For a country that’s touted to have the best schools rugby system in the world, it’s rather strange that South Africa last won the Under-20 World Championships in 2012.
The Junior Springboks are annually highly competitive, yet just lack the oomph to go all the way.
However, here’s a fact many won’t be aware of: Wednesday’s excellent 25-17 victory over New Zealand in this year’s edition stretches South Africa’s winning streak against the old enemy to five games.
You read right, the Baby Boks have beaten the Baby All Blacks five consecutive times now.
The revealing thing about this winning run is that it’s stretched over eight years now, meaning this isn’t some fluke.
It’s not a single group of players that has done this consistently.
Granted, it suggests that South African rugby continues to churn out quality junior players, but that’s not really the point.
The Baby Boks have beaten their Kiwi counterparts because they invariably employ the power game the brilliant Springbok sides of the professional era have played before.
Earlier this week, Chean Roux’s charges kept their opponents at bay through watertight defence, being robust in the collisions and making sure they ruthlessly capitalise on opportunities on the counterattack.
It’s hardly attractive, but still compelling because it’s so brilliantly effective.
The victory also provides ample ammunition for Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus to use the new contracting system as a springboard to implement a national playing style.
SA rugby is never going to be as flamboyant as New Zealand’s.
We’ve seen over the past decade how trying to copy an attacking style has hurt local franchises, with the honourable exception of the Lions.
But we can’t deny that this year their approach has been exposed by teams who dominate them physically.
South Africa’s strength is being unfashionable.
Our rugby needs to stop being fancy.
It will bring us nowhere.