Boks underline their killer mentality by focusing on missed chances against Wallabies and not the winning margin
Boks aim to focus on errors against the Wallabies as 21 players fly to New Zealand to join the advance party for next week’s Test against the All Blacks.
There won’t be an overdose of self-congratulatory back-slapping in the Springbok camp after thrashing Australia 43–12 at Loftus on Saturday.
The 31-point winning margin was the third biggest in 93 meetings between the old foes, in a contest that started 90 years ago. The Boks scored six tries (two of which were penalty tries) and dominated just about every facet of the game.
If there were ever a time to sit back with satisfaction and say, “job well done”, this was it. But assistant coach Mzwandile Stick, even in the immediate aftermath of the victory, was already in analytical mode.
“There’s a lot of things we can improve on, but we’ll take the result any day,” Stick said. “If you had said in the week that we’d have scored 43 points against Australia, we’d have said you were dreaming. But we have something to work on.
“There was a point in the game where we had a lot of entries into Australian 22 and we didn’t convert – and there were a couple of line breaks as well – and I think that’s where we need to keep on improving.
“We have to make sure we convert those into points – when we play against the All Blacks and Argentina, we’re not going to get 10 opportunities; we’ll only get four or five and you need to convert them.”
Time to enjoy the moment
Focusing on improvements is always a good trait to have but the Boks should also take a little time to enjoy the moment.
The makeshift team, with new or very inexperienced combinations in most positions, played some magnificent rugby. Of course, there were some errors. But overall, it was a muscular performance, punctuated by panache and flair.
The pack, especially locks Jean Kleyn and Marvin Orie, set the tone with deeply physical and skilful performances. Flank Marco van Staden was bruised in contact and fellow backrowers Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen dominated collisions.
Not surprisingly the Bok scrum smashed Australia, although there were too few scrums for it to give them the return of rewards it merited. If there was one area of concern, it was the lineout, where hooker Bongi Mbonambi battled to sync with his jumpers. Let’s put that down to rust and a new second row pair.
Behind the pack, Manie Libbok was silky and slick, while wings Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse were magnificent. Arendse, in particular, has a knack of finding the tryline.
His hat trick was the first by a South African against the Wallabies since Jongi Nokwe scored four at Ellis Park in 2008 when the Boks posted a 53–8 win.
Arendse’s first try was a stroll, but his second and third showed his best traits.
For the second, he ran a line down the blindside from deep, recognising the Bok rolling maul had worked its way in field and given him a few extra metres to work in.
Arendse also had the foresight to know that flank Marco Van Staden was about to peel off down the blindside with Mbonambi in support on the tramline.
If you watch the replay, you see Arendse calling from a deep position as he started his run. His two teammates were immediately alive to the wing’s plan and executed two perfect passes for Arendse to skin opposite number Suliasi Vunivalu on the outside.
That try demonstrated his vision and pace. His third try showed his stepping ability as he escaped three defenders with one shimmy close to the line. There is hardly a weak aspect to his game.
While Arendse rightly took the plaudits, the silent hero of the backline was the exceptional André Esterhuizen at inside centre. The Harlequins man is a huge physical presence but he offered so much more.
His passing was sublime at times and his pace underrated as he beat defenders on the outside. Naturally, as a defensive obstacle, he was immense as well.
It was Esterhuizen’s best performance in a Bok jersey. Four years ago, he was one of the unlucky few to miss the plane to Japan, but after another strong showing it will be hard for coach Jacques Nienaber to leave him out of the Rugby World Cup 2023 party to France now.
There is a lot to be happy about from a Bok perspective while Australia coach Eddie Jones now knows the size of the task he faces.
It was a wake-up call for the Wallabies, who spoke passionately about making history by winning at Loftus for the first time and taking the Boks on physically.
But they simply couldn’t match the Boks in contact and from there the hosts grew in confidence and Australia wilted.
“We were outplayed everywhere,” Jones said after the match. “We got beaten at the set-piece, got beaten at the gain-line, got beaten in the air.
“The only positive from the game was the first 20 minutes, where we tried to play with a bit of pace, we tried to shift the ball and we looked dangerous. We weren’t able to sustain that effort.
“Really disappointing. No excuses. We’ve got a realistic appraisal of where we are.”
Nienaber took an additional 21 players to New Zealand on Sunday for next week’s showdown against the All Blacks in Auckland. A 14-man group travelled to New Zealand last Thursday to prepare for the match.
The All Blacks showed ominous form as well, beating Argentina 41–12 in Mendoza, to flex their early muscles in World Cup year.
Nienaber, SA Rugby director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and Bok assistant coach Felix Jones departed for New Zealand immediately after the Pretoria battle.
“It was always part of our planning that some of the players who ran out in the Test against Australia would travel to New Zealand, and given some impressive performances today, we decided to take a few more players than we originally planned for,” Erasmus said.
“We now have the luxury of having a bunch of fresh players to work with in New Zealand from Monday, and they’ll be joined by a group who have experienced the physicality of Australia and who can add energy and momentum at training from Tuesday.
“We’ll analyse the match on our journey to New Zealand and then announce our team to face the All Blacks on Tuesday.” DM
Additional Springbok players travelling to New Zealand:
Forwards: Thomas du Toit (prop), Pieter-Steph du Toit (loose forward), Deon Fourie (utility forward), Steven Kitshoff (prop), Jean Kleyn (lock), Vincent Koch (prop) Frans Malherbe (prop), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Trevor Nyakane (prop), RG Snyman (lock), Marco van Staden (flank), Duane Vermeulen (No 8).
Backs: Lukhanyo Am (centre), Kurt-Lee Arendse (wing), André Esterhuizen (centre), Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf), Willie le Roux (fullback), Manie Libbok (flyhalf), Cobus Reinach (scrumhalf), Damian Willemse (utility back), Grant Williams (scrumhalf).