THE best part of the Springbok victory over the All Blacks was the way they ran the ball, particularly in the first half.
They proved they can get creative against the world’s best team and emerge victorious; in the same fixture a year ago they tried the same ploy and failed.
So much for the myth that Springbok teams can only kick. It is one of a few myths in South African rugby — and most of them are not true.
That the Boks are a kicking team dates back to my childhood, at least.
Mind you, in 1977, the flyhalf was Robbie Blair. He hardly ever missed a place kick, although he was pretty awful at drop goals.
He was succeeded by Naas Botha, a prolific booter of the ball.
Both were admittedly a little weak when it came to tackling and getting tackled.
They played opposite each other in the 1979 Currie Cup final at Newlands. It was Western Province against the Bulls, the defending champs. Blair versus Botha, mano a mano, non-tackling flyhalf versus non-tackling flyhalf.
Blair attacked first that day.
In a move out of character for a final, let alone for Blair, he ran at Botha, who was probably as surprised as the spectators.
Botha missed the tackle and Blair took the gap before offloading to centre Peter Whipp, who darted and weaved his way over for the only try of the match.
Botha made up for his indiscretion by booting the Bulls to a 15-15 draw.
Botha would go on to prove that he was as good at running as he was at kicking (although he never quite achieved the same standards in the tackling department).
Another myth in local circles is that WP Western Province are invincible in the rain at Newlands. Time and again the hosts were beaten in the wet by the Bulls. But worse was to come when they were downed by the former South West Africa in the late 1980s.
Another myth in local circles is that WP Western Province are invincible in the rain at Newlands.
Time and again the hosts were beaten in the wet by the Bulls. But worse was to come when they were downed by the former South West Africa in the late 1980s.
Perhaps this myth had been true once upon a time.
In the 1960s WP Province had Doug Hopwood, once widely considered the second-best Bok No8 of all time after Hennie “Die Windhond” Muller.
An old colleague, Norman Canale, watched Muller in the flesh, and rates him the greatest Bok of all time, irrespective of position.
Canale’s opinions on rugby and boxing are to be respected, but I’ve also read how Muller struggled on the wet fields of Britain.
Hopwood, on the other hand, flourished in the mud.
Lionel Wilson, the former Bok fullback who had played with Hopwood since they were at school, recalled the mud bath against Wales, where Hopwood had been the only one to master the conditions.
“Doug played that match alone,” said Wilson. “He was the only one who could hold the ball. The rest of us stood and watched him.”
Making Hopwood’s achievements even more impressive is that he suffered from persistent back pain, the result of an injury he suffered while doing weights as a teenager.
He frequently played through the pain.
Duane Vermeulen’s massive performance against the All Blacks on Saturday was reminiscent of Hopwood.
Hopefully, the similarities will persist when the Boks head north next month.