Black day beckons for Boks

Jon Cardinelli

We’ve seen this movie before. All Blacks fans and neutrals categorise it as science fiction. Disciples of the opposition might describe it as horror, though.

The All Blacks shift up a gear after the break to turn a close race into a comfortable victory. Then the black car retracts its wheels on the hour-mark to reveal the truth: it’s not a car, but a spaceship.

Buttons are pressed and switches are flipped. Suddenly the craft is approaching warp speed. Twenty minutes on, and the All Blacks have turned a comfortable victory into a one-sided rout.

There’s plenty of evidence to support the claim that the All Blacks have evolved – and enhanced that spaceship –since winning the 2015 World Cup. They’ve improved in all aspects of the game over the past three years, and have targeted the second half as the best time to exercise their superior skills and fitness.

The battling Boks have averaged 2.5 tries and 23 points per game since the start of the 2016 season. The All Blacks, however, have averaged three tries and nearly as many points (20) in the second half of Tests played during this period.

We saw how the All Blacks toyed with France in June. More recently, we saw how they traded punches with Australia and Argentina in the early stages, and then delivered the knockout blow.

After trailing France 8-11 in the opening skirmish of the three-Test series, the All Blacks put 44 points and seven tries past Les Bleus in the second stanza. They scored 28 points and four tries in the second half of the third Test.

New Zealand overturned a 5-6 half-time deficit to win 38-13 in Sydney. They led 14-7 at the break in Auckland, then shifted gear to hand the Wallabies a 40-12 hiding.

Argentina were commended for their first-half efforts against a second-string All Blacks side in Nelson. The match ended with the Pumas having leaked 46 points and six tries, though, the bulk of those in the latter stages.

It begs the question, were France, Australia, and Argentina given too much credit for their performances, or were the All Blacks not given enough?

The All Blacks will host the Boks in Wellington this Saturday. They will welcome back a host of first-choice players for the clash.

One cannot see the Boks pushing the All Blacks close in this fixture. Indeed, the big question is whether this Bok side has what it takes to avoid complete annihilation.

The Boks lost 41-13 in Christchurch two years ago, and by a record 57-point margin in Albany in 2017. There must be some trepidation ahead of a game that could witness a similarly inflated scoreline.

It’s not enough to be within seven points of the All Blacks at the break. The Boks will have to fight tooth and nail this Saturday to prevent the All Blacks from running away with it in the second half.

South Africa dominated New Zealand in 2009, winning all three Tests against the old foe that season and claimed the Tri-Nations title.

Since then, the All Blacks have dominated this fixture at home, in South Africa and even on neutral ground, outscoring the Boks in the second half 15 times in 17 matches during this period.

Last season’s meeting in Cape Town witnessed an extraordinary feat in that the Boks scored more points (21) and tries (three) than the All Blacks in the second stanza. It was the only game, however, in which the Boks scored more second half-tries than the All Blacks (between 2010 and 2017).

Since 2016, the All Blacks have averaged 26 points and 4.25 tries against the Boks in the second half. That average is significantly higher than the All Blacks’ average against all teams since the 2015 World Cup (20.8 points and three tries).

It’s hard to know what to expect from the Boks this Saturday. They’ve been consistently poor in terms of results over the past three seasons, and are currently ranked seventh in the world.

They’ve blown hot and cold in 2018. The Boks scored 17 second-half points in the one-off match against Wales after trailing 14-3 at the break. They managed to fight back after some poor starts in the first two Tests against England, and outscored Argentina in the second half of matches played in Durban and Mendoza.

In their most recent fixture against Australia, however, the Boks scored zero points in the second stanza. It’s that stat which should worry Rassie Erasmus most ahead of a clash against the sport’s most ruthless finishers.

Jon Cardinelli is sarugbymag.co.za’s Chief Rugby Writer

- Jon Cardinelli

Let's chat

  • SweetAz

    The last 5 or 6 years as a Bok supporter you keep thinking every year that surely it can’t get any worse,—-and then it does. So as someone who tries to be logical I will rely on what every analyst knows,—the trend is your friend. AB’s to take this by around 30 points.

    We might not make it out of our pool at the world cup either. We have lost to Italy before and NZ will definitely beat us. I’m picking that as next years NEW LOW on the trendline, a Bok team not even in the quarterfinals.

    • Sharky

      I like your analysis/trading shout out. The Boks have been the ultimate “bull trap” stock since the 2015 RWC – some brief spikes up within an overall bear trend. And like many noob traders us Bok supporters have been burnt by those bull traps every time!

      2015 – Third place at the RWC – not bad, let’s kick on from there.

      2016 – phew good effort to beat an Ireland team on the rise. Things will get better…

      2017 – nice white-wash of France. Finally things have come right…

      2018 – nice series win against the English. Rassie is our saviour…

      But each of those were brief upward spikes in a steep downward trend.

      • Herman Schroder?

        On the contrary glass actually less than half empty I’m afraid.

        2015 – Lost to Japan in the weakest, pool, burgled the QF in the closing minutes and despite narrow scoreline were never going to beat the AB’s defending for 80 minutes.

        2016. Ireland were missing 8 to 10 of their best players and we still managed to lose the first test. Thanks mainly to the introduction of the Lions players we managed to win the other two.

        2017. Again not the best French team by a long stretch. June tours where the Euro teams send second stringers here only clouds the issue when we do manage to beat them

        2018. England series. Saved by the two non SR backs in the first two tests after playing touch rugby for large parts of the match. Then succumbing to the Engelse quite meekly in the third test. As the saying goes you’re only as good as your last game, lol.

        No Sharky all the danger signs were there and there has been no improvement in seven tests since then. Methinks you are accepting mediocrity and setting the bar very low. Cheers.

        • Sharky

          Herman (Ze German), you missed my point. I am definitely not disagreeing with you. My reference to the “overall bear trend” implies that the ship was/is sinking. My point is that us Bok fans (like noob traders) have invested emotional capital into each and every false dawn (“bull trap”) and have been burned every time.

          • Herman Schroder?

            My bad. Started pounding keyboard before brain cell warmed up. Point taken. Cheers.

  • Barry Smith

    It will largely depend on selection. If Erasmus continues to field B sides and hope for victory, he is sadly mistaken
    NZ press today quote Proudfoot as saying “Transformation remains our top priority”. Honestly, he really needs to change feet, or stay away from the Press! Whilst transformation obviously remains one of their priorities, it is not really the time to shove this up the noses of supporters that are already agrieved!
    Let’s see what Thursday brings when selections are announced. It is time for Erasmus to box very cleverly!

    • Vossie

      Do we even have any idea what the team will look like?
      15 – Le Roux
      14 – ?
      13 – ?
      12 – ?
      11 – Dyanti
      10 – Pollard
      9 – Faf
      8 – Whitely
      7 – PSDT
      6 – Siya
      5 – Snyman
      4 – Etzebeth
      3 – ?
      2 – Marx
      1 – ?

      • Barry Smith

        Yes difficult to know what it will look like. With your selection I would rather go for Snyman and Mostert. Eben was in cruise mode- 6 tackles made to Mosterts 13 in last game, we should reward the grafters rather than the reputations!
        I am a firm favourite of PSDT, but he had the highest missed tackles count last game not sure playing at 7 is his best position.
        Who to replace Mpimpi with? NZ are formidable out wide, maybe Esterhuizen, if he is not accommodated at 12?

        • Mike Stoop

          Why Esterhuyzen? Is it because of his expert defensive capabilities as a wing or because of his prowess under the high ball. Perhaps because he frequently beats his opponent on the outside. Well, we don’t know, because not a single soul has seen perform any of these actions. Why? Because he never plays on the wing!

          • Barry Smith

            Seems having a bad day Mike!
            Esterhuizen has 4th best tackle/ turnover stats in Super Rugby 2018. Something not probably followed by the armchair brigade, but something close to the heart of players – a channel not to run in!
            De Lande was targeted by the Aussies as the weak link and Jesse Kriel’s defensive inconsistencies are well documented. Esterhuizen also has a vastly superior metres made Stats than the other two. There is no specialist available so on the face of things probably the best bet!

  • humblepie

    If we continue to play as we did in the preceding matches, the result will be the same regardless if we are 100% successful to eliminate mistakes. I am tempted to suggest that Rassie should convert to a modern, fast paced game on Saturday – he has nothing to lose as expectations of victory are low. The problem is that everything must be properly aligned for such an approach to work. The coaching staff must believe in it, it must be practiced and most importantly, they must select players that can support such a game plan. This is where it will unfortunately fail. All 4 the centres on tour have serious skills and ball distribution issues. With this in mind, a fast paced, modern game plan is not an option. My best advice for Rassie is to continue with what they have done to date and focus on damage control. Don’t expect fireworks

  • Maxwell

    Our priorities is to concentrate on winning a test match. If tranformation is the top priorities, what are your saying to the players? You are playing and you not playing because of transformation? This explain all the problems the team have on the field. I see young confusing players trying be Springboks rather than Springboks playing as a team. The best advice for Rassie and his coaching staff is to go and sit on the pavilion with a louderspeaker and then and let our boys play rugby rather enforcing his gameplan and they will see what need to be done. Let the players learn from each other and let them experience what needs to be done in order to become a united team.

    • John Comyn

      I think at the very least we should be telling the opposition that we are not here to win as our priority. The real win for us is getting the color mix right!

      • maxwell

        Yes. The lost to AB on Saturday will have some sweetness in it. It will take something away from ABs victory due to the transformation priorities.LOL.

  • John Comyn

    Cardinelli is not exactly the most optimistic journo around. Loves the doom and gloom stuff but I have to admit I shudder to think what could happen on Saturday. A card or two and it could easily be a 50 plus difference. It really does not matter who Rassie picks. IMHO we will not improve unless we have international half backs. Duane Vermeulen is a huge game changer as well. Not only as captain but he also takes pressure off the scrumhalf. The Faf we saw against England when Duane was in the side is a completely different player to the guy we have seen in the last couple of matches.

  • Chris Mouton

    As much of a Springbok supporter that I am, I’m not going to watch the game on Saturday. I can’t do it to myself. It will just be too painful. The fact that the Springboks didn’t score a single point during the 2nd half against a weak Australian team is extremely worrying. The subs did absolutely nothing to lift the intensity. The fact that the All Blacks consistently bury all their opponents in the 2nd half means that the flood gates will open from about 60 min in, if it hasn’t before. Sorry boys, but HKGK.

  • Herman Schroder?

    If anyone had any doubts before that Rassie is ducking and diving and deflecting due to the intense pressure he is under, his utterances since Saturdays loss should effectively set those doubts aside. He’s trying his best to make AC look like a genius. Add to that his sidekick Proudfoot’s contributions and that fatal ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome appears to be rampant in the Bok camp.

    1, Rassies handling of the Bongi / Marx affair has been extremely amateurish to say the least. The timing of it boggles the mind. The blame for the meltdown passed on to his captain in the media is something not even AC would have considered and he had far more pressure heaped on him during his tenure than ‘free pass’ Erasmus has had so far.

    2. Proudfoot states we will not try to play AB rugby we will play our own style. My question to you Mr Proudfoot is what style is that exactly ? The fact that your style has to date been rather faceless and worse than that a total failure does it not indicate to you a change of style is overdue ? What is lacking in the coaching department if this so called style is being persevered with despite the poor results. Or is Saturdays game plan merely going to be an attempt to minimize damage by defending for 80 minutes ( aka dom krag ) in order to keep the score at respectable levels. If that is the case then we have learned absolutely nothing these past four years.

    3. Rassie then pulls out the comparison angle. If we loose by 57-0 I will be fired. Mr Erasmus if you loose by that figure or more you should resign voluntarily. Everything you needed has been handed to you on a plate with no pressure at all according to your contract. All you had to do is select a team, come up with a workable game plan and coach it into the players. Your much heralded overseas contingent have in the main disappointed over the seven tests so that avenue has been an exercise in futility as I predicted many times it would be and a total waste of funny money in fact..

    4. So Rassie after blaming players directly in the media and playing the ‘firing’ card to try and drum up sympathy he resorts to his fall back card which is of course the transformation imperatives imposed on him by his masters which he was quite happy to embrace as part of his deal. However when he and Mr Proudfoot brought up the transformation issue in two separate interviews on the same day did they not think that people would suspect it was an orchestrated move ?

    Mr Erasmus,why was it brought up at this juncture while your back was to the wall ? Was it perhaps your intention to remind the ‘powers that be’ that hey I’m doing a sterling job on that issue and results as we agreed are not really the primary concern here.. Because if you were trying to deflect from the coaching angle by implying that the poor results are due to your pushing the transformation agenda are you not also then implying that the transformation players are not up to scratch, hence the poor results ? If you do consider that all the transformation players are up to scratch then one can only deduce that it is indeed a coaching problem and you should go.

    A columnist recently pointed out that Rassie is ‘painting himself into a corner’. Apart from other issues it seems to be very apt. When one tries to satisfy everybody the chances are you will satisfy no one. The coaching staff can’t be happy with the state of affairs but being paid handsomely does soften the blows. The players look decidedly unhappy and rudderless even on the field but are also being paid megabucks. The politicians are ecstatic and SARU are just happy to keep them happy while taking home quite a bucketful themselves.

    But where does it leave old Joe Soap ? Bok supporters must be at the end of their tether by now. I’ve been beating this drum on these forums for five years now. I’ve seen off HM and AC and now it’s Rassies turn to continue the torture. One doesn’t mind giving someone a chance but NO progress after five years, stumbling from one disaster to the next with no visible signs of improvement ? Who in the world would pay top dollar to support this crowd ? Which sponsor would believe he is getting his dollars worth when crowds are dwindling alarmingly ? Is it even worth posting on these forums where we regurgitate the same negative opinions because there is nothing positive to say ? ( Yes I know, start with yourself pal, lol. ) Regrettably we have seen yet another false dawn and Bokkie is on his last legs. Another once proud edifice collapses. No Cheers.

  • Matty

    All just depressingly sad .Problem is even if the boks play well against the All Blacks and not win we will all say there is hope ..they have improved so much ..and so then we will all hope things will improve for the end of year tours …yawn yawn.

  • Ntoni

    Springboks by 10. The All Blacks rely on counter attacks. We are the best team in the competition. Come on bokke show the world we are not a kak nation. Go Springboks !!!!

    • Herman Schroder?

      I suppose you’re also a Bafana Bafana supporter, lol. Cheers.

    • Dean

      Send us some of that twak you be smoking

    • SweetAz

      Just lolled myself into a coughing fit. DENIAL IS NOT A RIVER IN EGYPT, for the most part, such perceptions or declarations of falsehood in the face of fact are psychological coping mechanisms, we all do it to some extent until the truth cannot be hidden any longer,—the TRUTH is SA has become a kak nation. When this point is reached and you choose to persist with your delusions, there is usually some sort of trouble in various aspects of your life: mental or physical health,—a shit rugby team and so on.

      Sometimes the only way up is to reach rock bottom but the best way is to face the truth as it is the only thing that will set you free and allow you to soar as a human being. You can start by no longer rowing that boat along the Nile, stepping out of it and walking on solid ground.

  • AK

    The most entertaining part will be be the Haka and analysis after the game.

  • Maxwell

    John Kirwin said on their Breakdown show what I been saying all along. This team hasnt many caps and that they should stick together and that they need to just play rugby. Allister said the same about the inexperience team and that he will stick with the same selection to build up experience and to get combinations gelling. But he wast taken seriously because he isnt international standard. We just need to face it our boys are learning maybe not so quick and the hardest way aswell, but the tide will change. England had a young team and build 8 years to become world champion. At that time their had a very experienced and well oiled team. The players just need to decide whether they will be on part of the building processes or just waiting to get a Europe contract and again disrupting the building process like their started since 2008. It happened wtih Pieter. HM, AC and Rassie. The coaches could nt settle with selection and combinations because the disruptions. I think it needs to be said. The AllBlacks never got beter. The standard dropped because of the exodus of players to other countries, disrupting their own and other building processes. NZ rugby kept every system intact but the cracks are showing and soon their standard will drop soon. Take note

    • Amien

      Cannot agree with you more. This team reminds me of the England team 4yrs before 2003. It has all the characteristics of a dream team in the making. We need patience and I think the players need to find their identity and not play to a coaches style. This time we require a coach that gives the players the freedom to connect and just facilitiate the process rather than drumbeat his own idea of how they should play.

  • Mpilo Mabaso

    Boks to win the RWC 2023…the good thing is that Rassie has time to mould the current Boks into a World Class team…we must remember that he is only 7 games in if I am not mistaken, and he has been able to beat a very good, sharp and experienced England team in his first month…with a largely B team in my opinion…so all the positives are there. Rassie should just forget the 2019 RWC as he is operating from a very low base, as compared to Cheika, Hansen and Eddie Jones, and concentrate on building world class players in Willemse, Aphiwe, Papier, Snyman, Gelant, Esterhuizen, Kolbe, Ruan Ackerman, Marx, Dayimani, Acker, Mapimpi, Du Preez Brothers, Johan Janse van Rensburg, Jaco Kriel, Ox Nche, Lizo Gqoboka etc, with a mix of some of the already experienced players such as Ezebeth and company. SA Rugby is not over. SA rugby just needs to rebuild, like the former England sides, and the only way to do this is by actually having a 2023 vision and playing the hot youngsters so they can gain international experience. Winning is not important, but creating long-term structures is. It’s time for Rassie to just stick with picking freaks of nature who rely on predatory instincts like Hansen does. The player drain done did us unfortunately, so because of our situation, we cannot rely on picking a vast majority of locally based players as it does not assist us at international level in a SA rugby context. IT JUST DOESN’T WORK, as hard as it is to admit. You just can’t prevent or stop it. Having the very slow Ross Cronje as our back up scrum-half instead of someone like Reinach is just not on. Ross is not of an internation standard, at best, he is avarage. SA Rugby has alot to ponder about, but the good thing is that success can be attained.

    Good luck Rassie, you have my full support!

  • Redge

    How in gods name can anyone in his/her right mind think we can beat the mighty AB team with a team that’s not pick on merit!? Crazy thinking! Pity that the world don’t biokot the Boks now but we’re very eager to do so during the apartheid years. What’s the difference now? It’s still racism they just call it transformation. Pathetic!

    • Frikkie J

      Please rid yourself of these antiquated ideas and get with it. It’s 2018 and no black player has ever embarrassed the Bok jersey. The problem is you look at every game trying to pounce on errors made by black players and not the game itself because you want to feed your misplaced superiority complex that is trying hard to find a home. I knew a present day proteas player as a 10 year old and if it was not for transformation the world and us would never have had the joy to see him help us beat the Aussies last year with a team which was representative of us as a nation. Do we blame privilege for Faf and Willie making the mistakes they made last week. I have not seen one comment saying that players from the established communities lack the pride and commitment or that they play for themselves. Let’s stop blaming each other and look for the real reasons which is an inability to coach our youngsters the skill set to play the modern game, to move away from tuck and run, develop the ability to exploit space, to learn when to pass the ball, to learn to offload properly, learn to trust fellow teammates. With the broad spectrum of influences and natural talents available to us we will get back to where we belong but we will need to do this together. Last, it’s about an hour and 30m before kick off. I hope as much as you do that we win. I got up earlier than usual this morning because I am excited just like you are. Please don’t blame transformation as that is not the root of our problem and all it does is fragment us as a community and alienates newer supporters of the game. And please don’t draw a parallel between transformation and apartheid. At no point do they intersect.

  • Ntoni

    Well done Rassie. Good win Springboks you truly deserve the win. I was out by eight points, but a win is a win nevertheless. Now we know where we stand as a team. Rassie you tried and succeeded in keeping Our Team as fresh possible for the all blacks. You are building a big quality side evidently. Anyways…God bless u sir.

    Now the world know we are not such a kak nation!!

  • Greg Stewart

    HA HA HA HA A HA HA HA HA HA HA – NAYSAYERS BE DAMMED 5 try superb match still won with 14 man Boks holding defense against the best New Zealand could throw at us.

  • William Botha

    Rassie’s Boks beat the ABs in NZ for the first time since 2009. The team with just over 20% (yes, 20%) of the possession and less than 30% of the territory put more points on the board against the ABs in the first half than anyone else has – EVER. The underdogs with almost 150 less Test caps than the World Champions outplayed the ABs at their own game – the riposté.

    What does that prove?

    That statistics are meaningless on the day. Game and team Stats are not continuous data. How a TEAM plays is largely dependent upon the emotions in the team around Trust and Belief and Confidence; ie.; ATTITUDE.

    Anyone who has played rugby, the greatest of all games, knows that.

    That is what Rassie has been trying to create; Trust, Belief and Confidence. He’s been trying to find that potential for synergy in the pairs and nurture it and allow the players to ‘click.’ Yet all the so-called sports journo’s just hammered away at the stats and whined about their provincial favourites being culled and could find nothing right to write about. Because it was safe. No-one was willing to risk their own puny little reputations to go out on a limb and say ‘maybe, just maybe, Rassie Erasmus knows what he is doing. Except Steve Hansen.

    Yesterday they clicked so loudly that the austere BBC noticed, it had such an impact that the sports giant ESPN slapped it on their billboards and it shook the room in Utah where I watched it.

    • Evan Snyman

      Well said. As I have posted elsewhere, we only see 80 minutes of the coach’s job each week. We are not privy to what is being done behind the scenes. For example, what conversations are quietly shared while on the flight, or who is mentoring whom, etc. The big picture is that we all yell at our screens, we all have our opinions, but none of us gets to share each and every hour with the squad other than the coaching team. We may not like Erasmus’ plans, but it is becoming ever more evident that he has one, and not just because he says so…

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