CAPE TOWN – Played seven, won three, lost four. The Springboks’ 2018 record doesn’t make for happy reading.
And the manner in which they have lost their last two in a row, against Argentina in Mendoza and Australia in Brisbane, suggests the pain will continue against the world champion All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday.
But despite some odd selections by coach Rassie Erasmus, poor execution and strange game plans, the Bok management believe they are busy with a process that is all about the 2019 World Cup.
Even if the continued bad results and lack of progress costs them their jobs before reaching Japan, they are not going to change tack at this stage.
“Rassie has made it very clear that if we don’t get transformation right, if we don’t get the squad right to be competitive at the World Cup, it doesn’t matter what we do.
“Bringing a squad together that could win an individual game isn’t what it’s about for us,” Bok assistant coach Matt Proudfoot was reported as saying on Tuesday by the stuff.co.nz website.
“We realise as coaches and management – and this is driven by Rassie – that if we have to get fired for an individual loss or series of losses... then so be it.
“We started a process that will develop a team that’s competitive at the World Cup and represents South Africa as a nation united, that’s what this squad is about.”
Proudfoot’s comments come after Erasmus said on Monday that the pressure will mount on his bosses to fire him if there is another big defeat to the All Blacks, after they went down 57-0 in Albany last year under Allister Coetzee.
He added that the Bok management are fully aware of the backlash back home, but have received enough support to feel that they are on the right path with the team.
“We hear it, obviously you listen to it (public criticism). For all the people who criticise, there are people supporting us. I can show you my phone and the messages of support we get from past players, ‘Just stick with what you’re doing’,” Proudfoot said.
“They can see the effort and what this team is doing on the field. Mistakes are going to happen when you’re developing a side. Every second half has been above our opponents, and that’s effort. We will get the execution right the more experience this team gets.”
Proudfoot would’ve been quite pleased by the driving mauls from the Bok forwards against Australia, while there were also a number of powerful scrums.
But the Wallabies later got the upperhand in that set-piece too, not to mention the lineout errors at crucial times, with the Bongi Mbonambi throw to the back the obvious stand-out.
They can’t afford a repeat if they have any hope of beating the All Blacks, but Proudfoot feels that the Boks know what to expect at the Westpac Stadium.
“I think a Test between South Africa and New Zealand reverts down to the basics. It’s really getting your basics right and having an opportunity to actually get the game going. They have a fantastic scrum, they put your lineout under pressure and they launch from there,” he said.
“Set-phase and breakdown are two crucial factors against them, having quick ball to attack with. Just the basics – not doing anything fancy, not doing anything different. Just making sure that our basics are 20 percent better than they were last week.
“The players have to see it (attacking opportunities), so from a coaching perspective, we need to give them the triggers to be able to see those opportunities. That is how a player learns – showing it to them over and over again so that they can see it.
“The great factor is that we are creating those opportunities. If we are creating eight to 10 chances against a side like Australia, that is good work done.”