When the Springboks became the Springboks again.WRITTEN BY THE EDITOR ON OCTOBER 07, 2017. POSTED IN SPORTS
Whether it's a 50 point thrashing, or a game that goes the distance. One thing in a Springboks vs All Blacks match is that the Boks will be competitive in the first half. At Newlands this was the case again, the Boks trying hard, the All Blacks soaking up the pressure and then capitalising on limited opportunities.
8-3 the visitors led, in all honesty it was a lead that came with some good fortune. But it was perhaps deserved as the Boks again looked a little blunt in attack. With the hooter for halftime gone, blunt turned to scrappy as they were only going backwards with ball in hand.
Bok fullback Andries Coetzee decided to cut the team's losses and kick it out, but he was unable to hoof the ball all of 20 meters into touch, so play continued.
This moment of extreme mediocrity seemed to suddenly change the match, and indeed the Boks' attitude. Numerous other opportunities arose to end the half, but the players wanted more. Given a penalty in their own half, Bok captain Eben Etzebeth confirmed with the ref if play could continue if they opted for the lineout.
What was this?
Players exhausted after a grueling first half, but they wanted more. They wanted to keep going at the All Blacks. Belief had entered the stadium.
Wave after wave of attack followed as the time on the clock approached the 50 minute mark, and still the Boks had no interest in letting up. An error with ball in hand finally brought an end to their surge, but even though they didn't add to their 3 points with the added time heroics, they looked like a proper Springbok rugby team again.
Sport is about key moments and using them to springboard yourself to better things. This match was destined to be another All Blacks canter to victory, and it just might have been had Coetzee's surrender kick gone out. But that passage of play that followed, and the leadership shown by Eben Etzebeth to keep the foot on the peddle, has given everyone a little hope in this team again.
The second half proved this, and though the Boks of course lost the match by a point in the end, they had Bok fans feeling extremely proud again. What they are capable of from here is enough to get people to the stadiums, and get them in front of the TV again each and every match day.
And now for a reality check.
As inspiring as that performance was by the Springboks, it was still a loss at home. And it was a loss at home with 63% possession and 62% territory.
This kind of play is not physically sustainable, and essentially only comes out after mass scrutiny and against a team that the Boks want to beat the most.
That Bok forward pack gave everything in this match, so much so that their unborn children are going to need an ice bath to deal with the physical output. The effort was simply super human.
Looking at the game and the result though, how is it that a forward pack can be so dominant, guys like Kitshoff, Marx, Etzebeth, Du Toit can have the games of their lives and still there is no victory to savour at the end?
Time is up now for this halfback pairing. Cronje and Jantjies are just not of this level, and though they can tick some boxes and have decent games, the point of being a Springbok is ultimately to beat the All Blacks. This isn't something they will be capable of in their lifetimes. It is obviously unfair to say they lost yesterday's game, and there is more to it than that, but enough with the chances, the forwards deserve better.
The same can be said for the outside backs too. They aren't big and strong enough to make an impact anywhere, and certainly not as energetic and skillful as a Damian MacKenzie. Despite his size, the All Black fullback managed to save a try in pulling down Ross Cronje (and robbing him of possession), and exploit a mismatch of pace in open play to score what turned out to be the game winner for the All Blacks.
Handre Pollard was on for about 15 minutes, but even in that short time he showed what was possible when you have a flyhalf that can take it to the line. To his credit Jantjies tried to do that in this match, but he doesn't posess much of a threat to the opposition when doing so.
Taking the All Blacks close is a huge leap of progress for the Boks, but we can't ignore fundamental issues while finally getting to enjoy a scrap of success.
Scrumhalf quality is a massive issue in SA, something I have written about recently. But with Pollard and Bosch (fitness pending), we don't have to keep persisting with Jantjies.
People gravitate to giving Jesse Kriel a lot of flack, but when you have a backline going sideways and you are shovelled the ball at outside centre, a drifting defense has two men on you and nothing but a touchline on your outside. Sure, he hasn't reached his potential this year, but how often does the guy have any real front foot ball to do anything with?
Much to consider then for the end of year tour, but for a brief moment let's enjoy the thought that this Bok team is something to be excited about again.
Tags: springboks, rugby championship, springboks vs all blacks, newlands rugby, eben etzebeth