Springboks struggle to describe elation
PARIS, 21 October - Few of the South Africa team could adequately describe the elation they were feeling following their world cup victory over England on Saturday.
Springboks captain John Smit tried to check his emotions after the 15-6 triumph in the final.
"I'm sitting here and trying not to cry," he said. "It's a feeling you can't put into words."
To a man, the players hailed coach Jake White, who has overseen a major turnaround in team fortunes since taking charge in 2004.
"I must thank my coach. The first time (he spoke to us), he told us, 'We are going to win the world cup', and he's no liar," Smit said.
White spoke on what the world cup victory would mean to the rugby-mad republic.
Proud to be South African
"People ask why we take the world cup so seriously," White said. "It's much bigger than any other event.
"We've now won a world cup away from home. We had our president (Thabo Mbeki) sitting in the changing room. He was saying how proud he was of being a South African.
"What do you say when you win a world cup? It's an unbelievable experience so far."
The Springboks carried out White's instructions with typically ruthless efficiency.
They deployed a suffocating, brutal defence and a dominant line-out that virtually shut off one of England's major sources of ball.
Indeed, on one of the rare occasions when England found a chink in the defensive armour, it only served to demonstrate how desperate the South Africa cover was.
Frantic to overturn the 9-3 half-time deficit, England broke clear through rookie outside centre Mathew Tait soon after the resumption. His run set up Mark Cueto to crash over.
However, after a long consultation the TV match official adjudged Cueto had put his left leg into touch as he was tackled by Danie Rossouw.
The moment was not lost on White.
"Danie Rossouw's try-saving tackle on Mark Cueto in the corner sums it all up - a number 8 on a winger. When you get that, that's probably why you coach, because you want 15 guys who are all in it together."
South Africa's big men – man of the match Victor Matfield, Bakkies Botha and Juan Smith - were imperious in the line-out.
England second row Ben Kay doffed his hat to his opposites in the crucial set-piece.
"Their line-out was fantastic and was a major difference between the two teams. They have been the best line-out in the world for many years and gave us enormous problems."
England coach Brian Ashton bemoaned his team's inability to get out of their own half.
"There were times tonight when we didn't execute things well enough. I don't think 15-6 on the scoreboard reflects the difference between the sides. We didn't do well enough to get out of our 40-metre zone. But you can't argue with the scoreboard. South Africa won and congratulations to them.
"We created opportunities in the second half and maybe we should have converted more opportunities."