Your chances at winning at the Roulette table are often quite slim. 37-1 in fact. Somehow you get the impression that the English Rugby Union may get the feeling that they are trying their luck at a local casino.
The odds have seemed stacked against them from the second they touched down in South Africa with even the friendliest of critics suggesting a shock win over the Boks would be an astonishing surprise.
There is always a hotly contested debate surrounding Northern and Southern hemisphere rugby unions, and how the Northern teams are apparently ‘closing the gap’ on their Southern counterparts.
Based on what the world watched last week with Australia defeating Wales, New Zealand smashing Ireland and a very rusty South African team overcoming England, you would be a fool to believe that the ever-growing gap is somehow closing.For the Springboks, there was the sense of tangible and subconscious pressure. This is after all, the same country which previous Bok teams have dispatched in their last seven encounters.
Although for coach Heyneke Meyer’s troops, this was a new Bok line up, with new Bok management, anything could happen. At the half time break, the hosts must have received quite a few stern words from the coach in the change room, because they came out looking like a different team. Despite a consolation try on the final hooter, fans at the Shark tank breathed a sigh of relief after the “Rusty-New-Boks” had managed to brush aside a very dull English unit.
Now the teams are up in Johannesburg with altitude on their side. Morne Steyn has put in extra hours after a poor showing in Durbs, and has promised to be better, while the change at fullback could provide a slightly better attacking option for Meyer.
Young Pat Lambie has been given a starting berth after Zane Kirchner pulled out injured. While there is nothing wrong with the Bulls’ number 15, many find him simply average. Yes, he is safe under the high ball and has a relatively strong boot on him, but he will never silence a crowd with a match winning performance.
Lambie on the other hand, seems to have that X-Factor. Whether is simply youthful exuberance or perhaps just a brighter talent, the Sharks star seems to relish the space at the back, and is never shy when it comes to attacking the line. Despite playing the majority of rugby for his franchise at flyhalf, Lambie says he hasn’t yet made up his mind as to which position he prefers, either way though, he’s a prodigious talent who needs to be carefully nurtured—he will pay Meyer back handsomely in the future with multiple match winning performances.
Skipper Jean De Villiers, battered and bruised as always, addressed the media on Friday afternoon in his Captains Presser and sent out a threatening warning to the English, reminding them that a week in international rugby is a long time, and his players have been getting better with each passing day.
Victory in Durban followed by victory at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium next weekend could see South Africa hit the double figures with a current win/loss record over the English standing tall at 10-nil in favour of the green and gold.
Meyer is an incredible rugby brain, and he has surrounded himself with very intelligent and vibrant people. So unless there is a complete melt down from Meyer and his players, I think it would be wise to put your money on the Springboks to not only whitewash their English counter parts in this series, but also to slowly starting challenging for the world number one spot once again.
You can hear more from Marc on Twitter: @MarcLewisZA