Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi gets away from three woulbe defenders in February's clash against the Jaguares at Ellis Park. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi gets away from three woulbe defenders in February's clash against the Jaguares at Ellis Park. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Scotland centre Huw Jones bursts through a crowd of England defenders to score. Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith
Scotland centre Huw Jones bursts through a crowd of England defenders to score. Photo: Reuters/Lee Smith

JOHANNESBURG - I know, I know. It’s foolish to see a ray of light and assume it’s sunshine. But beggars can’t be choosers and local rugby fans have been feeding on scraps for years.

Our Super Rugby teams have snarled and snapped without truly scaring off any of the big dogs and our Springbok team has nosedived much like the Rand.

But, much like our currency, things appear to have settled down. There’s even a sense that it could be on the way back. That’s what solid leadership can do.

A succession of events, barely hours apart last weekend, allowed some confidence to surge back into the SA rugby zeitgeist.

The first came with the thrilling form of Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi, reaffirming the view that the Lions might well have discovered Bryan Habana (Mark II).

Former All Black coach Laurie Mains always said that it wasn’t enough to be very good as a wing. He wanted them to be special. Dyantyi looks special indeed.

It’s not so much what he can do, but what he represents. He’s emphatic proof that South Africa’s rugby factory is still belching smoke. Excellent players can be found everywhere, so long as they are given their freedom.

In Pretoria, meanwhile, there were signs that the Bulls have finally discovered skill to go with their undoubted muscle. Even Nick Mallett, who 20 years ago held his head in his hands when discussing SA rugby skills, commended this part of the Bulls game under new man John Mitchell.

Take another look at Johnny Kotze’s try, more particularly Jesse Kriel’s sublime final pass, and you’ll see something of the All Blacks in the execution. It can be done - even in a Bulls shirt.

Yet the most significant moment of the week came in Edinburgh where rousing Scotland burned down England’s house. Passion is often lazily attributed to a team’s performance, but for once it was richly evident in how fiercely little Scotland tore into the big boys.

It had huge relevance for South Africa because England tour South Africa in June with three Tests on the schedule.

Given how England have bossed the game these past two years, there was genuine trepidation across SA, even with Rassie Erasmus having stepped in to save us from Allister Coetzee’s reign of ruin.

Scotland demonstrated two things. With the right tactics and technique, England can be outworked.

Also, their cocksure selections are a thing of the past. Easy riders like Dan Cole, Mike Brown and Danny Care must surely be shipped out. Even Eddie Jones’ love affair with Dylan Hartley, his captain, will be under review.

South Africa will take heart from many factors, not least the breakdown. One area local rugby lacks for nothing is in scavengers. There are many.

England were creamed at the breakdown where they opted not to contest the tackle as Scotland played two opensiders. England were hopelessly static in this area, and in many others.

Scotland’s counter-rucking was vicious and England had no answer. It resulted in excellent service for Finn Russell, whose fast, pin-point passing also offered clues to the Boks.

With dangerous outside runners available for the Boks, the choice of number 10 will be critical, as Erasmus no doubt knows.

Huw Jones, the sometime Western Province man, ran hard and direct, causing chaos in the England defence.

That must point the way for South Africa with big men like Rohan Janse van Rensburg available to hit it up hard, with good hands as insurance.

England’s driving maul was useless and potentially something for South Africa to exploit, especially as it’s an area of their game they sadly moved away from in the Coetzee era.

Of course, Jones is too wily to let things be. He will be recalibrating both defence and attack as England prepare to face France and Ireland in defence of their Six Nations crown.

He’s also likely to wield his axe with one eye on the SA series and one on imperious New Zealand, whom England play in November.

Scotland have shaken things up gloriously. After the Boks’ horrors of last year, all might not be lost.

Erasmus could do worse than give Scotland coach Gregor Townsend a friendly call in the weeks to come.

Sunday Tribune

Like us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter