Thinking Outside The Boks

Twelve months ago many people in Wales were in a state of despair, an opening autumn stuffing by Australia, and a notion felt by many that Wales, in rugby terms, were stagnant and going nowhere.

A last minute victory against Japan, and a win against one of the poorest Springbok sides of all time, did little to paper over the cracks.

What a difference a year makes, at the tail end of the 2018 6 Nations Wales beat Italy and France on consecutive weekends in Cardiff.

Summer arrived and South Africa were defeated in Washington, by a Wales squad en route to a two test victory over the Pumas in Argentina.

As Autumn arrived, Wales beat Scotland Australia and Tonga to extend their unbeaten run to eight games.

On Saturday the Springboks arrived for the final match of the Autumn series.

Wales had won five out their last six meetings with South Africa, the only blot on the copy book being the 2015 Rugby World Cup quarter final, which Wales were leading 19-18 with 74:06 on the clock.

Now Welsh fans are not wholly comfortable with success, we find it in our melancholy way a pre curser to abject failure, we dare not celebrate it too vociferously for fear of tempting fate, in the same way as we dare not purchase sun cream on a hot summers day, as it will inevitable bring a deep depression sweeping in from the Atlantic the moment our bodies have absorbed that first smear of lotion.

But there is something different happening here, Wales strength in depth is surely the best it has ever been, and on Saturday they achieved an autumn clean sweep for the first time.

It is not that long ago that just a single injury to either Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn, Leigh Halfpenny or Rhys Webb would have the nation rubbing its collective hands in despair, with the almost inevitable certainty that any tournament success was dead and buried at that point.

But those days seem a distant memory, Wales have now learned how to close out matches against the big guns from down south, and such is the strength in depth it can be done in a variety of ways.

Wales win on Saturday was their fourth in a row against the Springboks, and the ninth consecutive victory overall, heady days indeed.

So after the most successful Autumn series on record we can look forward to the 2019 Six Nations, and dare I say it, even the Rugby World Cup with optimism.

Wales open the tournament in Paris, on Friday 1st February, and the poor Welsh fans who have justifiably complained about all the 8pm fixtures they have been dealt over the years, have at last been listened to, this one kicks off at 9pm.

The mem in red have eight further international matches before their opening Rugby World Cup match against Georgia on 23 September.

World Cup hopes have never looked better, but for now we can deservedly celebrate and bask in Wales Autumn successes, but like the sun cream application , dare we risk it ?

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