Rugby Union: Boks' stride loses its spring
Paul Stephens, in Cape Town, reports on the reaction to a bitter defeat
Monday 23 June 1997
A Lions' victory was neither contemplated by the South African squad, nor remotely envisaged from within the home media corps or the Springboks' highly vocal and devoted Afrikaaner supporters. Well before the end of this match, as dramatic and thrilling a Test as there has been in recent years, the drumbeat had an Irish, Scottish, Welsh and, at times it has to be said, English resonance to it.
There was no triumphalism from the Lions' management any more than there was from the hordes of Lions well-wishers who for days had been forced- fed on a diet of not if, but how wide would be the margin of the Springboks' victory by the one-eyed local press and television.
It is a measure of how badly the Lions' win has been received in South Africa that some commentators are already calling for the head of Carel du Plessis, unless the Springboks can level the series at King's Park, Durban on Saturday. Du Plessis, the tenderfoot South African coach with no previous experience at international level, who was feeling his way after the controversial dismissal four months ago of Andre Markgraaff for some unguarded racist remarks, is now feeling intense pressure.
Du Plessis, once a gifted winger in an exceptional Western Province back line, on Saturday night, bore the concerned look of a man about to undergo heart surgery. His plight not helped by those around him like Gert Smal - his assistant with responsibility for coaching the forwards - who may well be hoping for divine intervention, before he can come to terms with the way the Lions' forwards refused to submit.
This was where the South Africans, apparently, had an unassailable superiority. But the Lions disrupted their platform, took full advantage of Naka Drotske's poor throwing, and with Ireland's Jeremy Davidson in full flight at the line-out, the Lions' forwards waxed stronger as the game went into its final phase.
By then newcomer Edrich Lubbe had departed with a hamstring problem and he is likely to be replaced by Hennie Le Roux, who is next up to feel the full force of Scott Gibbs' tackling. Drotske might have to forfeit the hooker's place to Jamie Dalton if the latter's fitness problems have been resolved.
Among several of the South Africans' problems is the realisation that they do not possess the strength in depth of the Lions. Their No 1 provincial team, Natal, the Currie Cup holders - admittedly without their six Springboks - were swept imperiously aside by the Lions a week previously, with no one in their team suggesting he could make the step up to claim a Boks jersey except perhaps flanker Wayne Fyvie.
But Du Plessis is not short of flankers; he is just being forced to come to terms with a shortage of self-belief. That essential ingredient was put through the shredder by the Lions at Newlands.
Had Joost Van der Westhuizen scored the try that Matt Dawson turned the game with, the Northern Transvaal scrum-half would have been assigned the freedom of Cape Province. I hope the Mayor of Northampton is reading this.
Latest in Sport
Manchester United transfer news and rumours: David De Gea could leave for FREE; £38m for Marquinhos; £37m bid for Mats Hummels;
Transfer talk: Juan Cuadrado Chelsea move imminent; Manchester United eye Nathaniel Clyne; Andre Schurrle medical at Wolfsburg
Danny Ings to Liverpool: The Reds attempt to steal a march on rivals in race to sign Burnley striker
Kim Sears 'swearing' outburst threatens to overshadow Andy Murray's Australian Open semi-final win
Kim Sears: Andy Murray defends fiancée's for outburst after a bad-tempered march to final
- 1 Woman falls to her death as she celebrates marriage proposal at the edge of Ibiza cliff
- 3 Dad attempts revenge on teenage daughter, plan backfires spectacularly
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...
£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...
£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...
£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...