Boks to blame, not ref

Tank Lanning

All the talk will be around the match officials handling of Owen Farrell’s last-minute tackle on Andre Esterhuizen – quite palpably a dangerous shoulder charge that should have resulted in a penalty to the Boks, if not a yellow card to Farrell. But let that not take away from what the match stats confirm: this was a game the Boks should have put away much earlier.

54% possession, 61% territory. Both Handre Pollard and Damien de Allende breaking tackles at will. England giving away penalties like a butcher giving away fatty droewors at a Banting convention. The Bok scrum doing some proper damage…

It was the Boks’ game to lose, and lose they did! Ironically it was via a Farrell penalty goal from a scrum infringement earned by replacement prop Harry Williams, who managed to get the better of Wilco Louw.

Other contributors were a truly diabolical lineout performance powered by some very poor throwing from Malcolm Marx, a myriad of coach-killing errors that put paid to some effective and efficient attack, the call not to take points when they were available, and a missed pot at goal from out in front by Pollard.

671 metres from 111 carries to deliver 6m per carry for the Boks. England only managed 4.6m per carry. At times, the Boks looked really good with ball in hand. It’s the defensive stats from England that are perhaps more impressive, though. They only missed 15 of the 198 tackles asked of them. Six were dominant, while 9 forced turnovers fuelled the Bok mistake fest.

The home side also kicked more (33-26), and more effectively, carving off 3m more per kick. The stats prove it every single week – it’s easier to play rugby without the ball than it is with it. Here’s more proof!

Losing the ball in contact will have coach Rassie Erasmus counting sheep, while the Boks made a mess of both kick ins that came their way after taking the lead. There is an old adage in rugby: The points don’t count until you take the kick in!

Individually, Pieter-Steph du Toit made the most tackles (16) and the second most carries (12). This while playing lock, and that’s why it remains his best position. It’s a massive bonus for Boks to get this sort of performance from a tight forward, giving Erasmus more leeway with his loose trio selections.

It seems I might be in the minority, but I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and do not see losing to England – ranked 2nd in the world at the beginning of 2018, and a side that beat the Boks convincingly at Newlands a few months ago – by 1 point at Twickenham as a train smash.

Just think about where the Boks were a year ago! But perhaps the time has come to stop comparing this side to that dreadful era, and instead to what we generally expect of this great brand.

A look at the match stats from Twickenham:

Match information:
Points: ENG 12-11 SA
Tries: ENG 0-1 SA
Goal kicking %: ENG 80% – 50% SA
Possession: ENG 46% – 54% SA
Territory: ENG 39% – 61% SA
Ball in play: 40 minutes

Attacking stats:
Ball Carries: ENG 107-111 SA
Metres run: ENG 491-671 SA
Metres per carry: ENG 4.6-6 SA
Line breaks: ENG 5-1 SA
Tackle breaks: ENG 2-0 SA
Passes: ENG 141-154 SA
Good Passes: ENG 124-154 SA
Offloads: ENG 10-0 SA
Rucks won: ENG 78-112 SA
Rucks lost: ENG 2-2 SA
Mauls won: ENG 2-7 SA
Mauls lost: ENG 2-0 SA
Turnovers conceded: ENG 11-19 SA

Defensive stats:
Tackles made: ENG 183-135 SA
Tackles missed: ENG 15-13 SA
Tackle success: ENG 93% – 91% SA
Tackle turnover: ENG 9-1 SA
Dominant tackles: ENG 6-2 SA
Turnovers won: ENG 0-0 SA

Kicking stats:
Kicks from hand: ENG 33-26 SA
Metres kicked: ENG 1007-739 SA
Metres per kick: ENG 31-28 SA 

Error stats:
Handling errors: ENG 10-9 SA
Penalties conceded: ENG 12-4 SA
Free kicks conceded: ENG 0-1 SA

First phase stats:
Lineouts won: ENG 6-14 SA
Lineouts stolen: ENG 4-0 SA
Scrums won: ENG 6-6 SA
Scrums lost: ENG 2-0 SA
Own kickoff won: ENG 1-0 SA
Own kickoff lost: ENG 3-5 SA

- Tank Lanning

Let's chat

  • Graeme

    Yes. The Boks only have themselves to blame. The reaction to that final tackle by the ref is ridiculous based on the current laws. Gardener needs to grow a pair if he’s to be seen as anything but an out of depth provincial ref.

    • Johan

      Another stat attack (with my 5c):

      – If Jantjies kicked at 50% and we lost by one point think what the headlines would have been?
      – According to RugbyPass our centers passed once each… with 59% possession…
      – – I don’t agree that DdA had a good game, our centers need to bring our dangerours wings into play
      – – With 59% possession and only 1 pass made he didn’t do that
      – WW created more space than our centers did, 5 passes 2 into space and one try assist. He also made the most tackles 14 missing 1 with PSdT making 13 missing 1 in second. DV made 6 tackles also missing 1
      – We made 0 offloads, England 10
      – We lost 4 lineouts from 14 throws. England won all 6 of theirs
      – Our subs came on at 42′, 60′, 65′, 65′, 65′, 75′, 77′
      – Eng subs came on at 41′, 42′, 57′, 65′, 73′, 77′
      – Marx should have been subbed earlier
      – Meters per carry: 3.03 Eng vs 2.93 SA
      – Defenders beaten 20 Eng vs 23 SA
      – Clean breaks 13 Eng vs 4 SA

      All stats from RugbyPass

      So in short I think:
      Marx should have been subbed early,
      With all that possession we need to create space for our wings and pass
      If we used our wings and possession better we would have scored more
      Our scrummy was a bit too slow getting the ball out
      We could have used all our subs a bit earlier, we looked tired the second half

    • Sharky

      Yeah, you’re right. I think the ref knew that if that tackle was deemed legal by the powers-that-be and he had awarded the Boks a penalty then he would be lambasted in the British press and hung out ot dry by World Rugby (a la Craig Joubert). Result-changing reffing “mistakes” against British sides are not tollerated by World Rugby. So in the end the ref took the safe option. As you said, he needs to grow some balls.

  • boyo

    I think your last comment is correct tank:

    “But perhaps the time has come to stop comparing this side to that dreadful era, and instead to what we generally expect of this great brand.”

    We were all so scarred by the Coetzee era that fans have been pleased to see improved performances regardless of the overall results. A win against the All Blacks away is pretty much gold as well. The fans patience may be dwindling though.

    The media is primarily based in the cape so maybe you guys don’t get a feel for it but as a Sharks fan and with the people I talk to Rassie started making himself unpopular a while back and my perception is that its a similar thing with Lions fans. (obviously these are just my perceptions and not backed by any tangible facts)

    As a coach when you are happy to alienate fans with squad selection you make results even more important and with a win percentage like that I wouldn’t be all that comfortable if I was Rassie notwithstanding the media support.

    There are a few more tough games for Rassie on this tour and I am not convinced he has the support he did before this squad was named and now especially after his team lost.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Good read. Super Sport has a vested interest in Bok rugby so their scribes and panelists do not take a hard line on the Boks, I know I’ve been fighting them for years.

      You speak of the Coetzee era and no one nailed AC more than I did even in the Stormers years but here’s a point.
      AC had a disastrous 2016 no doubt but if one looks at his 2017 record then it wasn’t too bad. In that year AC lost only 5 of 13 games whereas Rassie with all his mercenaries has already lost 6 from 11 matches. Apart from the 57-0 drubbing against NZ, in the return fixture it was only a narrow 25 – 24 loss a margin that seems to be Rassie’s trump card these days. One could then ask the question, if the groundwork for the Boks was laid in 2017 why are we dong so poorly in 2018 ?? Surely Rassie had something to build on ?

      Yes I agree Rassie shouldn’t get too comfortable. His next three games will be crucial for all concerned. Cheers.

      • dave

        Oh dear … same old from Herman. I I I and again more I’s. I said this, I did this. Oh dear

  • Maxwell

    Malcom Ou Boet se maar koebaai vir player of the year trofee. Dankie tog dit was Pollard, en nie Jantjies nie wat misgeskop het nie, anders was die comment colom volgeskryf en die artikel 10 blaaie lank. This was the worse match since Japan’s win over the Boks. Allister was slaughtered when his young Boks lost to a fired up England team but nothing is said about Rassie’s Boks lost to a second string England team. If its not the ref’s fault then its surely the guy next to him in the picture.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Agree on the Polly / Jantjies point, lekker gelag. Marx however will be scored on his play for the whole season and must have a good chance of taking it. Cheers.

      • Maxwell

        Just pulling a few legs. He is a great player and will make a comeback àfter shocker

  • Taufeeq

    England is not ranked second, they are currently 4th, and were missing some key forwards. So I think that this is bad reflection of where we are right now. We have shown for two weeks in a row, how to lose a game we should have won, add to that the game in Oz, and Argentina, and we see a very worrying mental issue with this current bok team who cannot take their opportunities they create…

    • Herman Schroder?

      Who are we missing ?? Saturday’s 23 was our best available according to most pundits not that I agree with it of course. Too many Stormers too few Lions, lol. Cheers.

  • Barry

    There will be a certain irony in this loss for some if not a touch of calmer! The angry wart hog will have looked on from Durban with much anxiety as he watched the line out fiasco unfold, knowing that Erasmus would be reluctant to replace Marx, because Mbonambi had delivered the same poor service the week earlier in the Currie Cup final. He must surely be wondering just why it was that he was overlooked and knowing that he would, in all likely hood have save the match for South Africa, had good sense prevailed and Erasmus included him in the touring squad and match day team!
    A more pressing issue of course will be what they will do this coming Saturday. Play the same two hookers and hope for a better result – as i understand it Britz is not available this week – he has a pressing retirement seminar to attend!

    • John Comyn

      Barry I still think it goes back to leadership on the field. They kept throwing to the back of the line-out despite the fact that it was clear that Marx was having a shocker. When a side is losing all their lineouts the easiest way to secure the ball is to throw to your 2 and 4 jumpers. They after all are the specialist jumpers! I understand just how import variation is but when things are not working you need to secure the ball.

      • William Botha

        Agreed wholeheartedly. Kolisi could have said ‘guys, keep it simple and safe – forget the fancy trick we practiced this last week – it’s NOT working!’ The game was not lost due to Marx’s crappy service, it was a failure of imagination on the part of the leaders on the field; They failed to foresee that Marx was not going to throw the ball accurately. The last one went over the white jerseys as well, poor Duane stretched a foofy valve trying to get UP and ACROSS and still missed it by six inches.

      • Barry

        John someone made the comment last week that the line out issues were less so when Mosterton does the calls and it certainly seems to be the case. Agreed though the on field leadership was not great!

        • Barry

          Sorry Mostert…..Korean try editor

    • Herman Schroder?

      Are you really writing Marx off because of Saturday’s shambles ? It would be like dropping Beauden Barrett after Wellington. My second choice is the warthog any day but give Marx a break. He gives his all in every match and he may be running out of steam. Remember he played an extra three weeks in the SR playoffs. The problems with Rassie’s chokers goes far deeper than that. Cheers.

      • Barry

        Hat back on Hermie, know one has written off Marx! He had an off day, it happens, but there should be capable back up and there wasn’t! Erasmus’s knew that he could not be sure that the line feed would improve by bringing Bongi on because his previous two games had been poor in that department. So the question we’ve been asking for the past two weeks is why no Akker? This oversight fundamentally lost the test. It was a coaching error not player. I’m interested to see how or if they address it!

        • SweetAz

          Come on mate, Akker is far too white, with the 50% requirement every second choice player who has a black counterpart will know he should be looking for a team in Europe.

          • Barry

            Quite possibly Sweet but then why Britz?

  • Barry

    Tank, you stress the fact that both Pollard and de Allende carried the ball up at will, and the stats support this, but what de Allende didn’t do was let the ball go down the line or off load in the tackle. He made a single pass in 80 minutes of rugby!!! How on earth do we expect our back line to perform if the ball stops at 12?

    Our loose trio were no better, they had a total of 7 off loads amongst them!! – Kolisi made none and Vermeulen 2!! We have a world class specialist 7 who topped SR off load stats, but of course he was watching the match with Wart Hog in Durban!

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Yep, fair call Barry. And Oom certainly makes that point exceptionally well in his piece. Perhaps I am a smidgne too easily pleased … I just wonder what the reaction would have been had Pollard made that kick, or the kick from the resultant penalty from Farrell’s tackle? Might we have all been a smidgen more positive as per my thinking?

    • Herman Schroder?

      Off loads taboo in dom krag rugby, too high risk. Cheers.

  • John Comyn

    I think there is a serious issue with the decision making process. Given that Marx could not hit a cow in the proverbial you know what with the back of a guitar, they go for a line-out 5 meters out with England a man down! Surely the call should have been a scrum with a view to winning a penalty try. They have 4 or 5 players having a board meeting when they get the penalty and not 1 of them can figure out they need to go for a scrum ??? After years and years of NH tours we need to understand that we are not going to get any favors from the refs so we have to have a substantial leading margin to win games over there. In essence we butchered this game and the one before against the AB”s. It’s time for Rassie to take off the kid gloves and deal with players doing stupid stuff.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Captaincy and coaching deficiencies plain and simple. Rassie picked stupid players, must take the blame, lol. Cheers.

    • Chris Mouton

      Yeah, I was shouting at the TV “SCRUM! SCRUM!” It’s so obvious! bad decision making. Marx should get his head out of the clouds. His form is seriously in need of a boost. Since the SR Finals he’s been extremely unimpressive.

    • boyo

      John I was so frustrated even before we lost the lineout that we didn’t elect to scrum against 7 men. With so many “leaders” on the field it boggles the mind.

  • Albert

    My take on the game:
    1. Marx is a great player, but his basic hooking duties let him down big time. It is not the first time and I wonder if Britz should maybe be there working on our hooker’s basic skills instead of just the “gees” man

    2. The loose trio lacked balance. It was clear that we had two no. 8’s on the pitch. Duane is not a 7 and he seemed to take some of Whiteley’s main focus away. We needed Duane hitting rucks, not dropping to field kicks. Whiteley should have been fielding kicks.

    3. The Boks basics are terrible. The amount of dropped balls, poor passes and general lack of skills was ridiculous. Rassie needs to get a dedicated skills coach and a kicking coach! How could Pollard miss the sitter in front of posts? THAT cost us the game.

    The controversial ending wouldn’t have mattered had we had the above basics in place to turn our domination into points. The game plan was good, some of the execution was good but having been there in person, I really don’t think we deserved to win purely due to our terrible skills.

  • Herman Schroder?

    I have to agree here. The problem however is why are we picking players to play for the BOKS who do not have even the basic skills ? Bringing in a coach to help them develop these skills at this level is ridiculous. I’m a firm believer in players who are coached later in life to up skill them unfortunately revert to what was their go to skills prior. In other words under pressure they do not instinctively do the right thing. Old dog, new tricks comes to mind.

    That’s why our Franchises should be on the same page and players must be developed and selected on their natural skills, creativity and vision not brute strength and size that was so apparent on Saturday and failed miserably. Cheers.

    • Bossman

      You referring to Malcolm Marx there who does not even have the basic skills? I do think he brings something else to the game, if only he can sort out his basics.

  • Gary

    One almost had a sense early on that despite our domination, we were not going to win this one. Why did we have 4 locks in the 23. We must learn, domkrag is not the route. Thank heavens that was a weak England side and not the Irish.

  • SweetAz

    People need to realize a few things here,
    1. The conditions in Europe are totally different to what these players have been playing for the last few months, a few days to acclimatize is not enough and the AB’s are much cleverer by picking 2 teams and sending one team to Europe a whole week early. Rassie does not have that luxury unless he pulls all his BOKS from the Currie Cup. This team is not cohesive, there are too many players picked out of position,—the entire backrow just for starters, then an entirely new 9, 15. These guys have simply not played together enough yet, for crying out loud. If you compare this team to the AB team where almost the entire team play together regularly you will see the difference on Saturday, —-THE AB’S WILL HAMMER THIS ENGLAND TEAM BY AT LEAST 30 POINTS.
    2. STILL, on the whole, this is a vast improvement over the AC era, yes mistakes were made but they seem to be fewer every time whereas during AC era they just seemed to be getting worse. This was a game we LOST, — not a game England won (I know the scoreboard disagrees) but on the whole England did not deserve to win this match, -this is a vast improvement over just a year ago.
    3. PLEASE OH FRIKKEN PLEASE STOP WITH THE DOMKRAG BULLSHIT,—there is no such thing, there are only cohesive intelligent players vs players that are less so. ALL the modern teams have strategies and tactics far more involved and less obvious to the average armchair pundit than you realize. They are attempting to break down defences by creating multiple phases, enticing players out of position, creating mismatches, changing running lines, etc etc etc. Oom Rugby is one of the few commentators here who actually see the micro skills and strategies involved.

    THE ODD FRIGGIN OFFLOAD DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE ANTITHESIS TO DOMKRAG AND IS NOT THE HAIL MARY SOLUTION TO EVERYTHING SOME “PUNDITS” CLAIM.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Wow does capital letters mean you are shouting at us ? Slow down Sweets, you’re moving too fast as Paul Simon once wrote. In another post I wrote that Rassie should have pulled the Boks from the CC but the CC was in such poor shape supporter wise they had to give the public something to generate interest. Still didn’t work by the way.
      Rassie is supposed to be the ‘meticulous planner’ but so far he’s been anything but imo.

      Your comment about an improvement over AC is also unfounded as I wrote on another post, AC lost only 4 out of 13 matches in 2017. Rassie on the other hand has already has lost 6 out of 11. Why didn’t he just build from last year ? Instead we get an army of mercenaries coming over and being handed caps left right and centre.

      Dom krag was badly exposed last Saturday and remains the root cause of our stumbling inconsistency over the past few years. Unskilled players who don’t know when to offload contributed to the debacle. One of the best SR games this season was the Sharks / Hurricanes match where offloads were the key. What do we go for ? All the plodding grunters at loose forward and midfield and hardly an intelligent offload to be seen. Cheers.

  • Redge

    Tank on the positive side it is very pleasing to see how easy the Boks dominated the last 2 tests, although they lost both! A few silly mistakes to rectify and we will soon be on top of the world. We absolutely smoked NZ in SA but early replacements cost us that game. We totally dominated and outplayed NZ in the SA game. Marx will have to get his act together. He plays 1 super test and 4 very average games. Personally I believe he struggle to handle the media hype around him. PSDT must move back to 7. If Whiteley isn’t good enough to start then bench him. Van Zyl is not international standard. Why didn’t Rassie called up Reinach?

    • Greg Shark

      du Toit plays his best game at lock, he’s too cumbersome at 7 i.e. mobility and flexibility. The team needs a specialist at 7 and 8. This would allow a strategic change in game tactic at an appropriate time later in 2nd 40min when he has options with Mostert and du Toit. Honestly think Reinach would be an asset.

      • Greg Shark

        also think Akker should have been a no-brainer in lieu of Brits. That opens the opportunity for a quicker game and he marauders effectively!

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Positive indeed Redge … To me it looks like Marx is trying to introduce more of a loop to his throw – his normal throw is very flat. Great for fats ball, horrible for the lob. And like tweaking a golf swing, it is bloody difficult. So why call the 6 ball then? As much to do with the calling as it does the execution …

    • SweetAz

      Reinach and all other overseas club players not available for this test as it’s outside the test window. But yes, even Hougie would have been preferable to Van Zyl, now if only we could include a better fetcher than Louw things are definitely on the up.

  • Mark

    Correct the Boks should have won the game early on – but why are refs (who are professionals as are the players) treated as the Holy Grail and why can they not be grilled and made forced to explain? Payers have to and the coaches have to – so why not referees? Whats the point of outlawing leading with the shoulder or not wrapping arms if you are not going to blow it accordingly? The story – “well I tried to but he ran into me too fast” is a load of crap. Well “I tried to miss him when I threw the punch” is about as good as well. I readlly did not intend to land the punch – so then its all good?

    • Greg Shark

      YET Craig Joubert was hung drawn and quartered by World Rugby……

  • Nick.

    True Mark.
    Intention is irrelevant.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Disagree Nick. it’s ALL about the intent. If I throw a punch but miss, why is that fine? I do not think went into that tackle with any intention of wrapping

      • Greg Shark

        agreed farrels body position certainly does not underpin an intended legal tackle….

  • Wesley

    Rassie and Jacques is now teaching the tackle method to their players! Haha Rassie you card! Jokes aside, screw the scoreboard. I want rugby to survive into the next millenia, but this kinds of shenanigans by WR and their ilk (Eddie Jones and former players condoning this because of subjective views and support) it will die a slow death. I did not condone the eye gouging, headbutting, tip tackles and shoulder charges written off by tiddlywinks and ballet comments from even the Bok teams and coaches of yesteryear, and never will. Time people, no matter your side of the fence, take a stand against this behavior and call it as it is.

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