Johannesburg - The Springboks face their worst nightmare this season when they play the All Blacks – who dispatched them 57-0 in Albany a fortnight ago – in Cape Town on Saturday.
To expect them to overturn that deficit by winning would be ridiculous, so here are five things they should bear in mind to make it a competitive match.
Earn the right to play
The game in Albany was the first time this season that the Springbok forwards got bested by another pack.
The All Black pack was superior in every aspect, but what should have disappointed the Boks the most was how their set piece was about as stable as a fat woman on six-inch heels.
Gone was the potent scrum led by the resurgent Beast Mtawarira and his fiery replacement Steven Kitshoff; the line-outs were such a shambles that Franco Mostert didn’t even get a chance to contest like he usually does; and the kick-off receipt woes continued.
Don’t give them a leg up
The Boks’ first 20 minutes against the All Blacks were like the Lions in their knockout games against the Sharks, Hurricanes and Crusaders in Super Rugby, when they gave the opposition a head start.
Quite how the Boks thought they could do that against the best team on the planet boggles the mind. For their 17-0 lead in that quarter, the All Blacks can’t have touched the ball more than a handful of times.
After that, the Boks were in a spiral and they had to chase the game against the best counter-attacking team in the world.
Score three points
It sounds like taking the mickey, but, after 57-0, progress has to be measured in inches.
The start to grinding for those inches, to paraphrase the NFL film Any Given Sunday, is nailing the first three-pointer, which will come inevitably in the first 10 to 20 minutes.
Last time around, Elton Jantjies, who has had it on a string this season, missed his three-pointer and Beauden Barrett, who couldn’t have located poles with a GPS in the games before Albany, got his – and a narrative in which one side did most of the playing and the other did most of the scoring was thus set.
Remember what they are doing
After their first defeat – admittedly a massive one – of the season, there have been so many discordant ideas about not only what went wrong, but how the Boks should fix it.
At this juncture, it might be prudent for them to take their own counsel about how they would like to proceed and stay true to the journey they embarked upon at the beginning of the season.
The unanswered question for the Boks is whether the six games against France, Argentina and Australia before Albany had lulled them into thinking they were a better team than last season.
In black and white, the 57-0 defeat would suggest this is the case.
But using the same logic, winning an incoming Test series 3-0 (as opposed to a narrow 2-1), beating Argentina away and drawing with Australia in Australia instead of losing to them means they have made progress.
The Cape Town Test against the All Blacks is about redemption, and here it probably only means giving them a game. Giving them a game and staying true to their process are not mutually exclusive.
Bore them to tears
Too often, the Boks stimulate the All Blacks by engaging them on their terms and feeding their strengths in the process.
The tough ask is not to do that because, if you go ball in hand, they’ll eventually get their hands on the ball and punish you, and kicking and chasing is just asking for trouble.
So kicking into the stands, the rolling maul, good set pieces and proper contesting at the rucks may be the way forward.