Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 26-24 Rugby Championship defeat to Argentina in Salta:
1. Bok rugby is bleeding
If the alarm bells weren’t ringing for some before this past weekend, then they’re doing so loud and clear this week!
Springbok rugby is in crisis, seemingly heading in the same direction as the period in the early 2000s when Rudolf Straeuli was national coach.
In recent times, the Boks have lost to Wales, lost to Argentina for the first time (in SA), Japan at the Rugby World Cup, Ireland on home soil and to Argentina in Argentina, again for the first time ever - all matches they would have won at a canter a few years back.
In the Straeuli-era, the Boks lost by record margins to England (53-3, London - 2002) and the All Blacks (52-16, Pretoria - 2003) and we can expect similar scores in future if things carry on like they are at present.
I remember after that drubbing against England 14 years ago, a local Afrikaans newspaper had the following headline on its front page the following day: Bok rugby bloei.
2. Captaincy conundrum?
As was the case when John Smit kept Bismarck du Plessis out the team in 2010/11, the Boks are seemingly heading in the same direction with current captain, Adriaan Strauss.
Strauss’ form has taken a significant dip in 2016 and one wonders for how long he’ll be able to hold down a starting spot in the team.
The Lions’ Malcolm Marx was by far the best South African hooker in Super Rugby, but unfortunately he’s not even on the Springbok bench...
3. Problems at flyhalf
It was unfortunately another error-ridden performance from Elton Jantjies at flyhalf. The Lions pivot just cannot seem to replicate his Super Rugby form in the Test arena.
He again missed crucial kicks at goal and one wonders whether coach Allister Coetzee’s patience will run out with Jantjies - who also struggled for form when he played under Coetzee at the Stormers a few seasons back.
Jantjies injured his groin and will undergo a scan to determine his availability but it will worry Coetzee that his replacement on Saturday, Morne Steyn, also missed crucial kicks at goal, as well as a drop attempt.
Johan Goosen is the other option at flyhalf and Coetzee must be scratching his head about who to pick at flyhalf.
4. Someone tell Oupa to tackle low!
Loose forward Oupa Mohoje was one of the better Springboks over the two horror Tests against Los Pumas, but his tackling technique needs to be addressed.
I counted four high tackles from Mohoje in the defeat in Salta and unfortunately the final one proved costly when he conceded the penalty which gave Argentina victory.
Had the referee acted against Mohoje earlier in the game, the above-mentioned scenario could have been avoided.
Mohoje was promptly issued with a citing commissioner warning after the match and hopefully he’s learnt his lesson.
5. What Bok game plan?
It's tough to fathom exactly what game plan the Springboks are trying to employ at present.
Coach Coetzee earlier this year said he would attempt to merge the traditional strengths of Bok rugby - powerful forwards and a strong kicking game - with a more expanded, ball in hand approach.
Unfortunately he's getting it horribly wrong, with neither of the styles coming to the fore.
Victor Matfield, speaking in the SuperSport studio after the game, questioned why the Boks had not once opted for a driving maul off a lineout.
There was also no build-up of phases and when the ball did go wide, the players' execution left much to be desired.
The Boks are clearly caught between two styles of play and not sure what to do on the field.