Rodney Soâ€™oialo gifted the Springboks 10 points and cost the All Blacks seven points. Jake White no doubt would have made him the Boks’ man of the match in Rustenburg. He certainly was the biggest contributor to the Boks win.
You never turn down a victory against the All Blacks and there will never be a case of not celebrating a win against the world’s leading rugby nation, but the one point victory, as welcome as it was, should not blind us from the obvious flaws in the make-up of the Bok national squad.
There are better players in South Africa than have represented the Boks in this year’s Vodacom Tri Nations and had the Bok coach not been as stubborn in his selections, the run of defeats may have been ended earlier. He needs to further embrace the quality players who are out there and include them in his national squad.
The Boks won and for that a nation is grateful. It gives some kind of comfort in the next week, not only to South Africa but also to the chasing pack of France, Australia and England. They know that this All Blacks team is capable of losing a big one every year and that means that the World Cup doubts will all start to resurface in New Zealand.
The Kiwis played touch rugby for most of the match. Their pack never arrived for a hard day at the office. They’d had five days of fun at Sun City and they were in Sun City mode for much of the match. There was no go forward, no intensity from their pack (as a unit) and the forwards were more intent in giving the ball to someone in a worse position than actually taking on the SA forwards.
You only had to look at Sivivatu pulling out of a defensive effort on AJ Venter to know where the head space was in the New Zealand camp. They will tell you they wanted a ‘series’ win in South Africa, but they were never the hungrier of the two sides. It seemed like a test match way after the fact for them. Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are world class and they were again in Rustenburg. Aaron Mauger was also good, as was Jerry Collins. This quartet was the exception. The rest should be embarrassed at their effort and ashamed.
The Boks can be proud of their character and commitment. They also constructed one fabulous try from a Victor Matfield defensive lineout steal. Andre Pretorius played the percentages well and they did throw the ball around a bit more. But with so much primary possession, seven All Black lineout steals and not one lost Bok lineout throw, you again ask what did we actually create and when did we threaten the All Blacks tryline?
If the defensive frailties in the No 10 channel are also overlooked because the Boks won by a point, then they’re setting themselves up for a fall next week, much like the All Blacks did this weekend.
It is a pity the Bok win did not come last week at Loftus because that would have given us a greater measure of the improvement of the side. What concerns me the most is that the Boks gave everything and the All Blacks looked like they gave very little. And still it was the All Blacks leading by two points with three minutes to go.
There will be those who immediately scream: ‘Don’t be negative’. It is not negativity, but a bit of realism when we consider next weekend’s test and the two tests at Twickenham in November.
One Andre Pretorius penalty must not delude a nation. We’ll take the win and the beer will taste better tonight. The Bok squad deserve every pat on the back tonight because of what they’ve had to endure in the last two months.
But keep the champagne on ice. When we knock England over at Twickenham, then we will know the Boks have made the right kind of World Cup advance.