Four giveaway words by Murrayfield man-of-the-match Juan Smith arguably summed it all up.
Rob Houwing reports for Sport24 that in the post-match TV interview, after the Springboks had withstood a second scary late stampede in successive weeks to overcome a dapper Scotland 14-10, the big blindside flank explained the World Cup champions’ timely and cool-headed turn in fortunes after the break thus: “We like our structure.”
He had immediately preceded that (understandably yet tellingly out of puff), by saying: “We got back to our structure.”
In fairness, who knows what chief coach Peter de Villiers and his aides instructed during half-time, when the Boks were a red-faced 0-10 down and the prospect of a “2002” (when they were simply ghastly in their last Edinburgh defeat, 21-6 during the Rudolf Straeuli tenure) loomed uncomfortably large.
But whether by the incumbent’s command or not, South Africa appeared to revisit the template of a more recent Bok coach, the William Webb Ellis trophy-winning Jake White, in a final 40 minutes of sanity-restoring pragmatism.
Suddenly the visitors played a bit more for field position, tempered the quest to play the frantic “total football” De Villiers so often advocates and allowed their kickers like Ruan Pienaar and Conrad Jantjes to come into their own a tad more for territorial gain.
With the Bok lineout firing pretty sweetly, it was a wise move and John Smit’s troops suddenly found themselves playing much more in the Scottish half than they had in the problematic first period.
It proved just enough to douse the near-rank underdogs’ fire … remember that most sober South African judges had tipped the Boks to triumph by anything from 15 to 30 points.
That they didn’t will remain cause for significant concern, especially when you bear in mind that the All Blacks fielded their dirt-trackers against the Scots last weekend and won 32-6 even if the bounce favoured them at times and they, too, had their moments of angst.
Contending that the Boks demonstrated shades of their coaching predecessor in the process of snatching this game back, ought not necessarily serve as an indicator that there has been a mass rebellion from the “De Villiers way”, which does have its budding merits.
For even in the worrisome first period, there were snatches of play in which South Africa ran some thrilling, unpredictable little lines and sometimes swept up-field on the counter with crowd-pleasing majesty and verve.
Indeed, with better finishing composure, they might have turned around all square or even ahead on the board, and then gone on to win by a margin rather closer to what the pundits had imagined.
Who knows, maybe this game might yet serve as some sort of cathartic device: one that reminds that there can a happy, sometimes usefully interchangeable blend between the primary formulas advocated by Jake White and Peter de Villiers.
But taking aside coaching principles for a second, several across-the-board “staples” just didn’t work for the Boks at Murrayfield: a key one was the all too upright body position of ball-carriers at otherwise promising junctures, while an old bogey – off the feet at the breakdown – caught up with them again.
It is true that referee Dave Pearson showed some typically pedantic northern-hemisphere traits in interpretation of that area of play, but at least skipper Smit was at his devilish best in “pallying up” to him in the second half as the Scots started to pull their hair out in frustration rather than the other way around.
These haven’t been the greatest two Saturdays in Springbok history from a cohesion and precision point of view, but they are two from two on a three-match mission and maybe things will finally click in perfect time for TwickenhamTweet