Missed chances and unforced errors make it a nightmare at Newlands.
Simnikiwe Xabanisa writes in the Sunday Times that this has to go down as one of the most ineffectual Springbok performances of all time. For the vast majority of the match, the Boks were only a Conrad Smith try behind. Yet you wouldn’t have thought it as they worked themselves into a lather playing as though they were chasing a game that had long bolted.
Missed opportunities, unforced errors, and bad option-taking combined to leave the world champions all-but out of contention to win this year’s Vodacom Tri-Nations.
Not only do they need to win their remaining games in the tournament — against Australia — by five points, they also need New Zealand to score no points in their last match against the Wallabies.
The galling thing for the coaching staff would have been the lack of composure shown by the side.
For a team boasting as much experience as this one — barely a week passes without one of the Boks notching up 50 Test caps, or 100 in fullback Percy Montgomery’s case yesterday — this was just not good enough.
From the kick-off, when flyhalf Butch James was too close to the touchline, the Boks seemed paralysed at the prospect of ruining Monty’s big day by losing.
In the first five minutes alone, James kicked out on the full, Fourie du Preez kicked over the dead-ball line, Pierre Spies made a hash of a lineout, Andries Bekker threw a wild pass behind his line, and the Boks attempted an ill-advised quick lineout 5m from their tryline.
And with five minutes remaining , the error-strewn performance had come full circle when a wild Jean de Villiers pass, from an even more speculative quick lineout from Adriaan Strauss , was intercepted by Keven Mealamu, who scored the All Blacks’ third try.
While the final scoreline suggests there was only one team in this, the Boks created enough opportunities in the first half to set up a win.
But while they had enough ball and territorial advantage in this half, they had little control.
The main reason for this was scrumhalf Du Preez and flyhalf James.
With the team chosen to kick for the corners and use their superior lineout to gain advantage, James and Du Preez allowed the Boks to become embroiled in a broken-play scrap by frequently seeking to speed up the game instead of slowing it down.
That said, they can’t be faulted for several teammates going it alone and repeatedly turning over possession inside the All Blacks’ 22m line.
“It’s a pity we made the wrong decisions at the wrong times,” Bok captain Victor Matfield said afterwards.
“International rugby hinges on those one or two decisions and I think we took the wrong ones. It’s something we’re going to have to work on.”
The breakdown — fast proving to be the Springboks’ Achilles heel — was again a problem.
As was the case against Argentina last weekend, they either coughed up the ball in contact, were counter- shoved off it, or infringed when not in possession.
“I just felt the tackler kept on lying there,” Matfield said. “We’ll have to go back to it and have a look.”
Much as this shows the Boks’ ineptitude , they could only play as well as the visitors allowed them to.
Led by the all-too-influential Richie McCaw, the All Blacks were great in scrambling defence and technically superb in isolating the ball-carrier from his support at the breakdown.
“The defensive effort set things up,” said McCaw. “When you gang- tackle it’s far easier to achieve turnovers.”
And while the Kiwis can’t claim to have played a great game themselves, they were better at managing the mess the game tended to be for long periods.
An example was flyhalf Dan Carter, who had a relative nightmare kicking at goal — when last did he miss four kicks at goal ?
He made up for it with his tactical kicking and even managed to burgle a try near the end.
The contrast with the Boks was stark, with seasoned hands such as Montgomery — who missed two relatively easy kicks at goal — failing to fire at the critical moments.
A lot of the Newlands crowd booed referee Matt Goddard for what was at times colourful officiating, but to blame him for the Boks’ indiscretions was a bit much.
Remember, the same Goddard was the Boks’ saviour when they got that famous win in Dunedin.
This was just a game in which the Boks promised a lot and delivered nothing.Tweet