Much more than a rugby triumph - ex-Bok captain De Villiers

Johannesburg (AFP) –


Former Springboks captain Jean de Villiers Saturday hailed South Africa's Rugby World Cup final triumph over England as bigger than rugby.

"It's for the whole country," said De Villiers, who captained the Springboks in the 2015 World Cup before suffering a tournament-ending injury.

"The significance is so much more than just a rugby game that's been won."

He paid tribute to coach Rassie Erasmus and the players led by Siya Kolisi, the first black Test captain of South Africa, who transformed what had been a struggling team only a year ago.

"We've been in the doldrums but they've been able to get themselves out of it and lift that beautiful trophy," he said.

De Villiers was part of a panel of former players who analysed the final at the SuperSport TV studios in Johannesburg.

He referred to South Africa's political and economic problems.

"We have the hashtag 'stronger together' (used in the Springboks’ publicity campaign) but there is also a hashtag 'I’m staying'.

"We need this kind of positivity in our country. Suddenly we feel so much better about South Africa. It's just amazing."

Naas Botha, another former Springboks captain, praised an outstanding all-round team effort.

"This team proved that if we stand together we can do it. Everybody can embrace this moment."

Schalk Burger, a member of the 2007 World Cup-winning team, said: "We thought England’s performance in the semi-final (against New Zealand) was the performance of the World Cup.

"But this performance was just outstanding. The thing I enjoyed most about it was our attitude. We played rugby the way only the Springboks can. We dominated every facet of play."

- 'Fantastic tries' -

Burger praised the physicality of the Springboks but added that the winning team showed creative skill as well.

"When it came down to playing rugby, all of a sudden we scored fantastic tries. The energy in that group was surreal."

The power of the Springbok forwards was highlighted by former England centre Jeremy Guscott.

"They played better than England. In the scrums it was like men against boys. We knew that was a strength of the Bokke (Springboks), but today England didn't have an answer to that strength.

"And the Springboks scored tries. On the good, strong foundations of a good set piece, they overwhelmed England. The best team are the world champions today."

Botha and Burger also gave credit to the Springbok forwards.

"The front five really built a platform. Everything worked today. All 23 guys put it on the line today and put on something special," said Botha.

"We are the most physical pack by a country mile," said Burger.

Butch James, fly-half in the winning 2007 team, said coach Erasmus deserved plaudits.

"He stuck to his guns. He got a lot of flak for it, the players got a lot of flak, but they took it on board, took the criticism on board and put on a performance.

"The whole country can be proud of them. I can't wait to get out of the studio and just drive around town to see how happy everyone is."