Wallabies and Boks are their own worst enemies
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The Wallabies continue to be their own worst enemy. Clearly, they have learned nothing from the two rugby lessons provided by the All Blacks in the past three weeks.
The Springboks have also failed to heed the lessons of the Stormers’ flawed Super Rugby campaigns in 2011 and 2012.
After an error-riddled performance in Auckland, the Wallabies picked up where they had left off.
From the kick off and ensuing ruck on the Wallabies 22, just five metres from the right hand side line, the Wallabies threw two 15-metre passes deep in their own 22.
Samo drove straight and hard up the middle of the field. Quick ruck ball and a 12-metre Cooper pass to Barnes produced a three on one.
The inherent flaw in this first play of the game was that the play was now on the Wallabies’ 20-metre line and only five metres from the left touch line.
Seeing nothing on, and with his default still set to ‘kick’, Barnes fluffed the left-foot grubber. This gave possession to the Springboks, 27 metres from the Wallaby line. The closest forwards were Timani and Hooper, 15 and 20 metres away respectively.
This was low percentage rugby at best and brainless at worst.
Sadly, for the spectators, this was to be a portent of things to come. More frustratingly, it was a replay of many past individual performances and games.
Width for the sake of it and without forward metres is not attack. It’s the equivalent of the type of across-the-field running seen every week in the Under-9s across the country that sends coaches and parents crazy and allows the most timid defenders to halt their opponents.
Robbie Deans shares the same frustration.
In contrast, the Springboks replied with 10 phases of straight running up the middle of the field. They needed just one partially missed tackle from the Wallabies and they would have seven points. A ruck infringement would have netted them three points. The Wallaby defence stood strong and disciplined on this occasion.
From the 22 restart, Barnes again chose the highest-risk option, the ‘kick and regather’ drop-out. He surprised the Springboks. More crucially, he surprised his own team. Genia got to the ruck, passed it to Timani, but without the clean out, he was penalised for holding on. Steyn kicked the penalty.
In summary, two crucial and unnecessary errors by Barnes, and a 3-0 scoreline after just two minutes. Easy-peasy for the Springboks but generously dished up to them by the Wallabies.
Despite a new coach, The Springboks have not shown the diverse attacking game that is needed in international rugby, particularly when New Zealand is one of the opponents.
Where was Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer during the Super Rugby season and in particular the play-offs? Didn’t he see the Stormers campaign fall short for the second year in a row due to a lack of point-scoring capability?
The Springboks lack the modicum of flair that would complement their physical, confrontational game. Despite having just five Stormers in the 22, the Boks still play that attritional style.
These two teams have significant challenges ahead of them, if they truly aspire to be Number 1. The Wallabies need to remove the dumb plays from their repertoire and the Springboks need to boost their attack.
There is not much between these teams as they fight for second place in the world rankings. Last night, the statistics were very close. Both teams are under intense scrutiny from the fans and respective media.
I think that the Wallabies’ issues are more easily addressed. The Springboks’ issues are more fundamental.
There is a lot at stake. If they address these schoolboy errors and retain the good parts of their game, they can challenge the All Blacks for the position of Number 1 rugby team in the world. This sets them as a genuine chance to win the Rugby World Cup in 2015. Together, these things would bring a much-needed surge in revenue.
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