Cape Town - Sport24's Herman Mostert highlights 5 talking points after the Springboks’ agonising 24-20 Rugby Championship defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane:
1. Handre Pollard’s struggles
Coach Heyneke Meyer said afterwards he was happy with his flyhalf’s performance, but the young pivot made too many crucial mistakes in a high pressure game.
Pollard’s tactical kicking was again questionable and he started off on the wrong foot when he missed a relatively easy penalty early in the game.
His defence was sound, but he missed the tackle on Adam Ashley-Cooper who scored Australia’s first try.
Another crucial error was made by Pollard when he failed to find touch with a penalty kick midway through the second half. It would have given the Boks an attacking lineout inside on the Australian 22m line and it was an opportunity for them to close out the game. Instead, they remained camped inside their own half and it eventually proved their undoing.
Pollard is very talented and does a lot of good things - like his chip kick which set up Eben Etzebeth’s try - but the crucial mistakes he makes prove costly on the biggest of stages.
I’m not saying Pollard should be dropped, but he needs to learn from his mistakes...
2. Substitutions can backfire!
The Springboks made a few substitutions that backfired after they had led 20-7 at one stage in the second half.
The most notable of those substitutions was replacing Bismarck du Plessis with Adriaan Strauss in the 50th minute.
Du Plessis was outstanding and when Strauss came on the Boks seemed to lose momentum, losing a few lineouts and struggling in the scrums.
Props Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira had arguably their best games of the year, and the Bok scrum was not as potent when Heinke van der Merwe, Strauss and Frans Malherbe occupied the front row.
3. Last-gasp Wallabies try
There’s no doubt that Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani’s last-gasp winning try had many pundits and fans talking.
Was it a try or not? It appears to me as though at least some part of the ball may have touched the chalk when it made contact with the ground.
However, could the Television Match Official clearly see the ball grounded on the chalk? Referee Nigel Owens did not ask him: ‘Can you give me a reason not to award the try’. In that case, surely the try should not have been awarded because there was enough doubt? I till can't see a clear grounding on the tryline!
Retired referee Jonathan Kaplan said on Twitter that the call was touch and go, but also indicated that a penalty try could have been awarded because Schalk Burger dived on Kuridrani.
4. Bok prowess on the ground
The battle of the breakdown was a big topic of discussion beforehand, with the Wallabies’ prowess in that aspect of the game well documented.
I felt the Boks won that battle, with several players putting up their hands as notable fetchers.
All of Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis and Schalk Burger made themselves count on the ground and won several turnovers for South Africa which helped in keeping the Wallabies at bay early on.
5. Israel Folau genius
The Springboks’ tactical kicking still leaves much to be desired. The Boks needlessly kicked away several balls on Saturday and even when they kicked accurately, Wallaby fullback Israel Folau covered those kicks with aplomb.
A colleague noted that Folau caught 23 high balls and it proved vital in the final outcome of the game.
It’s important for the Boks to kick accurately when facing a prolific and skilful player such as Folau.
Perhaps that was a lesson for a possible Rugby World Cup quarter-final later in the year…