‘Boks’ luck finally ran out’

What former Bok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Springboks' 26-24 defeat to Argentina in Salta.

'We shouldn’t be surprised, given what we have been served up so far this year. I said before the game I was very nervous. You can’t carry on being passionate about the Springboks. Just because you put a Springbok jersey over your head, you think you are going to go and beat Argentina away. That’s just not happening anymore. We’ve lost to Japan, we’ve lost to Wales away, we’ve lost to Argentina and Ireland at home and now we’ve lost to Argentina away.

'We’ve been very poor, let’s be frank about this. Our performances are well below that we’d expect. Remember that Argentina missed two tries. Their winger could easily have scored but he knocked on over the line and then Eben Etzebeth pushed their player into touch 5m from our line.

'If you consider that in the last 20 minutes Argentina lost Nicolás Sánchez, Juan Martín Hernández and their captain Agustín Creevy, who was taken off, it was a leaderless team at the end and they still managed to hold on. And this is what worries me about the Springbok squad at the moment. It doesn’t look as though it has a strong leadership. We try to get positives out of the fact that we’ve won three games coming from behind – two against Ireland and last week against Argentina – but in this game our luck finally ran out.

'We next play Australia and New Zealand away and there are going to be tough decisions for Allister Coetzee to make in terms of the type or style of game he wants to play. Elton Jantjies is absolutely not the same as Morné Steyn, so you are not substituting one with the other. And from a form point of view, he must start looking at picking form players.

'The way the Lions have been playing in Super Rugby has been outstanding. It’s a side that has developed over three years and they really understand how the systems work. It appears to be the Springbok coaching staff are caught between the pressure to play like the Lions and the pressure to play to old Springbok strengths, which were driving lineouts, strong set piece, good defence, territorial dominance and a good goal-kicker like Steyn. And to have Steyn on the bench, puts more pressure on Jantjies because he knows if he doesn’t kick every penalty over, they will bring on Steyn to kick. And that is probably going to affect his attacking game. A decision has to be made very quickly as to whether we play the Steyn-type game or whether we play the Lions-type game. If it is the latter, then we’ve got to bite the bullet and stick with it.

'We are well behind in terms of our skill set and our coaching at all levels. We need to get our players to a level where they take the right decision on the field. With a top defensive coach, we wouldn’t have found Vincent Koch going in on a tackle, where he should have stayed on the outside.

'When you get to Springbok level, you can’t start teaching a person to pass properly off his left hand or to run straight. That should have been done when the guy was 17 or even younger, at school. In New Zealand, the coaching is done from a very young age and that is why every single player in their Super Rugby franchises does the right thing at the right time. And when a player like Anton Lienert-Brown comes on to the field in his first Test, he looks as though he’s been there all his life. That is where we are way, way behind the All Blacks.'

Photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP Photo

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