South Africa may be justly proud of their achievement. A couple of years back they were struggling just as England were and yet this year there were one or two performances in the Tri-Nations that hinted at a side finding its rhythm. They have some really talented players such as du Preez, Steyn and Habana but old-fashioned virtues oft will out. Last night saw a solidity of scrummaging and lineout technique which more than matched England. This in the end provided the platform for sufficient pressure for mistakes to be made and the price to be paid. Nothing too flashy, except for Habana, just the virtue of doing the things which are at the heart of great rugby well. If truth be told a far more pleasurable experience than the showy egotism that marks All Black rugby these days.
For England this was no disgrace. After all, to be thrashed 36-0 a few weeks past and now to hold the same opponents to a nine-point advantage suggests a turn-round of Olympian proportions, as it was. Though of some of England’s heroes we shall see no more, there is within this side the leavening of a side that can itself aspire, with the right mental attitude, to much greater things.
After the wretched Robinson years, we can now look forward to a period of growth and development. Rising from the nether regions of the IRB rankings to the upper levels once more and conjuring one of the great turn-arounds in sporting history is the reward we shall have to take away from Paris. As needs must we shall have to use those things as our springboard to take back the Webb Ellis Cup in 2011.
Meanwhile, back at the coal-face, Northampton Saints continue their remorseless march back to the top flight with a 79-10, 12-try thrashing of Esher. For now it is back to the business of week-in, week-out rugby.
South Africans must make the most of this win, however, for dark clouds gather upon the southern horizon. Some supporters will celebrate without a care in the world today: others with a more acute vision will know only too well that there is something rotten at the heart of South Africa and fear that this may be the last such victory for some time. May this prove to be a case of a ‘once and future victory’, or is there malignant lump in the body of South African Rugby? Of this more later, but for the moment our congratulations are due to Die Bokke who should be proud of a good win well taken.