Rugby Championship

Boks narrowly sink Wallabies

2016-10-02 05:41
Springboks (Getty Images)

Pretoria - Eleven minutes from the end of this match between the Springboks and the Wallabies, a game that did justice to the term scraping the bottom of a barrel, the Loftus fans chanted Olé, Olé, Olé...

It was a reaction that followed yet another messy break in the game and the obligatory Mexican wave that comes with a 12-10 lead with 10 minutes remaining.

Given that this rang true at Ellis Park when the Boks won the World Cup in 1995, it was a galling confirmation of how the mighty have fallen and how their fans simply don’t trust them any more.

The Boks, who were as luckless as they were lacking in confidence on Saturday, are starting to look like a broken team. To be sure, they won the most desperate struggle on a rugby field one has seen since the Rudolf Straeuli days.

Morné Steyn, picked here for his trusty boot at goal, did his thing with four penalties and two drop-goals to score all the Boks’ points. But so much more in between those kicks needs to be discussed.

A lot of work needs to go into rebuilding not only the brand of the Boks, but their confidence too. They were willing on Saturday, but they are so deep in the mire they’ve almost forgotten how to play the game.

Having committed to a conservative team to just burgle a win, coach Allister Coetzee had picked a six-two split on his bench to basically grind the Aussies, who have yet to win at this stadium, into the ground.

But even that backfired as injuries to Jesse Kriel, Bryan Habana and Rudy Paige meant reserve forward Jaco Kriel had to finish the game on the wing.

One has to doubt the veracity of the claims that Loftus was only 4 500 seats from being filled as the venue, normally a cauldron for Bulls and Springbok rugby, not only boasted vast swathes of blue seats, it was also unusually calm.

This translated into a somewhat timid approach by the home team, who, one has to admit, needed all the support they could get from their angry countrymen. This resulted in a game in which every good deed the Boks did was undermined by a mistake with low confidence written all over it.

For instance, Habana’s quick thinking to draw a mark in the 13th minute somehow resulted in Scott Sio’s try for the Wallabies. Quade Cooper had fielded the ball, passed to Israel Folau to thrust, and a few more runs by Michael Hooper and Will Genia meant they were in the Bok’s 22m line, with the ball being expertly recycled to Sio by wonderfully soft hands from Sekope Kepu, of all people.

And that was basically the general tone of the game for the Boks – breaks would be undone by either a forward pass or a knock-on from the base of the ruck.

Whether the much-needed improvement in the tactical kicking game – and Quinton de Kock was in the stands if they needed someone to knock the ball into the crowd – was beyond reproach is a moot point.

By the looks of it, the plan was to kick to Cooper to try and trap him next to the touchline, but too often the chasers didn’t quite make it on time and the Wallaby fly half was smart enough to transfer the ball to the one man the Boks didn’t want to kick to, Folau.

Even Lambie, unfairly nominated as the poor soul to cure all the Boks’ ills through a trusty tactical boot, looked rusty and managed to also kick out on the full. But if kicking was the main talking point in the build-up, maybe the one way to look at this game is to look at what won the Boks this game, Steyn’s kicks at goal.

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby championship  |  rugby

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