Springbok blues: another suspension? Not again, surely

2010-07-26 00:00

THE Springboks’ woes continued to mount yesterday when their first-choice centre, Jaque Fourie, was suspended for four weeks for a dangerous tackle during Saturday’s Tri-Nations beating by the Wallabies in Brisbane.

Fourie was yellow-carded in the second minute following a tip tackle on Wallaby number eight Richard Brown. His suspension covers three matches — two in the Currie Cup and the Tri-Nations Test against the All Blacks on August 21.

Fourie, who is in the group of Springboks being rested by the selectors over the next fortnight, will effectively only miss the one Test.

Australian flyhalf Quade Cooper has also been suspended, but for two weeks following his far more dangerous tackle on Morné Steyn, and South Africans will again question the consistency of the citing process.

Cooper will, however, miss the next two Tri-Nations Tests against the All Blacks.

Fourie’s past record counted against him. The burly centre, who was one of the Boks’ better players in the second half on Saturday, received a four-week ban for a dangerous tackle on All Black centre Ma’a Nonu last year.

Cooper was only handed a two-week ban because of “mitigating circumstances” which included Cooper’s “good record”, said Sanzar judicial officer Bruce Squire of New Zealand.

South African wing Jean de Villiers was suspended for two weeks for a dangerous tackle during the Springboks’ 31-17 loss against New Zealand in Wellington, while lock Bakkies Botha was banned for nine weeks for head-butting scrumhalf Jimmy Cowan in their 32-12 defeat to the All Blacks at Eden Park a week earlier.

It has been a disastrous three weeks for South African rugby and the Springboks.

Bok captain John Smit again had no excuses, but said that the players had to take responsibility for the string of defeats and it was up to them to turn the season around.

“We were poor against the Wallabies and we have to be honest with ourselves,” Smit said.

“We haven’t actually played our game yet and we have ourselves to blame for all three defeats.

“We’re not really on the money in anything and we are going to have to dig deep and work hard and make sure we can actually put some rugby together before we can assess whether we are going in the right direction.

“At the moment we have just been poor and we’ve seen the results.”

Smit said the Springboks’ limp defence had been the worst feature of their play as they conceded 93 points in three Tests.

“We are very realistic about how poor and average it has been in most areas in the last three weeks and it hurts us even more to concede so many points,” he said.

“We are very aware of what we have to do over the next few weeks before we get our next chance to rectify things.

“But I will be the first to say that we have been poor defensively and at the breakdowns.

“Our attack has been ordinary, so we have a helluva of a lot to work on.

“We can look at the last three games 100 times, but it is going to have to come from us if we want to change things round.”

Smit said the loss of the world’s leading scrumhalf, Fourie du Preez, to injury should not be used as an excuse.

“We have more than that wrong in the squad. But we probably haven’t adapted well enough without him, in terms of combinations and how we have approached the games,” he said.

“We have to fix that and get the combinations right by the time we get to our next match in Johannesburg.”

Bok coach Peter de Villiers, who suggested that the referees had favoured the All Blacks in the first two Tri-Nations Tests, refused to use the same excuse in Brisbane. He also would not speculate on his future.

“I think you must ask my bosses,” he said. “We didn’t get the result that we badly wanted. We put some good plays together, but we didn’t capita­lise,” he added.

The Wallabies’ New Zealand coach, Robbie Deans, was understandably delighted with the win.

“You have to be happy with that performance. There was a lot of stuff to be proud of, particularly the defence.”

Smit was again forced to deal with the Boks’ poor discipline after Fourie’s yellow-carding and suspension.

“I just couldn’t believe it could happen again for the third week in a row. This can’t keep happening, surely.”

The depressing fact for the South African rugby public on this blue Monday is that it is.

No one in world rugby doubts that South Africa has the talent, but it is certainly not being harnessed by the Bok coaching staff.

The player-driven Springbok rugby squad has lost all sense of direction.

Boks back for Sharks and Test match report, pg 18.

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