Johannesburg – Forget about the Wallabies being under a new coach, forget about them lacking an identity and forget about them being a so-called weak side. The fact is the Springboks clobbered a decent Australian side at the weekend and deserve to be applauded.
Many predicted the speedy Aussie backs would run the Boks off their feet and some were right to think along those lines. They saw Will Genia, Quade Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, James O’Connor, Nic Cummins and Israel Folau in the line-up ... but don’t tell me these men are plonkers, as some have now suggested. They’re all outstanding rugby players and in Folau, some believe the Aussies have the closest thing there is to that other supposed freak and greatest rugby player ever, Sonny Bill Williams.
The Boks beat the Aussies not because they were up against a weak Wallaby team, but because they executed their game plan perfectly, dominated where any good Bok team should dominate, up front, and they scored four wonderful tries. Coach Heyneke Meyer got his planning spot on, his selections were right and he got the players to believe they could beat anyone, anywhere.
Yes, this weekend’s Test against the All Blacks will be completely different and yes, it will be far tougher than anything the Boks have faced in the last 10 months, but there is no reason to believe the Boks can’t win in Auckland as well.
Much has been said of the Boks’ immense scrumming performance last weekend, their total domination of the breakdowns and their eagerness to attack when the opportunity was there. But not all that much has been said of the Boks’ outstanding defence.
Big matches are won in defence – every coach and fan knows that – and the Boks under Meyer are as good with ball in hand as they are without it. Before, it’s been a case of a reasonably strong defence and an iffy attack ... but not anymore.
For the Boks to keep the Wallabies try-less on a supposed fast-paced pitch in Brisbane, which supposedly suited their game perfectly, is an outstanding effort. Just look at the names I’ve mentioned above ... all classy players who’ve scored many tries for their Super Rugby franchises and for Australia.
While I’m chuffed the Boks are playing more attacking rugby than before, I’m even happier they’re giving nothing away in defence. They may have battled to assert themselves away from home in recent times – Europe in November and in Mendoza – but they remain a tough team to crack. They’ve conceded just nine tries in their last nine, unbeaten, games ... now that’s something to cheer about. At the same time the Boks have scored 33 tries. Meyer seems to have got the balance between attack and defence spot on, and for that he deserves a big pat on the back.