never actually happy. The minute we win a match in New Zealand (2008, 2018, when’s next, 2028?) we fixate on how rare it is.
Also, this fixation (shared by Australia) leads to a 50-50 record against the Wallabies, even if we have a far better record than them against the Lions, the individual Home Nations, and France.
The problem is the Bok fan mostly cares about not losing to England (and because they are in the Lions, the Lions) and the rarity of beating New Zealand.
Our season is lost if we lose to England, even if the rest of it was grand.
The corollary to that is a Lions series is seen as a England tour on steroids.
So, if you mention the years 1974 or 1997 to a Bok fan, we curl up and die.
Our season is saved if we beat the Kiwis, even if the rest of it was shit.
2021 presents a unique chance to make Bok fans happy. They will forget the Quade Cooper, Samu Kerevi, Taniela Tupou debacle or explain it away as two away games in a rivalry that tends to go home-and-away pretty strictly. If the Boks beat England this weekend.
That’s a big if.
It’s an if with legs.
So, the Bok brain thinks this way:
1. Undercooked, we beat the mighty, mighty Lions.
2. Then, we beat the All Blacks, after a close loss.
3. We started the year as number one; we end that way, too.
4. We had one bad day at the office in Queensland.
5. We swept through the EOYT and won them all.
6. So, we won 2021, or drew it with the All Blacks.
But lose to England this weekend, and all will be doom and gloom. Jacques Nienaber is in over his head. Where was Aphelele Fassi? What dirty pics does Willie le Roux have? We must never box kick again! Eddie Jones is our nemesis.
Win and it will be: Nienaber extension, who needs Rassie Erasmus, genius selections, and we don’t have to wait 12 years to win a Cup; France is ours!
England will face a riled-up Bok squad at Twickenham.
Talisman Eben Etzebeth has been disrespected by World Rugby. The Bomb Squad is on fire. Frans Steyn never knows which Test is his last so he plays like every Test is his last. Siya Kolisi is in the best form of his life, as is the midfield. And sooner or later, Handre Pollard must pitch up.
Eddie Jones is probably just as fired up. He has compared the Boks to George Foreman (presumably England is Muhammad Ali).
Methinks a better analogy for the Boks is Tyson Fury, that huge defensive genius, eating pancakes, a bit awkward to fight, and ready to rumble.
Bok fans, let the winter of our discontent be made glorious this summer Sunday, as the boys play for a hundred good reasons.