While hailing the match-winning Handre Pollard, MARK KEOHANE says the Springbok brains trust has played their ‘get out of jail’ card in the semi-final victory over England.
A 78th-minute penalty from Pollard gave the Springboks a 16-15 win on Saturday night, after the defending champions went into the final 20 minutes trailing by nine points.
Writing for TimesLive, Keohane believes a better team would have had a stronger lead on the defending champions, given England’s dominance from playing a traditional Springbok gameplan.
Despite a dysfunctional set-piece and a poor performance from the game-drivers and pack, the Boks only trailed by six points at the break.
Jacques Nienaber named an unchanged lineup from that side that claimed a one-point win against the tournament hosts in the quarter-finals. However, it took just 30 minutes for Pollard to be called on from the bench for Manie Libbok, while by the 50th minute, nearly the entire bench was emptied – bar tighthead prop Vincent Koch.
Keohane said the raft of early changes showed that the Bok coaches got their picks wrong for the semi-final and got “suckered by emotion” of the win over France.
“The Boks, in two World Cups under the Rassie Erasmus/Jacques Nienaber era, reserved their worst ever 40 minutes at the World Cup for the opening half against England,” Keohane writes. “It did not get better in the first five minutes of the second half. The Boks were just not at the races and the changes came quickly.
“Eben Etzebeth, colossal against France, was benched after 45 minutes and so were Cobus Reinach and Damian Willemse. This was a game that called for the famed Bok bomb squad, but going with a five-three split, this was not in the Bok arsenal.
“When a coach subs Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff and Etzebeth on 55 minutes, it tells you they got the selections wrong. This was nearly a disaster and it should never have been.”
Photo: EMMANUEL DUNAND / AFP