South Africa’s downfall is complete
You might say it was a long time coming. The signs were certainly there over the last 18 months and when the Springboks lost for only the second time ever to Argentina on Saturday it signalled the beginning of a tough journey back to the top. Everyone has a theory about what is currently wrong with South African rugby but there is little time to delve into that now. They are in the middle of a Rugby Championship campaign so the autopsy will have to wait until after the tournament. For now, coach Allister Coetzee can begin by picking players who are in form instead of relying on experienced names who are clearly not at their best.
The Boks rely on an ineffective game plan
One of the biggest problems with Saturday’s 26-24 defeat was not so much the fact that the Boks lost but rather the way they lost. That first half performance must rank as one of the worst first 40 minutes by South Africa in recent memory. The players didn’t look like they knew what was going on or how they were supposed to play. The kick-chase approach didn’t work and their defensive structures were chaotic at times. If things continue like this serious questions need to be asked of Coetzee’s coaching methods.
These players are on borrowed time
There are a few Boks who need to drastically up their game in the coming weeks. Positions of concern at the moment are at centre, where Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe have failed to develop a threatening, functioning midfield partnership. Fly-half is a concern with Elton Jantjies still struggling to find his feet. His injury against Argentina in Salta may speed up the process of replacing him. Francois Louw is a shadow of the player fans have become accustomed to over the years while Pieter-Steph du Toit is clearly in better form than Lood de Jager at the moment. Coetzee has some big calls to make in the next fortnight.
Australia are still nowhere
The margin of defeat may have been smaller in Wellington, compared to the massacre in Sydney, but that doesn’t mean the Wallabies have improved. In 160 minutes of rugby against New Zealand they managed to score only a single try and their defence remains a concern going forward. The wet conditions helped their cause in avoiding a bigger defeat coupled with the fact that the All Blacks were not as clinical as the week before. Still, they barely got out of third gear to win this Test and retain the Bledisloe Cup. Australia coach Michael Cheika has now overseen six straight defeats and one would think a victory over South Africa in two weeks time is now non-negotiable.
The Sharks are early favourites to lift the Currie Cup
The competition is only four weeks old, but the men from Durban look a different outfit from the one we saw over the last year. Under Robert du Preez they play with freedom and cohesion and if they improve their discipline, especially in their own half, they should be favourites to at least reach the final of this year’s tournament. Failure to do so, after the perfect start they’ve had, would result in a disappointing season.