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The Springboks are the new France

By Jamie Wall

Goddamnit Springboks, you were so close. Everything was going well after the heroic loss to the All Blacks in Cape Town, then you go to Dublin and get hosed by the Irish.

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There’s setbacks, then there’s getting thrashed 38-3. This wasn’t like when the hungover All Blacks sleepwalked through their test loss to Ireland in Chicago, and even then New Zealanders were happy for a the Irish to achieve something so monumental. Even though the weekend’s result was a record win for the Irish, the spotlight definitely isn’t on them this time. It’s blasting squarely on the Boks, melting their wings and causing them to crash to the ground after the Cape Town comeback that restored so much pride and hope to the traditional superpower.

How did this happen?

Just last month we had the brilliance of Malcolm Marx, a fired-up home crowd and maybe the best All Black performance of the season to overcome them in a classic test match.  

Now, after the weekend, the Boks are back to being the raging dumpster fire they were in Albany, last year against Italy and, most depressingly, at the World Cup against Japan. However, don’t forget that they went on to make the semi-finals of that same tournament, and only go down by two points to the All Blacks.

More or less exactly the same as the French team in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, who were thumped by the All Blacks in pool play and contrived to lose to Tonga. They still managed to fall arse-first into the final, where they lost a thriller by one point.

So are the Springboks the new unpredictable team in world rugby? Particularly one that the All Blacks have to constantly fear because of their propensity to pull out a fantastic performance when least expected?

Judging by any article about the South African rugby that gets put on Facebook, Bok fans already have a French-like contempt for their coach, however that’s probably due to some deeply rooted cultural issues more than anything else.

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Meanwhile, France have gone from being the unpredictable force to just being plain awful. Ever since the aforementioned 2011 RWC final appearance, they’ve achieved absolutely nothing. They haven’t been helped by a free-market economic approach to the game by their club owners, who have had no hesitation with replacing promising locals with expensive imports. Ironically many of the players clogging up the French system are ex-Springboks.

Despite having the highest paid domestic competition in the world, they were reduced to sending out a team of no names in their latest test outing.

The two sides meet this weekend in Paris, with the French probably going in with some confidence – given their loss to the All Blacks wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the Springboks’ humiliation in Dublin. However, it is still worth remembering that Les Bleus still lost by 20 points to an All Black side that pretty much quit at halftime, so they shouldn’t get too carried away with themselves.

Which Bok side will show up? And, more importantly, how long are we going to be asking ourselves this question leading into another test weekend?

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Turlough 4 hours ago
Jean de Villiers' three word response to 'best in the world' debate

This ‘raging’ debate is only happenning in media circles and has never been a topic in Ireland (although SA media are interested). It makes the media companies money I guess. SA are RWC champions and #1 ranked team although Ireland are back within a point there. The facts point to SA. For a lot of 2021 France beat ALL their rivals and Ireland similar in 2022-2023. It is not wrong to say that on such form either can be deemed to be the current best team if they have beaten all their rivals and ranked #1. The ‘have to have won a world cup’ stipulation is nonsense. The world cup draw and scheduling has been tailored to the traditional big teams since the start. The scheduling also which sees the big teams sheltered from playing a hard pool match the week before has also been a constant. It is extraordinary that for example France have made so many finals. Ireland who were realistically only contenders in 2023 were in a Pool with two other top 5 teams and had to play one of them 7 days before a quarter final against France or New Zealand. Always going to be a coin toss. Scotland’s situation was worse. New Zealand had great chances in 1995, 1999, 2007 but they could not win a tight RWC match. The first tight match they ever won was versus France in the 2011 final, literally they lost every other tight match before that. Some of those NZ teams around that era were #1 surely?

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