By Robson Sharuko
Harare - Ten years ago, the Springboks went to New Zealand’s dreaded House of Pain in Dunedin and, for the first time since 1921, found a way to beat the All Blacks in a Rugby Test match as they powered to a famous 30-28 victory.
Peter De Villiers, the man who is now in charge of the Zimbabwe Sables, was the coach of that Boks side who arrived in that showdown still nursing the scars of their 0-28 humbling in that House of Pain in 1999.
Scrumhalf Rickie Jauarie was the hero of that invasion into the place where the All Blacks rarely lose as he went on a spectacular individual try, in the last minute, to plant a try that tied the match before Francois Steyn drilled home the extras from the tricky conversion for the victory.
De Villiers would return to New Zealand, the following year, and – for the second time in as many years – mastermind another victory for the Springboks in Hamilton as the visitors romped to a 32-29 win.
Steyn was the hero as he kicked two monster penalties with the Boks winning the Tri-Nations title, which is now the Rugby Championship.
De Villiers had a way of beating the All Blacks, guiding his Boks to five wins in 11 battles against the old enemy from the Long White Cloud.
That would be the last victory for the Boks in New Zealand until last Saturday when they broke a number of records to power themselves to a heroic 30-28 victory.
They had arrived in New Zealand like lambs being driven into the slaughter chamber, after defeats at the hands of Argentina and Australia. Some even suggesting the coach would be fired in the event they were, as feared, humiliated in that showdown against the old enemy.
After all, the last time the Boks had visited New Zealand, last year, they had crashed to a humiliating 0-57 defeat in Auckland in the biggest victory for the hosts over their bitter rivals.
However, the South Africans found a way to defy the odds and powered to a victory that will be celebrated for years with De Villiers, predictably, joining the fray in congratulating them.
The game last Saturday also broke a number of records with the 36 points being the most the All Blacks have conceded at home.
The 34 points which the All Blacks scored marked the first time they got so many points in a losing cause at home.
The 24 points, which the Boks scored in the first half, was the most which the hosts had ever conceded at home at the interval, while the six tries by the All Blacks were the most they have scored without winning a game.
Had the All Blacks won on Saturday, it would have been their seventh consecutive win over the Boks. One victory short of equalling their record eighth straight wins over their old enemies.
The Westpac Stadium in Wellington is also proving an unhappy hunting ground for the All Blacks, as the defeat on Saturday was their second in the last three Tests after going down to the British and Irish Lions last year.
There was a Zimbabwean flavour to the Boks triumph on Saturday with Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira coming in as a second half substitute in which the visitors turned on a heroic show to repel the hosts.
De Villiers hasn’t only been talking about the Boks, of late, but has also been reflecting on his first season as the Sables coach in which his team only won once in the Africa Gold Cup and failed to qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup.
But the coach believes there are signs of improvement from his men and his gospel is gaining support from the team’s fans, who feel the future could be brighter.
‘’Rome was not built in one day/season. You are starting rock bottom in bringing players up from nowhere,’’ said Cornelius Webster in response to an analysis which the coach posted on his Facebook page.
Farai Herbert said the last two games which the Sables played showed they were moving in the right direction.
‘’Thank you for choosing an unlikely team and it's clear from the last 2 (sic)games that the boys were catching on to your system,’’ he argued.
‘’We dominated Uganda and a lot of players improved individually.
‘’I think if you take us through another year and help change our high school playing styles, it will filter on through the ranks and improve the quality of our rugby.’’