Bok's fate decided in a minute
Brisbane – The nature of South Africa’s Tri-Nations tour was determined inside a minute of the first Test against New Zealand in Auckland.
A clear obstruction on a Springbok went unpunished and the reaction by Bakkies Botha, when he headbutted Jimmy Cowan, ensured that the team would be “punished” for the rest of the 240 minutes on tour.
They would ultimately get four yellow cards – and with Jaque Fourie suspended for four weeks for a spear tackle on Sunday, there were three Bok suspensions in three weeks. It’s a shocking record for any team, particularly for a Bok side that ran on in Wellington with 700 Tests under the belt.
It can be asked how different things might have been had Stuart Dickinson and Alan Lewis punished Cowan’s illegal play, but the reality is that the Boks are again viewed as the bullies of world rugby.
The fact that they looked almost helpless against the All Blacks and Wallabies’ counter-attacks was the bitter pill that needed to be swallowed, with far too many tackles missed.
It is often said that tackling is about attitude – and in the case of the Boks that is a slap in the face.
“We were poor in that department,” captain John Smit admitted to Sport24.
“We were actually poor in a few areas of the game, but on defence we were really disappointing.”
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers will have to contemplate in the next week or two whether it requires a psychologist to bring about the change of attitude or simply a defence coach worth his salt.
He will also have the luxury of being able to call on players such as Juan Smith, JP Pietersen and Jongi Nokwe, but he and his management will also have to talk seriously about the Boks’ approach in the rest of the tournament.
Some senior players are not up to standard and they will have to be sharpened.
There is still an outside mathematical chance for the Boks to keep their title, but then the team will have to play a lot better at Soccer City, Loftus Versfeld and Vodacom Park.
The fact that the team came off second best on three consecutive matches with Irish match officials cannot just be blamed on the referees. The All Blacks and Wallabies had decent coaching and planned thoroughly.
Although there seems to be little doubt that the ref’s sympathy currently lies with the Boks’ opponents, discipline starts with individuals.
The tour can be summed up as follows:
Turning point: Bakkies Botha’s headbutt.
Setbacks: Injuries to Jannie du Plessis and Andries Bekker.
Low point: Every yellow card, Irish referees.
Player of the tournament: Danie Rossouw. Hardworking and fiery.