• SOC­CER BOKS GET RE­AL­ITY CHECK We will get stronger be­fore play­ing Aus­tralia, vows Coet­zee


THE RUGBY world dared to hope this would be a con­test that might see the un­beaten Springboks break the cracks prised open in the Ki­wis’ in­vin­ci­bil­ity this sea­son.

The Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions won and drew a Test in New Zealand; Aus­tralia in Dunedin led un­til the 79th minute and in­deed Ar­gentina last week in New Ply­mouth were draw­ing un­til the 60th minute, so yes­ter­day’s game was set up as a re­port­edly-resur­gent Springboks against an All Black team that was stag­nat­ing.

Ho-ho .... What hap­pened is the All Blacks lifted their game by the same ex­po­nen­tial level as the Boks’ per­for­mance went south. The re­sult 57-0 .... a record loss.

As least in Dur­ban last year the Boks scored 15 points. Yes­ter­day they did not fire a shot. They could not score a sin­gle point.

The knee-jerk re­ac­tion SHELL-SHOCKED: Springboks re­act af­ter their 57-0 loss to the All Blacks in Al­bany yes­ter­day. is to cru­cify the Boks, from Al­lis­ter Coet­zee down to the wa­ter­boy, and throw them all to the wolves. And then what?

When emo­tions calm down, we have to look at this game in con­text.

The Boks clearly are not as far up the tra­jec­tory curve as we had hoped for af­ter last year, while this was as game where the All Blacks fi­nally de­liv­ered their best per­for­mance of the year.

The hosts rarely made a mis­take and the gulf be­tween their skill lev­els and that of the Boks is as wide as the grand canyon, as one critic put it this week.

The truth is that the Boks are bet­ter than this the score­line, com­pared to last year, if only be­cause they have a bet­ter spirit and be­lief af­ter 12 games in 2016 when they re­sem­bled Zom­bies.

The fact Al­lis­ter Coet­zee said this week the Boks had a chance of beat­ing the All Blacks on home soil was both as naive as it was pre­ma­ture.

The first 20 min­utes in­deed showed the Boks be­lieved they could win, but as Coet­zee said af­ter the match: “In that 20, we had three try-scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties but han­dling er­rors let us down, while the All Blacks, against the run of play had the same num­ber of op­por­tu­ni­ties but slickly fin­ished them off, and sud­denly it was 22-0.

“De­spite us hav­ing played some of our best rugby of the year. We are hurt­ing, the play­ers are dev­as­tated but we just could not crack them.

“Emo­tion­ally, I know the group will not give up.

“We have no op­tion. We will get stronger from this be­fore play­ing Aus­tralia.”

Cap­tain Eben Etze­beth said: “It is go­ing to be hard to pick our heads up, but we will bounce back. We have too.”

Had El­ton Jan­tjies first of all kicked an early reg­u­la­tion penalty to put his team ahead, and then his team­mates had nailed those tries in­stead of mak­ing ba­sic han­dling er­rors, maybe it would have been a more com­pet­i­tive game.

You can’t throw in­ter­cept passes to the All Blacks.

Ray­mond Rhule has to make his tack­les (he surely has mis-tack­led his way

P W D L F A Pts New Zealand .... 4 4 0 0 185 85 19 Southafrica ..... 4 2 1 1 10111811 Aus­tralia ........... 4 1 1 2 131 132 8 Ar­gentina .......... 4 0 0 4 80 162 0 out of the team), Mal­colm Marx can­not be im­mense in gen­eral play, but then miss throw-ins to his jumpers, giv­ing the most lethal team in the world sud­den counter-at­tack ball.

Be­fore the game Coet­zee said: “We have to show com­po­sure on at­tack, de­fence, have solid set pieces and not make mis­takes in the red zone.”

Sorry Al­lis­ter, no ticked boxes there. And a heck of lot more than you have not men­tioned.

Some 90 minute later, af­ter his team had been lucky to achieve nil, Coet­zee said: “We were just out­played by the best team in the world who chose to­day to hit their straps.

“Their first three tries caught us nap­ping, and they cap­i­talised on our er­rors and sud­denly you are chas­ing the game, when we could have been 10 points or so up if we had taken our chances in the open­ing quar­ter (which in­cluded that Jan­tjies sit­ter). All credit to the All Blacks, they were su­perb, we did well with our ter­ri­tory and pos­ses­sion in first half, and if we had got points, maybe it would have turned out dif­fer­ent.

“And of course our set pieces were badly off-colour.”

Sorry Al­lis­ter, ter­ri­tory and pos­ses­sion mean noth­ing if you do not put them to use and the bot­tom line is eight tries to zero.

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