NOT long after the Bulls won their first Super 14 title, Heyneke Meyer jokingly said he always told his players that he hoped to have been enough of an influence in their lives for them to name their children after him.

While it sounded like a rare vanity trip for the famously grounded Meyer, the bigger point he was making was that for him coaching was about more than just the sport. It was about the people and creating a family atmosphere in the team.

Watching the Springboks now that he has graduated to coaching them, there is a distinct sense of family in how they go about their business, what with the wives and children never being too far away from the team.

But after the sight of wing Bryan Habana singing the national anthem carrying his six-week-old son, one has to wonder if the Boks are taking the sentimentality a little too far.

Many women will have cooed at the sight of a proud father showing off his son; the footage will make for unforgettable viewing for young Timmy one day, and Habana managed to do something none of us have seen on a sports field before.

But can any of us picture the All Blacks — the team the Boks always cite as their benchmark, standards-wise - doing that?

The main difference between the All Blacks and the Springboks is ruthlessness: the former will stop at nothing to win rugby games, while the latter allow sentimentality to temper their ambition.

Consider that Habana's son got to "sing" the national anthem with his dad because it was a third celebration of his father being capped 100 times.

Examples of the Springboks being soft is their not taking advantage of the draw between the All Blacks and the Wallabies by winning with a bonus point against Argentina. The weather in Pretoria was blamed, but can you imagine New Zealand passing up the opportunity?

He had received his gold cap in Perth against Australia, then a monster bottle of champagne from the All Blacks a week later. Yet somebody still felt he, with Jean de Villiers, had to celebrate all over again last weekend.

The moment had passed for both players, but the Boks were still teary-eyed with nostalgia.

It is no coincidence that of South Africa's five rugby centurions, only Victor Matfield won his 100th Test — he is the most ruthless.

This wanton sentimentality is robbing the Boks of that critical edge they need to consider themselves equals with the best team on the planet.

Given their global reputation as hard men, some might struggle to believe the Springboks are driven by emotion.

There is evidence of sentimentality in how we pick our teams.

I'm talking about things such as bringing back 12 of the team that won the 2007 World Cup; bringing back Juan Smith; protecting Bismarck du Plessis's feelings by saying he's being "rotated" when he's been dropped to the bench.

Even our infamous physicality is in a way a point of sentimentality.

Everyone knows that the Boks need to marry their hard approach to skill to be a constant threat in world rugby, yet they still don't have a skills coach.

Examples of the Springboks being soft is their not taking advantage of the draw between the All Blacks and the Wallabies by winning with a bonus point against Argentina.

The weather in Pretoria was blamed, but can you imagine New Zealand passing up the opportunity?

The rugby public should also take part of the blame because we are the enablers.

The win against Australia last weekend has now been elevated to a modern-day classic, but we forget that the 70 minutes that preceded the three-try burst in the final stages was blind alley rugby at its worst.

The Bok situation is ironic: the hard bastards of rugby have a soft underbelly — their sentimentality.

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