Wallabies compound Bok woes

JON CARDINELLI watched the Wallabies record their fifth consecutive win against the Springboks with a 26-19 victory on Saturday.

It was bound to happen, it was only a matter of when.

The Boks have suffered their first defeat of the 2012 season, their first under coach Heyneke Meyer. To make matters worse, this inevitable result has been inflicted by one of the worst Wallabies teams in recent history.

There were times during this Test where the Boks were as many as 10 points ahead. The Wallabies were desperately poor in the first half, a series of mindless grubbers and chip kicks contributing to an unforgivable loss of both territory and possession. It was during the first half where the tactical kicking excellence of Ruan Pienaar and Zane Kirchner came to the fore.

There was even an instance were the Boks rounded off a good build up with a try. Granted, they had done their best to butcher this opportunity with flyhalf Morné Steyn neglecting to use an overlap out to the right. They were extremely fortunate that they were able to recycle the ball and score from a subsequent phase.

Indeed, it was a first half where all the luck seemed to go the Boks way. The Wallabies played their part with a shocking performance, but there were many examples of Bok incompetence and indiscipline that went unpunished.

Lock Eben Etzebeth was fortunate to escape censure. At a break in play, experienced No 5 Nathan Sharpe goaded the South African youngster, and Etzebeth responded by headbutting Sharpe. It was an incident that was missed by the officials, and for that the Boks can thank their lucky stars.

But they didn’t learn from that incident, as moments later Beast Mtawarira ran into Kurtley Beale off the ball. The Bok prop was shown a yellow card and the visitors spent the final seven minutes of the first half with 14 men.

The Boks survived the period of sanction without conceding a point, but the Wallabies were far more structured and accurate in the second stanza. They attacked the Boks at the breakdown, with Michael Hooper winning several important turnovers, and also began to enjoy more continuity with ball in hand.

Just as the Wallabies began to lift their game, the Bok effort started to flag.

The Boks conceded a soft try in the 56th minute, their defence battling to repress the Wallabies at source and their first-time tackling letting them down in the wider channels.

It was another instant of poor defence that cost the Boks in the 68th minute where Ben Alexander cruised down the left hand touchline. The cover tackle attempt by lock Juandre Kruger was nothing short of pathetic.

Steyn had another forgettable night with boot, missing two drop-goal attempts as well as a penalty. For the umpteenth time, Steyn battled to get the backline going and blew a couple of try-scoring opportunities through poor option taking.

Johan Goosen provided the backline with more direction and posed more of a threat when he was introduced in the final minutes. With Steyn struggling to perform in his primary capacity as a goal kicker, Meyer may finally be forced to consider another option at flyhalf next week.

Saturday marked Meyer’s first loss as Bok coach, and defeat will force a rethink to the current formula. With Goosen or even Pat Lambie at 10, the Boks should be able to ask more questions of the opposition defence.

The Boks were excellent in terms of their tactical kicking in the first half, but overall they failed to dominate the collisions and their lack of variation on attack was a major problem.

That they battled to kick all of their goals, not for the first time this year, is another reason why Meyer should revise his selections ahead of the clash against the All Blacks. That their forwards weren’t able to overcome a feeble Wallabies eight is also great cause for concern.

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