Boks’ failure rooted in defence

RYAN VREDE writes the Springboks’ troubles have mounted, with poor defence now added to their list of shortcomings. A specialist fetcher will go some way to fixing this problem.

The Springboks’ defence, good to date, failed them and allowed the Wallabies a route back into the Test. They fell off tackles like schoolboys in the build up to the Wallabies’ tries. Pathetic. Absolutely inexcusable. They will lose by some distance if this is a feature of their play next weekend against the All Blacks.

However, they will ease their defensive burden significantly with the inclusion of a specialist fetcher. Heyneke Meyer has maintained that there is no room for a player of this ilk in his side, explaining that his opensider must be a competent ball carrier as well. Marcell Coetzee is a fine player, but in Francois Louw they have a far superior man on the deck and one that also meets Meyer’s ball-carrying criteria.

They made just two breakdown turnovers in this Test and consistently failed to slow the recycle. The Wallabies gradually grew in confidence and in the second half were allowed to control the flow and tempo of the play. It is imperative that Louw is included in a bid to stifle the Blacks’ attacking momentum.

Furthermore, their attack shows no sign of improvement. The lack of imagination and penetration they showed in the red zone suggests their struggles here are still some way off being solved. They nearly butchered the play in the build-up to their try, with Morne Steyn twice taking the wrong option. His kicking game was adequate. Not so his ball in hand play. For now Meyer will retain the belief that that sacrifice is worthwhile. However, Steyn has offered nothing to dispel the perception that his value transcends his kicking game. His cause wasn’t helped by the promising cameo Johan Goosen made.

Steyn, though, wasn’t helped by their strike runners’ impotency at the gainline. Meyer expects his behemoths to provide punch in this department, resisting the claims of more mobile and skillful players (particularly back rowers). They offered the team little momentum. In the context of the Springboks’ game plan and in the apparent absence of any players with the capacity to produce a moment of magic, failure to boss the tackle fight on attack is terminal to their cause.

There were some positives – their line kicking and tactical kicking game was good and pinned the Wallabies in their half in the first 40. Asked come up with an exit strategy, the Wallabies just never seemed to have one. This sort of pressure play is what Meyer hopes the bedrock of his success will be built on.

But they faded badly in the second half and now go to face the world champions with more questions than answers haunting them.

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