Mendoza - ”Unacceptable” was the word repeatedly used by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer in describing Saturday’s second-rate performance against Argentina in Mendoza.
After the disappointing 16-16 draw, the Boks return to South Africa with just six log points gathered from their back-to-back home-and-away games against the Pumas, with a lot to ponder and plot before heading to Australia for the September 8 Rugby Championship Test against the Wallabies in Perth.
Meyer gambled on a new loose trio combination of flanks Marcell Coetzee and Jacques Potgieter and No 8 Willem Alberts. But the anticipated physicality from the green-and-gold back row never materialised as they repeatedly came off second best at the breakdowns while a near-capacity 40 000 crowd roared on the home team.
“I think firstly credit must go to Argentina, but it definitely wasn’t good enough from us,” Meyer said. “We let ourselves and our country down. It’s unacceptable, but I think Argentina played well. I think where everything went wrong was at the breakdown. We couldn’t get any quick ball and we found that very difficult. When we did, we played some good rugby, but then we lost the ball in crucial positions on the field.”
Meyer admitted that the high penalty count, particularly early on, had put the team under unnecessary additional pressure.
“I think there are a lot of youngsters and inexperienced guys in this side, but that’s not an excuse. Obviously we have to learn from this, part of having mental toughness is for when you play away from home. I think what really let us down in the beginning was more the penalties. We gave away four penalties in the first 10 minutes, and at this level, it’s unacceptable. Also, part of mental toughness is discipline, particularly under pressure, because we knew Argentina would come out hard in front of a passionate crowd.”
However, Meyer refused to play the blame game, although he acknowledged that they failed to adapt to Argentina’s different approach to the breakdown.
“I don’t want to make excuses, I just feel we needed to deal with what happened at the breakdown better. I think we had numbers there, but in a sense, we are probably more used to Super Rugby where guys roll away and you get quick ball, and you can clean out with just one or two cleaners. This is probably more like northern hemisphere rugby where they flood the breakdown, but that’s what happens in Test rugby and we needed to cope with it better.”
Meyer admitted that there was also a technical aspect missing from the Springboks’ breakdown play.
“We worked hard on the breakdown in the lead-up to this game, but we need to go back to the drawing board. I think our technique is not good enough for the breakdown at the moment.”
Meyer gave due praise to Argentina, who have certainly proven over the first two matches that they deserve their place in this competition.
“They are a difficult team to play against, especially at home. I think they’ve been together for some time now with the same structures and coaching team. The one area they are quite outstanding is their defence and particularly at the breakdown. Especially at home, they will be very difficult opponents, and it will depend on how the breakdown will be refereed, but I truly believe that they can beat other teams here.”