The Springboks will be disappointed that they were not able to reach the final for a shot at the 2015 Rugby World Cup title following their 20-18 semi-final loss to the All Blacks, but it was not all gloom and doom at the tournament for the South Africans.
With the third place play off match against Argentina taking place on Friday night, the Springboks will have one last chance to take something from the tournament before returning home.
AFKSports reveals 10 positives that the Springboks can take from the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
A shock 32-34 loss to Japan in the opening encounter of this World Cup saw the Springboks embarrassed and hanging their heads in shame, but to their credit, they were able to use that surprise result to their advantage, as motivation to improve and strive to cancel out that poor performance against the Japanese. They did just that, winning their remaining pool matches comfortably before disposing of Wales in the quarter-finals and coming close to knocking out the All Blacks in a close semi-final defeat. A great comeback without a doubt.
The Springboks can also be proud of the fact that they improved upon the collective performance of the team with regards to the last Rugby World Cup in New Zealand in 2011. At that competition South Africa was knocked out at the quarter-final stage by Australia, and although the referee on that occasion was poor to say the least, and they should have won that match, this year they were able to move one step further into semi-finals.
There is no doubt that the Springboks can return home from the tournament with their heads held high, as they made the fans proud with the way that they played and by reaching the semi-finals of the competition before bowing out by a two-point margin to the defending champion All Blacks. South Africans are proud of their national team, and will welcome them home at OR Tambo International Airport in their numbers to show the pride that they have for their heroes.
The All Blacks have crushed all of the teams who stood in their path at this World Cup in an effort to defend their title, but the Springboks provided New Zealand with their sternest test thus far, pushing them throughout the encounter and leading at the half. An eventual two-point victory showed that the All Blacks were fortunate to beat the South Africans, and it so easily could have ended in favour of the Springboks.
If the Springboks can be particularly happy about one aspect of their World Cup, with the future in mind, it is the performances of many youngsters in the side. These individuals will form the core of future Springbok sides, as well as the next one or two World Cup teams. Players such as locks Lood de Jager and Eben Etzabeth, as well as Handre Pollard and Patrick Lambie showed incredible composure and ability, while centres Damien De Allende and Jesse Kriel are also fantastic players to get excited about for the future.
Bryan Habana was chasing the try scoring record at Rugby World Cups when he began their pool match against the USA, having scored 12 before that encounter and knowing that the record held by New Zealand legend Jonah Lomu was within touching distance on 15. Three fine tries during the second half of that game allowed Habana to equal a record that to many seemed an impossible feat over the years, and against Argentina he will have a final attempt at making that record his own.
During the tournament many impressive milestones were reached for numerous Springbok players. Francois Louw appeared in his 40th test while Morne Steyn played in his 60th. Numerous youngsters received their World Cup debuts, and will now be better off in future tournaments thanks to the experience that they enjoyed at this competition. In addition, veterans such as Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger and Victor Matfield added to their impressive list of records and achievement, and they can be incredibly proud of that.
A number of Springbok veterans will retire following the end of the Rugby World Cup campaign, including the likes of Schalk Burger and Victor Matfield, amongst others. This World Cup was a final chance for fans of the South African side and the game of rugby in general to see these legendary players don the Bok shirt for a final few games before calling time on their stellar careers. In fact, Matfield has revealed that he will retire after the tournament, and has been handed the captain’s armband for their third place game on Friday as a sign of respect.
There are many South African expatriates in the UK, and the World Cup held in England gave many of these Springbok fans the opportunity to follow their favourite team and support them throughout the competition, giving the team a sense of being at home even though they were playing away. An example of this was shown when thousands of South African fans joined the members of the World Cup winning South African team of 1995 in their early morning London run in support of the Springboks.
The Springboks end their 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign on Friday night with a third and fourth place play off against Argentina, and although it will not have the same atmosphere and weight of importance as the final between Australia and New Zealand, the South Africans still have the chance to return home from the competition as the third best team in world rugby behind their southern hemisphere rivals, and there is certainly some worthwhile accolade in that distinction.