The Springboks took the field with the intention of beating up the English players in order, we presume, to restore pride. They succeeded to some degree in their primary objective but instead of pride being restored they brought shame on themselves with a display of thuggery that has no place in life, never mind in the course of a sporting occasion.
Woodward's players, to their eternal credit refused to descend to a level way below anything remotely near the norm.
The South Africans have been roundly and rightly condemned in the media, Stephen Jones in the Sunday Times saying they were a disgrace to rugby and to their own magnificent rugby traditions. Frank Malley writing in the Sunday Independent said this match will not be remembered for the talent and composure of Clive Woodward's men but for the cynicism of a South African team who came to Twickenham to cheat and maim. Ian Stafford's match report for Ireland on Sunday began, Amid some of the most disgraceful scenes of violence ever witnessed. And yes this was the beginning of a rugby match report.
And least we believe that these reports are the rantings of xenophobic English journos, here's a few comments posted on the message board of the official South African website.
The Bok team I saw yesterday should be ashamed of themselves. Being from SA and living over here I'll never wear that disgrace for a jersey again. In the UK we saw this thuggery a few years ago at the end of the Welsh era - It is a phenomena linked to past glories and present mediocrity - there is no place in our beautiful game (and this is a game) for thuggery intent on injuring opponents and threatening careers - if I never see South Africa play again it will be too soon - Go away and read about what sportsmanship means - you are a disgrace to your nation.The Boks are thugs, captained by a thug and coached in thuggery.They are a disgrace to the game. Absolutely no class.
And then you wonder, what hope has rugby got when the coach of the side who have had this vitriol splashed all over them comes out with,
Well, actually Mr Streuli, there are those of us who believe that you guys are capable of anything. And Streuli went on to say. We came as boys and they are going back as men. It's a young team and I think they have learned a lot out of this game."
Wow, the mind boggles at what exactly these newly created men learned in Twickenham on Saturday.
Was that if you hit a guy high enough and hard enough that'll he'll be carried off and his replacement will be weaker and you'll win the game? Nope. Having been battered black and blue, Johnny Wilkinson went off to be replaced by Austin Healey but England still won 53-3.
Did they learn that if you manage to sufficiently antagonise a player, his teammates will retaliate, there'll be a free-for-all and you might succeed in reducing the number of the opposition. And then you can go on and win the match.?
Nope. England wouldn't join in. They won 53-3.
Did they learn anything about sportsmanship? Did they learn anything about how to conduct themselves in front of a 75,000 live audience and millions of TV watchers?
What will these boys-just-turned-men have to be proud of when they look at the video. The assault on Johnny Wilkinson? Or on Phil Christophers? Or on Matt Dawson or Lewis Moody?
The bit you should rewind Mr Streuli, and replay over and over again is the piece of footage that shows the scoreboard at the final whistle.It'll read 53-3. A damning indictment of your game plan.Now maybe there's something to be learned from that.