Cape Town – If the tottering Springboks slump to a fifth
Test loss in a row in Buenos Aires on Saturday, they will equal an unenviable
professional-era landmark set during Jake White’s tenure as head coach.
In what has undoubtedly been the most problematic period of
Heyneke Meyer’s time in charge, which began in 2012, the Boks have succumbed in
successive Tests to Wales (12-6, Cardiff, end of last year) and then 2015
defeats to Australia (24-20, Brisbane), New Zealand (27-20, Johannesburg) and
most recently the biggest surprise of them all, Argentina (37-25, Durban).
So when they play the rapid return Test on Argentinean soil
this weekend, they will be attempting to skirt becoming only the second Bok
outfit of the post-isolation period to suffer five reverses on the trot.
It seems a reasonably tall order against the upbeat Pumas,
too, given the huge extent to which Meyer has tampered with his starting XV
since Kings Park – eight alterations -- and the fact that several positional
combinations will be either rusty or in some cases largely untried.
But as things stand, a period during White’s 2006 season
(his third of four years as national coach) remains the only instance since our
emergence from the wilderness in 1992 that South Africa have surrendered five
Tests in succession.
All of them occurred with John Smit the captain, beginning
at Newlands when France outwitted the Boks 36-26, and then came one of the most
wretched South African performances of all time as they were annihilated 49-0
by Australia in Brisbane.
The Boks were then beaten 35-17 by the All Blacks in
Wellington, 20-18 by the Wallabies in Sydney, and finally 45-26 by New Zealand
again in Pretoria.
A desperately committed showing a week later in the slightly
unusual setting of Rustenburg saw the Boks mercifully end the losing streak by
seeing off the New Zealanders 21-20.
Not much more than a year later, of course, the Springboks –
under the same White/Smit command – had demonstrated how thoroughly and swiftly
fortunes can turn in rugby by winning the 2007 World Cup in France.
If the present SA team are to swing back to consistent
winning ways in time for a strong RWC 2015 title assault, it will need to
happen with even greater haste than back then, as the tournament is only a few
There have been two other occasions since 1992 when the Boks
have sat on a four-Test losing streak: the first was under Nick Mallett’s
stewardship in 1999 (29-19 to Wales in Cardiff, 28-0 to New Zealand in Dunedin,
32-6 to Australia in Brisbane, 34-18 to New Zealand in Pretoria).
The other came in 2010, starting with a 32-12 thumping by NZ
in Auckland, then 31-17 in Wellington, and a 30-13 loss to the Aussies in
Brisbane before coming home to the wrong end of a 29-22 result against the All
Blacks in Soweto.
South Africa’s worst sequence of Test defeats of all time –
seven -- came in a period stretching between July 1964 and August 1965.
The losses, from first to last, were: 8-6 to France
(Springs), 9-6 to Ireland (Dublin), 8-5 to Scotland (Edinburgh), 18-11 to
Australia (Sydney), 12-8 to Australia (Brisbane), 6-3 to New Zealand
(Wellington) and 13-0 to the same foes in Dunedin.
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