Chasing the sun: The Springboks

14 December 2020 | ,

In the period 2015- 2017 Springbok rugby was not much more than a glimmer of its previous self. Record defeats, inconsistency, and a troubled locker room was the status quo for the once mighty South African team. Enter rugby wizard Rassie Erasmus, and the rest is history. Chasing the Sun, the recently released rugby documentary, chronicles the journey of Springboks rugby from the lowest of lows to the success of 2019.

Low point for the Springboks

The shock loss to Japan at the 2015 Rugby World Cup will always be a day to forget for SA Rugby. And while the Springbok team at the time managed to redeem themselves by securing third place at the rugby showpiece, it really was the start of some troubled times for the national team. In this period the Springboks lost for the first time in their history to both Argentina and Italy. Respectable rugby nations, but not generally regarded in the same breath as South Africa. Add to this the 57-0 record defeat to New Zealand in 2017, and it was plain to see that the Springboks were in a bad space. The first moment of change we witness in the documentary is when Rassie and Jacques Nienaber decide that they want to play a part in resurrecting the wounded Springboks.

The Catalyst

Rassie and Jacques attended the 2017 Dublin match between the Springboks and Ireland as fans. After being part of the crowd for the 38-3 loss (another record defeat), both agreed that they would put their hands up to assist SA rugby. At the time Rassie was director of rugby at Munster. His family and him had made the move to Ireland and had since settled. The decision to come back to SA was not an easy one. In January 2018 Rassie replaced Allister Coetzee as head coach of the Springboks. With effectively only two seasons to build a team and prepare for the 2019 World Cup, the task was never going to be easy. Rassie has years of playing and coaching success at the highest level and is clearly not intimidated by this fact.

Chasing the Sun provides the public with a first-person view of what it was like in the Springbok camp from day 1 of the Rassie Erasmus regime. The insight is truly amazing.

Changing the mould

Turning around a negative team culture is never an easy feat. The fact that the Springboks were ranked a career low of 7th in the world in 2018 was a clear sign of what state SA rugby was in during that period. In Chasing the Sun, we are witness to the changes Rassie and his management team made right from the beginning. How the team culture changes over this period is truly something to behold. No topics were sacred in the effort to turn things around.

Least of all that of transformation: a contentious issue in the post-apartheid years in South Africa. Rassie addressed this openly and honestly with his squad- there were no hidden agendas. The result we see is that all players felt included, and part of the greater picture. Everyone in the squad was there on merit, and they all needed to contribute equally. The appointment of Siya Kolisi as team captain was the next big positive step made.

A positive change

The impact of Siya becoming the first black Springbok rugby captain was massive. Not just for South African rugby but for South Africa as a whole. With Siya leading the team, one felt that we were finally moving in the right direction as the diverse nation that we are.

The series win against England in 2018 indicated the potential of the new-look Springboks. While only achieving a 50% success rate in test matches played in 2018, the Springboks nevertheless displayed a noticeable change in the way they played the games. Beating the All Blacks in New Zealand was the one major aim for Rassie in 2018.

And we can see how this plays out from the players and coaching perspective in the documentary. Winning this game was massive for the squad’s belief. One could argue that the renewed passion and intensity all began when the players felt equally included as a national unit. The message is clear that egos were to be left at the door, we are regularly exposed to Rassie drilling this message home within the squad.

2019

Despite the noticeable attitude change in 2018, the Springboks were still under pressure to deliver winning results in the build up to the Rugby World Cup. Winning the shortened Rugby Championship and drawing away from home against New Zealand were major achievements for the team. During this time, we are introduced to the idea that Rassie had of the 5-2 replacement split. The physicality of South African rugby is well documented. Erasmus always believed in using this advantage as much as possible. Essentially a replacement front row would come on in the second half of a game. While risky, this proves to be a masterful move in the Rugby World Cup especially.

Rugby World Cup

We all know how the Rugby World Cup played out. However what Chasing the Sun does very well is it exposes the rugby fan to what transpired behind the scenes. The thought process that went behind so many key moments and decisions is clear to see. If we had to retrospectively re-watch the games now, I believe we would be even more impressed with how the Springbok team won the title. No stone was left un-turned! Team tactics are laid bare and the reasoning behind some of the decisions made is clear.

Another great feature of Chasing the Sun: The Springboks is the commentary from many rugby pundits world over. The mastermind behind the Squidge Rugby (the popular YouTube rugby analyst), Robbie Owen even adds his input a few times. The Springbok success came at the right time for South Africa as a nation. The public needed something to be positive about in 2019. Chasing the Sun has given us the opportunity to relive this golden time once again.

The world of sporting documentaries has evolved over time into some truly impressive productions. None more so than The Last Dance- the recent Michael Jordan documentary. Chasing the Sun finds itself in the same if not better position as one of the finest sports productions ever made. Winning the Rugby World Cup is a massive accomplishment. However being able to put out a documentary that accurately captures the feelings and emotions of the players, while at the same time engrossing the viewer is an achievement in its own right.

If you haven’t seen Chasing the Sun: The Springboks yet you are missing out. So head over to DSTV. But before you do, have a look at our best rugby betting sites for some rugby betting options. And have a read through our article on the 3 RWC wins for the Springboks.

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