Three questions that need answering after Sunday’s clash between Boks and Wallabies
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CAPE TOWN – Following the Springboks’ 26-28 Rugby Championship defeat against Australia in Gold Coast at the weekend, hooker Malcolm Marx said that it was hard to identify positives.
Granted, Marx was largely referring to how a detailed review would be needed before he could really give an insightful answer to that question.
But the truth is that there were really not that many positives to focus on. Sure, they got three tries off lineout drives, which again showed what a weapon the attacking set-piece is but, even in areas where you would confidently tip the Boks to have the upper hand, it wasn’t the case.
Never mind the questionable calls, the South Africans didn’t dominate the scrums as one would naturally expect them to, and with that World Cup-winning front row of Frans Malherbe, Mbonambi and Steven Kitshoff, it should never even have been a competition, and we should never have to frantically analyse one dubious scrum call towards the end of the game to increase the margin.
Their defence was an uncharacteristic display, with shooting defenders straying offside a big feature. In total, the Boks missed 21 tackles, and a missed tackle is what led to the Wallabies’ only try. They will also want to do better in the air, and their discipline will no doubt take up considerable space on the drawing board.
It wasn’t all bad, though, and there is no reason to go into panic mode. All teams have an off day, and the Boks – just because of their world champion-status and incredible Series triumph over the British & Irish Lions – shouldn’t be the exception to that.
So, with a chance to save face in Brisbane on Saturday, here are three questions to consider ahead of the Springboks’ fourth Rugby Championship fixture.
1. Should Handre Pollard get the boot?
While it wouldn’t be fair to put the blame for the Boks’ agonising loss solely on Pollard, there is no denying that his goal-kicking was a major contributor.
But perhaps more concerning than his single performance, in which he slumped to an unacceptable strike rate of 57 percent, is the fact that his poor goal-kicking form at the weekend was no isolated case.
Against the Lions, he managed a strike rate of just 68 percent, well below international standards. This led to the Boks having to turn to veteran Morne Steyn to win the Series when their first-choice flyhalf was out of sorts.
Is this the time to make an example and show that no one – regardless of seniority or reputation – can get too comfortable in his spot? It just might have a galvanising effect.
2. Complacency reason for Australia hoodoo?
No team would ever want to pin a disappointing result on complacency, especially not a group like the Boks. After all, that would be letting ego into the locker room.
But the Springboks’ record in Australia – where they haven’t won since 2013 – is a rather strange one.
For one, given the Boks’ stunning form and attitude that has helped them achieve remarkable feats since 2019, Saturday’s result and performance just made no sense.
Could their apparent failure to get the job done Down Under imply a failure to mentally step up against the Aussies…partially due to an overemphasis on the looming All Blacks?
3. Is Damian Willemse’s versatility a curse?
After the game, the ‘Bok kickers’ were pointed out to be a problem, even though Willemse missed just one kick at goal – his only attempt – after coming on with less than 15 minutes to go.
Pollard missed three shots, but Willemse’s one miss was somehow added to the problem. It is senseless.
For one, Willemse has had little to no experience at 10 at international level, while he also handled less and less of the kicking duties with the Stormers. How is that, combined with his hopping from 10 to 12 to 15, proving in any way conducive to his development?
It’s not. And highlighting his one missed kick at goal and chucking it into the same criticism with the starting flyhalf’s hooked kicks will do no good for a player already playing musical chairs.