Eiffel Tower lit for Boks as Ox Nché has his cake
Having competed against the five other teams in the top six they can glug Champagne from the bottle
The Eiffel Tower stood lit in the colours of the SA flag late on Saturday night but it took a near superhuman effort by the Springboks to be the toast of the town.
Director of rugby Rassie Erasmus had made the point that the Boks aren’t here to be loved, it is respect they are craving and after having to compete against the five other teams in the game’s top six they can glug Champagne from the bottle.
Along the way they weren’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially after they knocked the hosts out in the quarterfinals but not even Marie Antoinette would begrudge them their moment.
“I’m thinking caramel cheesecake. I saw it earlier at the hotel,” enthused loose-head prop Ox Nché at the prospect of celebrating with his favourite confectionery.
He can graze as much as he likes. Nché often turned his direct opponent in the scrum to soufflé.
The moment was especially sweet for Nché who had to wait three years for his second Test after making his debut against Wales in a defeat in Washington.
“I made my debut in 2018, watched the 2019 World Cup at home from the couch and I told my friends in four years that is where I wanted to be. And I am here, thank God,” beamed Nché.
“It means a lot. I don’t know how to describe it. It is a feeling that is out of this world. To have a special group of guys like this.
“Deon [Fourie], he is 37 years old — in the first few minutes in a World Cup final our starting hooker goes down. We lost Malcolm Marx earlier. If we stay united we can achieve anything. That’s what it means to me.”
Beefcake centre Jesse Kriel said the Boks’ mindset remained positive throughout.
“It was so intense, exactly what you expect from a World Cup final. The guys dug in again and fought hard,” he said.
“As a South African, as a Springbok, you always believe you are going to win. You don’t have doubts. Winning is a mindset, something we train for and that belief came through again.”
Handré Pollard, who returned to the squad after missing the initial selection, again delivered calm and composed performances en route to World Cup success.
“It is unbelievable. It is more relief than happiness at the moment. It will maybe take a few days or even weeks to realise what we have done,” Pollard said.
He came in late but his flawless performances off the kicking tee, especially at Stade de France at the business end of the tournament, helped make the difference.
“When you are actually out on the field it is pretty normal; it’s just rugby, man. Once you are in the cathedral you just get going and trust your process. The trust the guys have in myself and the trust I have in them … if you miss it [a kick], it’s not the end of the world for us, we don’t see it that way.
“There’s not a lot going on, it’s pretty simple, to be honest.
“For me now, it will be remembered as a nice place to kick. Not all stadiums are like that, unfortunately. I will have fond memories of this place for sure.”
Fourie, who was on early for injured Bongi Mbonambi, spread himself thin across Stade de France making 21 tackles.
“I haven’t seen the stats, but it felt like it. I was tired and I was in a dark place,” he said.
“At that stage of the game both my hammies [hamstrings] were cramping and my calves were cramping and I felt bad around my shoulder but I knew I couldn’t go off as Bongi was already injured and we needed a hooker. Bit the bullet and luckily we got to the end.”
Lock Jean Kleyn, who had the mammoth task of filling the void left when Eben Etzebeth was substituted, measured up to the task in the final.
“It is an incredible thing to be a part of. I don’t think there is a country in the world that puts so much into a World Cup. It means so much to the people,” said the player who was a surprise call-up into the Bok group having previously played for Ireland.
Kleyn spoke of the resolve the Boks showed winning three consecutive knock-out games by a point en route to the title.
“Rassie [Erasmus] said a few weeks ago, it is a sign of a really good team if you win the matches you are not supposed to win,” he said.
“Last week was definitely a match that we won at the death. I think today we earned it, quarterfinals we earned it. The belief in the team is immense and I don’t think for one minute we thought we would lose that match.”
The Springboks arrive back in Johannesburg on Tuesday morning.
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