Boks miss out in Brisbane
Brenden Nel
September 10, 2016

Australia produced a survival performance that was neither pretty nor inspiring to beat the Springboks 23-17 in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship match in Brisbane on Saturday.

In the process Michael Cheika’s side stopped a five-game losing streak to get one over the Boks, who will see this as an opportunity missed – and mainly by their own doing – as the Boks failed to get a rare victory in Brisbane.

On a frustrating night for the Boks where they needed to make a step forward, they started well, scoring twice off turnovers for an early 14-3 lead but then fell apart through a combination of poor decision making and their hard-headed approach to playing the wrong game plan in wet conditions.

It was a frustrating mix that the Boks continue to find themselves in, being between two worlds, and forcing a running game where much needed balance would be a better bet.

Many coaches will tell you that on a night where the ball is wet and slippery you play for position and use a forward-based approach in trying to counter the opposition.

But the Boks did nothing of this, choosing rather to try and run their way out of trouble on several occasions, coupled with several aimless kicks in the same process, causing confusion and frustration in the ranks.

Too often there were static runners on attack, not to mention players appearing out of position and in the way of the ball carrier while Australia simply waited for the mistakes and countered effectively.

While coach Allister Coetzee has preached for a balanced attack it is difficult on this performance to see it, as the Boks could still easily have won the game, but made so many errors that they literally stopped their own momentum, especially in the second half.

On the positive side, there were better performances by the captain Adriaan Strauss, flanker Francois Louw and a number of other players, but the tactical kicking of the halfbacks continues to be a problem in the side.

Next week the Boks will face the All Blacks in Christchurch and will need to front up, but on the performance in Brisbane they first need to find their own centre of gravity. Their own purpose and their own way of playing.

In six tests this year they have ridden a wave and tried to force a game plan that doesn’t either suit them, or is executed poorly. In the interim the basics have suffered and the hard work up front goes ignored in terms of a running mindset.

In Christchurch next week this could be more than costly. It could be fatal, no matter how many things the Boks did positive on the day.

But there is no doubt that the Boks need some sort of direction, and on a day which was crying out for a 10-man game plan with territory and players punching up the middle, the Boks chose everything but this.

The match started off exceptionally well for the Boks, as Lourens Adriaanse snaffled a ball that started a team counter attack from far out, and led to Warren Whiteley punching onto the ball on the angle close to the line, being hard to stop.

The second try came from a bit of a Hail Mary as Strauss intercepted a ball that if it moved past him, would have been a try to Australia. Instead, the Boks grubbered it downfield and Johan Goosen collected to score and put them 14-3 up.

But from there the downward spiral started, and the Boks didn’t have the same composure as the Wallabies, as their attack disintegrated and the Wallabies took a step up when it mattered.

Several phases forced the Boks into penalties and the Wallabies marched upfield, and it wasn’t a surprise when Adam Coleman went over in the corner to reduce the lead to three.

By the time Bernard Foley had made it a one point game shortly before halftime, the Boks wouldn’t have been surprised as the Wallabies had put phases together and played not only constructively but with a cohesiveness that the Boks lacked in the first half.

Unfortunately in the second half it didn’t get better. From Eben Etzebeth’s yellow card in the 22 – which was justified as he never rolled away in time – the Boks lost the lead to another Foley penalty.

The Boks survived the onslaught during the absence of Etzebeth with a possible try to Tevita Kuridrani being denied by the TMO.

It was a let-off for the team that they needed to use and move forward, but they didn’t. Instead some poor kicking set the platform for Australia to attack in waves, with the Boks struggling to keep up with Australian runners that hit them from angles.

Eventually something had to give and Bernard Foley hit the line at pace, spinning out of a tackle to score a try that would eventually be decisive.

The Boks tried hard in the final stanza, often getting over the advantage line but making the mistakes as they spread it wide that cost them in both territory and possession. And while the mistakes of the game needed to be learnt from, they never found an answer and struggled on, repeating the same mistakes over and over.

The Wallabies held out for the win, and deservedly so. They had kept their composure better, But from a Springbok perspective, that says as much about their own disappointment as about the result itself.


Australia: Tries - Adam Colemen, Bernard Foley. Conversions: Bernard Foley (2). Penalties: Foley (3).

South Africa - Tries: Warren Whiteley, Johan Goosen. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalty: Morne Steyn.

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