Rugby Championship

5 talking points: Wallabies v Springboks

2018-09-10 07:50
Willie le Roux
Willie le Roux (Getty Images)

Cape Town - Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 23-18 Rugby Championship defeat to Australia in Brisbane:

1. The timing of Bongi Mbonambi’s substitution was poor

No doubt the biggest talking point of the match was Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ decision to substitute hooker Bongi Mbonambi with Malcolm Marx after 35 minutes.

The substitution came shortly after Mbonambi had made an error with an overthrown lineout which gifted a try to Australian centre Matt Toomua.

The Springboks were leading 15-7 before Toomua’s try which sparked a comeback from the hosts.

Erasmus told reporters afterwards that his hooker was “struggling” and insisted that he was not replaced because of the overthrown lineout.

I feel the timing of Erasmus’ substitution was poor. A coach of his experience should have anticipated the negative response.

Mbonambi should also not cop all the blame for the botched lineout. Siya Kolisi was clearly late to respond to the overthrown ball and this brings up another question: Was the captain even aware of the call? If not, then his leadership should be questioned...

2. Bok skill levels leave much to be desired

The basic skill of catching and passing too often rears its ugly head when the Springboks are in action.

This is not something a coach should be teaching his players at the highest level of the professional game.

Yet, these ugly 'habits' appear commonplace.

Examples on Saturday were when Springbok fullback Willie le Roux, supposedly the team’s playmaker, inexplicably knocked the ball on twice.

The Boks looked promising on attack both times Le Roux, under no pressure, knocked on and I find it hard to fathom how these things happen at the very top level of the game, all too frequently.

Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk was also guilty in this regard and he also made one crucial error off the boot when his ill-judged kick led to an early Wallabies try.

The Boks need to realise that these soft moments WILL lead to tries conceded against the All Blacks...

3. Two mediocre Test teams in action

One thing was clear after watching Saturday’s Test in Brisbane: Both sides are miles behind the pace-setting All Blacks, who look set to coast to a third Rugby Championship title on the trot - and sixth in the seven years.

A bonus-point win for the All Blacks over the Springboks in Wellington this weekend will see them secure the championship after only four rounds.

Given their woeful away form in recent times, I fear the Boks have close to zero chance of winning in Wellington.

The quality of rugby dished up in Brisbane was also typical of two teams ranked fifth and seventh respectively on the World Rugby rankings.

The manner in which the Wallabies celebrated after their win was a sign of how desperate they were - but they shouldn’t gloat too much...

4. Boks must sharpen up traditional strengths

Mbonambi’s early try came after a dominant Springbok driving maul off a lineout. Later in the game, the South Africans had several more opportunities to exert their dominance in this regard but failed.

Three lost lineouts hardly helped the cause and I feel if the Boks are to have any chance of getting close to the All Blacks, they have to focus more prominently on these ‘traditional’ aspects of their play.

The Springboks also dominated for large parts in the scrums, yet it hardly helped them on the scoreboard and their scrum appeared to wilt more as the game wore on.

The Boks aren’t going to run the All Blacks off their feet, therefore they must make sure they match them physically, scrum well and utilise those lineout drives to good effect.

5. Bok standouts few and far between

There weren’t many players who truly stood out from a Springbok perspective. The main backline bunglers were Le Roux and De Klerk, while up front the loose trio of Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Warren Whiteley hardly made their presence felt.

Eben Etzebeth played a constructive 47 minutes and was vastly improved from his Mendoza outing. He played a major role in the Boks’ forward supremacy in the first half and perhaps should not have left the field so early.

In the backline, I felt centre Damian de Allende was just about the best performing Bok in a losing cause. He made a few firm tackles and appeared to give the team some go-forward.

It is however worrisome that there were no real South African standouts worthy of challenging for a man-of-the-match accolade.

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