Winning at all costs

2014-09-17 00:00

WE often hear a coach saying “a win is a win” even if it had been a close win.

It obviously means you have at least succeeded in your aim. But, in the same vein, a loss is also a loss.

And that is precisely what the Springboks did against the All Blacks last Saturday and that is why — like last year’s defeat of 27-38 at Ellis Park — it is of great concern to hear from all quarters how well they have played.

The All Blacks tactically ruled the game and were the best team under critical circumstances. They won the battle for possession and were unlucky to have trailed 6-7 at half time.

South Africa owed their lead to a touch of inspiration on attack and massive tackling — a recipe that only works up to a point.

With their third attempt towards the end of the match, the Boks could not win their line-out possession in a position from which they could have launched the rolling maul and it ended when Lood de Jager was eventually forced over the touchline.

In New Zealand they believe “the touchline is your enemy”. It proved to have been exactly that for South Africa under those circumstances.

It must be said the Boks’ salvation probably lay in the touchline because they put pressure on the All Blacks at their own throw-ins at the lineouts.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer probably made a judgment error by replacing Adriaan Strauss with Bismarck du Plessis in the 55th minute, because that was the start of the Springboks’ line-out problems.

While Meyer found an answer to his flyhalf problem and probably will persist with Handré Pollard, other questions remain.

South Africa are still looking for a scrumhalf who can stand stamp his authority on the game as a substitute for Fourie du Preez during his absence.

He should also consider using Marcel van der Merwe and Trevor Nyakane as props in place of Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira during next Saturday’s Test at Newlands against Australia.

It is a pity Frans Malherbe is unfit, because with him the Boks would not lose much scrum power and probably gain more work performance from their tight head prop.

A worrying statistic prior to next year’s World Cup tournament is that South Africa have lost their last five matches against New Zealand and nine out of their past 10 matches.

Should the World Cup go the expected way, the Springboks could meet the All Blacks in the semi-finals.

And despite not having beaten the Boks convincingly on their own territory, the All Blacks have the ability to dig deep and empower their coach with the words: “a win is a win”.

It is an aura difficult to nurture and even more difficult to overcome when you face such an opponent.

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