The Springboks flopped for the third time in six Tests this season, but this one in Adelaide, Australia, was the worst of the lot. It really is time for change, writes Mark Keohane.
The Boks were turgid.
Forget all the blind faith in Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber on the basis of the 2019 World Cup final win against England.
They are getting things wrong – too often.
The Boks have been in free fall for the past year, having lost to the All Blacks twice, England, Wales and Australia three times since securing a last kick 2-1 series win against the British & Irish Lions.
Erasmus and Nienaber have consistently escaped condemnation, despite losing 45 percent of their matches since Nienaber was made head coach, on the basis of being Erasmus’s trusted deputy for the past decade.
The Boks have lost six of their last 12 Rugby Championship matches and they’ve been done three times in succession by Dave Rennie’s Wallabies.
Rennie has overseen just eight wins in 23 Tests against the rest of the world. It seems the Kiwi in charge of the Wallabies has Nienaber and Erasmus’s number, with a three from three success rate.
The Bok coaching philosophy is to back historic form over all else. It is why players like Duane Vermeulen, Frans Steyn and Elton Jantjies were thrust back into Test rugby, despite lengthy injury-enforced absences.
No player walks from the operating theatre into Test rugby, no matter how many practice sessions. All three players were done a disservice with their selections.
Meanwhile, two of the best players of the United Rugby Championships, Evan Roos and Elrigh Louw collectively have played less than 100 minutes in their debut international seasons. Louw was in the stands in Adelaide. Roos was in Cape Town.
Coaches live and die by their selections and right now Nienaber and Erasmus are dying.
They are getting it wrong in refusing to even entertain there is another way when it comes to selections and who should start and finish.
Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff surely must wear Nos 1 and 2 in Sydney, Pieter-Steph du Toit has been off the pace all season, Duane Vermeulen is being asked to play himself back into rugby fitness in the Rugby Championship and the team collective is poorer for it.
Among the backs, Faf de Klerk hasn’t had a decent game this year, Handre Pollard has played just that one stand out against the All Blacks in Nelspruit, the midfield, as a combination, hasn’t been imposing and the back three axis is a mess without Cheslin Kolbe’s presence.
The forwards, though, have offered nothing but a strong scrum.
The lineout has malfunctioned for most of the past year, the dominance in the collisions has been absent and the breakdown has been another area in which the Boks have come second.
Adelaide was awful.
The #springboks were pumped – a combo of Aus rugby intelligence & passion & @Springboks ineptitude & lack of passion. Match officiating sub standard for both teams. Playing the victim will not make Boks victorious. Playing with more intelligence & passion just might #rugby
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) August 28, 2022
The start was non-existent and when the Boks did get going after 20 minutes they spent 20 minutes camped near the Wallabies try line but failed to convert, despite a one player advantage for 10 of those minutes.
The win against the All Blacks and the defeat against them the following week also has to be put into perspective. The All Blacks once again made the wrong kind of history in losing to Argentina in New Zealand for the first time in history. The visitors, in Christchurch, overcame a 15-6 deficit to win 25-18. The All Blacks also lost a Test and series to Ireland in New Zealand for the first time in history.
For many rugby supporters in South Africa, the All Blacks losing makes for a greater celebration than the Boks winning, but both traditional giants of the world order are currently a mess.
The Boks have that one win in Nelspruit as a highlight and the All Blacks have the one win at Ellis Park.
Outside of that both teams have been awful in historic home defeats, the Boks to Wales and the All Blacks to Ireland.
I expected so much more from the Boks in Adelaide but my optimism and hope was misplaced and baseless.
I had the Boks to win by 10 and said it was based on nothing but hope, given how they played at Ellis Park.
I didn’t think the Wallabies were nowhere near a good enough team to beat even a struggling Springboks side.
But not only did they beat the Boks; they bludgeoned and humiliated them.
Something is amiss with the Boks
ALSO ON KEO