Springbok Rugby Reality Check In The Rugby Championship

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - SEPTEMBER 16: Springbok coach Alister Coetzee during the Rugby Championship match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the South African Springboks at QBE Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

A Springbok Rugby reality check was handed out in Albany, New Zealand on Saturday with the hosts, the All Blacks, smashing them 57 to nil.

Springbok Rugby Reality Check in The Rugby Championship

New Zealand 57 South Africa 0

New Zealand – Tries: Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder 2, Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Cody Taylor and Lima Sopoaga; Conversions: Beauden Barrett 7; Penalty: Barrett

South Africa 0

The ease with which the Springboks rolled over will be a disappointment for all of their fans and a lot of questions which they thought had been answered are front of mind once again. The Springbok coaching group were keen to test their team against the best in the world to gauge what the improvement has been over last year. There may be some improvement, but the gap between them and the All Blacks has widened. We take a look at a few key areas.

Quality of Opposition

The Springboks started their international season with a 3 nil whitewash of a French team of questionable quality. They followed this by defeating Argentina’s Los Pumas home and away in their opening two games of the Rugby Championship. As the competition has progressed, it has become apparent that the Pumas are not the team everyone hoped they would be. Discipline and fitness has become questionable for the Pumas. The Springboks followed this up with a 23 all draw against Australia, a game which most thought neither did enough to enhance their reputations.

It is with this record behind them that South Africa took on rugby’s leading team in their own back yard. In hindsight, very poor preparation.

Set Pieces

The Springboks set piece play was poor. Of their six scrum feeds, they lost three. They lost five of their fourteen lineout throw ins. That is is simply not good enough at international level. These are mistakes made by the players themselves and we cannot point fingers at the coaching staff for that.

Attacking Ability

It would not be unkind to accuse the Springbok attack of being sterile and bereft of ideas. Much of their problem begins at half back. Francois Hougaard’s service from the base is pedestrian at best. Elton Jantjies no longer presents a a real threat on attack and continues to stand too deep in an attempt to negate the rushed defenses he has struggled with this year.

This allows defenders to place immense pressure on the his outside backs and they are generally receiving the ball standing still behind the advantage line. The incumbent back three now share 21 Test caps and a solitary try among them.

The Springboks lack any real firepower and creativity in the backline and it is hard to imagine who of the current backs can bring anything spectacular to the party.

The Performance on Defense

The defensive abilities of this Springbok team has been in question throughout the international season and was horribly exposed in Albany. Why they adopted a passive scramble defense against the best attacking team in the world is questionable at best. Any team that falls off a third of all tackles made will be in trouble and this is exactly what happened. They simply have to reconsider their defensive pattern and adopt the more favoured rushed defense.

Questionable Selections

There are a few players that can regard themselves lucky to continue to enjoy a starting position. Raymond Ruhle’s appalling defensive record cannot be papered over. He is a defensive liability and he does not balance his missed tackle count out with try scoring prowess. Left wing Courtnall Skosaan has been targeted with high kicks, both out of hand and and at kick off time and has been found wanting. Players such Ruan Combrink and Makazole Mapimpi don’t even get a look in at the moment.

Uzair Cassiem is not an international quality number 8 and is not a like for like replacement for injured captain Warren Whiteley. Even though he has only recently returned from injury, Sikhumbuzo Notshe would be a much better bet at this level.

The Blame Game

It is easy enough to play the blame game and we have to wonder when someone will be held accountable for the result? Players have made mistakes that we cannot hold the coaches accountable for.

The Springboks tactics have been largely short of international standard against quality opposition and this is where the coaches have to be looked at. Defensively they have been far too passive, allowing opposition to build attacking momentum. On attack there has been no composure and their frustration has been evident when initial attacks have not successful. Patience on attack has been severely lacking.

South Africa’s next game will be against Australia in Bloemfontein on September 30.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Let’s be honest. The coach is being blamed and has been a target from the blind public as he’s coloured. Add a dwindling talent pool and he’s screwed. I’m told he has a big hand in the selections, is this true? The problem was building since the Bakkies and Victor overstayed their positions. The young talent doesn’t see any opportunity to play for SA and leave for Europe. A rugby drain occurred and the talent is weak compared to previous years. How many talents does NZ blood ever year?

  2. Sure. Hence the comment regarding not making the coaches responsible for unforced errors the players make. He does have a very strong hand in selection and he has to live or die by those decisions. The player drain is very real – there are close to 300 South African players plying their trade in Europe. That is ten extended squads.

  3. All of the above is true. The players have to accept accountability for their actions on the field, but equally the coach has to accept that he chooses or has a huge impact on the chosen team. He is accountable for he tactics, preparation and conditioning of his team. However, please don’t bring this as a race issue as his skin colour has nothing to do with it. His ability and his record has everything to do with it. The facts are simple and obvious for all to see. He is not the best man for the job and it’s about time we get someone who is.

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