It’s time to wake up, Heyneke!

2015-07-22 06:00

REMEMBER the Andrews Sisters’ mournful lament, “Oh, What a Difference a Day Makes”? However, it didn’t need a day. Just a split second - that was all it needed to break the Springboks’ hearts at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium last weekend.

The Wallabies had to wait several agonising minutes before centre Tevita Kuridrani was awarded the try that clinched a 24-20 victory over a leaderless South African side in this back-and-forth Four Nations Rugby Championship clash. Up to that moment it seemed that South Africa might have just clinched a plucky – if at times lucky – 20-17 win.

Overall one felt the Wallabies were just that fraction better, even though most of the first hour had belonged to the Boks, with the Wallabies forced to play catch-up. At 13-7 at halftime and 20-10 soon afterwards, the Boks appeared to be on their way to victory, albeit a narrow, hard-fought one.

Usually, one turns to the coach of a defeated team for answers. After the game, Heyneke Meyer called the loss “heartbreaking”. True. He also said his team “butchered at least one try” – flyhalf Handré Pollard’s dropping of the ball with the tryline at his mercy. Also true. But the real spanner in the works was the coach himself. Come on! When your captain has been sidelined by injury – Marcell Coetzee would later also leave the field injured – it is rugby suicide to replace a player of Bismarck du Plessis’ known pound-for-pound aggression. The moment the hooker left the field the Springboks began to lose their grip on the game.

But let’s look ahead, not backwards. This week at Ellis Park the Boks face the All Blacks, after the New Zealanders’ 39-18 pasting of Argentina in Christchurch. The Kiwis must be relishing the prospect. Even though it’s an away game for them, bookmakers no doubt will be happy to offer handsome odds against a South African win.

What was coach Meyer thinking about? By match end in Brisbane he had replaced not just Bismarck and brother Jannie, but Tendai Mtawarira – in other words the entire front row – as well!

Come on, sir! Then for good measure you give Lwazi Mvovo a precious five minutes as well! What was he supposed to do? Score the winning try? Surely the only time a coach does that is when his team is racing away with a top-heavy winning score?

But enough. The so-called Rugby Championship really isn’t that big a deal. The “big one” lies ahead in England, starting in September, the World Cup. And Brisbane and its outcome surely have shouted in South African rugby’s ear the following. Fine performer though he has been for the Boks, Matfield’s days as a Test player are over. Is it really necessary to go the whole hog with Jean de Villiers as well? Take them both to the World Cup, if you will – as advisers.

One thing proved beyond doubt by the Brisbane Botch-up is that the centre pairing of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel could go on to become as fruitful as some of the best our rugby has seen. Indeed, there is plenty of talent – of which we will talk in the weeks to come before the Great Trek to England. All is not lost by any means

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