x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Bruising Boks playing for kicks

The South African smashathon continued on Saturday with the Wallabies and All Blacks now wondering if they will be anything more than also-rans in this year's Tri Nations.

CAPE TOWN // The South African smashathon continued on Saturday with the Wallabies and All Blacks now wondering if they will be anything more than also-rans in this year's Tri Nations. The All Blacks spent a miserable fortnight in the Republic which resulted in two serious drubbings and a widespread call on their return home for sackings - the No 1 target being their coach Graham Henry. Their game plan was flawed, playing into the hands of a Springbok team who prey on opposition mistakes, and then let goalkicker Morne Steyn do the rest with penalty goal after penalty goal.

It will not be so dramatic when the Wallabies arrive back in Sydney tomorrow, but there is a similar feeling they will go nowhere against the Springboks until they can achieve the level of discipline and composure required to take Steyn out of the equation. The Wallabies at Newlands lost their heads, rhythm and momentum and squandered a good start by then going through a horror 10-minute period where they were virtually whistled out of the game by Irish referee Alain Rolland. By the end, Steyn had 24 points from seven penalties and a dropped goal.

Admittedly, this is one of the great Springbok line-ups, but they are being made to look better by their Tri Nations opponents getting so rattled in their presence. The calibre of the Springboks does give opposition coaches an excuse, and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans tried to remain positive, by praising his team's defence and scrum. But it all sounded a bit hollow when other vital areas of the Australian game were so dreadful.

At Newlands their line-out fell apart, key forwards went missing, discipline became non-existent - three players were sent to the sin bin - and they lost the ability to retain possession. After a dream second-minute try by full-back Adam Ashley-Cooper, the Wallabies again made the schoolboy error of relaxing. They suddenly dropped easy high balls, were found off-side, obstructing an opponent or lying all over the ball. Steyn kept kicking them over, and soon the Springboks were leading.

Then the Wallabies passing game went sour and before just before half time it was brain-snap time. First Matt Giteau became a flying human spear when he leapt into Springbok half-back Fourie de Preez. Giteau was lucky to only get a yellow card. Then Richard Brown lost his bearings by dithering on the wrong side of the ruck, and he also left for the sin bin, which saw the Wallabies down to 13. The Wallabies did rally when short of personnel, but for a team who go on about the importance of discipline, they never should have got themselves into this dire situation.

It is time for Deans to be brutal in the selection room and to put the wind up those who are cruising by dropping them. ggrowden@thenational.ae