CAPE TOWN – There was so much promise in the build-up to the game, with Allister Coetzee proud of the Springboks’ six-match unbeaten start to 2017.
The coach said that there would a “reality check” after the Boks face the All Blacks, and they were left with no doubt as to how far behind the world champions they really are as they crashed to a record 57-0 walloping at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany on Saturday.
It was the worst possible nightmare come true for Coetzee and his team. Almost everything seemed to go wrong, despite a reasonable start to the game.
The Boks got into the All Black half early on, and had a chance to put points on the board in the eighth minute through an Elton Jantjies penalty.
But Jantjies’ effort, from about the 10m line, fell short, and the South Africans were shut out for the rest of the night by the world champions.
As ruthless as the All Blacks were, the Boks were woeful. Malcolm Marx couldn’t find his lineout jumpers, Raymond Rhule missed too many tackles, Francois Hougaard and Jantjies battled to make the right decisions as a halfback combination.
While the Boks had enough possession, in the first half in particular, to place pressure on the All Blacks, their execution let them down. Time and again they would make their way into the New Zealand half, and even the 22, but then a lost ball in contact or knock-on, or a loose pass would turn the ball over.
That is exactly how they conceded their second try in the 21st minute, with flank Jean-Luc du Preez delivering a pass straight into Nehe Milner-Skudder’s hands on the All Black 10-metre line.
Milner-Skudder raced downfield, passed to Beauden Barrett and then got the ball back from the New Zealand flyhalf to put the Kiwis 17-0 up.
The first All Black try was also an opportunistic one, with livewire No 9 Aaron Smith taking a quick tap penalty and breaking through the defence before chipping through for Rieko Ioane to finish off.
The lack of a real X-factor player in the three-quarters – someone like Dillyn Leyds – which was also the case last week against the Wallabies, hurt the Boks on the night as they were unable to take advantage of their opportunities.
The Boks almost looked like they didn’t know what to do with the ball after making the initial break or being in space inside the All Black half.
It then appeared as if the Boks froze. Their defensive system went to pieces as they were unable to cope with the different angles of attack by the All Blacks, while individuals as well started to slip tackles on one-on-one battles.
Two more tries by Scott Barrett and Brodie Retallick before halftime ensured that there would be no way back into the game for the Boks, which was why it was puzzling that Coetzee didn’t make any changes at the break.
The coach waited until the 52nd minute to bring on the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Lood de Jager and Pieter-Steph du Toit, and it just so happened that as soon as they took to the field, Milner-Skudder scored his second try to stretch the lead to 36-0.
Further tries to Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Lima Sopoaga and Codie Taylor completed the eight-try rout, and registered the Boks’ biggest loss, beating the 57-15 defeat (42-point losing margin) against the All Blacks in Durban last year.
All Blacks 57 – Tries: Rieko Ioane, Nehe Milner-Skudder (2), Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Lima Sopoaga, Codie Taylor. Conversions: Beauden Barrett (7). Penalty: Barrett (1).