Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 32-19 Rugby Championship defeat to Argentina in Mendoza:
1. Did overconfidence prove South Africa’s undoing?
Last weekend, Argentina coach Mario Ledesma called the Springboks the most physical team in world rugby.
His side had just been beaten into submission by the Boks in Durban.
But Los Pumas turned the tables spectacularly on Saturday as they were the ones dishing out the physical punishment.
The praise heaped on them by Ledesma was just what the Boks did not need. They were bullied by a fired-up Argentina, with the highs of Kings Park now a distant memory.
It’s been a worrisome trend in recent years how the Springboks fail to assert themselves in away games.
Once they’re taken out of their comfort zone, they struggle to adapt.
This physicality was particularly absent at the breakdown area, with cleaning out and winning possession no doubt areas of concern for coach Rassie Erasmus.
2. Springbok defensive frailties exposed
Weaknesses in the Springbok defensive armoury were badly exposed at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.
All three of Argentina’s first half tries came off defensive errors from the visitors.
Erasmus was right to compare his team’s efforts to that of a club team. Argentina were clever in the manner in which they varied their attack and too often the Springbok midfielders were sucked in, leaving acres of space out wide.
The All Blacks will wreak havoc if the Springboks fail to correct matters in this regard...
3. Boks lose scrum battle
After dominating Los Pumas at scrum time in Durban, the Boks struggled in this department in Mendoza.
Starting props Tendai Mtawarira and Frans Malherbe had torrid afternoons. Both had excelled the previous week but appeared to run out of puff this time around.
It was noticeable how the Springbok scrum improved when Steven Kitshoff and Wilco Louw entered the fray but by then the writing was already on the wall.
Louw, in particular, had a solid 20 minutes and his impressive right shoulder at a scrum was one of the few highlights from a Springbok perspective.
Scrum dominance remains imperative and the Boks need to be more consistent here if they are to compete for the remainder of the Rugby Championship.
4. Sanchez outclasses Pollard
Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez produced an inspired performance and completely outshone opposite number Handre Pollard.
Sanchez contributed 17 points which included a try, three conversions, a penalty and a monster drop goal as Los Pumas claimed only their third ever win over the Springboks.
Pollard, on the other hand, has seemingly lost confidence and the early sitter he missed off the tee set the tone for the remainder of the match.
Nick Mallet was right in his post-match analysis when he said he didn’t feel like Pollard was running the show.
“It looked like Faf (De Klerk, scrumhalf) and the forwards were running the show. I think the flyhalf must run the show. He can call it so the forwards get the ball but it must be his call. Sanchez was organising them better than Pollard was organising us,” Mallett said.
Pollard’s struggles leave coach Erasmus with a bit of a predicament: Does he revert back to Elton Jantjies, who is yet to convince at Test level, or maybe try young gun Damian Willemse?
It’s perhaps too soon to give Pollard the boot but Erasmus will hope his playmaker hits his stride sooner rather than later...
5. Bok defeat likely ends contest for Rugby Championship title
Despite only two completed rounds, South Africa’s defeat on Saturday likely ended the contest for this year’s Rugby Championship title.
The All Blacks have steamrolled past the Wallabies on two consecutive weekends and the Springboks’ failure to gain any points in Mendoza already leaves them five points adrift.
You can put your money on New Zealand banking 10 points from their two games against Argentina, and given South Africa’s away form, it’s hard to see them come close to the Kiwis in New Zealand.
The Boks will also struggle to subdue the Wallabies in Perth and I fear by the time the All Blacks arrive in Pretoria on October 6 they’ll already have secured the title.
It would see the All Blacks claim bragging rights in six of the past seven editions.