What a year it was for Rassie, Siya and the Springboks…. Not only did they won the World Cup in Japan but they also did it against all odds.
They are the first team to have won the World Cup after losing a pool match and the only team in the South that have won the Rugby Championship and the World Cup in the same year.
Eighteen months ago the Springboks were at their lowest point in history slipping down to 7th and 6th in the world.
They also suffered defeats to Italy and Argentina which did not help the then Springbok coach Coetzee. Rassie Erasmus was appointed Director of Rugby and head coach and was left with 18 months to turn a team in the gutter into the number one team in the world.
Rassie installed pride back into the Springboks and made the players put the Springboks above anything else.
To understand what Rassie did with this Springbok side you have to go back to the day he was appointed. Here is his vision he put down at the start of his time with the Springboks.
The first test was Rassie v Eddie when the English came to South Africa in 2018. Rassie set out to win the series and he did just that with his new Springbok captain. There are a few important moments in the past 18 months that formed this team to be come World Champions.
The Springboks had to overcome a quick start in both the first two test against England.
Going down 24-3 in the first 20 minutes most supporters thought it is all over and here we go again but Rassie side had other ideas.
The second test went the same way with England rushing into the lead exposing the Springboks defence out wide.
In this test we also saw something that would play a huge part in the World Cup final, the scrums. The Springboks scored a penalty try in the test against the side they would demolish in that department 18 months later.
The next big hurdle for Rassie and his men was to beat the All Blacks and more so win away from home.
I do not think we understand how much that win in Wellington was for their rebuild towards the World Cup.
This was the guts and determination we saw throughout the World Cup not just in defence but also to score when it matters.
After the World Cup we heard Rassie say that he was going to step down as coach if they lost that test, luckily for all of us they won and Rassie stayed on.
This was also Cheslin Kolbe first test try for the Springboks, which path the way for the pocket rocket as a regular in the Springboks side.
At the end of the 2018 season the Springboks under Rassie and Siya had won 7 test and lost 7 which gave him only a 50% for the year.
It was always going to be make or break in 2019 and with another poor Super Rugby season not many believed that Rassie could go all the way.
With a World Cup year there is no incoming tour and only a single round of matches in the Rugby Championships. The Springboks had the Aussies at home and Argentina and New Zealand away from home.
It was here where Rassie showed again how good he is in planning for a major tournament like the World Cup. He split his squad again and send some of his frontline players to New Zealand and took on the Aussies and Argentina with a second string side.
The win against the Aussies was as important as any World Cup match and they did just that.
We saw youngsters like Jantjies coming into the side and making an impact straight away.
We also saw the likes of Mapimpi on the wing and Rassie having his squad in tact for the World Cup already.
Next up was the All Blacks in New Zealand and this test was significant in so many ways.
This setup the Boks to first win the Rugby Championship and secondly to get that mental aspect of their game away from home.
It was again the young 9 that secured a draw for the Springboks in Wellington and you could see the believe in this team just go up a few notches.
It was again a comeback from the Boks that secured the draw and having a record in New Zealand the last two years not losing to the World Champions.
Next up was Argentina to secure the Championship and keep the on getting that “W”.
This was another good 80 minutes for the Springboks although Argentina had the better start.
The Springboks have now establish one of the best packs in the game and they showed it off against the Pumas.
We also saw one of the old hands Frans Seyn back in the team and he showed his magic.
There was one more game before they jetted off to Japan in Pretoria against the Pumas which was not pretty but they still manage to win the game.
The Springboks was first to get to Japan and had a warmup game against the host which was perfect preparations for the World Cup.
Mapimpi showed again his worth and the defence of the Springboks already showed as one of their key elements in their game.
Then it was time for the World Cup and you can not find a harder match to start your pool than against the All Blacks.
This was always going to be the pool decider although some still believed Italy may challenge. It was beyond me why as they have not managed to buy a game in the Six Nations and were really poor for the past three years.
The All Blacks took their chances and they came out winners. Later one we learned that Rassie was not happy with the preparations before that pool match and from here on end it was playoff mindset for the Boks.
The rest of the Pool matches saw the Springboks sweeping the rest of the pool aside as they secure second place in the pool.
First up was Namibia and they were not up for the Springboks brutal game plan and speed outside. Canada also were not able to put up much resistance.
Italy was also easily swept aside as Rassie side moved to the playoffs having to play Japan.
Japan was not just hosting one of the best World Cups but their side were playing some of the best rugby we have seen throughout the World Cup.
In their pool they beaten Ireland and Scotland and saw off the rest to end on top of Pool A to earn a place in the quarterfinal for the first time in their history.
It was the Japanese speed versus the Springboks pack and brutal defence which nobody seemed to have any answer too.
With everyone pointing out the boring game of the Springboks they had to get themselves up for Wales (Six Nations Champions) in the semifinals.
This was not a test anybody liked but at the end in knockout rugby winning is the only thing that counts and the Springboks got themselves in the Final against England who cause one of the major upsets in beating the All Blacks in their semifinal match.
Nobody really gave the Springboks any chance of beating this England side who just demolished the All Blacks the week before but man had they a surprised coming their way.
It as one of the most brutal displays we have seen from a Springbok side taking the English out of the game from the start. In the scrums it looked like men v boys and at the back the Springboks surprised everyone the way they worked the ball around with brilliant handling and skills.
As we saw throughout the World Cup the Springboks defence was just unbreakable and England did try but just could not breach that defence.
Am and Mapimpi was the hero’s when they sealed the game with a brilliant try showing not just their speed but skills as well. To put some extra salt on the English wounds Kolbe sidestep his way through for a brilliant try just before the end.
One of the most memorable World Cup Finals we have seen from the Springboks and one that we will always will remember.
This team lived and showed all of South Africa we are stronger together.
After the final in the press conference we learned the respect the team have for each other and the special bond between Rassie and Siya.
Coming back home the country was ready to welcome their hero’s back.
Want to know what it means for young men and woman to see their hero's on this bus tour? Just look at this young man getting a signature from Siya and the boys, this means the world to these young men.. (Video by @EWNsport ) pic.twitter.com/vW6PkFhKEu
— Ruggaworld 🏆 🇿🇦 (@Ruggaworld) November 9, 2019
Next big one for the Springboks is the British and Irish Lions coming to our country in 2021 and as World Champions it is going to be massive.
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