Defeat is all-time low for Boks
Allister Coetzee’s tenure as Springbok coach hangs by a thread after his team suffered yet another ignominious defeat, this time to Italy in Florence on the Boks’ end-of-year tour yesterday.
The loss, South Africa’s first against Italy in 13 meetings, joins an unprecedented defeat to Ireland at home, a second reverse to Argentina and the biggest loss to the All Blacks at home in a shocking season that has seen the Boks lose six of the 11 tests they’ve played this season.
To put the magnitude of the upset in context, Italy had only won one of their seven games this season and took a 6810 pasting against an All Blacks second-string side just last weekend.
The frightening thing about how low on confidence the Boks are, is that they had more than ample opportunities to put this game away as early as the first half. But a couple of knock-ons (by Vincent Koch and Warren Whiteley) and an iffy final pass by Francois Venter in the Italian 22, robbed them of a third try, to add to the two they’d already scored.
To boot, the Italians played with 14 men from the 42nd minute onwards after lock Marco Fuser was sin-binned after the Italians took out the Boks’ lineout jumper in the air for the umpteenth time, but the Boks only scored the penalty that resulted from the offence.
Most disappointing for Coetzee, who minimised the changes to the team that lost to England in a bid to get them to fix their errors, would have been the fact that the same areas of concerns again crept up.
The breakdown area was particularly shambolic. While there is a case for referee George Clancy allowing the hosts to lie on the ball and to play it from offside positions, the Boks invited trouble by being limp-wristed in their cleaning out, which almost always meant a slow ball.
The defence was better to start with, but where the problems are usually out wide, the Boks suddenly couldn’t defend the maul when Italy scored their first try through South Africa-born lock Dries van Schalkwyk. And by the time giant winger Giovanbattista Venditti scored out wide, the old problems had crept back into the Boks’ psyche.
The pity is that this overshadows encouraging passages of attack that led to Bryan Habana’s 67th test try and the counterattack effort that led to Damian de Allende’s long-range effort.
But Italy deserve their famous scalp by staying in the fight long enough to turn momentum their way.
Their defence was a strong point, though defending against the Boks’ one-off runners hardly required imagination. South African rugby is at an alltime low. SCORERS Italy – Tries: Dries van Schalkwyk, Giovanbattista Venditti; Conversions: Carlo Canna (2); Penalties: Edoardo Padovani, Canna
Boks – Tries: Bryan Habana, Damian de Allende; Conversions: Pat Lambie; Penalties: Lambie, Elton Jantjies
MAULED Italy’s Andries van Schalkwyk and Ornel Gega tackle South Africa’s Adriaan Strauss