Why Jean should be jolted

Keo, in his Business Day column, argues that Jean de Villiers should be dropped for his ill-discipline against England.

Two moments of absolute stupidity cost the Springboks victory against England – and both were provided by South Africa’s most gifted backline player.

What is the consequence to De Villiers’s actions I asked Bok coach Jake White? The Bok coach looked exasperated, shrugged his shoulders and asked what he could do? His body language suggested he did not have an answer to the inexplicable actions of his best player.

The answer, in less desperate times, would have come easier to White. Drop the player. And give him something to think about over Christmas.

White’s Boks need leaders and De Villiers is always singled out as such a player. Whenever world-class players are mentioned, it is De Villiers’s name that appears at the top of the list. Whenever any kind of creativity is discussed, White talks up De Villiers, who for a couple of seasons has been the great hope to the Boks discovering an attacking edge to match the best.

De Villiers, because of his class and easy-going character, is a media darling. I’ve been more guilty than most in always looking to highlight the pass that De Villiers throws, rather than the one on one tackle that he misses. His failings have been excused on the basis of the positives he brings to the Bok set-up.

But in Dublin he was awful defensively, missing eight tackles, and at Twickenham he stands accused of gifting England a test they should not have come within 15 points of winning.

De Villiers’s failure to pass inside to Akona Ndungane was inexcusable, as was his amateur display in copping a send-off. Ruthless teams, schooled in the most basic discipline, don’t tolerate this kind of behaviour on the field. Players, regardless of how good they are perceived to be, get the axe for such silliness. Invariably these players return wiser and more committed.

It sends a chilling message to any other player that foolishness and selfishness won’t be tolerated.

For the Springboks to function effectively next year Jean de Villiers has to be at the top of his game. If he knows that there is never a consequence to his failings we won’t ever see the class of the player at the highest level. There will be the odd cameo, the intercept and the promise of consistency. But there won’t be authority in his decision-making.

Until there is a consequence there can never be a lesson learned.

White lamented inexperience for the Boks’ defeat, but the culprits were his more experienced players. De Villiers was one of them and the implosion of the last 10 minutes reflected poorly on John Smit’s captaincy.

It is one of the joys of captaincy that credit is a given in moments of inspiration and instances of fightbacks. Equally it is the curse of captaincy that fingers are pointed in times of self-destruction.

Smit is the leader of this team and to him must fall the responsibility of why it all went wrong in the last quarter.

South Africans, so used to getting smashed at Twickenham in the last decade, found solace in a two point defeat on Saturday. But they shouldn’t be comforted at all. This was a decisive defeat because an uninspired and fractured England performance still proved too good for a competent Bok display.

England outscored the Boks 17-3 in the final quarter and hogged 66 percent of possession over 80 minutes. Once again the Boks were second best at the breakdown and recycled ball came too easily for the opposition.

England’s general decision-making was awful, their backs were clueless and they never ran the right angle of attack to embarrass the flat-lying Bok defence. There was none of the Irish backline class that bamboozled the Boks in Dublin and therefore the Bok defence was in better shape at Twickenham.

The Boks, with a quarter to play, led 18-6.

That they lost from that position is not something to applaud. It is not something to be proud of. There has to be a post mortem and White must take the knife to the culprits. But we know he won’t and that is why the defeat is far greater than just two points.

It is easy to claim an inexperienced side committed suicide on Saturday, but the reality is older hands pulled the trigger.