A story of "Real Champs" vs "People's Champs" Part 2: A Cold War

A story of "Real Champs" vs "People's Champs" Part 2: A Cold War

If you have not read part one this story, stop right now, and go find it. If you were with this us last time, then you will have gotten to know of the rise of the “People’s Champs”. The journey and legacy of the Irish team since defeating the Springboks in 2017, and as it stands, are yet to lose a fixture against South Africa ever since.

And that’s where today’s story begins, with the “Real Champs”. The 2017 Springboks, were a shell of what they look like today, losing 4 out of their 12 fixtures that season, including a record 57-0 hammering to New Zealand, and 38-3 blowout against the Irish just 2 years out from the 2019 world cup. After a disastrous 2018, then Springbok coach Allister Coetzee was sacked in favour of the polarising Johan Rassie Erasmus, who was fresh of a Guiness Pro14 (now United Rugby Championship) semi-final loss with Irish giants Munster.

One would argue that the “Real Champs” were better off under Allister Coetzee in 2017 judging by the poorer run of form displayed by the Springboks in 2018. 6 losses in 13 matches saw them drop to their lowest ranking ever, 7th in the world just one year out from the World Cup in Japan. However, a 36-34 win over the All Blacks in New Zealand in September of that year, put the entire rugby world on notice. Meanwhile, Ireland was enjoying a grand slam win in the 6Nations, and a first-ever series win in Australia.

When 2019 came around, there was a lot of uncertainty around the Springboks, but all doubts were put to bed when the Boks won the shortened version of the Rugby Championship and holding the All Blacks to a 16-16 draw. Whispers of world cup contention began to buzz around South Africa making their way to the Northern Hemisphere, where Ireland who had won back to 6Nations titles, were salivating at their chances.

Unfortunately, we were robbed of a quarter-final showdown between the two nations after Ireland’s shock 19-12 loss to Japan in the pool stages would have set-up a rematch of the 2017 fixture between the Irish and the Springboks. A Springbok loss to the All Blacks in their opening fixture set up a date, between Ireland and the All Blacks who swiftly sent them home with a 46-14 thrashing. The Springboks would go on to hammer England in the final to lift the Webb Elliss Trophy for a record equalling third time.

With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting the world in 2020, the World Champs would not play a single game of test match rugby that entire year, all the while anticipating Test Rugby’s most star-studded teams: The British & Irish Lions the following year in 2021. The stage was set! The Irish who believed they were the best in the world, coupled by the English who were still reeling off the 2019 final loss, were ready to team up with the Springboks’ Achilles heel Wales, and the on European team that has the most South African born players, Scotland.

Enter the Lions tour of South Africa 2021. To be continued…

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