Consider this, as we count down the days to Saturday’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) final against England. Three years ago, in November 2016, the Springboks found themselves in the low-key surroundings of Florence’s Stadio Artemio Franchi for a friendly against Italy, the last match of their 2016 European tour.

Exhausted after a season that started in February, they lost to the Azzurri for the first time. The score was 20-18. It is fair to say that when they got home they weren’t greeted by throngs of fans in replica jerseys singing and asking for autographs...

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