The Springboks missed an ideal opportunity to put the pressure on New Zealand and Australia after the latter two sides drew 12-all in the first game of this year's Rugby Championship at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.
To say the unseasonal Loftus monsoon made constructive rugby extremely difficult is an understatement, but one would like to believe that the Boks should have played the situation much better than Saturday’s 13-6 victory in their opener against Argentina in Pretoria.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer should be kicking himself that his charges couldn’t capitalise on home ground advantage by picking up five points against the Rugby Championships underdogs, Argentina. After only bagging two points each, New Zealand and Australia would have had to play catch up for the rest of the tournament.
Meyer said afterwards that not much should be read into his side’s unconvincing victory, but the Bok coach should be particularly concerned about the Bok’s inability to dominate the set pieces. Despite the weather, it was a poor performance and a far cry from last season’s 73-13 scoreline in the equivalent fixture last year at the same venue.
The Pumas annihilated the experienced Bok front row with the brothers Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis in tandem with their Sharks team-mate Tendai Mtawarira. And with veteran Bakkies Botha and promising youngster Lodewyk de Jager in the engine room, it was extremely disappointing to see the capitulation of the Bok scrum.
The Pumas gave the Boks a lesson in scrummaging and popped the Bok front row at will. I believe the Boks can count themselves particularly lucky in this regard. The referee penalised the Pumas unfairly when they clearly were the stronger unit. In my opinion these crucial decisions could easily have swung the game in the favour of the South Americans.
The one good thing that might count in the Boks favour is the fact that they won’t be complacent when they travel to Salta to tackle the Pumas on home soil. They nearly got ambushed in Mendoza last year. They only just managed to win in 2013, and in 2012 they were held to a draw.
In the Super Rugby competition the Crusaders' All Black front row demolished the same Bok front row that played on Saturday, and the Waratahs with their Wallaby front row went on to beat the Crusaders in Sydney.
A young and inexperienced Stormers front row also had the better of their Sharks Bok front row in June earlier this year in Durban. At the time Sharks coach Jake White blamed it on fatigue.
We all know that Test matches cannot be won without a solid foundation up front and right now the current Bok front row is unfortunately not producing the goods.
The time is right to give Jannie and Beast a rest. If I were Meyer I would put them on the bench and give talented youngsters like Trevor Nyakane and Frans Malherbe an opportunity to start Saturday's Test in Salta to show what they can do.
A combination of Eben Etzebeth and De Jager behind them to complete the tight five, should beef up the engine room. Their hunger, grunt and athleticism could make the world of a difference.
Meyer should recognise these shortcomings and be brave enough to make shrewd selections calls before Saturday’s Test in Argentina. But Meyer has always taken the conservative route and I believe he will stick to the status quo. And it could just well be to his side’s detriment.