On Saturday during the Springbok-Wallaby Test, I tweeted about how delighted I was to see an all-black Bok front row on the field.
“Loving the all-black @Springboks front row,” read the tweet, with a fire emoji thrown in as well.
Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane fronted the Bok scrum, and they were dominant against James Slipper, Folau Faingaa and Sekope Kepu.
One scrum saw Mtawarira totally destroying Kepu, and he was so pumped up that he pushed the Wallaby tighthead and his loosehead partner Slipper out of the way after winning the penalty.
The Sharks No 1 had a point to prove after the controversy surround his comments about former coach Peter de Villiers in his yet-to-be released autobiography, and he made his mark.
Mbonambi was his usual busy self, despite the Boks missing a few lineouts, while Nyakane stood strong in the scrums.
Jantjies Incorporated – Herschel and Elton – then went on to quieten those fair-weather Bok supporters who were just waiting to see them mess up.
Scrumhalf Herschel led the way, providing a crisp service, sniping around the fringes, being committed on defence, and scoring two excellent tries.
Flyhalf Elton benefited from his partner’s (and the Bok pack’s) hard work, and controlled the game like we all know he can do.
Left wing Makazole Mapimpi made a few runs, but wasn’t put into any real space out wide, which was a real pity as he has serious pace that can give the Boks a dynamic edge at the World Cup.
The ball just went the way of Sbu Nkosi on the other wing more often, and the Sharks tyro was full value as usual – taking on the defence with ball-in-hand and scoring a try, and being busy on defence.
Fullback Warrick Gelant surprised me a bit, considering that he has missed a few Super Rugby games with the Bulls and hasn’t quite hit top form in 2019.
But the man from Knysna showed some quality touches on attack, and displayed a solid boot as well – even though he sometimes kicked at the wrong times.
Replacement prop Lizo Gqoboka, on debut, and lock Marvin Orie got through a lot of work in the second half too.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus actually reached the 2019 transformation target of 50 percent black players in his starting line-up, with eight out of 15.
He fell just short in terms of the match-23, with 11 players of colour translating to 48 percent, and it was unfortunate that he didn’t give Dillyn Leyds a run in the second half at Ellis Park.
Erasmus said afterwards that some of the players “have made me rethink my plans a bit for the All Blacks game”, and surely the Jantjies duo would’ve been part of that group.
But more importantly, there can now be no doubt that the 50 percent transformation target is definitely achievable in terms of the World Cup squad.
Trust and belief are two things black players have been crying out for from local coaches, and SA Rugby’s transformation policy, in conjunction with the Department of Sport and Recreation, is designed to ensure that all players receive equal opportunities.
Many fans and critics are dead against transformation in rugby and sport in general, but once again, Saturday’s victory at Ellis Park proved that you can field a transformed team and win – and play attractive rugby as well.
That wasn’t the case when the Boks and the All Blacks met in 2018, though.
In both games in Wellington and Pretoria, there were only three black players in the starting line-up.
That trend continued on the end-of-year tour, where four players of colour started against England and three against France, four each against Scotland and Wales.
So, may the Wallaby game remind Erasmus that his ‘A team’ can also adhere to the transformation policy when he weighs up his options for Saturday’s blockbuster against the All Blacks…