Tweaks for Wallabies, but South Africa need surgery

Date published: June 13 2016

Both South Africa and Australia lost their first Tests of the year but it is the Springboks who have far more to worry about heading into this weekend.

Bringing back in a second playmaker to the midfield will improve the Wallabies on attack, with Matt Toomua and Christian Lealiifano in contention ahead of Melbourne to replace Samu Kerevi.

The 22-year-old far from disgraced himself on debut and was unlucky to miscontrol the ball in the build-up to Jonathan Joseph’s try.

But Australia missed that second creative force to dovetail with Bernard Foley in order to get the best out of Tevita Kuridrani and their back three. Lealiifano in particular will improve Australia’s chances of keeping the scoreboard ticking after Foley struggled off the tee at Suncorp, and not for the first time this year.

Factor in the early concussion to Rob Horne and the loss of Rob Simmons hampering their lineout, and it’s easy to patch up those areas for the second Test.

Michael Cheika will have been frustrated to watch his back row lose out at the breakdown and by the 15-8 penalty count.

A solution though can be found for the first area in the days ahead of the second Test. Swapping in James Slipper for Scott Sio, after the latter’s tough run against Dan Cole in Brisbane, will cut down the scrum penalties and Australia can make better decisions about when and when not to compete at the ruck. A different referee might see some of the 50/50 calls differently too.

Those problems feel miniscule in comparison to South Africa’s after their nightmare at Newlands.

Allister Coetzee made all the right noises in the aftermath – “The performance was not good enough if you want to be called a Springbok. Test match rugby is not Super Rugby. Discipline will cost you at this level.” – and rightly went out of his way to praise Ireland, saying they deserved to win.

Two days later and that respect looks long to have gone. “They weren’t interested in playing” was the verdict of Coetzee on Monday.

“All they did was make it as difficult as possible for us to exit, just put it in behind us, turn us and we were actually bogged down in our own 22 there.” As if doing that accurately and consistently with 14 men requires no skill.

That conveniently forgets South Africa’s frankly alarming number of issues with ball in hand, the failure of their set-piece to dominate despite Ireland being down a loose forward, and the poor technique in JP Pietersen’s finish with the game on the line.

Willie le Roux constantly drifted across the field and produced nothing. Whereas when Foley ran a lateral line against England, it was to actually lure in the defence to set up Israel Folau’s straight line for a try.

The lifeline of an intereption try which helped the Springboks back into the game too was a gift from Paddy Jackson, rather than a moment of exceptional creativity.

Forget how Ireland played – heroically for close to an hour down a man, for the record – because the focus should be on the abomination of a performance South Africa served up playing against 14, and for a period 13 men, for so long.

The extra space resulting from CJ Stander’s red card was never exploited as the Springboks opted for contact and were gratefully received by Ireland for tackles and turnovers. Clever kicks behind the on-rushing defence could be counted on one hand.

Fixing that catalogue of weaknesses in time for the Test at Ellis Park is some challenge for Coetzee and his new coaching staff.

The Wallabies are in need of a few tweaks if they are to level the series in Melbourne. South Africa’s issues run far, far deeper.

by Ben Coles