Five things we’ve learnt about the Boks this year
What a difference a year and proper preparation makes. The Springboks this year are totally unrecognisable from last year's mess that moved from game to game without an idea of how to approach the task at hand.
Their optimism is also peppered with cautiousness. Northern Hemisphere teams have a tendency of being listless and disinterested but that cannot detract from the strides made by Allister Coetzee's charges.
The Rugby Championships will be an accurate barometer of the Boks' growth but they are in a good space after their whitewashing of France.
There is a lot the Boks have taught us over the past month and here are the some of the lessons they've heeded.
1‚Attitude is everything
Repelling the French for 25 phases in Durban‚ keeping them tryless in Johannesburg and watching Raymond Rhule continually seeking out to tackle Louis Picamoles‚ despite the France number eight running over him‚ signified the commitment and attitude the Boks have shown this year. It's not about falling off the tackles‚ but the scramble to ensure one gets back into position to quell the second wave of attack and committing to rucks in the face of ferocious counter-rucking. There's every reason to be joyful about the Boks and their fresh approach to conditioning and defence. In defence‚ attitude is everything and that's the positive food of thought the Boks have fed their starved supporters.
2‚ Coetzee deserves every bit of credit for the team's success
The thing with Coetzee was that he accepted full responsibility for the shambles that was 2016‚ He took it upon himself to remind the nation that last year's painful chapter has to be forgotten.
While Mzwandile Stick was unfortunate to be demoted and made the scapegoat‚ Coetzee also took responsibility for this and was brave enough to allow for change in his coaching staff.
Their success is theirs to be shared but the buck stops with Coetzee and it would be unfair to deny him his dues.
3‚ Pollard and Lambie have to wait their turn
Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie have always been ahead of Elton Jantjies in the Bok flyhalf queue. However‚ they will have to wait for the current taxi marshal of the Bok flyhalf taxi rank to have a serious dip in form. Jantjies showed game management‚ flair and confidence not seen in his game for years.
It was clear Coetzee and the coaching staff backed him to excel at his strengths and gave him the licence to thrill. He was judicious when it needed to be and when he spotted space‚ he gave the backs the freedom of the park.
The virtues of Pollard and Lambie have been extolled extensively but Jantjies has thrown down the gauntlet in some manner.
4‚ Kolisi the talisman‚ Serfontein the totem
Siya Kolisi and Jan Serfontein‚ in their respective position‚ have encapsulated what it means to be allowed to flourish in Springbok colours.
There was always a feeling Kolisi was holding back in Super Rugby and once unleashed as a backed starter at test level‚ Kolisi rolled back the years and reminded the rugby public of his ability to rise to the occasion.
The Bulls' malaise had afflicted Serfontein but in the green and gold‚ Serfontein stepped up and‚ for the foreseeable future‚ has owned the number 12 jersey.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Damian de Allende will have their hands full displacing Serfontein.
5‚ Super Rugby momentum will be crucial
How far the Lions go in the Super Rugby tournament will have a significant bearing on the team's make up and confidence for the Rugby Championships.
If they are able to knock off the New Zealand team in the manner the Stormers and the Bulls failed to grapple with them‚ the confidence in terms of dealing with the rampant All Blacks will grow exponentially. The All Blacks are still a mile off from the Boks but if they are able to diffuse teams like the Crusaders and the Hurricanes‚ there could be positives gained from that. The same applies to the Sharks and the Stormers when they get to the play-offs.