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Nope, the sky isn’t falling

Written by Jonathan Burt (VinChainSaw)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks, Tri Nations, Wallabies on 25 Jul 2011 at 14:20
Tagged with : , , , , ,

I’ll probably get shot down by a good number for this post, but I honestly didn’t think things went that badly on Saturday morning.

Let us take a cold, objective, un-emotional look at how the game unfolded.

First up, it’s worth noting that, despite John and Peter’s repeated statements to the contrary, this was for all intents and purposes, a B team, if not a C team in certain positions (read open-side flank, lock, eightman to name but a few). I’m not really sure what people expected.  We had two test debutants in the front row, a very late second row replacement and we also had to carry old Stegman on the openside. A very inexperienced and unsettled engine room doesn’t normally lend itself to the formation of any sort of platform to launch attacks. And so it was.

Despite this, for most of the first half we dominated the territory and possession stats. In fact, take away some brilliant attacking play from Cooper and friends along with some pretty lack-lustre tackling by the Bok backs, and we would’ve gone into half-time 6-3 in front! At one point (given we were 12 points down at the time) the only time the Aussies had got into the Boks 22 was when they scored the two break-away tries! That does sound like a team that can’t tackle, but it doesn’t sound like a side that was being put to the sword.

Does anybody really think the Aussies would’ve scored those two first half tries if we had Butch and Jean in the inside channel (for Cooper’s break) instead of Steyn and Olivier? Same again if we had Habana or JPP on the right wing and they didn’t enter the ruck like Basson did? I certainly don’t think so. Do you think they would’ve scored those tries if they were playing Phillips and Giteau instead of Genia and Cooper as we did?

The attack was lack-lustre to say the least, but then we had absolutely no game-breakers in the side. There was no Jean de Villiers, no Bryan Habana, no Fourie du Preez , no Jacques Fourie, no Pierre Spies, no Heinrich Brussouw, no Andries Bekker, no Beast etc etc etc. Yet we still scored two tries?

Now don’t get me wrong; we weren’t great. But field our first choice backline (and add in some monstrous defence from somebody like Burger) and it would’ve been a 5 point game even if we didn’t score any additional points, and that’s without even bringing Spies, Matfield, Bakkies, Bismarck etc into the mix. And this is, after all, an away game and we dont tend to win too many of those in Oz anyway.

Now let’s be completely clear and honest here; much as I don’t like them the Aussie backs were a class above our lot. We looked ineffectual and there were holes in the 10/12 channel that you could drive a tractor through. Also, reference how much better we looked when Steyn and Olivier left the park. There was more urgency, we were standing flatter and actually attacking the game-line. If we’d had that from the start it would’ve been a completely different game.

De Villiers and his cohorts need to take some responsibility for this. It’s been a couple of seasons now that Steyn has been shown to be very ineffective in getting his outside backs away and that’s largely because he just stands too deep in the pocket. For Cooper and o’Connor it was a field day because they knew Steyn’s only option was to kick. Add in a typically frail defensive performance between him and Olivier and all the Aussies needed to do was play the odds and leave some runners back in wait for the inevitable kick and chase. To me it seems an extraordinary waste to even play somebody like Juan de Jongh when he has both Steyn and Olivier on his inside.

All in all, I’d be a lot more concerned if I was Australian. All I heard after the game was how they bossed us around and, while they were a level above us in the backs, I really didn’t see much bossing around at all, especially in the first half.

Given that the Aussies fielded an almost full-strength side and still had to rely on some individual brilliance (which we also have, just not on the field) to pull off the win says a lot to me. I don’t think the doom and gloom is justified but over the years I’ve become rather accustomed to Bok fans thinking the sky is about to fall on their heads the moment we lose a game, with no context given to the situation at all.

Given that we have 22 first choice players currently working hard to over-come niggles and injuries in the lead-up to the world cup and I think we’re in pretty good shape. I do, however, think we’ll get hammered by the kiwis next weekend. They have a much more clinical approach and will viciously target our weak areas.

One last thing; has Steyn evolved at all over the last few seasons. Brilliant kicker that he is, does he offer anything at all outside of this?


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