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.
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.
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.
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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