Rugby Championship

Bok draw underwhelming or a sign of progress?

2017-09-11 09:08
Uzair Cassiem (Getty)

Cape Town - Was Saturday's 23-23 draw against the Wallabies a positive or negative result for the Springboks?

It depends on how you look at it. 

2016 was a disgusting year for Springbok rugby, and Saturday's draw - on paper, at least - shows just how much they have improved in their six Test matches of 2017. 

Last year, the Boks lost 23-17 in Sydney against a Wallabies side that was considered poor. As it turns out, the Boks struggled even more and ended up slipping down to 7th in the world rankings in a season that quickly turned into a nightmare. 

Those days, thankfully, seem to be over. 

The trip to Perth on Saturday represented an opportunity for the Boks to make a statement and a win would have inspired the belief that they were on the path towards becoming a giant of the game once more.

At the moment, it is the All Blacks and England leading the way in world rugby and there appears to be little else in the way of competition. A win in Australia would have seen the Boks lead the race to chase those two sides down.

Instead, Coetzee's men used the first half to dish up their worst 40 minutes of rugby all season and the performance, for much of the match, was error-ridden.

After such high expectations, the underwhelming Bok showing in those early stages was difficult to watch. 

Elton Jantjies disappointed while handling errors and poor decision-making made life far more difficult than it needed to be for the visitors. 

A moment where Malcolm Marx threw a lineout to nobody who was watching showed just how disjointed the Boks were in those early stages. 

It wasn't until they were 20-10 down, with 30 minutes remaining, that the Saffers began to play the type of rugby that has seen them breeze past France and Argentina so far this year. 

If their performance in the last 30 minutes had been replicated throughout the 80, the Boks would have been far too strong for the Wallabies. 

In that regard, the end result is a disappointment. 

For many South Africans, this match was considered a must-win. 

This result is likely to make the tournament finale against the All Blacks in Cape Town on October 7 meaningless in terms of the Rugby Championship log but, more than that, it brings things back into perspective. 

While the Boks are undoubtedly improved, they are not yet where they want to be. 

The good news, though, is that they showed tremendous character and composure to get back into the match after trailing 20-10. 

In football, a side that wins 1-0 after a shocking day at the office is considered a side that can achieve big things. 

For the Springboks to avoid defeat after being as poor as they were for 50 minutes, away from home, against one of their fiercest rivals, is perhaps a promising sign. 

The last half-an-hour provided a high-pressure situation with the Boks staring defeat in the face, but there was no panic evident. 

Instead, the Boks stayed calm and clawed their way back into the game, and it is hard to imagine the class of 2016 doing the same.

But to beat the All Blacks, or even to challenge them, the Boks will have to be far better than they were on Saturday. 

They cannot turn up for half-an-hour and expect to come away with anything against the best team in the world. 

The trick now is getting it right for most of the match and not some of it. 

If they can do that, and if they are clinical, then there is no reason to think they can't take the All Blacks down to the wire as the Wallabies did two weekends ago. 

It is important, because unless the Boks do something special this year, then the improvement shown so far will not count for much. 

Wins against France at home and Argentina are not special, but a win in New Zealand will be the biggest this Bok side has seen for years. 

Hopefully the first 40 minutes in Perth will remain the worst half of rugby we've seen from the Boks in 2017.

If it does, then this will end up being a good year for South African rugby...

Follow Sport24 journalist @LloydBurnard on Twitter...

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby championship  |  rugby
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