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Bok dark cloud has thick silver lining

The cynics with their jaundiced outlook on life will tell you that South African rugby is under a dark cloud, in deep mire of mediocrity.

I think these shortsighted, pessimistic misanthropes revel too much in not finding the silver lining around the shrinking dark cloud.

Yes, the Boks were defeated in the last two games and the previous two Tests were not much to write home about either. But the year 2014 is definitely not the looming disaster that so many want it to be.

Firstly, I firmly believe that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, in his distinctive and unique way, is in the process of building a very good team – especially in view of next year's World Cup in England.

Maybe you do not agree with all his choices – you might hate Victor Matfield (and there are many haters out there), or you think Patrick Lambie is better than Handré Pollard.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but you are not the coach of Bok team. That privilege – and the accompanying responsibilities – belong to Meyer.

Yes, you may air your views and you are welcome to have your emotional outbursts. But that does not mean I (or Meyer) should just accept these outbursts as the alpha and omega of the game.

As I said, I firmly believe that the team is on the right track and that they certainly have an excellent chance next year to become the first team to hold aloft the prestigious Webb Ellis Cup for a third time.

Secondly, the other interesting aspect that many people overlook is how often teams win the World Cup after the previous year was a near disaster.

New Zealand, the first winners of the global showcase in 1987, was won only four of their 10 Tests in 1986. This includes, of course, the unofficial series by the NZ Cavaliers against the Springboks. Those Cavaliers were the All Blacks in all but name. Only two players – wing John Kirwan and scrumhalf David Kirk – did not tour with the NZ Cavaliers in SA.

The 1991 winners, Australia, were not much better in 1990 – with only four victories in seven Tests, but the following year won nine out of their 10 internationals.

In 1995 South Africa, in their maiden World Cup, won it in dramatic fashion. However, 1994 was anything but a successful campaign – just five wins from nine Tests.

The Wallabies, who became the first team to claim a second World Cup title, changed that trend in 1998 and 1999 – with 11 victories in 13 Tests in both years. Four years later England (the only Northern Hemisphere team to claim the coveted title) produced a similar record – eight out of nine (2002) and 16 of 17 (2003).

By 2007 it was back to the 'sour before the sweet' trend, when South African won five out of 12 Tests (in 2006), but the next year became the second team to win the Webb Ellis Cup for a second time.

In 2011 New Zealand joined the two-title club – with 13 victories in 14 Tests (2010) and 10 of 12 (2011).

For me, even without the significant statistics, one thing stands out like daylight – you do not need to overpower everyone the year before a World Cup.

Yes, of course you may want to win every Test. However, just remember how many times the Kiwis, year-after-year, dominated the global stage, only to slip on the proverbial banana peel at the World Cup. It has cost some coaches their jobs, one who is currently coaching club rugby in South Africa.

Just for the record, South Africa have won six of their eight Tests this year (a 75 percent success rate).

Here is a review of teams' performance the year before a World Cup, compared to the year of a World Cup!

1987 – New Zealand:

Year before the World Cup: Played = 10; Won = four (40 percent); home victories = two (50 percent); = defeats six (60 percent)

Year of the World Cup: Played = seven; Won = seven (100 percent); home victories = five (100 percent); losses = none

1991 – Australia:

Year before the World Cup: Played = seven; won = four (57 percent); home victories = three (75 percent); defeats = three (43 percent)

Year of the World Cup: Played = 10; won = nine (90 percent); home victories = three (100 percent); defeats = one (10 percent)

1995 – South Africa:

Year before the World Cup: Played = nine; won = five (56 percent); home victories = three (75 percent); defeats = three (33 percent); draw = one (11 percent)

Year of the World Cup: Played = 10; won = 10 (100 percent); home = eight victories (100 percent); losses = none

1999 – Australia:

Year before the World Cup: Played = 13; won = 11 (85 percent); home victories = eight (89 percent); = two defeats (15 percent)

Year of the World Cup: Played = 13; won = 11 (85 percent); home victories = five (100 percent); = two defeats (15 percent)

2003 – England:

Year before the World Cup: Played = nine; won = eight (89 percent); home victories = five (100 percent); defeats = one (11 percent)

Year of the World Cup: Played = 17; won = 16 (94 percent); home victories = four (100 percent); defeats = one (six percent)

2007 – South Africa:

Year before the World Cup: Played = 12; won = five (42 percent); home victories = four (67 percent); defeats = seven (58 percent)

Year of the World Cup: Played = 17; won = 14 (82 percent); home victories = five (83 percent); defeats = three (18 percent)

2011 – New Zealand:

Year before the World Cup: Played = 14; won = 13 (93 percent); home = six victories (100 percent); defeats = one (seven percent)

Year of the World Cup: Played = 12; won = 10 (83 percent); home victories = 10 (100 percent); defeats = two (17 percent)

Jan de Koning

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