Smit bewails poor discipline — again

2010-07-19 00:00

THE Springboks, whipped by the All Blacks and referee Alain Rolland on the field and then hammered by the citing commissioner and the critics off it, yesterday left New Zealand on an unhappy trip across the Tasman Sea to Brisbane.

The Springboks face the Australians in their next Tri-Nations game in Brisbane on Saturday and they will do so without centre Jean de Villiers. The veteran Bok centre, who was playing on the wing, was cited for a spear tackle on Rene Ranger. He yesterday pleaded guilty and was suspended for two weeks by Australian Sanzar judicial officer Dennis Wheelahan.

Wheelahan said De Villiers’s exemplary disciplinary record and his guilty plea counted in his favour. De Villiers, who left the field in Wellington on Saturday with an ankle injury and was unlikely to have been fit anyway, will only miss this weekend’s Test.

Curiously, Ranger was himself not cited for a cynical, head-high shoulder charge on Bok fullback Zane Kirchner, which was certainly dangerous.

A week ago lock Bakkies Botha was banned for nine weeks for a head-butt and angry Bok captain John Smit was again yesterday left criticising the discipline of his own team.

“Discipline is vital,” he said yesterday in response to De Villiers’s suspension and a yellow card for a kick by Danie Rossouw, which saw the lock sin-binned in the opening minutes of the Wellington Test.

The kick, although little more than an innocuous tap on Richie McCaw, saw a 13-point swing with the Boks having a goalable penalty reversed and the All Blacks then scoring 10 points while Rossouw was off the field. It also gave the All Blacks all the early momentum as they dominated the first half.

“It wasn’t much at all,” McCaw said later of the “kick”.

But Smit did not defend the rights or wrongs of the carding.

“I’m tired after all these years of having to again talk about our discipline. I thought it was something of the past, but here it is again costing us. If guys are seen to be stepping outside of the team, it does get dealt with internally,” Smit said of the Botha and Rossouw yellow cards, which put the Springboks on the backfoot early in both Tests.

New Zealand critics had a field day after the Tri-Nations and world champions were beaten 31-17.

“This South African team looks tired to me. John Smit looks tired and Bryan Habana, Ricky Januarie and Jean de Villiers all seem off the pace,” said former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick. “The All Blacks were smarter and more physical than the Boks,” he added.

Former prop Richard Loe questioned Bok team selections and the lack of aggression of the Springboks.

“The Boks look a bit sick to me. The Boks were too cocksure last week and did not know how to fix it this week. We got used to seeing them take charge in the Super 14, but it hasn’t happened in the Test team.”

The Boks were certainly given a rough ride by referee Rolland, who allowed the streetwise All Blacks to constantly flop over the ball at the breakdown to prevent Smit’s team gaining any momentum.

Twice he gave McCaw two “final warnings” on the All Black line when he slowed down Bok possession.

But certainly Rolland was not the difference between the two teams. The All Blacks were hungrier, faster and better organised on both attack and defence and it showed in the try count of 8-2 over the two Tests.

The Boks certainly improved on their Eden Park loss. Their work in the scrums and lineouts was solid, they did score two tries and there were times in the second half, and particularly after Ruan Pienaar replaced Ricky Januarie at scrumhalf, when they showed some rhythm and continuity on attack.

But the intensity and hunger was again missing. Again they only chased kicks in dribs and drabs, again they fell off tackles, again they were outmuscled at the breakdown and again they were outpaced by an excellent All Black team

De Villiers’s suspension now prevents his move back into the midfield against the Wallabies, but at least coach Peter de Villiers is now forced to field a specialist on the wing. And surely he has to make a change at scrumhalf.

More on the Boks’ defeat: page 18

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