The Springboks have been bullied and beaten by a Wallabies side that has brutally exposed the shortcomings of the world champs, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Most pundits felt that the Boks’ last-minute loss to Australia last weekend was an aberration rather than a sign of things to come.
On the eve of the rematch at Suncorp Stadium, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said the team had taken a hard look at themselves this past week – and could, and would – be better.
Yet, as it turned out, they were worse. Considerably worse.
When the Springboks headed to Australia after producing a belligerent display of gutsy rugby to famously defeat the British & Irish Lions, before comfortably overcoming Argentina, the expectation was that this South African team was well placed to contest for the Rugby Championship title.
In the space of a week, though, the Wallabies have wrecked the Springboks’ honeymoon period that they had enjoyed since the 2019 World Cup triumph.
The fact of the matter is that the Springboks no longer look like the No 1 team in the world, and the All Blacks are certain to soon officially take back that mantle.
On Saturday, the Boks did look to add more variety and innovation to their play, but they never first earned the right to go wide, and the Wallabies swallowed them up in the wide channels – with the home team’s cover defence never looking troubled by a lateral Springbok attack.
Although the Springboks did win the aerial game, that was the only area of their game where they managed to achieve any ascendancy.
The set pieces were initially solid (before the lineout fell apart late in the game), but the mauls were nullified, and the scrums were not the source of penalties that we have become so accustomed to.
More worryingly, the Springboks lost the gainline, breakdown and physical battle. And did so for the second week in a row. Against a largely unheralded Wallabies side, this would have been unimaginable a fortnight ago.
However, immense credit has to go to Dave Rennie’s Wallabies, who have been sensational in almost everything they have done over back-to-back weekends.
In so many ways, though, the Boks have also been the architects of their own demise.
On Saturday, South Africa conceded 12 turnovers, and some of the handling and basic errors were simply shocking.
After missing 21 tackles last weekend, this time around the Boks slipped off 19. A once-vaunted defence has inexplicably fallen apart.
The Wallabies have produced cohesive, high-paced and confrontational rugby that has exposed cracks in the Springbok game that now suddenly look like gaping chasms.
Yes, the Springboks are without their two best players in Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe, but when one considers how the entire team system has so fundamentally malfunctioned over the past weekends, it seems unlikely that their presence would have altered the end results.
With two matches to come against the in-form All Blacks, the Boks could very well head back to South Africa on the back of four successive defeats.
The honeymoon period for the Springboks, and head coach Jacques Nienaber, is well and truly over.