Jake White admitted that his experiment of playing Bryan Habana at centre against Ireland was an unmitigated disaster.
Habana replaced Jaque Fourie in the original touring party and was selected at outside centre for Dublin — a position he had never previously occupied for the Boks.
On Saturday, Habana’s inexperience at No 13 in Test rugby was brutally exposed, with his tendency to shoot up on defence allowing the home side to breach the rush system.
The Irish made 18 linebreaks, while the Springboks managed just nine. The Boks also missed a massive 30 tackles — several of them by the centres — compared to 11 by the hosts.
“It was difficult for Bryan to come into the squad at such short notice and adapt in a week,” said White. “I wanted to play him at outside centre, so I wouldn’t disrupt the back three [of Francois Steyn, Jaco Pretorius and Bevin Fortuin]. I now know that the Habana-De Villiers centre combination won’t win us big Test matches. It was too frail.”
Another big disappointment for the Boks was the performance of Pierre Spies — who failed to make an impact in northern hemisphere conditions.
“It shows that there is a big difference between playing in the Currie Cup and international rugby here,” said White. “On softer grounds you have to play a more direct game and knock people over. There are certain parts of Pierre’s game that he must improve.”
White said there would be changes for the first Test against England.
“Obviously today’s result makes it a bit more difficult, but we do want to give other guys a chance on tour,” he said. “This is our last opportunity to test players in northern hemisphere conditions before the World Cup.”
By Simon Borchardt in Dublin