South Africa's captain Duane Vermeulen, left, with coach Rassie Erasmus hold their Rugby Championship trophies after their media conference on Monday. Photo: AP Photo/Themba Hadebe

CAPE TOWN  We always hear that the only trophy that matters in a World Cup year is the Webb Ellis Cup.

Makes sense. There is not a team on this planet that would choose the Six Nations or Rugby Championship trophy over the one that’s up for grabs in Japan next month. And if a team had to win one of those cabinet souvenirs but not rugby’s ultimate prize, in hindsight, it probably wouldn’t mean much.

Also, there’s only one trophy that automatically comes with the title of world’s best. So I guess that notion is valid.

In fact, there are all kinds of stats to prove why the international competitions preceding the World Cup don’t matter much.

Australia, for example, claimed the Rugby Championship in 2015, yet New Zealand celebrated in England. The Aussies also won the Tri Nations in 2011, before the All Blacks were victorious on home soil at the World Cup. In 2007, South Africa finished bottom of the log in the Tri Nations, but went on to win their second World Cup in France that year. So, can anything be read into the 2019 Rugby Championship results?

Yes. History suggests otherwise, but yes.

We all know that this is going to be arguably the most open World Cup event, and if the northern-hemisphere teams could ever get excited by the prospect of adding to their single World Cup trophy, it would probably be this year.

But for the Springboks, winning the Rugby Championship comes with more than just bragging rights.

When the Boks claimed the Rugby Championship at the weekend, it was their first title in 10 year, and it said a lot about how far this team has come.

You could also see the fact that it was done while experimenting with team selections as even more impressive.

Yes, it might not matter come Japan, but it matters now.

And where belief and confidence is concerned, that result was massive.

One thing that was particularly pleasing, other than the final result, was the points table. That points difference, in particular.

Yeah, it’s quite something seeing New Zealand on a negative points difference, but how good are South Africa’s digits (+51)?

All of that - from the their draw against the All Blacks to their thrashing of Argentina to lifting the trophy on Saturday night, all of that was huge for a South African team that’s seen its fair share of troubles in recent years.

And in a year where the Boks - or any other team - can’t afford to just zoom in on the likes of the Kiwis, Australians and England, that confidence and belief will be a big factor.

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The World Cup still carries the most weight. Success in the Rugby Championship and Six Nations still isn’t the ultimate grading system or predictor of World Cup success.

But again, for the Boks, their recent success will do a lot when it comes to can-do attitude, while not even taking into account the answers it would have provided for coach Rassie Erasmus.

Will the Boks’ Rugby Championship feat be enough to win the World Cup? We’ll have to wait and see. But it certainly cannot count against them.


Cape Times

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