PRETORIA - There was something about the Springboks 24-22 loss to an under-strength Wales team on Saturday that mirrored everything about their recently concluded four Test tour in Europe.
The shambolic manner in which the Springbok began the game sinking to a 14-0 deficit within the first nine minutes was identical to how they capitulated in the face of a massive onslaught from the Irish in a record 38-3 loss.
The Springboks just could not deal with the Welsh ball-in-hand approach, with their brittle defence crumbling, but that was no mystery as a chronic but untreated symptom of the Boks failings this year has been their hobbling backline.
Without a forward in sight, it was the backs inability to deal with the aerial battle that saw them left at sixes and sevens by Wales flyhalf Dan Biggar’s aerial bombardment, but this was yet again another issue the Bok management have failed to resolve.
Obviously Gelant was going to be exposed at wing but the fact that Coetzee selected him out of position is the real issue.
While Gelant should have probably started against Italy at fullback, there are other players who could have maybe influenced the outcome and perform of the team in the games against France, Italy and Wales, but were never given sufficient time to stake their claim.
Coetzee will certainly defend his selections and justify them by citing continuity, but that continuity is counterproductive if it yields nothing better than before.
Why Rudy Paige, Lukhanyo Am, Raymond Rhule, Curwin Bosch, Chiliboy Ralepelle - and to a lesser extent Louis Schreuder and Ruan Dreyer - never got at least a start or an extended run off the bench will remain a mystery.
The fact they were selected to be part of the squad meant they were good enough to and should have been entrusted with the same responsibility the usual starters have been afforded.
As much as there were moments where the Boks showed character and their forwards were unrelenting in throwing their weight around, especially at set-piece play, it was again not convincing enough.
Those forwards did enough on Saturday to give the side a one point lead after tries by Gelant, Handre Pollard and Jesse Kriel but the South Africans lacked the killer instinct to finish off the Welsh.
Fortunately against an out-of-form French side and a fragile Italian side, the Boks did not need to go for the jugular to secure victory, and the tireless toil of the the forwards was enough.
But the problem areas rely too much playing according to the book and not the situation, an evident lack of a matured and knowledgeable leadership, a reluctance and trust to make the right changes at the right time, and a conservative game plan.
In the end Leigh Halfpenny’s penalty condemned the Boks to their third consecutive defeat at the Principality Stadium, bringing to a disappointing end another season where the Boks promised, but failed to deliver.
“I am proud of the team for the way they fought back to claw their way into the lead and for showing character in the second half," said Coetzee.
In summing up the season, Coetzee highlighted the positives of his team’s middle of the road performances that saw them win seven out of the 13 Tests and draw two, while tasting defeat three times.
“We didn’t have a good start in Dublin, but we fought back to win against a determined French side in Paris and then delivered a clinical performance against Italy in very difficult weather conditions.
“If you look at where we started from at the beginning of the year, then I am pleased with the year overall. We started out as a new group, establishing a new team environment and got the results in the home series against France.
"We only lost to New Zealand in the Rugby Championship, while we were perhaps unlucky in our two draws against Australia,” said Coetzee.