Wallabies defeat shows Springboks can’t be one-trick ponies forever
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DURBAN - It was Groundhog Day for the sloppy Springboks yet again Down Under as they added another chapter of misfortune to their long history of losing matches on Australian soil that they were expected to win.
Since readmission in 1992, the Boks have won just five times in Australia, but on this occasion at the Gold Coast Stadium they were widely expected to confirm their world champion status by sweeping aside a very average Wallabies team that had been obliterated in three matches in a row by the All Blacks.
In the “curtain-raiser” to this match, the self-same Kiwis blew Argentina away as they build up steam to the big 100th anniversary match with the Boks on September 25, and after the Boks failed to ignite in their 28-26 loss to the Wallabies, the gulf in class between the All Blacks and the Boks is clearly apparent.
It was an endlessly frustrating match for South African observers because the Springboks were their own worst enemies. Instead of taking a step up from their series win over the Lions and their two solid victories over the Pumas, the Boks lurched backwards, making a mountain of uncharacteristic errors on defence while usually dependable playmakers such as Handre Pollard and Lukhanyo Am were curiously off colour.
And while Pollard was missing kicks at goal, it was a fairytale day for his opposite number, Quade Cooper, who was recalled out of obscurity to deliver a faultless kicking display which included a magnificent post-hooter effort to win the game.
That he was in that position to kick his team to glory summed up what was wrong with a Bok team that kept on conceding soft moments.
Seconds earlier, all the Boks had to do was win the ball from their set scrum and then kick it into touch to win the game 26-25 but they conspired to make a hash of it —despite having had a run of dominant scrums — and when the scrum broke up, the penalty went the way of the Wallabies.
Cue Cooper to step up and kick his seventh penalty of the night... The reaction of coach Jacques Nienaber as the referee’s arm went up for the penalty said it all. He threw his arms up and mouthed an expletive of note in frustration and who could blame him?
Champion teams close out games like this but the Boks could not put away a Wallabies team that was as courageous as it was niggly and obstructive off the ball.
“Nothing has changed in our preparation. This game is important to us.”— SuperSport 🏆 (@SuperSportTV) September 12, 2021
The @Springboks captain, Siya Kolisi has spoken. Now it's game-time!
📺 Stream #RSAvAUS on Showmax Pro: https://t.co/bDZqb8lVT5 pic.twitter.com/M5ChEdlULF
The Boks really should have shown better composure and this reverse once again asks questions as to why the Boks can’t rise to the occasion on Aussie soil. They hadn’t won in Australia since 2013 and this was their first match outside of South Africa as world champions... but they failed their big test.
The Boks scored three tries to one, all of them off the back of lineout mauls following penalty kicks to the corner, but while they were clinical in this respect, you have to wonder why they didn’t make better use of their backline on occasions when the Aussies kicked the ball deep and space and time begged for a counter-attack.
We understand that the Boks have their unique way of playing but they can’t remain one trick ponies forever, scoring tries only from lineout mauls, especially not when they have try-machines on the wings.
An aspect of this game that will hurt the Boks was their unusually porous defence. They missed 21 tackles and the Wallabies’ lone try was due to a simple missed tackle in the outside channel by Faf de Klerk on Samu Kerevi that allowed the centre to create a simple run in for wing Andrew Kellaway.
The Boks have return match against the Wallabies on Saturday at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, a venue where they have an appalling record, and that will continue unless they can pull themselves together and play like the champions so many South Africans have cracked them up to be.