Saturday's first post-Covid-19 lockdown rugby matches would have left Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber in a much more positive frame of mind as he plots a course for the Rugby Championship in November.
Realistic fears that Springbok players will be hopelessly underdone when they take on the might of the All Blacks, Wallabies and Pumas in November might be unfounded after two tough encounters in Pretoria on Saturday.
Understandable concerns were slightly allayed after South Africa's leading players produced some scintillating, structured and intense rugby in their first serious outings for more than six months during "Superfan Saturday" at Loftus Versfeld.
Jake White's Bulls were excellent as they dismantled the Sharks 49-28, while John Dobson's Stormers were too good for the Lions, winning 34-21. Both winning sides based their victories and performances on superior forward play. The packs from Pretoria and Cape Town dominated their opponents and from that platform they built their momentum and scoreboard pressure.
Both winning performances could have been taken from the Boks' rugby World Cup 2019-winning blueprint. Dominant set pieces, physical, organised and committed defending and a superior tactical kicking game handed the Bulls and Stormers victory. The Boks used the same recipe to stun the...