Boks slump to dismal defeat
The Springboks slumped to a dismal 27-15 defeat against the Wallabies in their Vodacom Tri-Nations rugby test played at the Absa Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
In yet another test in which the referee factor -- in this instance New Zealand’s Lyndon Bray -- proved a huge initial puzzle for Victor Matfield and his men to unravel the Boks were closed out of the Tri-Nations as the Wallabies scored their first victory in South Africa in eight years.
At the start the Boks were non-plussed by the rulings of Bray -- especially a tendency to allow the Wallabies more time on the ball in rucks and a failure to spot crooked throws and some other lineout skullduggery -- and it might have had an impact on their ability to contest the breakdown but in the end the defeat was too comprehensive to make the match official the only culprit.
The Springboks of 2008 are a parody of the world champions of 2007 and drastic measures are clearly needed to bring their performance back to par.
The ELVs are a problem and something needs to be done about South Africa’s seeming propensity to get on the wrong side of referee’s decisions but the new coaching team must also seriously reconsider their determination to dismantle and renovate a mighty structure that was in no need of repair.
Just as they did at Newlands the players looked as though they did not know what was expected of them as the basics fell apart, their work-rate dropped and they allowed themselves to be outplayed by a team with better technique, more numbers at the breakdown plus a far greater respect for the ball.
The Wallabies weathered a promising start by the Springboks and with Matt Giteau mixing up his options, especially his kicks into space, and manipulating field position they were able to shrug off the loss of both Berrick Barnes and Dan Vickerman to throw down the gauntlet to the All Blacks and set in store what should be a stirring finale between the antipodean neighbours in Brisbane on September 13.
Although put off stride by referee Bray’s tendency to be quick on the trigger when it came to their trying to move the ball through the phases, the Boks ended up producing a performance that was every bit as disappointing as the 0-19 loss to the All Blacks.
They again failed to get numbers to the break-down to seal off the ball and keep away the prying fingers of George Smith & Co; their lineout work was sloppy and they showed little desire to hold up the ball and drive at a Wallaby side not renowned for an appetite for the physical stuff.
You can’t expect to win tests against major nations when your basics are poor, when you fail to build a platform or simply forget the oldest principle in ball sports -- watch the ball! -- and the Boks were left in no doubt of what their fans thought of it all judging by the derisory reception they got at the end.
After a promising start in which it seemed the Boks would concentrate on holding the ball the Wallabies counter-punched effectively as Giteau opened the scoring with a penalty before Benn Robinson concluded a long build-up by crashing over for a try which was confirmed by the TMO.
Giteau’s conversion made it 10-0, which was the score at the break, before a Butch James penalty (ironically awarded after TJ Bryce Lawrence intervened to point out a lineout foul on Matfield) gave the Boks their first points in 123 minutes of test match rugby. (10-3).
The game was in the balance but it was no surprise when it was the more composed Wallabies who made the crucial move on the scoreboard.
Giteau kicked a penalty in the 49th minute (13-3) and the killer blow came in the 60th minute when Lote Tuqiri took advantage of poor Springbok defensive alignment. Jean de Villiers shot up to try to intercept a looped pass but the ball reached Tuqiri, who took on the flat-footed Fourie du Preez and beat him before sprinting clear and scoring in spite of being ankle-tapped by Bismarck du Plessis.
Giteau’s conversion took the Wallabies out to 20-3 and with 20 minutes left it was a game of catch-up for a Bok team who accepted the challenge and finally started to find some continuity.
A good break by De Villiers got the Boks in behind the line of gold jerseys to start it all and Adi Jacobs snatched up the ball at the back of a ruck to dive over. Percy Montgomery’s conversion made the score 10-20 but as quickly as hope flickered it faded.
Matfield dropped the ensuing kick-off, giving the Wallabies good field position, and it was their old nemesis, Stirling Mortlock, who put the final nail in the coffin with a strong individual try.
The Australian skipper received the ball going left, stepped inside the drifting Bok defence to cut through and found no second screen to impede him as he straightened up to score at the posts; Giteau’s conversion making it 27-10 in the 67th minute.
A final try by Jacobs, writing another paragraph in one of the season’s success stories, after possession won and recycled from a lineout showed that the Boks can play effective rugby but glum faces in stands and boos ringing out afterwards made the most telling point -- the way the Springboks, who have lost four out of five Tri-Nations matches, are playing is just not good enough.
South Africa (0) 15: Two tries by Adi Jacobs (64 min & 70 min). Butch James kicked a penalty and Percy Montgomery a conversion.
Australia (10) 27: Tries by Benn Robinson (26 min), Lote Tuqiri (60 min), Stirling Mortlock (66 min). Matt Giteau kicked three conversions and two penalties.