Springbok captain John Smit, with the trophy, and teammates celebrate victory over England in the final of the 2007 Rugby World Cup at the Stade de France in St Denis. In front is then-president Thabo Mbeki. Photo: Tertius Pickard/Gallo Images

DURBAN – While our administration had their heads buried in the sand, 10 years have passed since we lifted the Rugby World Cup.

Ten, long, and increasingly depressing years.

It feels a lot longer, in fact, because nostalgia is not always botox for the soul.

Far from just swelling one with pride, looking back sometimes leaves us feeling rather hollow, wondering how we ever allowed things to get to this point.

If we had forgotten, social media and midweek television throwbacks were sure to remind us of a time when things were a lot simpler, and results a lot sweeter.

Yes, it is good to look back and celebrate a landmark. To brush it aside would be to suggest that we are so aloof as to believe that a third World Cup will fall in our laps – in our lifetime.

The truth that is increasingly appearing before our eyes is that the gap between the second and the next may be a lot longer than the 12 years between our first two titles.

So, it is important to remember a time when the World Cup brought about a fair dose of optimism.

Sometimes you wonder if the bigger priority is hosting 2023, rather than competing in 2019.

And so, with that confused reality confronting us, it is imperative to remind laaities who have been raised on a diet of humbling defeats to rivals that, long before Twitter, Instagram and presidential shuffles were our norm, the Springboks actually put together a plan that landed the ultimate prize.

It is vital for the next generation to understand that New Zealand continue to speak in hushed tones about the green jersey for good reason, and not just good manner.

They must be told that the Bok defence was once as fearsome as the wall that Donald Trump keeps threatening to erect in order to make America grim again.

Then president Nelson Mandela presents the William Webb Ellis Cup to captain Francois Pienaar after the Springboks won the 1995 Rugby World Cup final at Ellis Park. This is the last time Soutg Africa hosted the Rugby World Cup. Photo: Reuters

But, above anything else, it is important to toast Jake White, John Smit and their class of 2007 because, as it stands, we may well be toasting past successes a lot more than future glories.

If we cast a lamenting eye at the cast list of the 2007 vintage, it is very revealing just how many of those names are still hugely influential in world rugby – just not in the South African game.

Juan Smith retired this week, and European rugby sighed a relief that his brute force will finally be confined to the armchair.

Former president Thabo Mbeki stands next to John Smit as he lifts the Rugby World Cup in 2007. Photo: Charles Platiau/Reuters

So many others – such as Messrs Habana, Steyn, Pienaar and Pietersen – are still regarded in the highest esteem, and paid the strongest buck in Europe.

Those players (like so many others young and old) and their rugby annuity is lost to our game, probably for good.

White is doing an Eddie Jones in Japan. Speaking of rugby’s Mr Miyagi, the elusive Mr Jones is preparing an English challenge so thorough and formidable that he might just take them all the way to glory in 2019.

Far from taking 2007 as their Everest, they have sought to go again, to sprinkle yet more stardust upon countries who are prepared to give them all the tools they deem necessary to be global challengers.

The third member of the three wise men of Paris is, of course, Allister Coetzee.

You wonder how tempted he is to seeking the help of those he walked with in 2007, if only for the message to come from someone that was there, and has a medal to show for it.

Success is the ultimate currency, and this week has been a reminder of how much value our rugby currency has lost in the last 10 years.

Nostalgia; wicked and wonderful, all at once.


Sunday Tribune

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