The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Die hoogste bome vang die meeste wind.
You’ve heard those sayings before – they basically mean that when you are on top of the world, the fall back down to earth hurts so much more.
And when you are on top, everyone wants a piece of you.
So staying there is as difficult as getting there and you want to ride that wave for as long as possible.
Now the stage is set.
World champions and southern hemisphere title holders against the best that the northern hemisphere has to offer.
It’s easy to sell and market those games – the Springboks versus the British Lions in 2021.
And with rugby in need of a cash injection, you kind of don’t want to add unnecessary items to the menu.
But that’s the risk South African rugby runs if it decides to play in this year’s Rugby Championship – they run the risk of losing their hard-earned aura of invincibility.
Rewind to last Friday when it was announced that the Rugby Championship will take place in Australia.
It wasn’t long before we learned that South Africa is yet to sign on the dotted line and fully commit to the tournament.
Two reasons were given.
Number one is obvious. We are still not allowed to compete at international level because of the coronavirus and border restrictions... or whatever.
Number two is where I think the biggest problem lies. Saru hinted that the Springboks might not be ready.
Saru CEO Jurie Roux is apparently considering “high performance and player wellness issues”.
The statement added: “He [Roux] pointed out that New
Zealand resumed match play three months ago while Australia had been in action for 10 weeks. By contrast, South African players only resumed contact training two weeks ago.”
I understand the man.
Sy woorde was skaars koud and flyhalf Handre Pollard tore his anterior cruciate ligament, ruling him out for months according to his club Montpellier.
This after star locks Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and RG Snyman have already suffered injuries since resuming action for their European clubs.
Don’t forget that Springbok captain Siya Kolisi, World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit, Bok hooker Bongi Mbonambi, scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies en daai hele klomp Stormers are also on the comeback trail after suffering long-term injuries. I forgot to add Steven Kitshoff, anyway – you get the picture.
These manne now have to gradually get back into the game and will not be at their peak by the time the Rugby Championship kicks off.
Yes, New Zealand and Australia have injuries of their own, but at least their players are match fit and used to the demands of the game again.
Therefore, I would not advise South Africa to play in the tournament.
Up against a New Zealand team with everything to prove and nothing to lose, while you put everything on the line ahead of a crucial – to SA Rugby’s finances also – Lions series, is not good business.
Sanzaar will probably not take kindly to this sort of decision, so if the Springboks are allowed by government to play and they have to compete, then I’d suggest running the risk of upsetting the governing body further by sending a second-string squad over to Australia.
I’ve seen reports suggesting that Lukhanyo Am will lead such a squad.
But that’s wrong. Am is a first-team Bok and should also be wrapped in cotton wool.
Instead, I’d use the domestic tournament and the European matches to gauge the form of Bok outsiders and then give them a run in the Championship.
A Bok Barbarian squad if you must.
That way, you have it all to gain and nothing to lose.
By trying to win a spot in the Boks’ Lions squad, these guys might just cause a big upset and then the Boks’ second stringers win the Rugby Championship. Imagine that story.
Others will ask: “Is julle dan bang vir die All Blacks?”.
And the answer will be: “Yes. Scared that the players won’t be ready for that level of competition. Scared that the Boks will injure more star players because they aren’t ready and scared to damage the reputation Rassie Erasmus and his men have worked so hard for.”
Before we get to international action, there is domestic rugby. And with Super Fan Saturday coming up next week, the wait is finally over.