Cape Town – The Springboks paid a heavy price for a “swathe of changes” off the bench after looking well set to beat Australia in Brisbane on Saturday, says New Zealand pundit and former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall.
Writing in his New Zealand Herald (www.nzherald.co.nz) column on Monday, Marshall said the Boks “were very impressive and looked like they were going to annihilate Australia once they got into a lead”.
The Boks were eventually pipped 24-20 at the death after once commanding a 13-point advantage.
“Two things happened (to change the course of the match),” contended Marshall. “First they made a swathe of changes and, all of a sudden, their set-piece started to wobble and that was the start of their downfall.
“I thought the Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) was playing well, Jannie du Plessis was having one of his better games and Bismarck du Plessis was outstanding – why Heyneke Meyer replaced them, I have no idea.
“None of those players looked so fatigued that they couldn’t continue exerting the dominance they had been. So why sub them? Did the coaches not have a feel for the game? Are they premeditating that a certain guy can only play 60 minutes?
“When you take a player off, a substitute has to come off the bench and get into the game, which takes time ... those changes ultimately cost South Africa the game.
“Before those subs, (the Boks) were looking strong with ball in hand and had built a good lead, but then they reverted to their stereotypical kicking game: I think they probably would have kicked a dozen times to Israel Folau, and he kept catching it and Australia just kept attacking.”
Marshall said the Boks have some “really good” ball-players, like Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen and Handre Pollard, and that when they play “the way modern rugby is being played, they look unstoppable”.
But they drifted from that game-plan and allowed the Wallabies back: “Australia did not win that Test – the Springboks lost it.
“I really fear for South Africa if they continue to kick so much at Ellis Park (on Saturday) because the All Blacks will cut them apart.”