Springboks Draw With Wallabies in Bloemfontein; The Rugby Championship

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BLOEMFONTEIN, SOUTH AFRICA - SEPTEMBER 30: Ruan Dreyer of the Springboks drives for the trylineduring the Rugby Championship 2017 match between South Africa and Australia at Toyota Stadium on September 30, 2017 in Bloemfontein, South Africa. (Photo by Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

A tight yet entertaining game saw the Springboks draw with the Wallabies in Bloemfontein, in The Rugby Championship.

The game may have been entertaining, but both teams will have to question the relative quality they produced. The teams could not be separated after two Test matches against each other–producing two draws, and a points aggregate of 47 all.

South Africa 27 Australia 27

South Africa – Tries: Ruan Dreyer, Jan Serfontein and Courtnal Skosan Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3) Penalties: Jantjies (2)
Australia – Tries: Israel Folau, Marika Koroibete and Kurtley Beale Conversions: Bernard Foley (3) Penalties: Foley (2)

Last Word on Rugby takes a look at a few key points coming out if this game.

The Springboks Attacking Plan

At face value it looked good. Using deep option runners, they managed to shift the ball wide to negate the rushed defense of the Wallabies. The reality though is all they managed to do was to play pass the parcel out wide. Once again it was Elton Jantjies’ depth when receiving the ball, coupled with the intent to pass the ball to an even deeper option runner that caused the Springboks problems on attack as the second receiver was often 20 meters behind the advantage line, cannon fodder for a rushed defense.

The Springboks were also guilty of playing too much rugby on their own half and the Wallabies fed off this, by kicking deep into South African territory and then pressuring them into making mistakes.

The Kicking Game

Late in the game, when it became evident that running from deep was not working well, the Springboks opted to kick deep themselves. Their option taking was poor though and was mostly straight onto the Wallabies back three, who opted to either counter attack or kick for the corners.

The final missed place kick might be an important result long term. Like Beauden Barrett, Jantjies is exciting, but accuracy is not his strong suit. Although, focusing on the missed penalty was not the losing of the game entirely.

The Ruck and Breakdown

The Springboks continue to be messy at ruck time. There is no lack of effort, but accuracy and decision making remains poor. Penalties were conceded trying to steal turnover ball after the ruck had formed or for not rolling away.

When on attack, the ball carrier was often without support and valuable momentum was lost scrambling to secure possession instead of being able to clear the ball immediately.

The Tight Phases

Scrum time was a problem as Ruan Dreyer conceded three penalties for over-extending and collapsing. We have to also wonder how much training time is wasted on practicing the ‘cute’ lineout moves that have been largely unproductive in the Rugby Championship.

Springbok Selection – the good, the bad and the ugly

Question marks still hang over some selections, while others have proved a point. Andries Coetzee has been adequate at full back, but one wonders how an emerging talent like Warrick Gelant would fare with his attacking abilities.

There is a lot of discussion to be had regarding Alister Coetzee’s selection on the wings. Selecting Dillyn Leyds on the right wing gave the Springboks a lot more stability in defense out wide and he was able to put pressure on the Wallabies defense when on attack. This proves that Coetzee’s long term patience with the ineffective Raymond Rhule was an error in judgement. Rhule added little on attack and his tackling was close to non-existent.

It remains a mystery why a player like Ruan Combrink cannot find a spot in the Springbok squad. Coetzee’s explanation that Combrink has not had enough game time is laughable.

Handre Pollard is in the match day 23 and has barely played in two years. The claim that he was part of the Springbok training squad even though not playing and it is therefore fine to select him is nothing short of laughable and this smacks of double standards.

When we take a look at true finishers, something the Springboks lack, it is also strange that a player such as Makazole Mapimpi cannot get a look in. He was phenomenal for the Kings in Super Rugby and has carried this form through to the PRO14 for the Cheetahs.

Final Thoughts

The direction the Springboks are taking remains questionable. Form players are not being selected. The defensive pattern seems to be stuck between a scrambled defense and a drift defense. How long can this once proud rugby nation wait for their team to turn the corner?

The last word is left to assistant coach Brendan Venter. His suggestion to fans who expect the Springboks to win ‘should rather not watch’ is surely not what the team’s new sponsors would like to hear, and is not that popular among supporters.

Some might say ‘watching is all that South Africa is doing’. SARU must ensure the team have a following, with a long term plan, strategy and selection.

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The Rugby Championship has been won by New Zealand, as they hold an insurmountable eleven point lead over South Africa, with one match left in the competition.

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