Victory doesn't detract from shoddy Bok display

Lloyd Burnard
Lloyd Burnard

Cape Town - The Springboks may be back to winning ways, but Saturday's error-fest against France in Paris was anything but inspiring. 

It wasn't that the Boks were better than France, but rather that France were worse than the Boks. 

Nick Mallett suggested after the match that the French look one of the worst coached sides in world rugby currently, and that puts things into perspective. 

The Les Bleus performance on Saturday lacked direction, organisation and if there was a clear game-plan, then it was nowhere near visible due to a fundamental lack of execution. 

But despite all that, the hosts were in the game right up until the very end as the Boks bashed their way around the park, unable to find any real penetration. 

The match-winning try from Jesse Kriel was also dodgy, to say the least, with Eben Etzebeth's assist not ruled to have gone forward. 

That was a massive moment in the contest and while the Boks held on for a desperate win, it was one that did little to suggest that they have turned the corner. 

Listening to coach Allister Coetzee's comments after the game, it was more than a little cringe-worthy to hear him describe this group as "special" while praising the character of the players, saying that they had learned their lessons after the Ireland hammering. 

There was nothing special about this performance, and there has certainly been nothing special about the Springboks over the past two years. 

The win must be celebrated - it is the first time that the Boks have won in six Tests - but it must also be understood for what it was. 

On Saturday, two poor rugby sides thrashed it out for 80 minutes and one was slightly less rubbish than the other. 

The Boks and Coetzee were not helped by the fact that Handre Pollard struggled off the tee and the scoreline would have looked far better had the returning flyhalf knocked over a few routine kicks. 

Reports coming out of both Europe and South Africa suggest that Coetzee is as good as gone, regardless of what happens in the two Tests against Italy and Wales. 

Based on the evidence of the past two weekends, it is hard to see it ending any other way. 

To make matters worse, the Boks will lose both Brendan Venter and Johann van Graan for the rest of their northern hemisphere tour as the coaching staff under Coetzee changes once more, perhaps one final time.  

There were some big individual performances on Saturday: Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx and Francois Venter standing out.

It was also good to see a very clear eagerness to succeed. With the pressure on and the game in the balance, the Boks stood up and got the job done. From the very first minute they played with an intensity that suggested they wanted to right the wrongs of the week before. 

But, unfortunately, the performance didn't match the passion. 

Against a very poor French side that was lambasted by their own media in the aftermath of Saturday's Test, the Boks never really looked the stronger side, as the scoreboard ultimately confirmed. 

While they were generally more direct in their play, there were still passes being thrown from side to side in the hope that space would open up while the tactical kicking, again, left a lot to be desired. 

There is just no killer instinct in this side at the moment, particularly in the backline where attack after attack is coming to nothing. 

Italy awaits, where the Boks will have a point to prove after losing in Florence last year.

For Coetzee, these last two Tests will be a chance to once again show that the Boks are on the right path.

For most, though, these last two Tests signify the end of one of the darkest chapters in Springbok rugby. 

Lloyd Burnard is a journalist at Sport24 and the former Sports Editor of The Witness newspaper ...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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