Peter de Villiers says the margin between an easy victory and defeat against the All Blacks at Soccer City was a miscued kick.
Forget that the majority of the Springboks weren’t fit enough to sustain their effort. ‘We weren’t tired. We played at the highest intensity we have yet,’ De Villiers told keo.co.za.
Forget that they failed to dominate the collisions on attack in the second half and that as a result they struggled to get into threatening positions.
Forget that Dan Carter left 10 points out there through poor goal-kicking. Forget Bryan Habana shooting out of line needlessly in the build up to Richie McCaw’s score-levelling try. Forget John Smit slipping a straight up hit on Ma’a Nonu which culminated in Israel Dagg’s match winner.
Forget all that. It’s one kick, a touch seeker from Morne Steyn in the 72nd minute which pitched infield and rolled over the Blacks’ dead-ball line, that De Villiers said was the major contributor to the defeat.
‘What stood between us and an easy victory was one kick,’ he said. ‘If it had gone out 5m from their try line we would have set the lineout drive up and it would have been all over. That [error] had a ripple effect.
‘From where I was sitting looking through my binoculars I could see the fear in their [the All Blacks'] eyes. We thought we had [the victory] in the bag.’
De Villiers is deluded if he thinks that Steyn’s uncharacteristic error is the primary reason for the defeat (he did cite a secondary one – a skew scrum feed by Francois Hougaard late in the match). But one has become accustomed to these baseless offerings from the head coach.
He also returned to his popular rhetoric of playing up the effort of the players as a means of deflecting criticism of the defeat.
‘The one mistake I made was becoming caught up in winning and losing again. I lost track of how we played. I watched the match over and over and they made me so proud. They stood up again and again. Five, six, seven minutes stood between us and glory.’
It was three minutes. Three miserable minutes in which the Springboks’ soft underbelly was brutally exposed. ‘If we don’t learn from those experiences then I’m not doing my job,’ De Villiers said, ignoring the fact that they’ve lost four on the bounce. Four opportunities to ‘learn’.