I regularly read and post comments on the rugby section on the Supersport website. I feel it is a reasonable gauge of opinion of Springbok fans.
The trend is if the Springboks lose then they are rubbish and the coach needs to be replaced , the captain dropped etc. If they win then they are fantastic and the coach is a genius. Emotions and maybe alcohol playing an influential part in coming to these conclusions.
The latest condemnations are as a result of the Springboks losing to Ireland. In a Springbok fans mind it is unacceptable to lose a rugby match. There are degrees of outrage when such a catastrophe occurs. The lowest outrage being if the Boks lose to New Zealand. Probably the next being Australia , England and France probably in that order.
So losing to Ireland is so distressing that Springbok fans can not get their heads around it. They react with venom and demand change for bringing such shame on a proud rugby heritage.
This point of view obviously is not one held by all Springbok fans but it definitely exists. It is a naive point of view on a few different levels.
Naivety 1. You should know your enemy. If I asked the average Springbok fan to name the players in the Irish team. How many would be able to name any, other than Jonathan Sexton and Paul O’Connell?
How can you accurately judge that your team should beat their team when you know nothing about their team. Too many assumptions taking place.
Naivety 2. Don’t ignore your enemies standing amongst all the other contenders. Ireland are current Six Nations champions. Ireland are ranked 5th in the IRB rankings. A year ago the All Blacks had to produce a monumental effort to beat Ireland well into injury time.
Back in the early 90’s the then 5 Nations was fought out between England and France. When Rugby Union became a professional sport after the 95 Rugby World Cup we started to see top quality players being produced by the Irish . The first of these being Keith Wood and ever since then there seems to have been a steady production of top quality Irish players. Such as Brian O’Driscoll , Ronan O’Gara, Gordon D’arcy , Paul O’Connell and Jamie Heaslip to mention a few.
Three of the Irish Provinces/Franchises, Ulster , Munster and Leinster have won the top European club competition. Munster especially having a fearsome reputation in European rugby.
Naivety 3. Don’t underestimate the standard of rugby any of the teams in the top 10 of the IRB ranked countries.Rugby is evolving rapidly where coaching and development has improved worldwide,
South Africa has more than likely not got themselves pumped up enough because they underestimate how good a team is on numerous occasions. Close calls this year against Argentina (ranked 10th) and Wales (ranked 7th)
Naivety 4. Don’t ignore their coach.
Joe Schmidt a Kiwi who has been assistant coach for the Blues in Auckland and Clermont Auvergne in France and then head coach at Irish Province Leinster. Coaching Leinster to Heineken cup success in 2011 and 2012.A coach of some pedigree.
Now with a new perspective look at the performance against the Irish. If you are fair you will hail Ireland’s defensive effort against the Springboks rather than accuse the Boks of being rubbish. The attacking systems that the Boks were following were good , they just got undone by big hits and pressure created by the press defence.
Learning to play those attacking systems under the highest scrutiny is the next step up for the Boks. Yes the Boks made way too many mistakes but if you understand their intent to play a certain way and their endeavour to so, you realize its the execution that failed.
South Africa nonetheless will feel like their backs are against the wall. This does make them even more dangerous than normal. I can’t see them running out only 75% pumped up against the England team come Saturday at Twickenham.