Makazole Mapimpi of the Springboks in action against Wallabies. Picture: EPA
Makazole Mapimpi of the Springboks in action against Wallabies. Picture: EPA

Springboks aren’t doing the ’solid basics’ that made them world champions

By Mike Greenaway Time of article published Sep 19, 2021

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FOR two weeks in a row the Springboks have been outplayed by the Wallabies and the question after this latest defeat is who are the Boks going to blame this time?

They can’t point a finger at the officials, nor at the gamesmanship of the Wallabies who last week were highlighted for obstruction and taking too long to take shots at goal, and certainly not at their own kickers for having an off day …

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In fact, the question of who to blame is a rhetorical one because the truth is that the Australians exposed the Boks to be not nearly as good as so many have thought them to be.

In the first match between the teams, on the Gold Coast last Sunday, the Boks lost to a post-hooter penalty goal and coach Jacques Nienaber understandably said that if that Quade Cooper’s kick had missed, the Boks would have won and been praised for their fortitude in fighting back to win that match.

Fair comment at the time, and the consequent expectation was that the Boks would be much better in the return match and almost certainly would win.

ALSO READ: Springboks were beaten ’hands down’ in every department by Wallabies

Only for them to be much worse in this 30-17 defeat … Far worse, in fact, and this double reverse in Australia has emphatically ended the honeymoon period for the team that won the World Cup, and there is now a concern that the much-hyped centenary match against the All Blacks next weekend will be a damp squib rather than the firecracker it promised to be.

Without doubt, this was the worst Springbok performance since Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber took over in 2018 and there has to be questions now about the Boks’ inability to find a way to win games when they are matched physically.

The bottom line is that the Boks are a one-dimensional team and they do not have a Plan B when Plan A fails. When the key foundations of their game don’t fire, they are rendered ineffectual — when their maul drives don’t work, when their defence does not smother teams, when their aerial assault does not work, they are exposed.

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To be fair to the Boks, in this match they did attempt to play more expansively than in their previous matches, they went wide more often than they did against the Lions and the Pumas, but sadly they did not look comfortable doing it, probably because they are not used to it.

They just did not have the skill to be effective in playing expansively, although the same could be said for the things they normally do well.

The Boks were not accomplished in the aspects of the game that usually give them reward, and for this the Australians have to be given credit.

They neutralised the Springbok set pieces and especially the driving maul.

ALSO READ: ‘Skop, skiet en donner’ plan stopped in its tracks by Wallabies, so what else have you got, Springboks?

But what the Aussies cannot take credit for is the ineffectiveness of the Springbok tackling.

Defence has been the cornerstone of the Springboks’ success under Erasmus and especially Nienaber, who is primarily a defence coach, yet there were 20 missed tackles to go with the 21 from the previous match.


The reality is that in everything the Boks did, their execution was poor – whether it was in their traditional structured approach or in them trying to be expansive.

For some time, almost everyone in world rugby has been questioning how the Boks go about their business, and the Boks have been smug in dismissing criticism because they have been winning.

My understanding is that the Boks do want to evolve into a team that has their backline scoring sensational tries, but they can’t hope to transform if they are not getting their fundamentals right, the solid basics that made them champions.

IOL Sport

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