Rugby Union: Boks' stride loses its spring

Paul Stephens, in Cape Town, reports on the reaction to a bitter defeat

The Springboks do not like the taste of defeat. Deeply ingrained in the Springbok psyche is the fear of losing which, coupled with the relentless necessity of winning, underpins the massive self-confidence of the World Cup holders.

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.

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
peopleReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
peopleThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker