“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson, 1987
About a quarter of a century ago, I got stuck on holiday in a strange and wonderful little village in Guatemala when one day, a New Zealander washed up.
All the regulars at the Eclipse bar by the lake wanted to know what Boru and I were sitting and talking so eagerly about an hour or so later; no South African or Kiwi would have doubted for a moment.
Rugby, of course! Somewhere in the world, Boru is struggling to sleep tonight, just like me.
Jacques Nienaber once again made a bold move with a 7/1 bench, but this time he included Willie le Roux as the back.
There will be chatter about Manie Libbok's omission, but his flashy skills wouldn't have come to the fore in the rain. However, he will still play many Tests for South Africa. If necessary, Damian Willemse will shift to flyhalf and Le Roux will take over at fullback.
This very distribution of substitutes was first tested against the All Blacks, when the Springboks scolded them 35-7 at Twickenham.
In the meantime, the All Blacks have gained momentum and had to play most of that day with only 14 players after Scott Barrett received two yellow cards.
A fresh front row will keep the Kiwis busy in the second half after you could see in the semifinal against England that the forwards' steam is running out.
The All Blacks will want to avoid wrestling matches upfront as much as possible tomorrow. They are already saying the Springboks must play so-called attractive rugby, which is naive against a team that loves to counterattack and keep you on your heels.
The Springboks will enjoy nothing more than many scrums. It's not really an All Black strength, but against Argentina in the semifinal they had to scrum only six times. And the Pumas were thoroughly beaten.
South Africa will apply much more pressure and the predicted Parisian autumn rain will complicate running rugby.
Attractive? For South Africa, it will be the most attractive thing imaginable if Siya Kolisi and his team lift the Webb Ellis Cup at about 11pm tomorrow. Even if they've been kicking the ball into touch continually for 80 minutes.
In New Zealand, they are apparently starting to queitly plan ticker-tape parades, but it's pretty premature at this stage.
If the Springboks win, it will be one of the greatest World Cup victories to date, confirming them as one of the best teams of all time because it means they've played against all the other six top teams in the tournament.
Attractive doesn't count for much — the Springboks won't play as poorly as they did last weekend against England; those black jerseys regularly bring out the best in the Boks.
This could very well be the best World Cup final to date.
Both teams have reached the final in half of all the World Cup tournaments they've played. The Springboks have not lost one and the All Blacks have that defeat in '95, for which they still curse Suzie.
Sometimes you have to grit your teeth and remember the first and greatest commandment is that you must win; and the second, which doesn't even come close, is that you should add a bit of style if you can.
I've faithfully watched the Springboks for the past five years. They never give up. They're proud to represent me on the rugby field and I'm proud of how they do it. If they dive into the fray tomorrow night, nothing about that will change.
And that's why I believe it's four out of eight for South Africa.
New Zealand are sometimes called the Brazilians of rugby because of their flamboyant playing style. In that case, South Africa are the Italy of rugby. Many people don't like us, and we don't care. The Springboks are the connoisseur's rascals.
I was one of the lucky 60,000 at Ellis Park on June 24, 1995, with two close friends, the late Freddie Hendriks and Stuart Barnes, an Englishman who wore the South African flag as a tie for the day, although he was probably convinced the All Blacks would thoroughly outclass the Springboks.
Plane, Madiba, Joel, destiny.
That plane, our astonishment (it begins to sink in around a minute in, if you will, but you really had to be there):
Dear old Fred was an emotional man, and afterwards he cried buckets of snot and tears. I'm a rather stoic person now, with one completely blocked tear duct, and it succeeded in making its biennial tear roll down my right cheek; it was that epic.
At the afterparty, Stu and I danced with PJ Powers, and I had to explain to him exactly how cool it was.
Here, Thandeka belts out the tune:
It was the last amateur Test match in rugby history.
No one would have believed you back then if you had said the All Blacks and Springboks wouldn't face each other in the final until seven tournaments later.
In the meantime, while Nick Mallett, the one who once said Cheslin Kolbe should learn to play scrumhalf, was coaching the Boks, they did manage to take New Zealand's bronze in 1999.
Precisely when Nick chose Breyton Paulse, he called him “merit with (racial) bias selection". Nevertheless, old Nick did get a bronze medal thanks to this, the only time Merit With Bias Breyton ever stood against the rightly celebrated Jonah Lomu:
Three All Blacks who unnerve me the most:
Mark Telea: Let's be honest, this guy is ridiculously good. Even if you strip away his forwards, he can apparently strategise. His dad is South African and his mom is Samoan — talk about genetics! This winger might as well have been genetically designed for rugby.
Shannon Frizell: Look, New Zealand is a progressive country that I almost love. Strong on women's rights, too. So, if they had other good blindside flankers, they probably wouldn't have chosen this convicted woman abuser. Nevertheless, the scoundrel can play.
Ardie Savea: As sure as Eben Etzebeth and Antoine Dupont, one of the five most important players on the planet. There are certainly other candidates; please throw in any nominations in the comments section if you have a moment!
I'm going to hate that beautiful country, its down-to-earth people and all their rugby for about two hours tomorrow on a level that isn't entirely civilised, but even as I let my dogs run wild in the yard and drive my neighbours crazy while I shout at the TV, I'll almost love New Zealand again shortly after the final whistle.
So, a New Zealand triple-play for this Friday. Maybe they'll read the Vrye Weekblad and it'll soften them up a bit; every bit helps:
If you're not familiar with the brilliant Flight of the Conchords, well, New Zealanders excel ONLY at dry, self-deprecating humour. There are two series of this, and you can probably laugh at it all over again year after year:
And Doc Craven's (and my) favourite Maori song, the lovely Hoki Mai, to welcome them back home after what hopefully will be a valiant defeat the morning after tomorrow:
And, of course, a final word from John Smit:
♦ VWB ♦
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