The third game of the Rugby Championship saw a sloppy Springboks display gift Australia victory. They were sloppy defensively, protecting possession and on attack.
Sloppy Springboks Gift Australia Victory
Australia 23 South Africa 18
Australia 23 – Tries: Michael Hooper and Matt Toomua; Conversions: Toomua; Penalties: Toomua 2 and Reece Hodge
South Africa 18 – Tries: Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi; Conversion: Elton Jantjies; Penalties: Jantjies 2
Arriving Late for the Game
The Springboks really need to get a new bus driver who can get them to the game on time. The number of games that the Springboks have starting playing ten minutes after their opposition is a concern. The game this weekend did not produce their worst start, but their first five minutes were yet again disappointing and conceded a soft early try. Chasing the game from the start is always difficult and no team can successfully recover from this every single time. Springbok head coach Rassie Erasmus alluded to this in the post game press conference:
“To gift 14 points on a platter to a team, you’re (always) going to struggle to win the game,” said Erasmus after the Wallabies took advantage of early Springbok mistakes to score two first half tries.”
A Promising Period of Play Wasted
After their slow start, the Springboks looked like a team hungry to get their Rugby Championship campaign back on track. Although still defensively frail, they started landing the big hits and getting their rolling maul going. At ruck time, they were much more clinical and became dominant at the breakdown. Using numbers to flood the breakdown, they were able to stall the Wallabies attacking intent and also protect their own possession. They proved to be their own worst enemies though, with this period of dominance wasted by some pretty poor play. The Springboks could be accused of playing like a team that was scared to lose and their second half performance was even more nervous than that of the Wallabies.
Protecting the Ball
In the video below, captain Siya Kolis focuses on the the Springboks inability to take their opportunities that cost them the game. Ball protection was where the Springboks let themselves down. It is a very fortunate team that will win a Test match conceding 18 turnovers and committing 10 handling errors.
— SuperSport (@SuperSportTV) September 8, 2018
The Springbok defense remains an issue, especially out wide. It is easy enough to see what the Springboks are trying to do. Defending from the outside in. Get it right and it is very effective. Get it wrong and miss a tackle, a loop around or an offload in the tackle often creates an opportunity on the wings. Mapimpi and Dyantyi aren’t necessarily poor defenders, but are they the big hitters needed to make that pattern work? Not convinced.
Pattern of Attack
This could be most frustrating aspect of the Springbok performance. There are very few examples of planned wrap around moves, shifting the line of attack to create an overlap, support options running creative inside or outside lines or anything of the sort. There is a reliance on three options. High bombs from De Klerk for the wings to chase appears to be option number one. He was not accurate on Saturday, so this ploy was not successful. Tight forwards receiving the ball from scrumhalf De Klerk seems to be option number two. Being a little harsh, option number three seems to be passing the ball to Willie le Roux to see what he can do.
Is there any hope?
There is hope to get the sloppy Springboks back on track. The individual players are not bad, but is Rassie Erasmus’s intent to develop depth ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup part of the problem? Tinkering with the starting line-up for every game does come at a cost. That cost is continuity and momentum.
Pictures and quotations courtesy of SA Rugby.