SPIRO: Boks aren’t pretty but will be pretty hard for the Wallabies

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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    There are workhorses, and then there is South Africa's Duane Vermeulen. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

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    As one thundering run after an another by a massive Springboks forward smashed the Pumas defensive line, one of the thrilled commentators yelled out: ‘It isn’t pretty but it is effective.’

    And it was. The Springboks scored nine tries in amassing 73 points to 13 in wiping the memory of last season’s 18 – 18 off the board.

    One of the lesson of the Test is that every year teams get the chance to start off with a clean slate.

    The Springboks, at least against the hapless Pumas, put away the boring kick/chase/penalty game and replaced it with a game that emphasised thunderous running by their big forwards, some smart finishing work by the back and the traditional driving maul from most lineouts (with the occasional variation to confuse the Pumas).

    When this game is backed up by deadly goal-kicking by Morne Steyn, it is extremely difficult to defeat, especially on the high veldt.

    One of the pleasing aspects of the play as far as the Springboks were concerned is that eight different players scored tries.

    It is always difficult to rate a performance, which looked pretty good on the part of the Springboks, when the opposition was so poor.

    The Pumas had two of their best players in the stands with their inspirational captain and number eight Juan Martin Fernandez-Lobbe and the prop Marcos Ayerza out injured.

    Lobbe might not have stopped all or most of the ferocious charges by the Springboks forwards but he would have provided the leadership and the tackling to inspire his teammates to stand up to the challenges they backed away from on the day.

    It is not often that you see a Pumas pack monstered by their opponents, but this is what happened.

    Either the Pumas did not know the new regulations about waiting for the referee’s call of SET after the BIND call, or they don’t understand English or they were inept but on virtually every scrum they gave away a penalty by making the hit before the SET call.

    This is totally inexplicable. What is Graham Henry doing in his job as a coaching guru with the Pumas?

    So without their traditional powerful scrum, the Pumas were like Samson shorn of his hair.

    They contrived, too, to have two players yellow-carded, so they played for 20 minutes against a rampant Springboks side, in a stadium that was fervently supporting the home side. Talk about making things hard for themselves.

    The first yellow card was the relevant one. It came after 30 minutes of play, with the score 9 – 6 in favour of the Springboks who were hot on attack when a pass that would have created a try was knocked down.

    The floodgates opened immediately after this incident.

    Then when the score 23 – 6, and the Pumas still with a forward in the sin-bin, a curious – perhaps telling – incident took place.

    The Springboks won a penalty near the posts and on the Pumas 5m line. The obvious play was to put down a scrum and try to score a try. This is what the commentators presumed would happen. But the Springboks decided against this, and true to type, opted for the penalty which Steyn converted.

    We see here the mindset of the modern Springboks, or the Springboks coached by Henneke Meyer. I am all for kicking goals when the opportunity presents itself, especially in Tests. But this was a clear case of going for the maximum seven points for a converted try rather than the three points for penalty.

    The Springboks awe and thunder game works best in South Africa. It does not translate quite so well out of the Republic. It also doesn’t work well when the opposition confronts the might of the pack and either defeats it or holds its own against it.

    So right now I’d say that the Wallabies and, especially, the All Blacks should/could defeat the Springboks in Australia and New Zealand.

    But in South Africa? It is going to be very hard for the two visiting teams. And this will be made even more difficult by the fact that Fourie du Preez, the greatest halfback of his generation and one of the all-time great halves, is back.

    He came on late in the Test against the Pumas and gave a lovely cameo performance.

    Luckily for the Wallabies and the All Blacks, du Preez is only available for matches in South Africa.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (125)

    • Roar Guru

      August 21st 2013 @ 5:11am
      biltongbek said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:11am | ! Report

      Not too sure if Spiro is actually giving the Springboks a back handed compliment here or simply trying to find aspects to critticise whilst having to admit they actually looked good.

      Either way I take it.

      • Roar Guru

        August 21st 2013 @ 5:43am
        Brendan Hope said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:43am | ! Report

        The trick is, as Spiro mentioned, neutralising the Bok scrum. The Aussies indeed have the quality to do that but they didn’t show it on Saturday.

        Spiro sounds quite confident both the Aussies & Kiwis will overcome the Boks on home turf. I hope he’s wrong.

        It’s a difficult one to call. I think we’ll only be able to comment on where the Boks are after 7 September in any case.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 7:12am
          Jeff said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:12am | ! Report

          We have the quality to neutralise the Bok Scrum. On what do you base that!!!

        • August 21st 2013 @ 8:29am
          Mike said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:29am | ! Report

          I suppose that might be the case. However, our scrum got schooled by the Lions in the third test yet the Lions gained very few points off it, directly or indirectly (but plenty of points in other ways!). And our scrum had at least parity against the All Blacks on Saturday yet that had negligible effect on the result.

          I am not denigrating scrummaging, its very important, but its just one area of forward play. Scrums, lineouts, rucks, mauls, carries etc, they’re all important.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 8:50am
            scottmit said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:50am | ! Report

            the Lions directly scored 15 penalty points and a yellow card off their scrum dominance in the third test.

            • August 21st 2013 @ 9:19am
              Mike said | August 21st 2013 @ 9:19am | ! Report

              How do you work that out?

              Yellow card is correct, i was forgetting about that, but what are the 15 points you are referring to?

              • August 21st 2013 @ 10:57am
                scottmit said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:57am | ! Report

                5 penalties were converted off scrum penalties

              • August 21st 2013 @ 7:37pm
                Mike said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:37pm | ! Report

                Okay, I have checked the score, I think you are incorrect, but I have to admit it wasn’t the way I recalled it either!

                I have five penalties scored by the Lions in the third test, but the first of them was against winger Joe Tomane for holding on. So that leaves four penalties which were due to scrum infringements. The Lions also scored four tries, none of which came from scrum infringements. (and nothing scored against us during Alexander’s yellow card either)

                I think my point still stands – even though that was the most lop-sided scrum battle that we have seen from the Wallabies for a few years, yet it still can’t be said to have turned the match. The 12 points which the Lions scored from it were not enough even to outweigh the 16 points we scored. And what really blew us off the park were the three tries by the Lions backs.

                I reiterate that I am not denigrating scrummaging. Its an important aspect of forward play, but other aspects are important also.

              • August 22nd 2013 @ 9:20am
                scottmit said | August 22nd 2013 @ 9:20am | ! Report

                yup 4 penalties converted not 5 – http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-union/rugby-union-match-centre/live-wallabies-v-british–irish-lions-20130705-2phe5.html

                12 points from a lottery is a pretty good haul. The points were all in the 22-16 lead the Lions had at 50 minutes. Imagine if they’d been 6 points down instead.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 10:00am
          dcnz said | August 21st 2013 @ 10:00am | ! Report

          BB, how are the real test matches going to play out this year, you know the Bokke vs the ABs….how do you see these contests playing out? Are you happy with the selections for the Springbokkes?

          thank you for your wisdom in advance. I would like to brief my old man in NZ. much appreciated.

          • Roar Guru

            August 21st 2013 @ 2:26pm
            biltongbek said | August 21st 2013 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

            I don’t know to be honest mate, our performances and manner in which we handle certain aspects of the game has been so inconsistent, it is very difficult to know what will happen next.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:19am
        Parisbok said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:19am | ! Report

        Same here, couldn’t really make up my mind whether this was a cleverly disguised compliment or insult.

        Furthermore, I don’t understand why the game plan would work in SA but not outside of the country? Surely it is the opposition that they play against rather than the country they play in that determines whether the game plan is effective?

        Lastly, it seems the Boks cannot please the critics no matter what they do. On Saturday they opened up and played some attractive running rugby and still the critics find it hard to be positive about their performance?

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:29am
        rugby_phile said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:29am | ! Report

        For the 1st time in ages I would make the Boks raging favourites against OZ (home and away) and evens with NZ (win one loose one). Looks as though this one is going to come down to bonus points and/or points difference. About time, bring it on.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:50am
        James the Elder said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:50am | ! Report

        Mr Zavos will always believe that the ABs play rugby the way they do in heaven and the Boks play rugby the way they do in hell. It is in his DNA as a New Zealander. And so what? Just filter his appraisals through that lens and no problem.
        I believe the Boks are going to get a wake up call when they come up against the ABs and the Wallabies.
        Fourie du Preez was magnificent. All class, and like all the great players in any sport he always seemed unhurried and very sure of what he was doing. I am glad I saw that performance – it was sublime.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 6:47pm
          Charging Rhino said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

          Yeah I think Sprio needs to come spend some time in South Africa to change his perception of South Africans and the rugby played in SA in general.

          I don’t think “wake up call” is the phrase to use as they’ll be prepared and ready for Aus and NZ. They know it will take a hellava effort to beat Australia in Brisbane and NZ in Auckland.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 8:55am
        scottmit said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        I think that when “awe and thunder” overcomes a team it can lead to a flood of points as in this case. It’s hard to know what will happen if the pressure is repelled. Just how irresistible are the forwards and does SA have a plan B?

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 4:00pm
          biltongbek said | August 21st 2013 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

          We’ve never had a plan B, actually I am lying, we do have a plan be, when the pressure is on we go into our shells.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 12:49pm
        Jokerman said | August 21st 2013 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

        Biltongbek, just be happy he is writing about them, because honestly know one really cares. It’s like “Spiro talk about the All Blacks!!”:)

      • August 21st 2013 @ 5:04pm
        Tane Mahuta said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

        I thought the Boks looked awesome.
        Defence was excellent.
        Its only 1 game but my money is on the Boks to beat Aus twice now and NZ once.

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 5:07pm
          biltongbek said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

          I wish I was as confident as you.

        • August 22nd 2013 @ 9:29pm
          IvanN said | August 22nd 2013 @ 9:29pm | ! Report

          Heres what is going to happen – and you can quote me after the RC.

          Boks will have an ‘average’ performance in Mendoza, critics will say they are going to get a hiding in Aus,

          and as England for one knows all too well, the Boks respond harshly to the underdog tag, and never quite seem to click

          when they are overwhelming favorites. I almost think its necessary for us to do badly in Mendoza, we seem to need those mediocre performances to come up with something special, and something special will be needed to win in aus/nz.

          Boks to win in Mendoza by 10-15, with the scoreline flattering them, and then a serious forward performance against Aus will reinstate the calls that they are possible tourament winners.

          I for one still want revenge for WC2011 – my soul cannot rest…

          This wallabies pack does not have the mettle to go toe to toe with SA, but Hooper alone could keep them in the game,

          Boks to beat Aus by 10-15… and to run NZ close at eden park for 70 mins.

          SA vs NZ in south africa will be epic. this is my prediction

          • Roar Guru

            August 22nd 2013 @ 10:53pm
            biltongbek said | August 22nd 2013 @ 10:53pm | ! Report

            Ivan, I won’t feel vindicated until we beat Australia 10 test matches in a row, my therapy bill after that Quarter final cost me heaps.

      • August 22nd 2013 @ 7:10pm
        NHINZA said | August 22nd 2013 @ 7:10pm | ! Report

        It’ll be the latter from the famously 1 eyed xenophobe.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 5:20am
      moaman said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:20am | ! Report

      ” What is Graham Henry doing in his job as a coaching guru with the Pumas? ” ?? I wouldn’t expect him to be coaching the scrums,that’s for sure.

      ” But this was a clear case of going for the maximum seven points for a converted try rather than the three points for penalty. ” –In clear contravention of Spiro’s Law?

    • August 21st 2013 @ 5:23am
      abc said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:23am | ! Report

      Boks are coming to Suncorp…when did they last win there?

      • Roar Guru

        August 21st 2013 @ 5:55am
        Brendan Hope said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:55am | ! Report

        Don’t remind me abc. I think it’s 1971 if I’m not mistaken?

        It’s a formidable ground to play in, that’s for sure!

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:30am
        rugby_phile said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:30am | ! Report

        This year.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:03pm
        Charging Rhino said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

        Ja Boks have a terrible record in Brisbane. The last time they won there was in 1971. Hopefully this year the hoodoo falls off. Like the Wallabies winning on the High Veldt in 2010 in Bloemfontein for the first time since 1963.

        Although the high veldt is different because 3 cities classify – Bloemfontein, Jo’burg and Pretoria.

        But Brisbane will be their Test. It’ll be hard. History suggests even more so than winning in NZ, even at Eden Park where the Boks drew 18-18 in 1994 (everyone forgets that this result in NZ was the very game prior to these teams meeting in the RWC final in 1995).

        Although winning in NZ is still the ultimate.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 5:43am
      Gene Sayers said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:43am | ! Report

      You have to wonder if a team that lets in 72 points belongs in the RC. The Boks were allowed to run riot. This game was the worst I’ve ever seen since way back when the Tri-Nations began and is a good argument for canning the present arrangement and having the Pumas play in an American comp. Canada beat the US three tries to none last weekend, and this present Puma side, even with Lobbe and Ayerza back, would run second to the Canucks. The US will have a great sevens team in Rio but still, after all this time, cannot get a quality 15 together.

      • Roar Guru

        August 21st 2013 @ 7:48am
        Turnover said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:48am | ! Report

        It’s disappointing for the credibility of the competition but one bad result shouldn’t discount the huge ground that Pumas have made in recent years. Canada and the USA are impressive but it’s naive to think that over the course of a series they would challenge the Pumas.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 7:59am
        BennO said | August 21st 2013 @ 7:59am | ! Report

        Steady on. The wallabies thumped the boks 49-0 in brisbane a few years back. This might have been a similarly aberrant performance from the pumas.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 1:28pm
          steveh said | August 21st 2013 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

          Yeah and the Boks have put 60 points on the wallabies 3 times if I’m not mistaking. Anomalies happen, it just one of those things.
          I believe the Argies will be vastly improved at home, particularly if they don’t give away yellow cards.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 8:21am
        Wallanuck said | August 21st 2013 @ 8:21am | ! Report

        Oh Gene Please!

        Did you even watch the Can V US game??? I am living and involved in rugby in Canada, they and the US will be nothing but a good Tier 2 side. You think the Aussies basics let them down game after game, watch that game. Canadians think if you get paid to play in 2nd div english rugby you’re good. After watching the Bledisloe this was painful to say the least.

        Most canadian players don’t start rugby till the age of 13, they don’t watch it, play it or are around it even during their playing days. Los Pumas is by far the better bet for TRC.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 1:22pm
        atlas said | August 21st 2013 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

        ‘worst I’ve ever seen since way back when the Tri-Nations began’
        you’ve missed a few then, not the only side to have let 50 and 60+ points in . . .
        6 Sept 2008: “Wallabies. . . suffering the biggest Test loss in Australian rugby history last weekend, a 53-8 drubbing by South Africa, which surpassed the 61-22 defeat at the hands of the Springboks in Pretoria in 1997 . . . “

      • August 21st 2013 @ 1:28pm
        nickoldschool said | August 21st 2013 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

        The Pumas are a Latin team, like the French and Italians. They sometimes switch off mentally and when you do so against top teams, you get a hiding.

        IMO its just a one off.

        On the other hand, I still think it was a great Boks performance. I don’t get those watered down articles which half-praise the big winners, because they have no other choice, but still manage to be picky and find reasons not to be enthusiastic. When a team puts 70 points to a top 8 nation and score a try every ten minutes I think they deserve a break.

        • August 21st 2013 @ 1:47pm
          Mike said | August 21st 2013 @ 1:47pm | ! Report

          Nick, a minor nitpick (but interesting): Pumas are ranked 10th at the moment. Doesn’t change your point of course.

          • August 21st 2013 @ 2:15pm
            nickoldschool said | August 21st 2013 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

            No worries mike and thanks for correcting me! I thought about it, top 8 or top 10 or 12, and couldn’t be bothered checking really!

            • Roar Guru

              August 21st 2013 @ 4:01pm
              biltongbek said | August 21st 2013 @ 4:01pm | ! Report

              To be fair Nick, they were top 8 before they put out their third stringers against England in June.

              • August 21st 2013 @ 5:38pm
                dwayne_board said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

                Second string, not third – and they had beaten France in one of the Tests the previous summer with much the same side. Most of the Pumas a re France-based and can’t get release for both June and the rugby championship. So it was England 2nds against Argentina 2nds.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 6:10am
      ms.esther said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:10am | ! Report

      ABC – When did the Boks last win at Suncorp? When was the last time you saw a Wallaby side as confused as this one? The Boks will whomp us partly because Link will have to field a team with different players filling different positions, and partly because the Ws are coming off two back-to-back hammerings in Sydney and will get swamped again next weekend in Wellington. Team morale will be in the basement.

      The Boks, on the other hand, are looking sharp. Le Roux is an excellent FB, a big step up from Kirchner. De Villiers has lost very little pace, Engelbrecht is the centre they’ve been looking for and Habana and Basson are the fastest wing pairing anywhere. And there’s Morne – still with the best punt in rugby, and back to being Mr. Reliable with penalties (he missed just one last Saturday).

      Their forwards are way better than ours. Terrific lineout. A superior back row now that we can’t field a quality 6. The rambunctious Vermeulen is proving to be a better 8 than Spies as Spies wasn’t allowed to run the ball much. Jannie, Strauss (a powerhouse when he pulls on the green jersey) and the Beast leave our FR in the dust.

      Their bench? Bismarck, Steenkamp, Oosthuizen, van der Merwe, Kolisi, du Preez, Lambie, Serfontein.

      Boks 25, Wallabies 13.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:21am
        Adsa said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:21am | ! Report

        Ye of little faith! The wallyB’s have had one game under a new coach and you write them off for good. The Boks are home town bullies and are not great on the road. I am off to Lang Park for the test and can’t wait for a cracker of a game.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 3:25pm
        James the Elder said | August 21st 2013 @ 3:25pm | ! Report

        Spies? Looks like Tarzan plays like Jane. Saw that quote in a SA newspaper. Great stuff. Obviously not new, but was new to me. And true as well. Vermeulen is very slooooooow for a No 8. I bet the Boks would like to get some DNA and clone Hennie Muller – the greatest No 8 to play the game.

        • Roar Guru

          August 21st 2013 @ 5:00pm
          biltongbek said | August 21st 2013 @ 5:00pm | ! Report

          Hopefully Arno Botha will remedy the no 8 position for SA in years to come, he has the mongrel and the pace.

          • August 22nd 2013 @ 6:03am
            James the Elder said | August 22nd 2013 @ 6:03am | ! Report

            I will keep an eye out for him. Spies is not the answer.

          • August 23rd 2013 @ 3:18am
            IvanN said | August 23rd 2013 @ 3:18am | ! Report

            Dont write Duane off – in todays era the 8 rarely gets a chance to hit full tilt bar the base of scrums before offloading. What Pierre had over Duane wont be missed, but what Duane has in abundance is power. This SA pack is going to be tough to stop – Remember ‘that match’ in WC2011 where the Boks totally outmuscled the Aussie pack and then lost? I think you can expect a similar performance next round, with a more competent ref and no pocock.

    • August 21st 2013 @ 6:35am
      ms.esther said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:35am | ! Report

      ADSA – I have little faith for a great big reason – Oz rugby is in the doldrums, and just because you intend to go to the Boks game to cheer your head off for Link’s cobbled together side isn’t going to change that. I’m writing off the Wallabies for Wellington and
      for the two games against the Boks. I’m also writing them off in November against England, Wales and Ireland because we don’t have a forward pack that can compete and don’t have a 10 or a 12 of world class, and because JOC will probably make the team somewhere and he’s just extra baggage.

      All kinds of solid reasons to be gloomy, very few to make a Wallaby fan smile.

      • August 21st 2013 @ 6:46am
        Adsa said | August 21st 2013 @ 6:46am | ! Report

        I think there is a lot of improvement for the wallyB’s moving forward in the Comp. They will cop one this weekend at the cake tin, but will play better and get a maiden win for Link at Lang Park. Small steps and each time a bit better will do me. Cheer up mate it could be worse, imagine being a Puma fan!

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