Cape Town - Sport24's Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 32-26 comeback win over Ireland in Johannesburg:
1. Heroic Lions
There’s no beating around the bush here, Saturday’s Test was won by the impact made off the bench by several Lions players.
While doing live updates on the game, I wrote at half-time that it was arguably the worst 40 minutes I’ve ever witnessed from a Springbok team.
Trailing 19-3 against a second string Irish team at Ellis Park was the stuff nightmares are made of. Balls were being dropped, tackles slipped and it was raining penalties against the hosts.
Luckily coach Allister Coetzee was bold enough to make the changes and it was immediately evident when debutant Ruan Combrinck replaced a terribly out of sorts Lwazi Mvovo.
All of Combrinck, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert and Julian Redelinghuys deserve credit for turning things around. It was also noticeable how halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies were suddenly playing with renewed vigour.
The lesson for Coetzee was that players should be picked on form and not reputation. The Lions are the form team in Super Rugby and the majority of their players should start for the Boks.
2. Loose forward worries for Boks
It has been evident in the last two Tests that the Springbok starting loose trio of Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen has not been functioning in a satisfactory manner.
Vermeulen and Louw appear tired after long Europeans seasons for Toulon and Bath respectively, while Kolisi looks out of sorts in his blindside role.
On Saturday, the Stormers loosie was at least twice robbed of the ball in contact as well as being guilty of missing some tackles.
The Boks’ lack of a fetcher was also evident over the last two weeks.
After his stellar performance off the bench, Whiteley - if declared fit - surely deserves to start in Port Elizabeth this weekend, while another Lion - Jaco Kriel - would add some much needed fire.
3. Bok scrum woes
Before the Test in the SuperSport studio, Naas Botha and Nick Mallett noted that the Boks should take charge and dominate Ireland in the scrums.
Unfortunately, the complete opposite transpired on the field of play as the Irish dominated this set piece for large parts.
It was worrisome how they completely destroyed the Springbok scrum at times. Matters improved slightly when Julian Redelinghuys and Trevor Nyakane replaced Frans Malherbe and Tendai Mtawarira early in the second period.
The high penalty count against Malherbe in general play should also be a worry for the Bok coach...
4. First half errors cannot be covered up
Yes, the Springboks deserve plaudits for overturning a 26-10 deficit in the final quarter, but their pathetic first half performance deserves criticism.
The crowd cannot be blamed for booing the team off the pitch at half-time and hard work lies ahead before the Boks can even contemplate competing in the Rugby Championship.
Basic errors, missed tackles and handling errors blighted the performance, while the ill-discipline of several experienced campaigners is worrisome.
That sort of performance would have seen them trail by 30+ points against the All Blacks at the break - and against the No 1 team in the world there would be no comeback...
5. Whiteley a future Bok captain?
I understand why coach Allister Coetzee did not appoint Warren Whiteley as Springbok captain before the Ireland series. Duane Vermeulen's presence makes it tough for the Lions No 8 to warrant a starting spot, but Whiteley's impact - along with several of his provincial team-mates - played a massive role in the Bok comeback on Saturday.
Whiteley appears a natural leader and while incumbent captain Adriaan Strauss surely deserves some credit for the turnaround, one cannot help but wonder that the former is the better long-term option for the Springbok captaincy.
Whiteley appears the best candidate to lead the Boks at the next World Cup and it's perhaps only a matter of when - rather than if - that honour will be bestowed upon him.
Whether Vermeulen and Strauss would be fit and available come 2019 is a question worth asking...