Boks must become ruthless

The Springboks have to develop a killer instinct before the World Cup, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

We’ve already seen this script and watched the movie, but something has to change if we don’t want to witness another unhappy ending in England later this year. 

For the second year running, the Wallabies punished the Boks for failing to close out a game that was there for the taking.

Playing in Perth last year, the Boks led 23-14 with 15 minutes left to play before succumbing to a late Wallabies onslaught and a last-minute try. Sound familiar?

On that occasion, a late Morné Steyn horror show and a contentious yellow card to Bryan Habana were identified as factors that cost the Boks victory.

This past Saturday, a 50-50 TMO decision, pre-determined substitutions, injuries and inexperience could be rolled out as justifiable excuses.

Sooner rather than later, though, the Boks need to acknowledge and accept certain shortcomings that will continue to come back to haunt them unless they are addressed and overcome.

For 50 minutes on Saturday, the Boks played with ambition and confidence, and they were thoroughly deserving of their 20-7 lead when talented youngster Jesse Kriel scored a scintillating solo try early in the second half. And yet instead of the Boks going for the jugular and suffocating whatever life was left in the wilting Wallabies, there was a clear sense that an attitude of protecting the lead trumped any sort of killer instinct.

As former Bok coach Nick Mallett pointed out after the game, a lesson has to be learned from the dangers of looking to run down the clock. By trying to keep the ball among the forwards for the final minute of play, referee Nigel Owens almost immediately found reason to ping the Boks for sealing off the ball, an indiscretion that northern hemisphere referees are particularly fastidious about monitoring.

Some of the Boks’ inexperience was also shown up as they continued to persist with their common contestable kick-exit strategy, despite the fact that Israel Folau – a fullback who boasts the best aerial skills in the game – continued to secure virtually every high ball sent in his direction.

Folau collected 11 kicks, and topped the rankings for carries (23), metres run (108) and defenders beaten (10).

Also according to the Vodacom Rugby App, the Wallabies ran 508m to the 355 of the Boks, while they completed more than double the amount of passes.

The Wallabies had 152 carries to the Boks’ 97, beat 26 defenders compared to 17, while dominating the territory and possession stats.

The fact the Boks were forced to make nearly 200 tackles also indicates how they failed to protect and appreciate possession, particularly during the decisive latter stages of the Test.

It tells the story of a team that failed to keep playing despite having been on the verge of victory for most of the second half.

Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis