Bok blunders hamper momentum
23 Jun 2012
JON CARDINELLI writes that a series of handling errors and poor decisions prevented the Springboks from implementing their game plan to any sort of effect.
We’ve seen what this Bok side can do. They produced one of their most clinical displays during the first half of last week’s Test, a true testament to Heyneke Meyer’s simple yet effective playing pattern.
But for this game plan to work, the players needs to produce a high degree of accuracy and discipline. We saw this last week at Ellis Park when an aggressive yet controlled performance at the collisions, a superior tactical kicking game and savvy option-taking resulted in multiple scoring rewards.
On this occasion, the Boks struggled to blend all of these ingredients to produce the necessary cocktail.
There were times when their set piece fired or when they crossed the gainline, only to lose the ball in a subsequent phase via a knock on or turnover. There were also instances were they kicked well and put the English under pressure in the air, but too many where poor defence and ill-discipline allowed England to make easy metres on the counter-attack.
The weather must be taken into account, as the steady rain and swirling wind made it a difficult evening for the kickers. Before Toby Flood went off with an injury, he pushed two goal attempts wide. Morne Steyn’s wayward form with the boot also continued, with the South Africa flyhalf missing three goal attempts from six.
There was never an instant when the Boks looked in control, and this must be a concern for the coaching staff. It was also worrying to see the suspect decision-making when the ball did emerge from the set piece or the ruck. At times, the Bok halfbacks looked absolutely clueless.
Francois Hougaard produced a mixed bag on the tactical kicking front, and his service from the ruck base wasn’t nearly sharp enough. Too many times a pass would find the turf instead of a pair of South African hands.
Steyn was also guilty of compromising the momentum with some odd decisions to run down the blindside, especially in the first half when the Boks didn’t have a great deal of possession or territory.
The Bok backline as a whole looked static, which was partially down to the failure to lay a platform up front, but also down too plain indecisiveness.
England competed well at the breakdowns and were clearly the more aggressive of the two teams at the collisions. They impeded one time too many in this area, however, and captain Dylan Hartley was yellow carded at an important time of the second half.
This allowed the Boks to fight back, and it would be another error (an England player shooting out of defensive alignment) that allowed the hosts to capitalise through a JP Pietersen try in the 62nd minute.
England would level the scores 10 minutes later, leaving the game in the balance as full time approached. The Boks rightly looked to play the game down in England territory during this period. The crowd booed as a series of kicks were aimed at the England back three, but what it ensured was that the Boks stayed in sight of a late winner.
Fittingly, the Boks blew another couple of chances in the last five minutes. A drop-goal attempt by Steyn sailed wide and a subsequent sequence of Bok ball-carries culminated in a penalty for England, the visitors’ determination at the breakdown again providing them with an edge.
If the Boks were too inconsistent to be anything by disappointing, England were just as erratic. The game ended in anticlimax with Owen Farrell’s ugly drop-goal attempt skidding beyond the dead ball line. The game ended with the scores level, and it could be said it was a game neither team deserved to win.