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WATCH: Why we’re lucky to be alive in this era of ‘Springbokdom’

Former player Stefan Terblanche wearing a Springbok jersey during an interview

Former player Stefan Terblanche was not short of praise for the Springboks, three weeks on from their Rugby World Cup victory in the final over the All Blacks. Picture: Michael Sherman/IOL

Published Nov 19, 2023


Though the general sentiment around the Springboks at the moment in South Africa is bordering on delirium, it would still take some beating to find a more passionate supporter than Stefan Terblanche.

Before I had even introduced myself to Terblanche for the first time at the Gary and Vivienne Player Invitational at Sun City on Friday, he was grinning from cheek to cheek clad in his tightly fitting Springbok jersey.

I had arranged an interview with the former Springbok, and though I had not yet asked about the Rugby World Cup-winning Bokke, he clearly knew the question was coming.

And though he already has probably had the same conversation hundreds of times since the Springboks beat New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup final in Paris on October 28 - he spoke with the enthusiasm of a school child who had just fallen in love with the game.

‘Simply exceptional’

“The stats tell the story. If you look at where the Springboks were when Rassie [Erasmus] took over to where they are now as back-to-back Rugby World Cup winners. Their record against the All Blacks - that’s who we measure ourselves against - it’s just exceptional,” Terblanche told IOL Sport.

“Don’t forget Jacques [Nienaber]. He was the head coach and Rassie was the man in the background. He still played a vital part in putting this team together. We’re fortunate as SA rugby supporters to be alive in this era to see a team led by a once in a lifetime leader like Siya Kolisi. Siya understands the political landscape of South African rugby but also understanding the game so well.

“The world doesn’t like us much at the moment as we’re the only team to have won four World Cups. I’m not going to go on about it, but we played in two less World Cups than New Zealand in 1987 and 1991.”

Terblanche lauded the Springboks’ ability to play under pressure, while admitting it was not particularly soothing on his nerves as a supporter.

“For Siya [Kolisi] and the team, Rassie [Erasmus] and Jacques Nienaber it was incredible. They put us through absolute hell, one point in the quarter, one point in the semis and one point again in the final. But we’ll take it any day of the week. I’m just so proud to not only be a South African, but to have been in France to share a very special moment with the Springboks.

“The BMT for them to win in tight situations … I think people will only recognise after this team is gone how special they are. With Jacques and Rassie, the seeds and the belief they’ve planted into these players’ mind that they can win in any situation.”

It would be more than acceptable for the Springboks to revel in their achievements, but Terblanche said he was amazed that the players were already looking forward to an unprecedented third title in a row.

‘Think big’

“It was interesting talking to the players after the final at the World Rugby awards. Yes, they were enjoying it, they had a few drinks and rightly so. But they were already thinking about ‘can we become (and I say we as a South African) the first-ever team to win three in a row. They’re already starting to think about that. So they do think big, they do back themselves. They make decisions on and off the field that might raise the eyebrows of a few people.

“But my goodness, when they get onto that pitch - there’s only one thing that’s important and that’s putting the team first.”

As for the impressive depth in the team, Terblanche was especially enthusiastic about the current crop of scrumhalves in the green and gold.

“We took four scrumhalves to the World Cup. Grant Williams is playing behind Faf [de Klerk] at the moment. We’ve still got [Jaden] Hendrikse and Cobus Reinach - I’m a massive fan of his. We’re just so blessed to have players like that. He’s probably the fastest player in the Springbok team at the moment.

“He played a couple of games on the wings. He reminds me of Shane Williams who was also a scrumhalf in the World Cup in 2003 as a third choice. He then went on to the wing to become the highest try scorer in Welsh rugby history. So Cobus is in the same mould. He’s pound-for-pound one of the best rugby players in the world.”

High praise indeed, but you can’t argue with the man.


IOL Sport