Tremble: now for the All Blacks

2016-09-14 06:00

SPRINGBOKS and Sharks are two very different beasts. The former are four-legged fellows of the wild known for “their ability”, says the Oxford Dictionary, “to burst forth from soil or root or stem...” Sharks on the other hand are” large, voracious fish”. They can also be “extortioners or swindlers”.

In rugby terms neither of these two names fitted South African teams parading their wares last weekend; the first-named in far-off Brisbane, Australia, and the latter at Durban’s Kings Park in the Currie Cup.

The Springboks, losing 23-17 to Australia’s national team looked nothing like their namesakes of the wild, yet a converted try worth seven points would have given the South Africans a 24-23 victory.

No doubt rugby orientated families throughout the country were holding their breath around their TV sets last Saturday, telling themselves, “It’s possible, we can do it!” But in both cases it was not to be. Certainly, the Boks didn’t deserve victory, nor did the Sharks at home against the Free State Cheetahs. Nor would the Boks have deserved it.

Let’s be honest: neither the Boks nor the Sharks showed the quality one expects of top-level sides. Indeed, they looked no better than second rate at their international and inter-provincial, level.

Rugby matches are not won or lost purely on systematic figures, but it is indicative of the generally low standard produced by both teams in the Brisbane Test when one compares some of its statistics. Here are some: Carries – Wallabies 114, Boks 105; Clean Breaks – Wallabies 7, Boks 6; Passers – Wallabies 133, Boks 109; Offloads Wallabies 12, Boks 9; Tackles – Wallabies 98, Boks 97; Line-outs won – Wallabies 13, Boks 15; Overall possession – Wallabies 51%, Boks 49%.

Yes, in many ways these statistics show how close the contest was. They also show that by and large the Australians were slightly the better side. How sad that a Test that had the Springboks leading 14-3 after just 16 minutes should have let so much slip that at the halfway mark they led by just a single point (14-13)! Already the cracks were showing in this error-ridden Springbok performance.

Another of the Bok shortcomings lay in an apparent belief that the team could steamroll their way through the opposition by sheer force when a little finesse such as a sidestep at the right moment might well have opened up a gap or two.

As it was, the two tries the visitors grabbed so early in the Test came from opposition errors that Warren Whiteley and Johan Goosen joyfully pounced upon.

Very few of the Springboks lived up to their reputation. One of the few was the hard-working, dependable No 8 Whiteley; surely captaincy material for the future. Immediate, perhaps?

With no better than a 50 percent record from six matches, Bok coach Allister Coetzee needs his team to do a lot better than the played-six-won-three record it is presently saddled with as they ready themselves to take on the mighty All Blacks in Christchurch this weekend.

Here are just two improvements. Pieter-Steph du Toit, playing off the bench, deserves a start in the second row with Eben Etzebeth to improve the all-round strength of the scrum. Bring Morné Steyn back at flyhalf. The veteran still has plenty of rugby in him.

Coming down a step to the Currie Cup game at Kings Park, the Sharks losing 30-38 to the Cheetahs were no better than mediocre, even if for the moment they are top of the Cup log.

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