Boks had poor tour

There are no positives to take from the Springboks' 12-6 loss to Wales, writes MARK KEOHANE in Business Day.

What makes the Springboks’ defeat the worst of the season is that there isn’t next week to make right the wrong of Cardiff.

Heyneke Meyer and his Springboks have to wait till July 2015 to play again.

Defeat hurts – and it should. If it didn’t then no score should be kept and the contest should be an exhibition of playing skills.

But rugby is a contest and the Springboks came second in Cardiff, as they did in Dublin, and as they did away from home in the Rugby Championship.

There is nothing positive to take from this second tour defeat in four weeks. Positives are always found in a one-off defeat, but when the second-best team in the world loses to the seventh best, then there isn’t a positive.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who has won more Tests than the most-capped Springbok Victor Matfield has played, was asked what he remembered most about his first 100. The answer was the 12 he lost. Defeat hurt, he said.

McCaw, superb in the All Blacks' 34-16 win against Wales a week ago, has lost 14 and drawn two Tests in a 137. No player has won more Tests. No captain has led a team to more Test victories.

Defeat must hurt if excellence is the measurement of success.

The Springboks won against New Zealand at Ellis Park and the two-point win was a minute away from being a one-point defeat.

I wrote in this column to enjoy the triumph for beating the All Blacks but to focus as much on an ordinary second 40 minutes because of how it would translate to the November tour.

The Boks, in the past month, have been poor.

Ireland whipped them, Italy stayed with them for 78 minutes and Wales were too good for them. The only highlight was the win against England at Twickenham – and that was more down to brute strength, resolve and the embarrassment of what had happened in Dublin.

The Boks have always known how to respond to a beating, but it’s a bit different when the response time is not within seven days.

No matter what the Springbok players do in Super Rugby. No matter what the Bok coach says; neither coach nor players can do anything about it until July.

They must remember the ones they lost this year if they are to lose less in 2015.

There is no positive in losing four Tests in 12, but there are problems, with selections and with player performance.

Meyer got his balance of selections wrong in the respective match 23s on this tour. It’s an opinion reinforced by the efforts in Dublin, Padova and Cardiff.

Some players got no respite in game time and others simply got no game time.

The flyhalf selection was among the more puzzling because Handré Pollard, the darling of the win against the All Blacks, started against Ireland and then not again in three successive weekends.

Pat Lambie, given two late cameos in Cape Town and Johannesburg against the Wallabies and All Blacks, was the anointed darling against England and kept the jersey for Italy and Wales.

Meyer spoke of Pollard being his No 1 flyhalf and of being close to the No 1 in the world, but justified Lambie’s selection on greater experience and the player’s form in northern hemisphere conditions.

Lambie was a combination of good and flawed against England, but because the Boks won it was the good that was emphasised. Had they lost, then Lambie may have also paid the price (in terms of selection) for missing a lineout touch kick from a penalty situation.

Victory allows for concessions; defeat hasn’t similar kindness.

There won’t be any concessions to Meyer and it’s doubtful there will be any from him.

All stakeholders have to be uncompromising in their review of this tour. They should also add the last 40 minutes against the All Blacks that preceded the tour.

Meyer has been guilty of attempting to soften blows with reference to the All Blacks. An example is when the Boks battle past an opponent and win by a single score and Meyer says the All Blacks also struggled or that the Boks actually won by more than the All Blacks did.

He doesn’t reference the All Blacks when they score 34 points against an opponent that limits the Boks to a tryless six just a week later.

The Boks can still win the World Cup, despite losing in Wales in the last week of November. But the lesson of the past month is that they’re equally vulnerable to be sent packing in a play-off game.

The Boks aren’t as bad as the result in Cardiff suggests but then they aren’t as good as the result against the All Blacks in Johannesburg suggests.

They are also a match-day squad substantially inferior when none of the foreign-based Boks are available for selection.

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images