Springboks finally solve Wallabies hoodoo mystery

Nic White of Australia reacts following the Rugby Championship Test match against South African at Allianz Stadium in Sydney

Nic White of Australia reacts following the Rugby Championship Test match against South African at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Australia, 3 September 2022. Picture: Dan Himbrechts/EPA

Published Sep 5, 2022

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Durban - Periodically, the Wallabies produce an above-average team that can beat the world’s best but until that happens again, there can be no excuse for the Springboks losing badly to the Wallabies for some time to come.

And that is because Saturday’s 24-8 demolition of the Wallabies in front of a sell-out crowd in Sydney has set a precedent for the Boks that they must live up to. It is a benchmark that they should have set long ago because a correctly focused, supremely motivated Springbok team should beat the Wallabies nine times out of 10, unless it is a year when the Australians are particularly good and the Boks are not at their strongest.

This sounds very arrogant, of course, but it is in fact reality when you consider the pedigrees of the Springboks and Australian teams over the last two decades and you wonder how strong Bok teams have lost to ordinary Wallaby teams Down Under, year in and year out.

Just two examples: One year before the World Cup win in 2007, John Smit’s Springboks lost 49-0 in Brisbane, and in 2009, the year the Boks beat the British & Irish Lions and the All Blacks three matches in a row, they were also thrashed in Brisbane.

Over the same period, the Springboks almost always beat the same team in South Africa, but that is because they are always mentally “up” for the game in front of their home fans, and the only arrogance relative to this discussion is that of the Boks, who until the weekend typically go to Australia and go through the motions because they simply expect to win as they have the better form or reputation.

The Wallabies do have good periods, of course, but they have not been overly powerful since twice winning the World Cup in the 1990s and being finalists in 2003. I’m talking about a serious strength that prior to the weekend’s game in Sydney would explain the Boks playing 30 matches in Australia since readmission and winning only five of them.

There has to be another explanation for that appalling record than the Wallabies were too strong for the Boks.

An explanation closer to the truth that has been around for a while is that on the Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship tours to Australasia, the Boks have channelled all their motivation into the New Zealand leg of the trip because the All Blacks are not only their traditional foe but also are usually the best team in the world.

This attitude of the Boks has been both disrespectful to the Australians and arrogant, and it explains why they have come a cropper so many times.

This brings us to Adelaide two weeks ago, the first leg of the two-match mini-series in Australia. Well, there was no New Zealand leg on this trip to explain why the Boks took to the Adelaide Oval in a “dwaal”.

This was after they had said in many press conferences this year that one of their primary goals was to address the Australian hoodoo … And yet compare the intensity of how they played at the Adelaide Oval to that of Mbombela Stadium, and then compare again to what you saw in Sydney at the weekend.

There is only one explanation and that is contrasting mental approaches. The Boks were switched on in Nelspruit, switched off in Adelaide, and then back on in Sydney.

Let me give one very graphic example. Compare the Boks’ reaction in Adelaide to Marika Koroibete’s armless “tackle” on Makazole Mapimpi at the corner flag in Adelaide and then a week later in Sydney to exactly the same event, this time Mapimpi actually scoring.

In the first instance, the limp-wristed Boks meekly let it go; in Sydney, Eben the Angry led a mass riot. The contrast in attitude is off the scale.

And when a strong Bok team plays an average Wallabies team with the same intensity that they would play the All Blacks, there is going to be only one winner.

In summary, the Boks arrive in South Africa on Monday from a two-match fact-finding mission to Australia with the evidence before them. The mystery of the Australian hoodoo has been solved. Case closed.

IOL Sport