Cape Town - Extremely costly, brain-dead tendencies ... those are what South Africa showed far too much of at times in their depressing Brisbane defeat to Australia last weekend.
Any repeat and the world champion All Blacks, a clearly superior force than both right now, probably WILL run up the feared “cricket score” in Saturday’s Rugby Championship encounter at Wellington (09:35 SA time).
Such paranoia is hardly unmerited back on our shores, given that New Zealand have beaten the Boks 41-13 (2016) and 57-0 (2017) in their last two home meetings with their once titanic rivals.
But I also have a surprisingly steadfast own gut feel, nevertheless, that elimination of certain frankly stupid, over-hasty hallmarks from Suncorp Stadium could yet see the Boks - harrumph all you like, but evolving in some encouraging ways under Rassie Erasmus - run their hosts close for long enough in the “Cake Tin” to have a last-quarter sniff at a seismic upset.
That is not to say I am backing a Bok win; of course Kieran Read and company are massive favourites, and playing on a different level to any other team on the planet.
The danger of a rout will rise quite enormously, too, if the All Blacks go a try or two ahead in the first quarter of an hour, because the thought of the Boks having to play a specifically catch-up geared brand of rugby as a result ... well, ouch.
So my first plea to Siya Kolisi’s outfit would be: flick all the correct switches in mental terms, right from Nigel Owens’ first blast on the whistle.
Initial doziness has been an affliction of theirs all Test season: think Michael Hooper’s second-minute, converted try that sprouted from a botched Bok exit last Saturday. Think that pair of Argentinean dot-downs well within the first half-hour in Durban, England’s two within 12 minutes at Bloemfontein, and their rather jaw-dropping three in 17 in Johannesburg.
True, the Boks were able to strike back for victories in the majority of instances, a signal of some progress in its own right.
Except that if there’s one team in the universe you would not wish to try that high-risk party trick on, it is certainly the All Blacks.
South Africa ideally need to drag them into a tense scrap, aim to suffocate and frustrate as profoundly as possible these luminary exponents of “total rugby”. And yes, that almost certainly means taking as much of the pace out of the game as possible.
Had they done that at pertinent times in Brisbane, I am near-convinced the Boks would have ground out a well less than postcard-perfect, but highly morale-boosting victory, instead of simply extending a losing streak to three Tests out of four ahead of this monster challenge ... not the ideal backdrop for them.
Just for a while in the first half last week, the Boks genuinely seized command of things, zealously retaining the ball through some phases, cutting the frills and bringing into play their renowned rolling mauls.
Patience was the key, and it was paying off. The Wallabies weren’t liking it ... it seemed evident in their body language as the visitors opened up a clear-cut 15-7 lead.
It is history now that the Boks, instead of turning screws, then had what could best be described as a momentary bout of cerebral flatulence to give the Wallabies a bonus gateway back into the contest: that crazy lineout overthrow deep in their own territory than went awry and cost seven points some seven minutes before the sanctuary of the “shed”.
There was just no sense to it; they’d inexplicably got too clever - and too cute - by half, and the contest, in the blink of an eye, was right back on.
Sometimes, these 2018 Boks just get too breathless and cavalier for their own good, at times in matches where a shrewd return through the gears from fifth to second is absolutely cried out for.
Here’s another example from Brisbane, and one pinpointed in the live feed by travelling SuperSport commentator Matthew Pearce: with the seconds ticking down in the 39th minute, flyhalf Elton Jantjies (the bench “ten” this weekend) goaled a smack-in-front penalty to at least re-open an 18-14 lead.
But instead of “running the clock down”, as Pearce rightly rued not occurring, he hurried the kick to well within the permissible time at his disposal.
The result? Opportunity for a further kick-off before the break and, exactly as Murphy’s Law would have it, play then dragged on uninterrupted for more than two minutes beyond the siren and the Aussies won a long-range penalty of their own - duly goaled by Reece Hodge.
On another occasion, the Boks unfathomably hurried a defensive penalty kick to touch, the almost predictable result being Jantjies slicing the ball, and not gaining nearly the clearance range normally expected of him.
More thought, less haste. Infuse those time-honoured Test match principles into the Springboks and they will be at the races in Wellington - even if they don’t leave them automatically cash-flush.
Erasmus’s charges may just be better than some of the evidence we’ve seen from them in recent weeks.
But especially if they box infinitely cleverer.
15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Sam Whitelock, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Karl Tu'inukuafe
Substitutes: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Jack Goodhue, 23 Damian McKenzie
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jesse Kriel 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Cheslin Kolbe
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