The Boks beat themselves and all is not loss. That, perhaps, is a good summary of the loss to New Zealand in both sides’ 2019 Rugby World Cup debut which was won 23-13 by the All Blacks.
Two Springbok mistakes let the All Blacks in for typical support tries from far out. Up to their golden ten minute – and South Africa’s worst period – shortly before halftime the Springboks had dominated with solid forward play and one or two little moments where real questions were asked of the winners.
The Springboks were well below their best in this match. Should they advance to the play-off phase they can to do so with the belief that they can go all the way, knowing that they spurned scoring opportunities when they were on top.
♦ There were however a number of things that were not up to standard (yet?). The one is the one-dimensional approach without any alternative offered where the ball is kicked over the rucks or given to the forwards to drive up endlessly.
Hard-fought possession was given away and helped to take the pressure off the All Blacks
It is all good and well to set up good field position, but somewhere, somehow a try or two should also be scored.
The box kicking was overdone and very average. Surprisingly enough the All Blacks played the same game by testing the back three of the Boks but did it with pinpoint accuracy – and scored one of their two tries in this manner as Willie le Roux faltered under the high ball on a few occasions.
The other try came from a horrific pass from a ruck by scrumhalf Faf de Klerk who had a poor game. It was snapped up and with good support the All Blacks scored from 60 metres out.
The third is the scrums, where South Africa didn’t get the expected ascendency. To some degree they can blame referee Jérôme Garcès for this, as he seemed unable or unmotivated to punish the All Blacks for their transgressions to literally keep their footing in this facet of the game.
Their loosehead prop Joe Moodie was never penalised for his elbow and/or knee on the ground.
The Springboks were more inclined to run the ball after halftime when they trailed by 3-17 following the All Blacks two tries in four minutes just before the 30 minute mark and at one stage had closed the lead to just four points.
One defeat, their first in six matches this year, does not eliminate them from progressing to the final.
And referee Garcès was, as expected, not up to standard. He never has been – and missing off-sides from both the teams in the rucks and on the defensive “back-foot line” and a prop’s knees on the ground at scrum time and holding onto the ball in rucks further emphasised that statement.
But that is not why South Africa lost the game. They have some introspection to do and some adapting of their game plan must follow a think tank before they play Namibia next weekend.
Springboks (3) 13: Try: Pieter-Steph du Toit. Conversion: Handré Pollard. Penalty: Pollard. Drop goal: Pollard.
All Blacks (17) 23: Tries: George Bridge, Scott Barrett. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2). Penalties: Mo’unga (2), Beauden Barrett.