It was 75 days of ups and downs, heat, humidity, sunshine and rain, trials and tribulations, seven wins and one defeat, 303 points, 39 tries and one trophy, standing 38cms tall and weighing 4.5kg.
In this, the first part of our RWC recap, we take a look at what happened from the team announcement in Johannesburg until the start of the Rugby World Cup.
HERE WE GO!
The Springbok squad announcement, at Supersport’s studios in Randburg on Monday 26 August, was unlike any before. The reason: there was virtually no dissatisfaction with the 31 players named by Rassie Erasmus to carry South Africa’s hopes in Japan.
Sure, there were some injured and unlucky players, but the public immediately rallied behind the team, in the spirit of #StrongerTogether, and the squad could not wait for get to Japan.
The Boks also completed their management team for the tournament with the addition of Felix Jones from Ireland, who replaced Swys de Bruin but in a new role, as defensive consultant.
After a few final sponsor and media obligations (and a few training sessions), the 31 players and 20 management were off to Japan, departing from OR Tambo International Airport after a stirring goodbye from a crowd of 2000 Springbok supporters.
日本へようこそ！ (WELCOME TO JAPAN!)
High levels of heat and humidity greeted the Boks upon their arrival in Japan. For a few days, they were based in Kumagaya for their final pre-RWC hit-out against the host nation.
Apart from hundreds of litres of water and lots and lots of ice, the week was characterised by welcome functions and school visits as the Boks immersed themselves in the Japanese experience and started making friends almost immediately.
Erasmus named his strongest available team to face Japan in their warm-up match, with Kolisi happy to continue with his return to the squad after a long injury lay-off, and Pieter-Steph du Toit selected for his 50th Test for the Springboks.
🎥 Massive media interest in the #Springboks— Springboks (@Springboks) September 5, 2019
😃 Siya Kolisi very happy to be back
💪 Much-improved @JRFURugby team waiting in Kumagaya on Friday
🔗 https://t.co/mEE9IQMomz#StrongerTogether pic.twitter.com/qDLSQJCwmn
“I hope this selection will send a strong message that we have the utmost respect for Japan. Perhaps we made the mistake of complacency against them in the past but we’ve been hammering the message all week that we should never do that again against Japan,” said Erasmus.
The boys delivered by beating Japan 41-7 and scoring six tries in the process – three by Makazole Mapimpi and two by Cheslin Kolbe, which perhaps set the tone for what was going to happen almost two months later in Yokohama.
Looking at the stats, the Boks delivered a great defensive performance which would set the tone for the Rugby World Cup.
Later on the same day, former Springbok great and a RWC winner in 1995, Chester Williams sadly passed away, which hit the team hard.
With the Japan game done and dusted, the Boks shifted their attention to the reason they were in the Land of the Rising Sun – the ninth Rugby World Cup.