Cape Town - The goriness of some of the Springbok reverses in Allister Coetzee’s head-coaching tenure has become an increasingly disturbing hallmark ... call Dublin on Saturday just the latest.
In what amounted to easily their worst result ever against Ireland, they were thoroughly outwitted, out-skilled and outmuscled en route to a 38-3 and four-tries-to-nil setback at Aviva Stadium that gets their four-Test tour of the “north” off to the worst possible start.
Coetzee, meanwhile, extends his record in Europe to nought from four, when you add in the three successive defeats in the 2016 trek.
The performance also, sadly, only re-opened virtually all the wounds of their annus horribilis in his first season in charge.
Almost to a man, his charges looked confused, indecisive and unable to come up with new ideas or strategies as Ireland progressively cashed in on an early 9-0 cushion provided by a trio of penalties.
By the time the closing stages arrived, the floodgates more or less opened, and Coetzee and his lieutenants will surely know that derision back home has reached deafening new levels.
After a taxing task, our card has flanker Pieter-Steph du Toit as the best of a bleak bunch.
Here’s how I rated the Boks out of 10 in Dublin:
Andries Coetzee: 4.5
Started the game with intent, producing a nice swerve and surge. But things slipped mostly backwards from there, even if determination didn’t wane too much. They say cats have nine lives ... the fullback’s now had 10 (appearances) this year, and it is high time to try someone else.
Dillyn Leyds: 4.5
Tried to be constructive on attack, and there was precious little of that from Boks collectively. But also looked uncertain in tackling/stopping terms and lost one ball forward in a thumping tackle on his modest frame.
Jesse Kriel: 4.5
Kriel always tries to bring strong leg-drive, and there was a bit of that from him. But he also goes up too many blind alleys or runs out of space ... and lacked basic instinct in the area of drawing Irish defenders before offloading.
Damian de Allende: 3
If he’s going to be remembered for just one thing (and there was little else) in this Test, it was his horrendously poor decision to kick ahead - and badly - with a promising, generous overlap waiting to be exploited in first half. Things didn’t get much better for a man who is an abject shadow of his former self.
Courtnall Skosan: 3.5
If he’s been a “bastion” this year, it’s mostly been of mediocrity ... and I’m afraid he even fell well short of that level in Dublin with a noticeably brittle display defensively. Weakness under the high bomb came home to roost; badly beaten to the one that opened Irish try count.
Elton Jantjies: 4.5
Little that was too glaringly wrong ... but just such a callow-looking figure again in a spot that requires a reassuring “general”. He is 27 and has 21 caps, but you might have thought he was a nervous first- or second-capper here. Not an ideal northern-hemisphere pivot, and it showed.
Ross Cronje: 4
Ouch ... harrowing outing against big, wily opposite number Conor Murray. Tactical kicking near-awful: tended to either undercook or overdo them, and on this showing Boks will need to reconsider the nine shirt. Had a decent dart through midfield.
Francois Louw: 5.5
CJ Stander almost undoubtedly looked more comfortable in the No 8 berth, for the winning cause. That said, Louw again tried hard as a “fish out of water”. Gave away one or two penalties, though, and spilled a ball on attack.
Pieter-Steph du Toit: 6
Got around gallantly, often arriving to arrest trouble at crisis times. Worked feverishly to win a maul turnover penalty, and also poached an Irish lineout.
Siya Kolisi: 4
Has been so good at open-side for much of 2017 ... but regrettably this was a near-shocker for him. Part of Bok pack outsmarted at and outpaced to the breakdown, and was turned over in a carry. Unusually high error rate, though at least he tried to add some sort of thrust and input out wide.
Lood de Jager: 5.5
Struggled to be genuinely visible, but I thought he was one of the better Boks for honest, consistent industry just outside the main spotlight.
Eben Etzebeth: 5
Usually sets such high standards, but this was one of his least memorable Test matches. Couldn’t really put a cracker up Bok posteriors in leadership terms on the night, either. Looked as nonplussed as any team-mate at times, and his famed physicality stayed mostly in the shed. Some solid tackles on the retreat.
Coenie Oosthuizen: No rating
Just back from a broken arm ... and off the luckless tighthead went on a stretcher even as some spectators were still finding their seats, victim of a hard but fair gang tackle that set tone for broader Irish fire. (Hasty substitute Wilco Louw had difficult outing, but would have learnt plenty from it.)
Malcolm Marx: 5
What happened to the Newlands superstar against NZ? Disappointing come-down showing, even if basics were OK. Won a turnover penalty, but the big unit also lost a ball in contact and the Irish got under his skin a bit.
Tendai Mtawarira: 4.5
Nearing that 100th cap, but back to rank mediocrity for the Beast in this fixture after several decent Tests this year. Little ball-in-hand influence, and culpable in a couple of scrum penalties.
Steven Kitshoff: 5
Bench did little to lift the gloom, really. But Kitshoff was very active almost immediately when introduced in 54th minute, playing part in securing a turnover penalty. Didn’t provide usual scrum oomph, however, and “popped” once.
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