The possibility of a wooden spoon for two consecutive years in the Rugby Championship series is looming large for the Springboks.
After a good start in yesterday’s test against the Wallabies in Brisbane, South Africa lost 23-17 as a result of poor discipline, average tactical kicking and better backline play by the home team.
Red lights should now be flashing for a Springbok team that will take on the all-but unstoppable All Blacks in Christchurch on Saturday.
One or two of Welsh referee Nigel Owens’ decisions may be questionable, but the Boks will have to do some serious introspection. Maybe it was just over-eagerness at times, but if that happens again in Christchurch, a serious disaster is waiting for the Springboks.
By half-time, the Boks had been penalised eight times, versus the three penalties against the Aussies.
Eventually, Eben Etzebeth had to pay for the Boks’ poor discipline with a yellow card in the 42nd minute.
The Boks’ tactical kicking is not of international standard either. At times, the ball was pointlessly kicked down Aussie fullback Israel Folau’s throat, which put pressure on South Africa’s defence.
The way that South Africa attacks with the kicking boot will have to be reconsidered this week, and Elton Jantjies will have to take more responsibility in this regard.
If Jantjies is battling with confidence, Johan Goosen or Morné Steyn should be given a chance.
Goosen’s confidence is clearly improving and he will give the South Africans more punch on the attack as flyhalf. But he also did well as fullback and was the visitors’ best player on the day.
But the Australian backline looked far sharper and more dangerous on attack. The Boks had to rely on individual talent against them.
Another worry is South Africa’s scrumming. The Kiwis will recognise that the Wallabies sometimes had the upper hand in this area and it is something they will want to exploit.
But it wasn’t all bad for the Boks.
Allister Coetzee’s plan of having just six forwards nearly worked. It was poor finishing – with the Boks frequently being on the attack in Australia’s quarter – that prevented South Africa from winning the match in the last few minutes.
Players such as Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Pieter-Steph du Toit made a big difference.
Captain Adriaan Strauss not only intercepted the ball twice when the Wallabies were looking dangerous on attack, but he also had a better day in the rucks and mauls. Warren Whiteley was frenzied and seemed to appear everywhere.
Juan de Jongh communicated well as inside centre, Jesse Kriel can feel happy about his performance and Francois Hougaard provided energy.
But one has to be honest and admit that the All Blacks are streets ahead of either of these two sides. But full marks to the Wallabies, who were very good in the line-outs. And Michael Hooper also showed his critics up by winning Man of the Match.