It took Argentina 166 minutes in 2021 to score a try against the Springboks – and the fact that they did score is what the Springboks will take from an emphatic 29-10 Rugby Championship win that simply wasn’t good enough from the world champions, writes Mark Keohane.
The best teams in the world set a standard and demand those who wear the jersey to maintain that standard. The Springboks, in the final 10 minutes against Argentina, were awful.
The Boks, in scoring two tries to nil, led 29-3, after 70 minutes. They controlled the game and were comfortable in field positon and in territory. The had so many opportunities to score the bonus-point third try and they fluffed their lines every time.
There could be a defence made that it was a mix and match Bok pack that finished the final quarter of the Test match. At a glance, that argument could have merit because Bok captain Siya Kolisi was the only starting option in the pack that finished the Test.
However, a closer look to the circumstance does not have a similar softening.
The Boks, despite the rearrangement of the pack, botched every opportunity in the final 10 minutes, which showed that Test matches, especially where bonus points are a consideration, are an 80 minute effort. In this respect, the Boks, so composed for 70 minutes, were sloppy in the final 10 minutes.
Handre Pollard missed a penalty kick to the corner on 75 minutes. It was a basic error from one of the best No 10s in the world. His legs were tired and there wasn’t another No 10 insurance policy on the bench. Pollard is better than that type of mistake. He knows it. His coaches know it and that is all that matters.
The Boks, despite this mistake, had two more opportunities to score the third try and complete a 30-plus point win. They again got it wrong at the lineout, within 20 metres of the Pumas tryline. They conceded an attacking drive and they lost another opportunity, and it was Argentina who scored in the 86th minute of the Test, very much against he run of play.
Always take the win, enjoy the win and celebrate the win, but the final 10 minutes of this particular contest detracted from a Bok two-Test dominance.
Argentina never looked like scoring in 165 minutes. The fact that they did score, albeit in the 166th minute of the two Tests, gives any team that plays the Boks belief.
The All Blacks quick hands will trouble the Boks and don’t be surprised if there are high scoring matches against the Wallabies, because while the Boks will enjoy the advantage at set piece and in the collisions, the Wallabies have a speed of hand and an attacking style that certainly will trouble the Boks.
The circumstances can’t be discounted in who finished the Test match, but the new kids into the equation aren’t mentally battle hardened as those warriors who won the Springboks the 2019 World Cup.
Bok coach Jacques Nienaber prides his Bok team on how many tries they concede and not on how many are scored. Given this, Saturday night won’t be good enough.
It will be a Test win and a fifth of the season and a fourth in five weeks.
But something won’t sit right and it is the lack of discipline and application in the final five minutes.
The best in the world play for 80 minutes and more if required to win games in which a score dictates whether a team reflects on legacy or losing.
Those final five minutes of the Boks settled life post the euphoria of the Lions series.
This was a good Bok win but in the context of the Rugby Championship and being the No 1 team in the world, it was never good enough.
Mark Keohane match prediction was a 20 point Boks win. They won by 19.
— Mark Keohane (@mark_keohane) August 21, 2021
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