The Springboks produced a loose and erratic performance to give up a golden opportunity to score a four-try bonus point.
John Cardinelli, SA Rugby Magazine
The 28-8 scoreline suggests that the Boks should be commended; that the win at Newlands was emphatic and monumental. If you missed the game and saw the final score you may wonder if the criticism and disappointment is warranted.
The fact is that the Boks should have won by far more than 20 points. They should have banked the four-try bonus and taken control of their own destiny in the Castle Rugby Championship.
As it stands, they have to wait on the result of the game between Argentina and New Zealand in La Plata to know exactly what is required in the finale at Ellis Park. They may require a miracle next week to take the title.
What an opportunity missed. For all their initial dominance in this fixture against Australia, they could score only three tries. For all their skill in the tactical-kicking department, for all the experience they boasted in key positions, they failed to employ the right game plan for a clash of this nature.
The Boks’ reaction at the final whistle said it all. The players bowed their heads as if they’d lost. Some dropped to their knees. The scoreboard read 28-8, but the expressions on the faces of the South Africans confirmed there was little to celebrate.
The first quarter of the game passed by in a blur. The Boks used the maul to good effect and attempted to play the game at a high tempo.
The ‘run-em-ragged’ tactics paid off in the initial stages. Adriaan Strauss scored after a great team build-up and Zane Kirchner rounded off a movement born in the Boks’ own 22. However, it must be said that the Boks were fortunate to be awarded that second try, as the pass from JJ Engelbrecht looked to be forward.
Luck was with the Boks during those first 20 minutes. They bullied the Aussies at the breakdown and the collisions. Their poor decision-making with ball in hand, not to mention their poor execution, was not exposed. The Wallabies were so woeful that the Boks’ mistakes did not prove costly.
Fourie du Preez had an ordinary night by his own high standards and Morné Steyn was guilty of some inaccurate kicks. Jean de Villiers made some bizarre decisions when the Boks won penalties in Wallabies territory, opting to push for the try from the first, and then pointing to the poles when the Wallabies were a man down. Those were calls that made absolutely no sense.
The crowd had already started to sing ‘Ole, ole, ole,’ when Wallabies flanker Michael Hooper was yellow-carded in the 28th minute. The scoreboard read 20-3 and the locals sensed a massive win was in the offing.
They couldn’t have been more wrong as the Boks failed to make the most of that advantage. They continued to play the game at a frenetic pace, took poor options, and made multiple mistakes with ball in hand. Their discipline also left a lot to be desired.
There wasn’t a department in which the Boks produced a consistent performance. Their scrum fired and then creaked, their lineout soared and then wobbled. Their breakdown showing was dominant and then relenting. Their kicking game was equally erratic.
The 20-point winning margin may yet serve the Boks’ Rugby Championship title ambitions, but that shouldn’t overshadow the fact that the Boks didn’t play well. They missed an opportunity to secure the four-try bonus and put the pressure on the All Blacks ahead of the decider in Johannesburg next week.
The Wallabies side that played at Newlands on Saturday was one of the worst of the modern era. That the Boks were so disappointed after beating them by 20 points said it all.
They should have done better. They could have done better. And that is what will hurt when they reflect on the periods of the game in which they went to sleep.
This competition remains a two-horse race, and the Boks certainly have a lot of ground to make up.