This was an article written by former England Centre Will Greenwood. A special mention is made of LauraB and The Princess's White Horses (Matfield & Steyn) so read closely ladies!
South Africa have the bearing of champions. The night after they won the World Cup final, the Springboks were guests of honour at the International Rugby Board's annual dinner in Paris. You would have thought they might have been a bit dishevelled. They could have been forgiven for rolling in a bit wobbly, tired and emotional from their exertions from the night before. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
They were immaculate, controlled and worthy winners of the sport's ultimate trophy. Among the crowd at the dinner were some of rugby's greats. Men like JPR Williams and Gerald Davies. They were amazed by the size of the South Africans, awe-struck by the speed with which the game and the players' physicality has moved on.
Yet even though it is a thoroughly modern game, old school values were on show and the Springboks took time to talk to all of the former players when they were approached. Ten minutes, sometimes 20 were kindly given. Critics of the South Africans talk of arrogance, of a self-belief that often grates. There was nothing like that on show. In fact there was very little behaviour that would have given away that the team had just beaten the very best that the world had to offer over a period of six weeks.
Occasionally, one of the players would break into a couple of bars of the Basque anthem that has been played at many of the grounds this tournament. But that really was it. The team were humble and dignified. When Bryan Habana was crowned player of the year, and compared to Jonah Lomu, he begged to differ. Lomu was a legend, a one-off; Habana was just a wing with a bit of gas.
This modesty was evident in the way South Africa approached their games in the tournament. They were a team in which everyone knew their place, how they fitted in to that plan and what was required of them. However, they could also cover for the man standing next to them. If you want to see what the biggest change to rugby has been over the past few years, it is that players can now do a little bit of anything. It is not enough for the front five to get down and scrummage, or jump in the line-out. They now have to be able to run, pass and kick.
Did you see the massive South African Victor Matfield putting in crossfield kicks? A few years ago, he would have been laughed off the park. Now the old man of the Boks' pack, Os du Rant, is happy to find himself face-to-face with a young centre in the final moments of the game and tackle him without a problem. I doubt Scott Gibbs would bounce du Rant now as he did a few years ago.
Skills have been merged, and the South African side have been among the leaders in opening the game up. But they have done so by marrying this willingness to play an expansive game with discipline.
In the past, Butch James was often so hot-headed that he would lose his grip on the match. Now he is a cool customer who plays his game, directing the team with calm authority.
This calm steel runs through the team and nowhere is it more evident than in their mop-haired centre, the crazily youthful Francois Steyn. He backs himself when most of us would question the sanity of the decision. You could see his confidence when he teed up the penalty that all but took the game out of England's reach. The team knew he would hit it, you could see from their shoulders. Control yourself and control the game.
South Africa knew what they had to do and did it with icy precision. They backed their discipline, not giving away penalties that they knew Jonny Wilkinson would kick. Keep him out of the game and they would win. Keep to the plan, stay together and it was within their grasp.
On the field they had the backbone to win under extreme pressure. Off it, their shirt buttons were done up, their ties on straight, shoes polished. They looked like a team who were proud of what they had achieved. In short, they looked like world champions.