Ill-disciplined Springboks took self-harm to a whole new level against England
The Springboks’ northern hemisphere tour has already descended into a fiasco one game in to the four-match itinerary as the tourists contrived to inflict almost comical self-harm against England at Twickenham.
Losing 12-11 to England has put the entire trek through slate grey cities and damp fields of Britain and France on the back foot because England was the main match of the tour and losing it was a rugby disaster.
The nature of the loss was also a fiasco from referee Angus Gardner’s spineless decision not to award the Boks a legitimate penalty after the final hooter when Owen Farrell shoulder-charged Andre Esterhuizen into next week‚ to the Boks’ own ham-fisted shortcomings.
Even if Gardner hadn’t been so invertebrate and awarded a penalty anyone who has watched more than five minutes of rugby would’ve given‚ Handré Pollard still had to slot it.
Ifs and buts
The fact is England should’ve been dead and buried by halftime such was the Boks’ dominance.
The tourists did everything but clinically round off the numerous chances they created and that is the infuriating thing with this Bok team.
They do so much right‚ but they have calamitous moments that cost them games.
Somehow they gave up a 17-point lead in 20 minutes against the All Blacks in Pretoria last month and at Twickenham they were at least 17 points better than England in the first half. But they only went into the break 8-6 to the good.
Hooker Malcolm Marx ‘s lineout throwing was as inaccurate as a club darts player after a dozen beers‚ which cost the Boks two possible first half tries.
But the Boks’ inability to finish has to be divorced from Gardner’s inability to make a big decision against the home team at the end of the match.
The Boks might have been their own worst enemies at times‚ but that doesn’t exonerate the match officials from doing their duty and making the correct decision with so much technology at their disposal.
Had Pollard slotted a penalty to win the game‚ the conversation about the Boks’ own shortcomings would be constructive.
SA Rugby might make complaints to World Rugby about Gardner’s officiating but it won’t change the outcome.
Referees are a protected species and in all likelihood inner circle who make match official appointments will gather around and protect one of their own.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus is now where many Bok coaches have been before.
His side took one step forward against the All Blacks during the Rugby Championship and followed it with two steps back against an England side missing six regulars in the pack.
Erasmus’ failure to remove Marx from the game sooner than he did was a coaching blunder‚ which he has to shoulder.
After Bongi Mbonambi overthrew a ball at a critical lineout in Brisbane that led to an Australia try earlier this year‚ he was hooked inside 35 minutes.
Marx remained on the Twickenham pitch‚ spraying throws around like an unattended high-pressure hose until the 71st minute.
By then England had the momentum.
Marx is undisputedly a brilliant rugby player and a totemic presence at the breakdown and in the tight loose.
But this is not the first time his throwing has gone to pieces in big games and if he can’t fix it‚ then are all his other strengths enough to keep him in the team?
Erasmus clearly thought so‚ and so he has to shoulder the blame for the numerous squandered chances that saw the Boks slump to a sixth loss in 11 matches this year.
If they’re not careful with Tests against France‚ Scotland and Wales to come‚ a record nine defeats in a calendar year are a possibility‚ which would make them statistically the worst Bok team ever.
Yet they feel anything but a bad team.
Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sibusiso Nkosi were excellent‚ Damian de Allende was a colossus and Pollard and Ivan van Zyl played a tactically smart game at halfback.
The pack was collectively superb in most areas of the game and won the physical battle for the most part.
England were on the ropes‚ but just when the Boks appeared to be ready to deliver the knockout blow‚ they somehow contrived to punch themselves in the face.