“Smarten up, play what is in front of us, improve every match” are all part of what Heyneke Meyer has promised since he took the reign as head coach of the Springboks.
“We have disappointed our supporters” is another quote from Meyer and disappointed is what most of us will feel after a truly pitiful display by the Springboks this past weekend.
There are certain facts about rugby union that cannot be argued, firstly the laws of the game are complex, open to interpretation and referees will officiate a rugby match in their own unique way.
Secondly, teams will play to the edge of the law, sometimes beyond it, and if they get away with it, continue to do so until eventually the referee starts acting on it.
Last nights match against Scotland was reminiscent of the infamous Quarter Final against Australia in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, one team intent on pushing the boundaries and stretching the laws to the limit when they realised they are getting away with it.
One might say what Scotland and Australia did was unsporting, one might even say cynical to the point of being unacceptable, but the reality is you can’t blame teams in the Professional era that will do anything to win.
Heyneke Meyer promised Springbok supporters there will be an improvement from one game to the next, he said he wanted South African Franchises and the National team to be smart, play the match situation and execute better.
On the evidence of last might, none of those promises were evident. A young inexperienced Scottish team went beyond the boundaries of the law, they played offside at the ruck, had more than one pair of hands in every breakdown, pulled defenders back, niggled, blocked and made an all round nuisance of themselves as they were allowed to do it by Raymond Poite. They did this all in the cause of creating damage limitation to a scoreline everyone expected to be a good old thrashing.
I am sure they were surprised themselves to be leading the Springboks by 11 points early in the second half, and the realisation that their tactics were working made them even more bold and encouraged their indiscretions to become so blatant that even the “I am just a passenger Poite” had to act.
A few penalties and an eventual yellow card to Jim Hamilton for a foul on Eben Etzebeth started turning the tables.
It was only then that the Springboks started managing this in your face, abrasive and often illegal play of the Scottish players.
Whilst the Scottish up to that point were industrious and overzealous in their attempts to frustrate the Springbok players at the breakdowns and on defense, the Springbok players were like deer in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle, they had no idea of how to handle this obvious attempt by Scotland to disrupt and limit an expected damaging scoreline.
Instead they broke apart, had no numbers to the ruck, allowed their ball carriers to be isolated in the tackle, couldn’t secure ball, never ran onto the ball at pace and forgot about hitting the gaps.
It made for sorrowful reading to realise the Springboks were intimidated by a bunch of inexperienced youngsters from Scotland who can muster a total of two professional club teams from their whole country.
It is here where I begrudgingly compliment the Scots for playing to an incompetent referee and taking their play to the limit of the laws. They managed to make a pack of mighty South African forwards look like a bunch of sissies. Yes you read it, I am calling the South African pack a bunch of sissies.
Since when do we allow a guy like Strockosh to do what he did, since when do we allow a player like Jim Hamilton the confidence of shoving our iron man Eben Etzebeth in the face? There is clean play and then there is the necessity to intimidate opponents, and this time round we were intimidated.
Of all the promise of being smarter, playing the match situation and executing better at the breakdowns, there was nothing, nada, zilch, zero, zip.
I want Meyer and his coaching staff to know that I am bitterly disappointed by the Boks’ inability to adapt in the match situation, and the sad truth is this is now the third match in recent memory where we allowed this to happen.
We only need to go back to the fateful day during the RWC in 2011 to remember how our inability to adapt to an opposition team who was allowed to have free reign at the breakdowns by a referee cost us a semi final place at the world cup, there was the same situation in Mendoza last year, and now two years down the line, we have learnt nothing.
We can keep on blaming referees, we can shout from the rooftops that teams are cheating, but we can definitely also shout about how unbelievably naive and ignorant our Springbok teams is.
Thank you Scotland for reminding us what rugby has become, it no longer about brawn, but a lot more about being smart.
Sadly if this lesson is not a harsh reality check for Heyneke Meyer, I fear at the next Rugby World Cup, we will once again blame everything we cannot control, whereas we should in reality be blaming the things we can.