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The Roar


SA View: 'Robotic' and 'flaccid' Springboks make Wallabies look like 'world beaters'

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18th September, 2021
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The Springboks were panned by their nation’s media for their worst performance since 2017 against the resurgent Wallabies as unforced errors, missed tackles and ill-discipline scuppered the Boks in back-to-back losses to Dave Rennie’s men.

The Springboks’ galling second loss in a week saw them hand back the Nelson Mandela Challenge trophy amid a cacophony of criticism over their mindset and shaky defence.

Australia scored four tries against the Springboks for the first time in their biggest win over the world champions since 2011 – the Boks haven’t conceded four tries in a Test since 2018.

Ahead of their 100th Test against the Rugby Championship leaders New Zealand next Saturday, there are plenty of recriminations within the South African rugby community over the form of the Springboks and coaching of Jacques Nienaber.

Nienaber post-match apologised to fans for his team’s abject loss: “We were really beaten. We got hands-down beaten in everything – defence, kicking game, attack.”

The critics jumped in with relish.

“‘Skop, skiet en donner’ plan [literally in Afrikaans: kick, shoot and thunder] stopped in its tracks by Wallabies, so what else have you got, Springboks?” headlined Ashfak Mohamed’s analysis in IOL.

“The Springboks have never been shy of telling the world what their game plan will be, “ he wrote.

“The mantra has been that the opposition may know what’s coming, but they will still have to stop it. Well, the Wallabies have stopped them for two weeks in a row now.


“Another defeat, with a number of reasons such as ill-discipline from the Boks, poor goal-kicking, some questionable refereeing decisions at the scrums and missing off-the-ball tackles.”

Brenden Nel, writing for Super Sport, didn’t take any prisoners in his withering assessment of the Boks performance.

“Captain Siya Kolisi promised the side would be better than the previous week, where they lost to the same team but this performance was arguably a lot worse, as the Boks defence fell to shambles and the scoreline flattered them in a contest that made the Wallabies look like world beaters,” Nel fumed.

“As the Suncorp stadium curse struck again – the Boks have won there once in 20 years – the Springboks now look like world champions in name only as they lost twice against a side that was soundly beaten by the All Blacks in previous weeks.

“As seems to always happen in Australia, this Springbok team found new ways of putting themselves under pressure and in the process allowed the Wallabies to capitalise on easily the poorest performance since Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber started coaching the team.”

Needless errors punctuated the Springboks return bout with the Wallabies at Suncorp, with Faf de Klerk getting a serve for his cynical infringement which earned him a yellow card in the early stages.

“Their missed tackles and ill-discipline were a feature in the opening stages of the game, with scrumhalf Faf de Klerk being sent off in the opening quarter for a beyond silly cynical infringement in the Boks’ 22 right in front of the referee,” wrote the IOL’s Wynona Louw.

“It turned out to be another poor defensive display from the South Africans as they missed 19 tackles. Last week, the tally was 21.”


Craig Ray, writing in the Daily Maverick, called the Boks’robotic’ and guilty of a “shambolic performance, which the stats only partly reveal.”

“The Springboks might be world champions, but their reputation is in tatters after a second defeat against Australia in the space of six days. Bok coach Jacques Nienaber described it as a performance not worthy of the jersey – and it’s difficult to disagree,” Ray said.

“The territory-based, kicking and smothering game the Boks have employed successfully in recent years is only effective when all the parts are functioning in union. In Brisbane, the Boks’ defence was as weak as it’s been in years, and everything else fell apart from there.

“For a second week running, it was a strangely flaccid display from the Boks. Under Nienaber, they are famously clinical in their analysis and review everything unemotionally. But maybe that is exactly what is lacking. They are too robotic.”

Before the match former England coach Sir Clive Woodward was scathing of the Springboks’ style of play, claiming rugby will die in five years if the sport goes the way of the world champions.

“I looked on in horror last weekend [first match on the Gold Coast] at the sheer poverty and boredom from the South Africa team against Australia. Rugby was not — and is not — meant to be played like that and I’m just pleased Australia won,” Woodward harumphed in the UK’s Daily Mail.

While there is introspection within the Springboks, there is optimism in the Wallabies’ camp, with the Dave Rennie influence beginning to take its effect.

“Rennie is clearly starting to build something in Australia, and his belief in Quade Cooper and the Wallabies superior conditioning levels has paid off handsomely,” opined Paul Cully in


“Before two tests against the All Blacks, the Springboks look almost lost – stuck with a game plan that doesn’t look fit for purpose against their traditional southern hemisphere rivals.

“Rennie has always coached well against South African sides, beating them repeatedly in Super Rugby with the Chiefs, but the past two weeks undeniably showed that his methods are transferring well to the biggest stage.”