CAPE TOWN – The 57-0 rout at the hands of the All Blacks in Albany was the beginning of the end of the Allister Coetzee era at the Springboks.
So, any score-line better than that in this Saturday’s showdown at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington (9.35am) may be accepted with some relief by beleaguered Bok supporters still reeling from the 23-18 loss to Australia.
Coach Rassie Erasmus, though, believes that his under-fire team can produce a performance resembling something worthy of the jersey at the ‘Cake Tin’.
The Boks began their preparations for Saturday’s massive Rugby Championship clash by training at the Jerry Collins Stadium in Porirua Park in suburban Wellington on Monday.
“I think if you take 57-0 and you do better than that, I guess that’s improvement. But hell, if you look at it like that, that’s not improvement. Making it a really competitive match that you really mustn’t know (during) the match which way it’s going to go,” Erasmus said from Wellington on Monday.
“If we can win at the end or they win just by a small margin, then we’ve improved. If we lost 57-0 last year and we lose 36-0 or 36-12, that’s not really an improvement – an improvement is, this must be a competitive match till that last minute.”
But to make it competitive, the Boks will need to catch a wake-up from what happened at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
A listless last 10 minutes of the first half saw them letting an eight-point lead slip away, and they failed to trouble the scorers after the break in a slew of knock-ons, penalties and poor execution.
If they dish up a repeat against the All Blacks, a 57-0 loss will seem like a generous margin of defeat.
Erasmus said apart from the “two stupid things” that gifted Australia 14 points – the early try in the second minute and the overthrown lineout five metres from their line – they weren’t just below-par in one department.
“It was one good scrum, then one bad scrum; then a knock-on, or a kick that’s not caught, or we lose a vital lineout. Then we have a few good drives…
“So, it was a mixed bag of things in terms of the performance. It was up and down in all the departments, which is sometimes a difficult thing to fix and pinpoint. But I am sure that after the review, all the guys agreed on what we need to do better,” Erasmus said.
“To fix things against the All Blacks is difficult, as we know what they did the last time. And I don’t think we will make the same mistakes (as in Brisbane) as it was so elementary.
“Look, it was wet and we are just a team that battle in damp weather – it showed in Washington too. If the ball is slippery after it rained, then we battle as a team, and that is one of the lessons that we learnt.
“But this is a totally different challenge. This is the best team in the world by far, and we really want South Africa to be a team where in the last 10 minutes, you don’t know who is going to win the game between the All Blacks and South Africa.
“We are going to work hard, and this is one of the games where we believe we can regain some respect.”
While Erasmus said he will pick the most experienced team possible, there will be a change at wing after Makazole Mapimpi flew home with a knee injury. Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel and even Lukhanyo Am are being considered at No 14, according to the coach.