Carl de Villiers, Zululand Observer
Heyneke Meyer and his troops did South Africa proud.
The exit from the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham on Saturday, disappointing as it was, had nothing to do with surrender.
So well did Fourie du Preez’s men fought, they came within a whisker (20-18) of causing a major upset and reaching the final for the third time.
The All Blacks were simply the better team, and only a two-point winning margin says a lot of the Boks’ fighting spirit against the odds.
They certainly worked hard at their weaknesses.
The loose-trio of Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger soldiered like Trojans to out-muscle the Kiwis at the breakdowns, for once allowing the Boks to dominate in this area of the contest.
The discipline was top class, flyhalf Handre Pollard accurate with the boot and the defensive lines held firm. Even fullback Willie le Roux was his old self under the high ball.
So the confidence levels were in a good space among the Bok supporters with a 12-7 half-time lead.
Lost in all the excitement perhaps was the fact that the All Blacks actually made the play.
They scored the try and the only reason South Africa won the scoreboard race was thanks to the Kiwis’ ill discipline, which allowed Pollard to keep supporters’ hopes up.
And then there it was again – the second half freeze, slump, jitters or whatever one wants to call it.
The first 10 minutes after the interval is always crucial, and on Saturday, the Boks leaked 10 points in this period which make all the difference in the end.
The other crucial factor was that apart from the clever tactic of breaking up the almost impregnable Springbok defences with a barrage of grubber kicks, the New Zealanders worked out how to steal the Boks’ line-out balls.
When last did that happen? Line-out possession has always been one of South Africa’s strong points.
Lastly, the inability of the Springboks to be more creative. They simply do not score enough tries, and that was part of our undoing on Saturday.
If the Boks want to remain a dominant force going forward, this needs to be set right.
Speaking of which, now that rugby’s Holy Grail is lost for the next four years at least, work must already start to set up the next invasion in 2019.
We salute them for their great service to the country.
But the good news is that a good number of youngsters are already in the mix around which a powerful force can be moulded, for example flyhalves Pollard and Patrick Lambie, midfielders Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel and Jan Serfontein, the Lood de Jagre-Eben Etzebeth lock combo which should still rule the world – and son.
We’re good to go all the way next time round.