Series analysis: Springboks v Ireland

2016-06-28 12:14
Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)

Having watched, analysed and dissected the Springboks three-Test series against ever-improving Ireland, I would like to firstly say well done to Allister Coetzee and the boys.

However, with a pinch (or heap) of salt, To put it mildly, our beloved Bokke are in trouble!

I state this as a forewarning to Coetzee and his coaching staff with the Rugby Championship looming. Our foes here are mighty. The two matches against the All Blacks alone will prove to be our toughest in recent memory. Australia will be smarting after their humiliation by the English and Argentina know they can beat us now (if you need convincing, take a look at what their junior team did to ours last week).

The Boks' four darkest days were undoubtedly the 2015 Rugby World Cup embarrassment to Japan, the pathetic 53-3 loss to England at Twickers, shockingly losing at Loftus of all places to the All Blacks by a record 52-16 scoreline and the 49-0 drubbing by Australia under Jake White.

The average fan is doing cart-wheels at the 2-1 series win but the life-long, die-hard supporters such as myself know that this team are nowhere near their best and are fearing something similar this time. 

The initial fire and excitement for the new era was subsequently doused and extinguished with the opening 26-20 loss at Newlands (with an extra man for most of the match).

I have never seen a Bok team play with so little passion. The traditional ‘Bok-lash’ was evident in the second match at fortress Ellis Park with altitude and individual brilliance saving our bacon. Ruan Combrinck almost single-handedly carried the team in that second half in what was quite an epic comeback, to win 32-26. Trailing 19-3 at half-time was however truly abject, indeed worrying and extremely unacceptable.

The third Test saw a welcomed improvement from the boys in Port Elizabeth, especially our scrum and overall set-piece play, but we still weren’t anywhere near convincing enough and scraped a 19-13 victory. Ireland could have easily seized the series as they lay siege to our tryline in the final five minutes. 

Very inconsistent from the men in green and gold and if they continue to play like this, we are bound to get cut apart in the upcoming Rugby Championship.  

What I have gathered from the series is this:


There was a constant improvement from one match to the next. Coetzee tweaked certain aspects and match day line-ups were improved as well as our set-pieces. Our scrum really tore into the Irish in the third Test and our lineout was imperious. Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit will probably make the starting team for a World XV and the second row is probably the only area where we can confidently claim to be on par or better than the All Blacks (don’t forget about the gentle giant Lood de Jager). The injection of certain Lions players is most definitely welcomed as well. Combrinck, Jaco Kriel, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley and Franco Mostert, among others, should form the core of this team up until the next World Cup. Another positive is that the good old fashion Bok fight is still there, proven by our tough-as-teak defending in that third Test.


Where do I start? Firstly, the coaching staff as a whole. Mzwandile Stick was promoted to Bok offensive coach after doing the same job for the worst team in Super Rugby - the Kings. How on earth does he deserve this job ahead of more seasoned, deserving competitors? Forwards gurus Johann van Graan and Matt Proudfoot are not the best tacticians and Coetzee himself couldn’t even get over the line in Super Rugby. Ill-discipline is another huge factor. Giving away unnecessary penalties is the one area where we have shown consistency sadly. Basics are not being carried out - ball handling, touch finders and kicking out of hand (aimless as usual) are just a few of the basics we have failed to get right. Goal kicking also remains a concern. Elton Jantjies is not the most reliable first-five-eighth and one conversion can be the difference between winning and losing. Our defensive strategy seems to be outdated and similar to Coetzee’s Stormers days, teams quickly began to decipher it and the All Blacks will tear it to shreds. We missed tackles than the Irish, more turn-overs were conceded and had more defenders beaten. We had fewer clean breaks than them, fewer metres run, carries, loose balls collected and were forced to make more tackles. I think the only areas where we did succeed were with more offloads and scrum wins. Don’t even get me started on territory and possession - you do not want to view those stats! These are startling statistics for a team about to take on the likes of the All Blacks. Our attacking prowess is almost non-existent and our maul is lacking the grunt of old. How do we plan to cut through New Zealand’s black wall? The contentious issue of transformation also always comes in to play and the almost non-existent game time that Rudi Paige gets off the bench proves the coach is trying to make up some numbers. This is also the reason Malcolm Marx may not be called up and why Jaco Kriel hasn’t been given the start that he deserves (we need a fetcher - our breakdowns and rucking are yet another poor aspect). Also, JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo will be in their mid-30s by 2019 - way too old for wings. I could go on and on.

The negatives sadly outweigh the positives and fans should be quivering at the mere mention of the Rugby Championship. We are unbeaten in 10 years against England and I fear even that streak will end come November. If Eddie Jones can down us with Japan, what are his former world champions England, going to do to us?

I would like to suggest a foolproof, five-step plan to Coetzee on how to successfully topple the All Blacks at least once this year:

1. Start praying

2. Wish for a miracle

3. Hope that the day we face them is indeed their one ‘off’ day (law of averages and all that)

4. Consult a sangoma (even though this didn’t even work for Bafana Bafana)

5. Rely on luck and the ‘bounce of the ball’ on the day

I hate to be a pessimist and sarcastic, but see myself now more as a realist. As a die-hard fan for 21 years, this is the first time that I am actually expecting the worst. Normally after the first few Tests of a season fans look forward to the Wallabies and All Blacks games with fervour and excitement. This time it is more with fear and trepidation. Oh dear Boks, I don’t mind sampling some humble pie and implore and beg you to go out there and prove me wrong!

Dhirshan Gobind is a 30-something freelance sports columnist/writer /blogger and a UKZN alumnus with a degree in Marketing Management. He also has a column in ‘The Post’ and ‘Galaxy News’ and writes regularly on Sport24.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby championship  |  rugby


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