SOUTH Africa has been abuzz with congratulations, celebrations and appreciation for its Rugby World Cup-winning coach and captain who steered the Springboks to a David and Goliath victory over strong favourites England.
Coach Rassie Erasmus and captain Siya Kolisi have been at the centre of the team’s massive success story.
But there’s another vital cog in the Bok-machine who played a major role in the Boks’ performance: that’s assistant coach Matt Proudfoot, seen by many as an unsung hero.
The Springbok forwards were simply sensational in 2019. They shone individually and even more so as a unit.
They consistently laid the platform, and during the World Cup final, their performance reached a climax that few would have even thought probable.
After all, how much better can a pack already this good get?
As it turned out at the Yokohama International Stadium, the Boks absolutely ruined England.
Eddie Jones’ players had no response to the South Africans’ power game.
Even when Erasmus brought on replacement props Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch, there was no drop in that dominance.
Why would there be? South Africa’s reinforcements on the bench are anything but second string. That bench was instrumental in the Boks’ success.
Looking at everything the pack has done throughout the season, Proudfoot was clearly doing something right.
Born at Potchefstroom, an academic city about 120km from Johannesburg, the solidly-built Proudfoot played for several major teams in South Africa before going to Scotland ( he has a Scots grandpa) where he played for Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh Rugby.
He won 3 international caps while with Edinburgh, and another with the Warriors.
He made his debut for Scotland in 1998 in a match against Fiji and was capped 4 times for the national team before finishing in 2003.
Back in his home country, he turned to coaching the forward packs of Western Province, Stormers and North-West University, then moved to Japan and the Kobelco Steelers.
Three years ago he left the Steelers and headed back home as an assistant coach with the Springboks.
He first worked with Rassie Erasmus at the Stormers, where he moulded the forward pack into one of the best in Super Rugby.
Bok captain Siya Kolisi, plus Duane Vermeulen (who was Man of the Match in the World Cup final), Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi and Steven Kitshoff, are all products of Proudfoot’s expertise.
The players are said to be unanimous in their praise for him.
The 2019 Bok pack certainly played the biggest role in the team’s success. And that alone should say a lot about the influence of the man working directly with them.