‘Monster’ that left Boks reeling

2015-08-12 06:00

YOU’VE HEARD of the three blind mice, no doubt – but not a whole batch of 15.

Well, that’s how coach Heyneke Meyer’s hapless men in the Springbok green and gold looked facing the Argentine bogeyman known as the “Bagada”.

That’s what, down Argentina way, they call the no-hooking, eight-man-push scrum, a monster that’s designed to shove the heaviest farmer’s tractor out of sight.

SA rugby first made acquaintance with the monster on the Argentine tour of our country in 1965, and would appear regularly, with varying success, from then on.

Last Saturday at Durban’s Kings Park the “monster” was in top gear. It had the Springboks on their knees after 80 minutes. It also bewildered even the harshest hometown critics, who expected a walk in the park against the Argentineans.

The weekend papers were full of it. “Bok Shocker!” said one. That was no maybe, even though Jean de Villiers’ men managed to rectify total disarray, after a change-ends score of 27-13 that had Coach Meyer looking totally shocked, and no wonder for things had started horrendously, with the visitors scoring a try after just 1min 41sec and leading 7-0 with the conversion.

As the Springboks fumbled and stumbled about, substituting their ironman hooker, Bismarck du Plessis, swopping flyhalf Handre Pollard for Pat Lambie among several other changes, the air of panic was fully established.

So what now of the Boks’ ambitions of lifting the World Cup starting in England in just over a month’s time? Don’t forget the defeat landed the Springboks in the unimaginable position of last in the shortened form of the Four Nations Rugby Championship – wooden-spoonists without a point after the single round of matches!

And what of the return “friendly” that lies ahead in Buenos Aires this Saturday? Can the coach afford to tinker much with the team at this late stage? One can only imagine the sleepless nights haunting coach Meyer.

But let’s give credit where it’s due. While the Boks, wild-eyed with panic, seemed unable to stem the flow with which Los Pumas were performing, it became increasingly evident that the visitors were in full control – both up front and in a backline that was full of innovation, establishing an ascendancy the Boks simply couldn’t match.

After having made 11 changes to the team that faced New Zealand and then Australia, the smoothness with which the South Americans operated was remarkable to say the least.

While the forwards soon established hardnosed ascendancy in the scrums and mauls, centre Marcelo Bosch and young Juan Imhoff, in his first cap for Argentine, were full of ideas. Bosch not only racked up a try but a long-range penalty and a soaring drop-goal. But star of the occasion, with two fine tries, was the elusive Imhoff.

Yes, the Boks – particularly Bryan Habana, Damian de Allende, Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee and locks Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth – managed to establish some parity as the game progressed. Yet the Boks, though winning a fair amount of possession were virtually forced to their knees by the Bagada scrumming. So what of this weekend’s “friendly” in Buenos Aires?

Rugby’s a funny old game. Even in circumstances as dire as these, a reverse of this nightmare isn’t unthinkable. Strange things do happen – but it will take a mighty effort physically – but also tactically

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