Johannesburg – The 2023 Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks are warriors rather than superstars who relish a challenge, former star fly-half Joel Stransky said on Sunday.
South Africa pipped 14-man New Zealand 12-11 at the Stade de France in Paris on Saturday to lift the symbol of global rugby supremacy a record fourth time.
The first title came in 1995, also against their greatest rivals the All Blacks, thanks to an extra-time drop goal from Stransky at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
“Pieter-Steph (du Toit) was sensational in the final, making 28 tackles, and thoroughly deserved the man of the match award,” he told the SuperSport TV channel.
“But Pieter-Steph would be the first to admit that he is not a superstar, He is one of 35 special players who represented South Africa so magnificently at this World Cup.
“Our victory over the All Blacks in Paris was a collective effort, with no one shirking their responsibilities.
“This is a team that embraces adversity. It is often said that the Springboks are at their best when the odds are against them.
“Think France in the quarter-finals, think New Zealand in the final. On both occasions we were the underdogs and yet we somehow found a way to succeed.”
“We were favourites against England in the semi-finals and struggled for most of the match. A Springbok is at his best when his back is against the wall.”
South Africa held on for a 29-28 victory over France then came from nine points behind to pip England 16-15 through a long-range Handre Pollard penalty two minutes from time.
‘Part of our DNA’
Stransky said wearing the green and gold Springboks jersey had always been special, and every rugby player in the republic dreams of representing his country.
“It is part of our DNA. South Africa creates so many great rugby players. They all want to play for the Springboks. They all want to be World Cup winners.
“But it is not just about winning trophies. As Siya (captain Kolisi) has said many times recently — there is a higher purpose to it all.
“Those who wore the green and gold in Paris represented 62 million people back home who face numerous daily challenges like load shedding (rolling blackouts).
“Springbok victories, like that against New Zealand on Saturday night, bring joy and hope. Siya and others have proven that no mountain is too high if you are determined to scale it.”
Stransky said the Springboks, only the second team after the All Blacks to achieve back-to-back World Cup triumphs, had waged a masterly seven-match World Cup campaign in France.
“In the pool stage there was a lot of wonderful running rugby at times from the team. Then came a need to adapt to knockout matches.
“You cannot always play beautiful rugby. Sometimes it is all about courage and commitment, about making those crucial, try-saving tackles.”
Stransky, 56, represented South Africa 22 times between 1993 and 1996 in an era when there were far fewer Test matches than now, and scored 240 points.
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Compiled by Betha Madhomu