The Springboks' attack is in crisis, writes RYAN VREDE from Ellis Park.
Predictable, stale and disconcertingly impotent. That's the story of the Springboks' attack. With just over a month to go before the World Cup kicks off, Heyneke Meyer would do well to 'do a Jake White' and get Eddie Jones on the line. Either that or something similarly out of the box. Serious intervention is required.
It's only partly right that big tournaments are won through defence. It's a critical aspect on the road to success but no World Cup-winning team has ever had a pop-gun attack. Indeed the Springboks of 2007 were the World Cup's most complete and devastating attacking unit. The one contesting the tournament in England looks like being a poor impostor of that team.
Sure there were good moments on attack, Jessie Kriel's try the most notable of those. However, the bad far outweighed the good. Had the Springboks taken even half of the try-scoring opportunities they created, they and their supporters would have been celebrating a famous win, rather than lamenting another defeat to their traditional rivals.
Such is the depth of their struggle that they scored zero points against 14 men.
There are fundamental deficiencies that continue to compromise the team's attacking threat, not least of all the brainless bashing the bulk of the Bok forwards are guilty of. Where their All Blacks counterparts attack the space to either side of their defender, or at very least his shoulder, the Boks seem hellbent on steamrolling the man. It may work against lesser sides, but the world champions are far too good to be bullied into submission.
Furthermore, having had the benefit of seeing the entire picture (TV follows the ball only), there were numerous incidence of a poor decision-making in terms of the direction the play went. Ruan Pienaar was chief culprit in this regard. A player of his experience cannot be shielded from this type of criticism. Gone is the dynamic and exciting player that captured our imagination in his early career, replaced with a robotic impostor. So sad.
Others are more mildly afflicted with his condition but the rot will continue until they are coached better. Meyer is the man immediately responsible for this, but his players have been poorly coached from an attacking perspective from their critical formative years. What you see played out now is a result of that.
Nothing about this Bok attacking performance will concern the Blacks, should they meet in a play-off match in England.
New Zealand exposed the Boks' attacking shortcomings through their own clinical finishing. They were starved of possession for extended periods but made the most of their time in the red zone, their 74th-minute score from a beautifully executed lineout move, which contained more creativity than their opponents had been able to muster for the entire match.
Meyer has at his disposal a wealth of fine attacking options, Handré Pollard, Damien de Allende, Willie le Roux and Kriel among them. They have a forward pack that can provide the gunpowder for their ignition. Yet that attacking nirvana looks light years away.
The Boks and their supporters can only hope that the returning players, Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers and the rest, prove to be the catalyst for an improvement. Hope, that's all.
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images