Unbelievable…and that’s putting it mildly.
The All Blacks weren’t just dead and buried at Loftus Versfeld. They were already decomposing, the scones and sausage rolls long since gone.
You could just feel what was coming up in Rugby Land. The post-mortems were already in the post. A shocked nation was already shooting daggers at coach Steve Hansen.
And then what happened? At first it felt like one of the great comebacks. It still does to a degree.
But let’s face it. The Springboks produced a monumental choke, a confidence-sapper which negates the advances achieved in Wellington.
They absolutely blew it, more than the All Blacks won it.
The home side were all over the All Blacks leading by 30 – 13 with 20 minutes to play, and on course for a shock second consecutive victory over the world champions.
With under 10 minutes left little halfback Faf de Klerk, surely the man of the match, applauded the crowd as he left the field, in what now looks like an act of risky triumphalism. Maybe it just comes across that way in hindsight.
Here’s an irony. The Springboks could have sealed the game with a pot when Beauden Barrett was ruled to have thrown a long forward pass in front of his posts. They didn’t even attempt it.
Then again, we all thought they had it in the bag, didn’t we? There was no way back from there.
The ‘Boks should be highly embarrassed, the two point loss continuing a horror run against the All Blacks in Pretoria.
It’s not hard to identify the main chokers.
Then replacement tighthead prop Vincent Koch copped an admittedly tough penalty at the resulting scrum. Then Cheslin Kolbe made a poor defensive choice as Rieko Ioane cantered over from a long Beauden Barrett pass. Game on.
With so much on the line, it’s hard to believe the ‘Boks could undo so much amazing work, on home soil. Still, it made for wonderful viewing.
When rugby is played like this, it is the greatest game on earth. Start with large doses of the All Blacks and a dash of anybody else, and we are in a golden era of the game.
The All Blacks are setting unimaginable standards, including in the drama department. Great sport isn’t always about great standards, it’s about the contest. That’s what we got from Pretoria – a fantastic morning of sport.
All power to the ‘Boks, for their alleged revival.
But put the boot on the other foot and All Black fans would put the boot in. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory on home soil would never rate as some sort of victory. Not even close. Hansen would not only get a large ‘please explain’, he’d be asking a lot of questions himself and of himself, a lot more than he will be anyway.
And Springboks captain Siya Kolisi certainly wasn’t trumpeting progress.
Not on your life, because this was the mother of all chokes.