PRETORIA – When the Springboks look back at this end-of-year tour they will do so with some regret at the missed opportunities more than the progress they actually made.
It certainly didn’t start on a good note after the controversial loss to England and it unfortunately ended the way it began for Rassie Erasmus’ men.
Having come from the doldrums of world rugby in the past two years, the Springboks would have gladly taken two wins out of four matches, but this team should have done better.
They may felt robbed from victory in that England game with Owen Farrell escaping any sanction for a tackle with no arms on Andre Esterhuizen but it was a game the visitors should have wrapped up in the first half.
The Springboks have lacked the killer instinct that is required to be counted amongst the world’s best and that primarily comes down to the lack of discipline and accuracy in execution.
There can be no denying the Springboks have made great strides from the dark and embarrassing lows of the past two seasons, but that is no excuse for a team which can clearly mix it with the best, as was evident in their historic win against the All Blacks in Wellington.
And those moments of dominance were there in the game against England but the Springboks could not translate it to scoreboard pressure.
Errors at crucial times would follow the Springboks throughout their tour as they stuttered against France with the small errors like Cheslin Kolbe’s knock on over the try-line and Willie Le Roux’s forward pass when Aphiwe Dyantyi had scored all coming back to haunt the South Africans.
As much as the game against Scotland was always going to be a tight affair, the two missed penalties by Handre Pollard kept the Scots in contention.
But the biggest let down would be how those missed opportunities and ill-discipline would deny the Springboks what was surely going to be a season-defining win against Wales.
Erasmus will have to seriously address the poor conversion rate his team has when in dominant positions and even more so their lack of discipline in conceding penalties.
Another bad side of the tour was the lack of game time for the likes of Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, JD Schickerling, Ruhan Nel, Sergeal Petersen and Gio Aplon.
Erasmus speaks about building depth and experience yet not all of his players got an opportunity to stake a claim in the team.
The Springboks defence is still a problem, particularly out wide where the wings rush in and leave acres of space that the opposition always exploits.
However, Erasmus would have also felt it a worthy trip up north regarding the coming to age of scrumhalf Embrose Papier and the effectiveness of Elton Jantjies and Bongi Mbonambi off the bench.@Vata_Ngobeni