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Can Boks break the cycle?

The third year of a World Cup cycle is usually testing, and Heyneke Meyer's Springbok team face another uphill battle.

Some will say that this sounds like just another excuse for under par performances, but the fact remains that historically the Springboks have struggled the year before a World Cup when the injury toll is normally most severe.

 

In 2006 the Boks were hammered 49-0 by the Wallabies and Jake White was called back from their year-end tour to Europe to justify his position before going on to lift the World Cup the following year.

 

Peter de Villiers' team also suffered something of a slump in 2010 after the lofty heights of British and Irish Lions and Tri Nations glory the year before, with defeat to Scotland at Murrayfield causing great alarm.

 

Springbok doctor Craig Roberts has been telling anyone who will listen for the last two years that 2014 would be the most challenging season for Meyer's team injury-wise, and has been proven right with a number of top players falling by the wayside.

 

The Boks won eight consecutive Test matches before slipping up against the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday, but they have not been nearly as convincing as last year when the only team they lost to was the All Blacks.

 

Their late jailbreak against Wales in Nelspruit and two narrow wins over the Pumas at home and away showed some vulnerabilities which were fully exposed as they self-destructed in Perth.

 

Whilst some will bemoan the influence of the referee, the reality is that the Wallabies were off their game and should never have been within striking distance when Rob Horne went over for the winning try on Saturday.

 

The rest of their Rugby Championship campaign will show exactly what this Bok team is made of, with three showdowns with the standard-setting All Blacks and a chance for revenge against the Wallabies at home.

 

Meyer's team is right up against it now as they head to Wellington, with all of the odds seemingly stacked against them so the next three games will give us a good indication of how they are likely to respond to intense pressure.

 

By Michael de Vries

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