Columnists 21.11.2017 11:17 am

Here’s hoping the win is not a false dawn

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

There was little in the mood of the usual gathering to suggest that South Africa’s 18-17 win over the Tricolores in Paris at the weekend had lightened the gloom hanging over the assembly and brought back any realistic expectations of this country’s future in world rugby.

Even Dave the Silent, a firm Bok fan even if he admits to have no deep knowledge of the game legend tells us started in 1823 at Rugby public school in England by William Webb Ellis – horror of horrors – picking up the ball and running with it under his arm, had taken a serious knock.

The Silent One tends to accept most results with a stoicism that would earn the envy of a granite block, had shown that of late he could likely become cross, angry and also more than a touch annoyed. The fact that the narrow one-point win the Springboks eked out over a French side had been slated by former Springbok coach Nick Mallett as “the worst coached team in world rugby” certainly did not lift the Silent One’s expectations and did not have any uplifting effect on his general sense of humour.

Neither did a string of comments from the Arithmetically-challenged Golfer. “You just have to accept that the continued chaos in the Bok side is founded in the same type of uncontrolled confusion which has been visited on our basket case northern neighbours,” was how he set out.

“If you look at some of the individual performances, you cannot fault the efforts of players like Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Malcolm Marx and the input a veteran like Beast Mtawarira brings to the side. “But collectively they have looked directionless – certainly that was the case against the Irish in the Dublin debacle a week earlier. And even if it wasn’t much of a spectacle, at least we ended up on the winning side for a change.

“Bringing in Handre Pollard at flyhalf – even though he has some way to go to shake of the bench rust – and Francois Venter in the midfield gave the Boks some stability and thrust. “And re-installing Duane Vermeulen in the side at No 8 was also a positive. He freed up Francois Louw to fill his best role as a fetcher and Kolisi to play his natural game.

“There are signs, even if they are mainly hidden, that we are starting to head the right way.” Finally, the Silent One offered his considered opinion. “I have listened to all the moans and groans from you lot,” he said. “And I must add that on a broad front I tend to agree with the points you raise. But it does get a little tedious when you listen to the replays week after week.

“So, to save myself further heartache, I slipped off early, went home and tucked myself safely in bed with the television firmly switched off. And by all accounts, I’m glad I didn’t bother with the newspapers the next day either.

“Somehow I’m glad I did. And with question marks hanging over Etzebeth and Marx and Kolisi not being available against Italy this weekend, I think I might just repeat the experiment.”