No. 2 Rising Springboks Should be No. 1

Greg SmithContributor IFebruary 3, 2009

As the sun sets on New Zealand, South Africa is rising to their pre-isolation best. Recently, the epic Federer-Nadal clash jolted my memory banks as a catchy headline claimed, "Nadal takes Number 1 by believing he's Number 2."

South Africa is No. 2 in the rugby union, but I believe they are No. 1.


Ask any South African—the Springboks are not only the best country in the rugby union but are the Brazil of the game.


Every 40-plus-year-old South African fan has memories of pre-isolation brilliance, and although isolation brought setbacks, in a panoramic view, their image of world dominance hasn't totally been lost.


In reality, it's a kind of schizophrenic situation because young fans (under 30) have no recollection of South Africa's total domination of the pre-isolation era. They also have merely witnessed the 'Boks difficult post-Apartheid reentry into the game.


Older Bok fans suffered in silence as New Zealand and Australia made hay while South Africa's greatest sides were sidelined and then suffered more when they stumbled back onto the world stage.


Many senior Bok fans believe that although two decades have since past, the South African squad has not regained its lost ground.


The path back to the top has been tough and treacherous.


New Zealand and Australia closed the gap the great Springbok sides had put between themselves and the rest of the world in the first 50 to 60 years of the 1900s.


Twenty years of rebuilding is showing signs of promise. If South Africa can go on and defend their World Champions crown in 2011 and take another expected World Cup in 2015, they'd consider the job done.


A clear three or four Cups between themselves and New Zealand would go a long way towards healing old wounds and undoing some of the aura the Kiwis have stolen from the men in green.


Although New Zealand regained some pride after their 2007 humiliation, early signs point to the sun setting on the much-hyped All Blacks while South Africa is changing rapidly to third and fourth gear.


Barring another 20-year ban from open competition, the Boks are coming back!