The Springboks are already facing the wrath of the South African public after their disappointing display against Leicester on Friday night. In case you missed it, the Bok midweek team went down 22-17 to an under-strength Tigers team that dominated both possession and scrums.
It is the first time that an English club has beaten the Springboks, and the memory of the loss is bound to smart for a long time. But after a season that has seen the Boks cement their place as the world’s top international team, the outcry is understandable.
After-all, the boys have lived-up to expectation this year, winning the Lions Series, and beating the Kiwis three in a row, en-route to being crowned Tri Nations champions. But one can’t help but feel that the Boks have fallen on their own sword, after raising the expectations of a very demanding public.
It may seem strange, but I for one, think that Friday’s loss has its benefits. How, you ask? Well, it was an opportunity for a number of “outsiders” to prove their worth, and while a few failed, it does mean that the year leading up to the 2011 Rugby World Cup will not be wasted on an expanded squad, to see who has what it takes.
Perhaps I’m too optimistic, and overly patriotic, but Peter de Villiers cannot spend any time next year pandering to players that “could” make the World Cup squad. 2010 has to be dedicated to honing the skills of players on the periphery of the squad, resting key players, and fine-tuning strategy. And that it will be done without a number of the players that failed to perform on Friday, is a blessing.
I’ve arrived in the UK, and will hopefully provide a little bit of insight into the Springbok’s end-of-year tour. St. Albans is a quaint city in southern Hertfordshire around 35 kilometres north of central London where the dirt-trackers are staying before joining the bulk of the squad in Toulouse on Wednesday.
And to my surprise, I was greeted by the sight of a motivated squad, already focussed on beating Saracens in the next mid-week match. So maybe, just maybe, Friday’s loss does indeed have its benefits.
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