Where to now for beleaguered Boks?

Amanaki Mafi (20) runs for an attack against South Africa. Image by © Michael Lee - Taiwan Mike/KLC fotos/Corbis
Amanaki Mafi (20) runs for an attack against South Africa. Image by © Michael Lee - Taiwan Mike/KLC fotos/Corbis
Carl de Villiers, Zululand Observer

THE Japanese word ‘tora’ – literally meaning tiger – was the famous battle cry and codeword used by the Land of the Rising Sun’s fearless kamikaze pilots in World War II to indicate that complete surprise had been achieved over the enemy.

In the case of Pearl Harbour, it was the acronym for ‘lightning attack’.

And much like the stricken American fleet laying dead in the water on that fateful day in 1941, so too has Springbok rugby’s monolithic battleship come to grief in its first Rugby World Cup assignment against Japan’s supposedly inferior Imperial Forces.

The 34-32 loss at Brighton’s Community Stadium wasn’t only the biggest shock defeat ever recorded at the World Cup, it was without a doubt the single lowest moment in the proud history of South African rugby.

Even as Japan bravely persisted in launching kamikaze-like suicide bomber missions into the mighty South African juggernaut to keep the scoreline perilously close, every time Francois Louw, Bismarck du Plessis, Lood de Jager and Adriaan Strauss crossed the line, there was always the firm belief that it finally signalled the inevitable disintegration of the Japanese defences.

As we know now, that was not to be.

Indicators

Looking ahead, a few worrisome indicators from Saturday night’s mess-up emerged.

If Japan managed to work three turnovers in the first three minutes of the game, manufactured a pushover try against the much vaunted heavyweight Bok pack of forwards (even if it took virtually the whole Japanese team piling in like madmen to achieve this) and caused considerable mischief in the scrums and breakdown points, coach Heyneke Meyer must be quaking in his boots about what is still to come.

The Nippon fighters did South Africa a great disservice by exposing a key area of concern future opponents will have noted on their drawing boards.

The Springboks clearly appeared unsettled by Japan’s aggressive in-your-face tactic.

And who is more in-your-face than the physically imposing Samoans, South Africa’s next opponents?

If we come unstuck against the Islanders on Saturday, its game over and Meyer and Co will be well advised to rather hop aboard a dilapidated refugee boat heading for Italy and seek asylum in Germany than catch the return flight to Jozi.

Is all lost? Certainly not. With two bonus points in the bag, we are still good to go into the quarter-finals if Jean de Villiers can inspire his men to step out of their lacklustre and passionless demeanour.

Once the emotions have settled, we can at least hold onto the thought that only the other day we almost conquered the All Blacks and Australia – just don’t spoil it by mentioning Argentina.

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