I HAVE never been able to completely suppress my cynical notion that World Rugby would prefer it if South Africa suddenly lost its footing in the sport.
Just take a look at the VIPs at Saturday's World Cup final — very few of them wanted us to win. The old fuddy-duddy in charge of World Rugby, Bill Beaumont, clearly didn't want it at all; his cheeks hung even lower than usual.
Look at how everyone loves Jason Momoa when he erupts with joy after the All Blacks score a try, and I have no problem with that. He's a reasonably charismatic actor and they are an excellent rugby team:
But check out how everyone from Emmanuel Macron to Beaumont to old sourpuss Nick Farr-Jones reacts when Ultimate Fighting Championship stars Dricus du Plessis and Cameron Saaiman make a raucous scene at the World Cup final.
And nobody's going to tell them to sit still and be quiet!
Hatfield's in the HOUUUUSE (only Novak Djokovic and a bewildered John Eales are slightly chuckling, but Momoa accepts his gifted beer with feigned grace at the end).
The other night, I wanted to write something for you along these lines, but someone else had already done it and I had to start from scratch. If you don't like the Springboks, I believe that's your tough shit, but Daniel Gallan is much more polite with the same sentiments as yours. As he says, “The Springboks didn't do it for you. They did it for us.”
If our guys also win the next Rugby World Cup, the New World Order will probably cancel the darn competition (chill, just kidding), but the consolation is that we will then be the world rugby champions forever.
By the end, the Springboks' bodies were clearly on the other side but their nerves remained unyielding.
Back home, in my living room with friends, it was the opposite. Apart from high levels of alcohol consumption, our bodies, at least on the outside, were intact and unbruised; our nerves, however, were shot.
I heard that the All Blacks received a standing ovation when they arrived at World Rugby's awards ceremony in Paris on Sunday, while the Springboks were greeted with silence; the French won't forgive us easily for spoiling their party. But it's their just desserts after they stole our tournament.
However, it got me thinking about Doc Craven's graciousness after Maties achieved a nailbiting victory over Van der Stel. He said it was “because we usually win comfortably, and then they forget. This time, they were so close to winning that they will remember it for longer and it will hurt more."
Well, if you win by a single point once it can be considered luck. Three times in a row? Aikona! That means you have something the other teams don't.
There have probably been more talented teams that have plundered the World Cup, but there has been no tougher team.
The statistics from the matches between the world's top six teams in this tournament tell the story. South Africa played five and won four, New Zealand three and one, Ireland three and two, France two and one, England one and zero, and Scotland two and zero. So, there is very little doubt that it was a well-deserved victory.
Well, World Rugby certainly overlooked our guys at its awards.
Even in the tournament's official dream team, only Eben Etzebeth from the Springboks received the nod.
To soothe the northern hemisphere's wounds, the team contains five Irish and five French players, meaning only five of the chosen ones made it to the semifinals.
Pieter-Steph du Toit was certainly better and more crucial than France's Charles Ollivon, while Frans Malherbe, Jesse Kriel and Bongi Mbonambi were by no means weaker than the Irish Tadhg Furlong, Garry Ringrose and Dan Sheehan.
The north was so cocky and certain of its case beforehand that it must have been a bitter pill to swallow when the two heavyweights of the southern hemisphere met in the final.
Next time, I expect a better effort from the north, but somewhere along the line they'll have to learn how to play knockout rugby. Ironically, the English might even pose the strongest challenge: they were the only Europeans to reach the semifinals.
Rugby writers from all over have made their own post-tournament awards, and ours are almost as valuable as World Rugby's:
Player of the tournament: Eben Etzebeth, with Pieter-Steph du Toit and Ardie Savea not far behind. We've expected Etzebeth to become a world-class player since he was young; however, just how great he is has been a pleasant surprise even for his most ardent supporters.
Breakthrough player of the tournament: There were a few candidates, but we already knew players such as Mark Telea and Manie Libbok before the tournament. My vote goes to English flanker Ben Earl, relatively unknown beforehand but a man who will undoubtedly make his mark on the international stage in the next few years.
Irritation of the tournament: The three biggest were, in no particular order, the mocked-up draw, those annoying children's choirs singing the national anthems, and the senseless “away" jerseys, a brain fart from the colour-blind Beaumont. The last two at least didn't make it to the knockout stages, while the draw for 2027 will hopefully take place closer to the tournament.
Match of the tournament: There was no shortage of excitement and action, but the quarterfinal clash between the Springboks and the Roosters was perhaps the most entertaining match I've seen. Ireland's matches against the Springboks and the All Blacks were also excellent.
Try of the tournament: Will Jordan's (New Zealand) try against Ireland. (Watch from 01:40.)
With Kurt-Lee Arendse's against Scotland just behind, thanks to Libbok's magic foot. (Watch from 01:28.)
Pleasant surprise of the tournament: Portugal, who unfortunately will be forgotten and neglected once again by the sport's authorities until they have to pleasantly surprise us once more in 2027 so Beaumont and company can boast about the sport's growth.
Pleasant surprise of the tournament (2): Australia, now so powerful that they might even stop playing rugby in my lifetime.
Snoozer of the tournament: Who else? Tom Curry and the English press. Antoine Dupont insisted during the week that Curry apologise to Bongi Mbonambi after possibly slandering him. He'll have to wait a while.
Twist of the tournament: Sam Cane's red card in the final, well-deserved as it was.
To conclude, a tribute to our director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, whose chutzpah knows no end. So much so that last week he changed his X profile picture to that of Agustín Pichot, Beaumont's arch-rival.
And one for his departing partner in crime, head coach Jacques Nienaber, whom we will miss a lot:
Oh, and one for all of us; it's the weekend!
♦ VWB ♦
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