Even with the midweek declaration of their desperation and determination to do the right thing, for themselves and their ailing supporters after sinking to an ugly defeat to Argentina in Mendoza, the Springboks continued to look like a ship out at sea with nowhere to go in the dead of night.
From the onset the South Africans never looked to be in control of the game, or trying to wrestle power away from the Wallabies. Instead, they seemed content on treading water and waiting for opportunities to fall into their lap.
While Michael Hooper’s second minute try ignited the Springboks into action which saw them score 15 unanswered points, two tries and penalty, in 26 minutes, for the remainder of this error-riddled encounter it was the visitors who looked clueless at the best of times. They saw little possession or territory, particularly in the second half.
To compound their lack of direction when they did have the ball in that second stanza, the plethora of handling errors, forced and unforced, was akin to the evident low confidence levels within the team – and this inevitably translated to a lack of thought and imagination with ball in hand.
And this would haunt the Springboks towards the end of the game when they desperately needed calm heads and to be clinical on attack with victory beckoning as they trailed by just five points and had camped deep in the Wallabies' half. A converted try would have given them victory.
But the Boks' inability to stamp their authority at crucial times, as well as the psychological scars of not having won a Test away from home under Rassie Erasmus, again proved fatal. They cheaply turned over possession and surrendered what should have been a win to see them get their Rugby Championship campaign back on track.
“It was very tough. We made it tough for ourselves by not taking the opportunities again, but Australia played well. We should have taken our opportunities and at this level you must take your opportunities when you get them,” said Springbok captain Siya Kolisi afterwards.
“I think we were stuck in our half for most of the second half and they did well to put pressure on us. It was very tough and disappointing to lose like that.”
Besides the obvious shortcomings of the team since Erasmus took over, the Springboks also failed with the basics of the game. They lost two line-outs, with one gifting Wallaby centre Matt Toomua his try in the 33rd minute before hooker Bongi Mbonambi was substituted.
The Springboks were also unsettled in the scrums and even though they had the measure of the Wallabies' front-row, they failed to assert their dominance in this crucial facet of the game.
And to add salt to their wounds, the Springboks lost their best player in winger Makazole Mapimpi who limped off just after the half-hour mark.
Mapimpi was phenomenal on defence and even won a penalty from a turnover at the breakdown but it was the threat he posed with ball in hand that could have aided the Springboks later in the game. But before leaving the field, Mapimpi managed to canter over for his fourth try in just as many Test matches.
With their campaign in tatters after two straight losses, Erasmus will be a worried man as the seemingly invincible world champion All Blacks lie in wait in Wellington next weekend. It really does seem the Boks are in for another thrashing following last year's 57-0 humiliation in Albany.@Vata_Ngobeni