The Springboks should be praised and not pillared for their 23-all Castle Rugby Championship draw against the Wallabies in Perth.
They remain unbeaten after six Tests, two of which are away from home, and they produced the best Springbok result in Australia in four years.
My pre-Test prediction was a Springbok win by five points or less against the Wallabies, but felt there was so little in quality to separate the two match squads that it wouldn’t surprise me if the Wallabies sneaked it by a similar margin.
Historically the two teams couldn’t be separated in the history of the Rugby Championship (formerly the Tri Nations). Both had won 42, drawn two and lost 57 of their respective 101 matches. Remarkably, the two teams conceded pretty much the same amount of points.
South Africa had a 32% win ratio in Australia and had won three and drawn 1 of the eight Tests played in Perth.
The Boks were five from five for the season but were playing an Australian team that was within two minutes of beating the All Blacks in Dunedin the previous week.
The Australians, based on the nine tries scored in two Tests against the All Blacks, deserved respect and acknowledgement for their attacking potency. Their lineout was also the best in the early rounds of the competition.
Give Australia their due for their part in forcing a 23-all draw against the Springboks.
The vitriol and negativity around the draw on social media has been outrageous.
In my Monday’s Business Day Newspaper rugby column I wrote that the Springboks did particularly well to put themselves in a position to win the Test with their final play of possession. Elton Jantjies’s drop goal was charged down and the Boks so nearly profited from a favourable bounce following the charge down.
The margins in Test rugby are minute when two evenly matched teams front each other. We saw that in the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions series, and we saw this again in Perth.
The quality of the match disappointed but the intent, desire and conviction from both teams made for a proper Test match.
The arrogance and ignorance from so many South African supporters on social media in condemning the Boks is what should be condemned.
Get some bloody perspective on where the Springboks were a year ago, in terms of Test pedigree and what this team has achieved in its first six Tests of 2017.
The Boks were stifled in the first 20 minutes of the Perth Test and survived on defence and 35 percent ball and field position in the first half. Yet they turned just three points in areas against an Australian collective that was dominant in winning the ball and retaining it for concerted periods.
The Boks were very good in fighting back from a 20-10 deficit on 50 minutes to lead 23-20 with 15 minutes to go. They were also the stronger team in the final five minutes and it’s a credit to the Australian discipline and defence that the Boks couldn’t force a Test-winning points-scoring opportunity.
South Africa’s opening 40 was their least effective of the season, but credit the Australians with ensuring there wasn’t the ball for South Africa to create any form of dominant scoreboard pressure.
The period between 50 and 65 minutes was as good as South Africa has played this year, and they were playing a team superior to the French and Pumas.
The pessimism among so many South Africans on social media defies belief because it is such an insult to the Wallabies; the very same Wallabies that scored seven unanswered tries against the world champion All Blacks in Sydney and Dunedin.
I was hugely encouraged by the fight of the Springboks defensively. They scrambled and scrapped for 50 minutes before finally controlling who had the ball and who had the field position advantage.
South Africa’s defence was a shambles a year ago. It’s been transformed this season. The Boks’ conditioning is also incomparable to a year ago. The Boks, in every Test this season, have been in control in the final stages.
The bench is making an impact that for the last two seasons has been exclusive to the All Blacks.
It’s remarkable how down so many South Africans got on the Boks post the draw; more so when weighted against the praise from within the All Blacks coaching and playing staff of the quality of the Wallabies and Springboks in the Rugby Championship.
Perth represented further progress for the Boks and there will justifiably be conviction within the South African squad that there are more possibilities than improbabilities of a rare win against the All Blacks in New Zealand.