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Boks caught in downward spiral

Desperate times call for desperate measures and there is no denying the Springboks are in dire straits following their reality check in Mendoza at the weekend.

The passionate yet lowly Pumas exposed the Springboks as title pretenders and handed the Rugby Championship trophy to the all-conquering All Blacks on a silver platter with their inspired 16-all draw.

For a team ranked eighth in the world heading into the round two Test to outsmart the Springboks and get under their skin in the way the wily Argentine did with their off-the-ball tactics highlighted the Springboks’ inexperience, but their problems run far deeper than a lack of experience and leadership and all were laid bare by the brave Pumas.     

The cringe-worthy performance was alarmingly Rudolf Straeuli-esque and it’s clear that no progress has been made under Heyneke Meyer this year – three wins and two draws against average English and Argentine sides confirm as much.

They have the next fortnight to pick up the pieces and prepare for their first real litmus test against Australia in Perth on September 8 and some tough decisions regarding their stale, predictable game plan and struggling playing personnel will need to be made.

Meyer has talked a good game but he is yet to back it up. The halfback pairing is still stuttering along, the breakdown is still a major cause for concern and there’s still no plan B to fall back on when they’re matched physically.  

It’s time for Meyer to lay down the law. How many more poor performances is it going to take before Morne Steyn is given a long overdo wake-up call and dropped from the side? Kurtley Beale had one shocker against the All Blacks and was immediately dispatched to the bench.

To suggest that there’s no other alternatives is daft. South Africa currently have more depth at flyhalf than ever before, yet Steyn is given monopoly of the number ten jersey and played every minute of every Test regardless of form.  

Francois Hougaard doesn’t fit into the Springboks’ kick-and-chase game plan. It’s as simple as that. You don’t have to be Rassie Erasmus to know that much. His strengths are his speed, slick footwork and attacking flair, not box kicking. Either shift him to the wing or to the bench – it’s that simple.

It’s the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. World-class players like Pat Lambie and Ruan Pienaar are waiting in the wings, while others like Jano Vermaak merely make up the numbers.

There’s no logic in delaying the inevitable changes that need to be made.

By Quintin van Jaarsveld


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