Meyer's honeymoon over
The 2013 Rugby Championship signals a significant moment in Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer's tenure as coach.
Since taking charge of the national side in 2012, he's been at the helm for 15 Tests.
The team has won 10 games, lost 3 and drawn 2 under the former Bulls coach.
There's been an unbeaten tour of Europe, losses at the hands of the old foe and talk of a bright new dawn in June.
Overall it's an above average return for an international rugby side but right on the borderline of what's acceptable as a Springbok coach.
Comparisons to other coaches and eras are often unfair but the fact that Meyer's had to largely build a squad, especially in crucial positions, has to be taken into consideration.
That time now though has passed. The majority of the past 18 months has been Meyer's proverbial honeymoon. It's allowed him to take stock of what talent he has at his disposal, how to mould that and in doing so build a world-beating side.
He's selected, chipped away, whittled down and waited on players too. And, the extensive playbook that he spoke about in one of his first 'off-the-record' briefings with the media, has now been ingested. So, let's see it.
The 2013 Rugby Championship squad will form the core of this side of the course of the next two years or so. So, as a fan, or a pundit, make peace with it.
The June incoming Tests featured two very good wins over Italy and Samoa respectively and that narrow, testing, win over Scotland from which they would have learnt an enormous amount. It precipitated the need to bring Scottish breakdown specialist Richie Gray into the set-up. The designer of a piece of apparatus called the 'Collision King' could surely not have found himself in a better environment in which to work.
But those three Tests brought to an end Meyer's dalliances and experimentation, with Willie le Roux perhaps the last one in before the gates shut.
Taking into account too injuries over time to the likes of Francois Hougaard, Arno Botha, Pierre Spies, Johan Goosen, Francois Steyn and Frans Malherbe among others, Meyer's taken his time to analyse and work with almost every players he has at his disposal. A few of departed the scene but most have stayed.
With perhaps just the likes of Jaque Fourie to return from Japan and to push for a place in the side, any failure to launch from this position will be purely down to the Boks not being good enough. And that's something that we can deal with.
Fourie Du Preez's inclusion seems to have polarised some, particularly among the fans. The fact of the matter is that we as South Africans obsess about age. At 31, and if in form, then the selection of the World Cup-winner is a no-brainer. His presence in the squad have the past week has brought a palpable assuredness to the Bok camp.
I'm amazed at how quickly we gloss over recent contributions by Percy Montgomery and Os du Randt in 2007 while du Preez himself alluded to, when speaking to EWN last week, how influential the return of George Smith was to Australian rugby.
But the point of this particular exercise isn't to harp on about just one player. Du Preez deserves endless column inches of his own such is his rich talent and also too if he fails. In fact, he wouldn't shy away from that one inch.
This is where the real work for Meyer now starts as expectations of him and a clearly talented side are sky-high. He'll have to select well going forward, while also managing the expectations of a host of players who won't quite make it into final team selections as the side becomes more settled.
The foreign-player issue is one that will run its course until eventually fans realise, and accept, that the coach will pick on merit and rugby played in other parts of the world won't have a material effect on the Boks' performances.
The South African Rugby Union have moved though to ensure that some of the other Boks who overseas clubs have courted will stay put. More on that at a later date.
Come 2015 and Meyer's biggest headache will be who to leave out of that World Cup 30. There'll be some very big names who don't make the overnight flight to Heathrow. But then again, that's the best kind of problem a coach can have.
Meyer's real job as Springbok coach starts against Argentina tomorrow. He's been given every tool to succeed in the job, now he needs to repay those who entrusted him with the reins of Springbok coach.
Find more content on the Boks on EWN's Springbok Feature - click here.