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Boks throw it away

Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :Original Content, The Rugby Championship, Wallabies on 20 Jul 2015 at 07:27
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

The Springboks went down 20 – 24 to Australia in Brisbane on Saturday morning, after earlier being in a commanding 20 – 7 lead, with the timing of certain substitutions costing the Boks.

Before analyzing the match, can I just mention that I admire the Australians for how they approached the game in those closing minutes, it must have taken some serious balls to take a line-out instead of having a second go at leveling the match with a penalty attempt.

The positives to come from this match are just as important as touching on the negatives, which there are a few of. But lets have a look. The Boks actually played great rugby for the first 60 minutes in the match. The scrum was absolutely dominant, and the best part was that the scrum remained dominant after the Sharks front row left the field. Malherbe was bent once or twice, but they were dominant for the majority of the scrums. On the point of the scrums, wasn’t it great to see the scrum take on the first set, instead of collapsing multiple times and wasting minutes of the match?

The loose trio, although questioned and doubted before the start, worked well in tandem with Bismarck du Plessis. Effectively, the Boks had four open-siders on the field of play, and it showed in the amount of turnover ball they won. Bismarck, I feel, had his best game of the year so far, and we can only hope he continues in the same vein. Brother Jannie also looked to have a point to prove and was seriously pumped after a few of the dominant scrums – some fire in the eyes is something we have not seen from Jannie in ages.

The talk of the match though was Lood de Jager, who replaced Victor Matfield early in the match. His loose play was brilliant, putting in tackle after tackle, so much so that even the mustard-yellow-biased-Aussie commentators sat up and took note. His work rate put into perspective exactly how much a lock should be doing around the field, contrary to what we might have seen from our captain. The negative in this regard was the fact that the Boks had two 4-locks on the field, and as a result, the lineout did fail.

This brings me to an interesting point. I have always been a great believer in that a player should be able to do his primary task first, before excelling at other things. With this in mind, Lood should lose a fair few points for not being able to continue the work done by Matfield in the lineouts. The Boks seem to have a problem in this regard should Matfield be seriously injured, as there seems to be a distinct lack of other world class 5-locks.

The loose trio, as mentioned earlier, performed really well, and it was a great relief to hear that Marcell Coetzee’s injury was nothing other than a lammie. Looking at the backline, there were fewer shining lights. Ruan Pienaar played like Ruan Pienaar, controlling the game to a certain extent without making any mistakes, but doing it slowly enough to have you screaming at the television screen while the ball lies waiting to be played at the back of the ruck. That said, Cobus Reinach did nothing off the bench to suggest he should start ahead of Pienaar.

Pollard seemed to have found his missing kicking shoe, even though he still missed a penalty, but that happens. It was his general play though, for which he is more renowned, that looked off. He dropped a sitter early in the game that could have had the Boks over for their first try in the match, and he just looked a rusty, almost as if he hadn’t played in a while. Lambie did make an appearance in the second half, but this was during the Australian dominant patch of play, and he literally had no ball to play with. It will be interesting to see who Meyer goes with for the match against the All Blacks.

For all his shortcomings, Meyer looks to have hit the nail on the head with his selection of Kriel at centre. His inside partner had very little ball to express himself with, but Kriel was able to make space out of nothing and proved to be a hard running back that always got the team over the advantage line, something the Boks have missed in recent years.

As for the back three – disappointing is a word that comes to mind. The wings did very little to show that they should be selected for the next match, but I suppose their selection is a given. The man who might be without a spot though is Willie le Roux, after having such a brilliant game against the World XV, had an absolute shocker this weekend. His kicking from hand was disgraceful, the decision making surrounding his kicks from hand was poor as well. All in all, not a great day at the office for the newly recruited Shark.

The replacement not mentioned somewhere above made little impact as a result of coming onto the field of play while the Boks were under pressure. Reinach, Lambie and Mvovo had very little to do other than defend, Oupa Mohoje was nowhere near as effective as the starting loose trio, and this is an area where Meyer might want to focus on, given that all the momentum was lost when the changes were made.

I understand that there is a bigger picture, that Meyer wanted to see how his bench front row worked against an Aussie pack so as to have an idea of who to pick come the World Cup, but surely a win against Australia in Australia will give the Boks the type of confidence to go out and beat them in the World Cup later this year. As mentioned, Bismarck was having his best game in a very long time, why replace him for Adriaan Strauss, a player who has been in the setup for years and who Meyer should already know will be in the World Cup squad. Those little shifts in momentum, coupled with the fact the Boks tried to defend their lead instead of just playing the game that got them in such a dominant position, is what ultimately cost them.

Hopefully this will be a lesson learnt for all concerned and that going forward, the Boks will be able to finish a game off and not lose it with 84 minutes on the clock.


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