The Springboks will be hoping to be at their best when they take on New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday. Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets
THE Springboks start their Rugby World Cup campaign in Japan today if not favourites, then very real contenders to possibly lift the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time - perhaps even in the final against their arch rivals, the All Blacks.

It would be a fitting finale, given that this would also be the 100th time the two teams clash, but even more so given the Springboks’ woeful performances over the intervening years since the previous World Cup in 2015 - when they contrived to lose against Japan in their Pool stage - but especially over the past two years during which they racked up record, humiliating poundings against the New Zealanders.

The change has been nothing short of miraculous under director of rugby and head coach Johan “Rassie” Erasmus, who has also made profound transformation strides from his appointment of the captain to the composition of the squad and its management on the field - all of which have been on merit, finally healing the wounds wrought by the poisoned barbs of tokenism and quotas.

If the Boks do well, it will be a timely salve for our country’s sporting pride, which has taken a battering this year from the soccer field, for men and women, to the cricket oval and even to the athletics track, where our golden girl Caster Semenya has found herself wholly unfairly cast to the international sporting wilderness.

But we also need something to rally around as a country; this has been a punishing year for patriots; the unravelling of the state capture saga, femicide, xenophobia, racism - all against a backdrop of rising hopelessness, unemployment and inequality.

The Boks offer us a real chance of a moment’s respite over the next six weeks - we need it!

To Rassie, captain Siya Kolisi and the team, do your best, lads, that’s all we can ask.

We’re all behind you.