Boks lose their Spring?
So, as expected the Springboks beat the Argies in what was, except for the injury to Bismarck and the thong flash of the physio/medic, a rather dull and lifeless affair.
I wasn’t impressed with how we played and the scoreline did little to give me any sort of hope that the Springboks are on the right track to become the 2012 Rugby Championship title holders. Let’s be realistic here, if we can only muster the equivalent of points against Argentina at home that the All Blacks put up against Australia, in Australia, there is something very wrong with our game.
The 5 points against the newcomers is essential! Our inability to penetrate and score tries was exposed and it was almost as if I was watching a Stormers game, again! Difference is, the Springboks actually had most of the possession and despite reaching the try line through penalties and a quick tap, we could not seal the 4 try bonus point victory. I would imagine that Argentina walked off the field as mental victors having kept the Boks from it, rather than the Boks really feeling they achieved what they should have.
Meyer is coming up with all sorts of excuses, ranging from Los Pumas having had 6 weeks together and having something to prove, to losing Bismarck early in the game. The fact is, in 14 matches we played against Argentina, both home, away and on neutral ground, there has only been three occasions (including the past weekend) that we did not score at least 4 tries against them: 2005 in Buenos Aires and 2003 in Port Elizabeth.
Now, whilst Meyer and the man of the match selectors were of the opinion that Morne had a great game, I can only lay the blame for the lack of the 4 tries bonus point at the door of Meyer. Our backline is looking impotent and does not seem able to create try scoring opportunities. The first backline move I saw, which was hardly a “move” but more a passing of the ball down the backline, was in the 40th minute! Instead, we see ball by ball being carried up by the forwards, and as was evident near the end, when isolated the forwards lost the ball in contact, only to be sent back to our own half to come back and try again.
So, is it Morne that seems uncreative and unable to break away from the “structured” approach that the Meyer regime is set on keeping to in the coming years? Or is he simply unable to create the space necessary for his backline to use and distribute the ball accordingly? I don’t question Morne’s ability to read to game and to take the right options. His clever and pinpoint kick, with a dash of luck, resulted in a nice try for Bryan Habana. But as we’ve seen quite a few times with the Bulls this year, this is not something that just happens on a whim. It’s a planned and trained for move which pays off if you take the opportunity when it arises. But Morne has shown in the past that he can create and score tries, and perhaps what we are missing is some of the freedom that the De Villiers regime allowed the players.
Negative play by Argentina? Sorry, but have you seen Richie McCaw on the right side of a ruck in the past 4 years? We can complain about negative play by Argentina but it won’t change when we face the All Blacks or Australia, and the bottom line is, if it works, they will keep doing it!
Whatever the reasons, for a country who had 3 teams in the Super Rugby playoffs this year with two in the semi finals and one in the final, it is hardly pleasing to walk away from a test against Argentina with only 4 log points. And whilst Argentina perhaps had 6 weeks to prepare, (an excuse Meyer should really start to forget since he won’t have much time with the Boks in any event given the strenuous Super Rugby schedule and the fact that Australia and New Zealand are in the same boat) the Springboks have played together within their franchises since February now and already had 3 tests to get to know each other better in the setup, not as if they’ve never played together though…
Hopefully we can get out of whatever rut we are in and score 4 tries when we play in Argentina next week. The All Blacks will certainly fancy their chances against Australia again this weekend and based on their performance I am quite certain they will pick up the 10 points against Argentina. And unless we change our thinking on the field and become a little less one dimensional and less predictable, we might just spring a surprise or two against the All Blacks and so doing put the Spring back into Springbok!