Bok coach de Villiers finds silver lining in 26-20 loss

2010-12-06 00:00

IT was to be an exhibition of flowing rugby, a celebration of talent and skill, but the Springboks did little for their reputation as entertainers in their 26-20 weekend loss to the Barbarians at Twickenham.

The Springboks, starting slowly and playing the first half largely without the ball, looked like the team that had met moments before the kick-off while the scratch Barbarians played with style and unexpected cohesion for a 19-3 half-time lead as Wallaby backs Drew Mitchell, twice, and James O’Connor crossed for tries.

The Boks improved in the second half, but still relied heavily on power rather than finesse, the bludgeon instead of the rapier, to batter their way back into contention before the many errors ended their brief challenge.

It was only in the final 10 minutes — when the Sharks’ Charl McLeod and Pat Lambie were belatedly reunited at halfback — that they showed any real urgency and fizz.

Too little and too late.

The Boks, for the most part, were untidy and lacked ambition. Even efforts to rumble the ball up-field were ended by numerous turnovers and even attempts to kick goals failed.

French referee Pascal Gauzere, who would not be out of place in the British sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo!, made a confusing contribution to the scrums and the Boks were never able to gain the set piece ascendancy which is the foundation of their power game. The result was that their young backs struggled to make any impression on attack and they fell off too many tackles in a poor first half.

Indeed, the only South Africans to enjoy themselves at Twickenham on Saturday were on the Barbarian side. Western Province lock Anton van Zyl was named man of the match, fellow-second-rower Quintin Geldenhuys, who now plays for Italy, scored the Baa-Baas’ fourth try, and South Africans Nick Mallett and Alan Solomons coached the winning team.

Mallett, to give all 22 players a run, made changes to the Barbarian at half-time which certainly weakened their pack, limited the attacking chances of their superior backs and allowed the Springboks back into the game.

Odwa Ndungane, Bakkies Botha and Bandise Maku, on the final whistle, scored tries for the Boks but, with Elton Jantjies missing four kicks at goal, they never threatened to take the lead.

Springbok coach Peter de Villiers again ignored the dark cloud and seized on the silver lining.

“This Barbarians side was full of world stars, mainly from Australia and New Zealand.

“There’s no disgrace in losing to a team of that quality at the end of a long, hard season.

“The boys gave it everything and we were strong at the finish so I’m not too unhappy.

“We now need a long break. The guys have been through a lot this year and are naturally pretty tired,” he said.

Refusing to be downhearted after the defeat, De Villiers told the media he was confident about the future, adding that he expected the Boks to peak for the World Cup in New Zealsnd next September.

“As everyone has seen on this tour, we have many exciting young players coming through who could certainly push for a World Cup place,” he said.

“We still have 10 months to go before the start in New Zealand and so much can happen.

“The team is still developing and, hopefully, will improve considerably between now and then.”

De Villiers said that the Boks had shown their capabilities when they had to win against England.

“No one connected with South African rugby has ever doubted the real quality and natural skill and strength we have. It’s just getting it altogether on the field and fulfilling the expectations.”

Juan Smith, like Victor Matfield a week ago, endorse

d the views of his coach. “Being in the thick of it, I can see just how the team is moving on,” the Free State flank said after the defeat. The South African public should not be worried. “We will be primed and ready come New Zealand at the end of next year. It was a shame we could not win our final game of this year, but this was an inexperienced Springbok team, and the guys who came in will have learned so much from it.” What was disappointing was that the young Springboks did not do themselves justice. South Africa has exciting and quick backs, enthusiastic counter-attackers and hard runners.

“You would not have thought so watching the ponderous Springboks labouring their way around Twickenham on Saturday.

Scorers

Barbarians — Tries: Drew Mitchell (2), James O’Connor and Quintin Geldenhuys; Conversions: James O’Connor (3).

Springboks — Tries Odwa Ndungane, Bakkies Botha and Bandise Maku; Conversion: Elton Jantjes;

Penalty: Elton Jantjes.

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