If you were going to tell me that South Africa would rack up 958 running meters against the best team in the world I would have laughed in your face.
If you were going to tell me that the pace and power of the South African attack would cause 31 missed tackles by New Zealand, I would have found that equally entertaining.
If you told me an expansive game by South Africa would be an invitation to New Zealand to counter from turnovers and errors I would have agreed with you.
In 2011 Pieter de Villiers was called in front of the South African Sports committee in lieu of the Rugby world Cup preparation, during the interview he was asked why South Africa played so much within themselves and why did they not embrace a holistic approach to rugby.
Pieter de Villiers answered with a simple “They have a fear of failure”
In my view fear of failure has plagued South African rugby for some time. I fondly remember a game at Murray field during 1998 when Bill Mclaren described the running of Pieter “Slap Chips” Rossouw akin to that of a Gazelle on the African plains.
During that same out bound tour, South Africa put such a hiding on the French in Paris that the local patrons booed their own team off the field and gave the South Africans a standing ovation.
Prior to the isolation era Springbok rugby reigned supreme, and it was largely due to the natural physique and the lifestyle attributed to Afrikaners at the time.
Professional rugby has negated the natural physical advantage South Africa has had for so long, with professional rugby players now having the best facilities, equipment, coaches, fitness and strength instructors at their disposal.
The need for more intelligent play, more possession and guile in attack has now become a pre requisite for teams to triumph on the international stage.
For too long I have listened to South African supporters saying we do not have the skills to play expansive rugby, for far too long we have sold ourselves short in the skills department.
Expansive rugby does not mean you move away from your core strengths, our core strengths will always be the mainstay of any professional rugby team, that is a given.
However, it is the mind set that needs changing.
Compare a defensive strategy based game plan to that of a lab rat in a controlled environment where he runs through a maize to find a piece of cheese. It is inevitable that the rat will find the cheese, no matter how long it takes or how challenged he is in the intelligence department.
Having teams launch wave after wave of attack, affording them the opportunity to probe your defensive line relentlessly for 80 minutes will eventually result in a defensive breach.
It isn’t rocket science to understand that.
Yes, we lost the test this weekend, however the mind set of going for gold meant that the shackles have been broken, the fear of failure was suppressed and rather than see a team intent on playing a kick and chase strategy and a defensive setup, South Africa ran the ball, for almost 1000 meters, a statistic in itself that almost defies belief.
Yes there were mistakes, it is inevitable that when you have only played expansive rugby for four months, that you would not be as polished as you will be after doing it for 10 years. But the important issue here is that the change came.
The importance of this mind shift cannot and should not be underestimated, we played rugby, positively and adventurous beautiful rugby.
You may be critical and look at all the negatives, the fact that we ran out of puff in the last quarter, the fact that we conceded too many turn overs, the fact that we missed so many tackles, the fact that our line out went to shambles in the last 20 minutes.
But what you cannot ignore, is the absolute delight the game has brought to your senses, the mistakes can be corrected, the techniques can be worked on, our defensive system is not yet set up to scramble on the counter and will need restructuring.
Heyneke Meyer has shown us what we can do, he has shown us that we do indeed have ample skills in the team to run tries in from deep or close against the best team in the world, but most important, he now needs to carry this forward.
There is no stepping back from this methodology, he has a responsibility to continue the growth of this team, a few personnel changes will improve those odds.
Ultimately if we can push the All Blacks this hard, the rest of the world must be quivering in their boots.