South Africa reel from World Cup ‘humiliation’

Japan hooker Shota Horie tackles Springbok lock Victor Matfield

The Springboks’ stunning Rugby World Cup defeat in their Rugby World Cup opening
match has shocked South Africa and put serious doubt on the two time champions
chances of reaching the knock out stages.

South Africa went into the tournament on a less than ideal footing but the
South African public were still confident due to constant reassurances from
the players and coaching staff.

On South Africa’s end of year tour they suffered losses against Ireland and
Wales and then went through the Rugby Championship without a win and also suffered
their first ever loss to Argentina.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer included several players in his squad that were
either injured or had not played for some time for one reason or another.

“Ultimate Bok Humiliation”, “Boks Humiliated” — were some
of the headlines in South Africa’s main newspapers on Sunday.

The Sunday Times stated that the defeat by the team ranked 13 in the world
“rocked the game to its very foundations” — South Africa are ranked
number three and have twice won the World Cup.

Under the headline “Bok heads to roll”, the paper said the future
of coach Heyneke Meyer may be in doubt following the shock defeat.

It also said the explosive match exposed flaws in Meyer’s “old man”
game plan.

Meyer’s team included world cup veterans like Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana
and was the most experienced South African outfit ever to take the to field
with a combined total of 851 caps across the 15 starters.

In his column, former Springbok Ashwin Willemse wrote that the impact of the
defeat “may be so devastating that we might not even make it past the quarter-finals
or be lucky to even reach that stage”.

As a rugby-mad country, the 34-32 defeat also drew widespread shock and surprise
from fans, who expected the Springboks to cruise past a Japan side that had
not won a World Cup match since 1991.

“I thought it was an absolute farce, I was expecting South Africa to win
by a way, way big margin,” said Wayne Saralina, a 46-year-old fan.

The Springboks went to the World Cup under the usual cloud of a race row over
the selection of the team. Critics, including top government officials have
repeatedly accused the sport’s administrators of maintaining elitism by mostly
selecting white players.

The Sunday Times said “the pressure on the South African Rugby Union to
transform the Springboks team will grow from many quarters”

Even labour unions waded in, with the powerful confederation of trade unions,
Cosatu lambasting Meyer.

“The ‘old’ injured white men were just useless and gave Japan the space
to play a great game,” said a statement by the Western Cape branch of Cosatu.

“In the first half, Heyneke had all white players except the back three,
and they were completely outplayed by Japan.”

Social media was a mix of criticism for the Springboks, particularly the obsession
of coach Heyneke Meyer with veterans, and praise for Japan.

“Most appalling effort I have ever seen … you should be ashamed,”
tweeted Vlam Viljoen.

“Boks are the new Bafana Bafana,” said Fana Mokoena, referring to
the national football team that suffered a humiliating Africa Cup of Nations
qualifying defeat in Mauritania two weekends ago.

“Thinking of the great Bok coaches and captains we have had and how most
would have resigned after a loss to Japan,” was the view of Lusty Len.

“Old men should not have played. Why not use young talent?” asked
Heidi Middleton.

“Tough, painful and, most of all, humiliating,” was the summary of
Fire Cracker.

“Meyer has a cunning plan to finish second in group and avoid New Zealand
in semi-finals,” joked Wordfish.

Chris Lee hailed Japan: “This is what sport is all about … a huge victory
for team spirit and hard work.”

“I admire and respect dedication, determination and heart,” tweeted
Esme Nortje, saying Japan were now her second favourite World Cup team after
the Springboks.

Japan play Scotland on Wednesday in their second Pool B game while South Africa
have an additional three days to recover before meeting Samoa on Saturday.

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