Boks could face ‘record hiding’

New Zealand-based rugby writer MARK REASON says the Springboks' backline is a shambles and their defence bankrupt.

Steve Hansen reckons that the gap between the All Blacks and the rest of the teams in the Rugby Championship is not particularly big. That cacophonous, rasping sound you can hear is of millions of South African rugby fans choking on their biltong. They've never had it so bad. They know that the Springboks could be in for a record hiding in Christchurch on Saturday night.

And OK, so it usually doesn't turn out that bad. It's darkest before the dawn and all that, blah, blah, blah. New Zealand have only won the last four matches between the sides by two points, seven points, two points and four points. But have you seen South Africa play recently? They would have trouble closing down a tackle bag.

The backline is a complete shambles. All the joy and confidence that surged through Elton Jantjies' game for the Lions this season has leached away. He is now playing like a schoolboy and a bad schoolboy at that. Jantjies' running lines are appallingly lateral and he is pushing everyone across the pitch. Coach Allister Coetzee's brilliant solution to this after the loss to Argentina was to drop his centres.

But if the attack is poor, the defence is bankrupt. There was a point in Saturday night's match against Australia when Greg Martin said on commentary: 'Another two phases and the Boks are going to split open'. He could have said that every time Australia regained possession.

All Australia had to do in order to score was to isolate Jesse Kriel in the tackle on one side of the pitch and then move the ball the other way for a certain overlap. The only scramble defence is Eben Etzebeth.

In fact you could make Etzebeth almost the entire South African team at the moment. He has made three try-saving tackles in the previous two games and he has set up two of South Africa's tries. If you want a guy to straighten the line, bring in two defenders and get the ball out of the tackle, then Etzebeth is your man.

But some of his colleagues are an embarrassment to the Springbok jersey.

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Photo: Matt Rogers/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis