Rugby Championship

Cracks are starting to show in Rassie's Boks

2018-09-10 11:31
Siya Kolisi (Gallo)

Cape Town - Make no mistake, there is plenty wrong with Rassie Erasmus' Springboks. 

It doesn't matter who you are, what your reputation is or how many people admire your rugby mind, if you can't get your side to implement the basics, then you are failing as a coach. 

Erasmus knows this. Accepting fault, thankfully, is something he is happy to do. 

It doesn't change the fact, though, that the optimism that came after a successful England series has now been almost completely extinguished. 

Erasmus has lost to Wales, England, Argentina and Australia already, and when the Boks go down in Wellington on Saturday he will have won just of his 8 matches in charge. 

The cracks are starting to show, never more evident than they were on Saturday. 

Erasmus pulling off hooker Bongi Mbonambi before half-time is a decision that has rightly not gone down well, but even more shocking was that he could not bring himself to using replacement scrumhalf Embrose Papier. 

Faf de Klerk was woeful on Saturday, having one of his worst games in a Springbok jersey. Yet, Erasmus persisted with him while Papier sat on the sidelines for 80 minutes. 

What is the point of having a youngster on the bench if you can't trust him to make a difference when your starter is struggling? 

It was a puzzling decision that, combined with the over-eagerness to get Malcolm Marx on the park, showed how desperate Erasmus is becoming. 

There is a little over a year to go until the World Cup in Japan next year, and Erasmus must be given some wiggle room as he looks to find his best combinations between now and then, but the amount of uncertainty that still hovers over this Bok team is concerning. 

All over the park, there are question marks. 

Looking ahead to 2019, it is still not clear who the Springbok captain will be. 

Siya Kolisi has been backed by Erasmus so far, but with Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Francois Louw, Marco van Staden and Warren Whiteley all involved, Kolisi is not a guaranteed starter. 

He has moved between the No 6 and No 7 jerseys under Erasmus, and his exact playing role has not been clearly defined.

On Saturday, things got tough for the skipper. 

He was at the heart of a costly mistake, he looked drained and out of answers on the field and at his post-match press conference he went through the motions. 

Kolisi has played far too much rugby this year, and on Saturday it showed. 

There is also serious uncertainty at flyhalf, where Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies are currently rotating without much impact.  

At this stage, neither player looks capable of orchestrating a World Cup title run. The lack of depth in the position, though, means that Erasmus must persist with both and hope that something sparks between now and 2019. 

The centre combination is another area where there doesn't seem to be much clarity.

Hopefully, Erasmus knows what his best XV is, but based on recent selections, that doesn't seem to be the case. 

Instead, it seems to be a game of rolling the dice until something sticks.

At times, the Boks have shown significant improvement under Erasmus. 

They have been enterprising on attack while their forward pack has shown a dominance capable of dismantling the best in the world on its day, but the inconsistency currently outweighs the positives. 

There are still too many areas where the Boks are not playing well enough. 

There were handling errors and missed tackles throughout the 80 minutes on Saturday, and at crucial times too. When the basics go that awry, a team cannot be clinical, and that points towards problems in the coaching department. 

The Boks need to go back to basics. 

This weekend, they meet the All Blacks in Wellington. 

While a Bok win is highly improbable, a more clinical display at set-piece and with ball-in-hand is a must. 

Willie le Roux and De Klerk are two of the few who are guaranteed a starting berth at the World Cup, yet they were possibly the two worst Boks on the park on Saturday in terms of handling. They play in key positions and need to be a million times better. 

When the Boks return to South Africa, results will become more important than performance. 

Erasmus must pick his strongest possible side, and victory over the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth is an absolute must. 

Then, a week later, he must find a way to secure a first win over the All Blacks since 2014 when the sides meet at Loftus. 

If Erasmus can pull that off, then the hope will be restored.

Right now, though, there is not a lot to get excited about and there are more questions than answers.

Follow @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...

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Saturday, 29 September 2018
South Africa v Australia, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 17:05
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