The Springboks undoubtedly disgraced a 111-year brand this past weekend.
In no universe is a record 57-0 loss to the All Blacks acceptable and coach Allister Coetzee should at least be fined by the South African Rugby Union (Saru) for bringing the local game into disrepute.
His comment of being “pleased with a couple of brilliant defensive efforts” is simply embarrassing when you consider the Springboks missed a whopping 32 tackles.
Coetzee and his coaching staff should also take full responsibility for some of their selections, especially a back three (Rhule, Coetzee, Skosan) that don’t look up to international standard.
But to call for them to be fired now is simply unrealistic.
We can’t view the true state of Springboks rugby as the biggest problem plaguing the local game.
It’s maybe the most visible one but it’s actually only a symptom.
On current evidence, South African rugby is dying a slow death at all levels except maybe schools.
And that’s the reason why the Springboks slumped to this loss.
National teams are the flagship properties of any rugby-playing country.
They are the most visible and are (in theory at least) represent the best of that country.
In other words, the Springboks should be displaying what makes South African rugby great.
However, what we seem to forget is that a national team is only as good as the players it can select.
This is why calling for Coetzee and co to fall is unfair.
Yes, Brendan Venter should be blamed for the Springboks’ passive defensive system and questionable kick-off and exit (the way you get out of your half after a kick-off).
But Venter can’t teach Raymond Rhule how to tackle.
Franco Smith’s attacking pattern for the Springboks needs to be discussed because it’s not particularly fluent at the moment.
But he can’t teach Francois Hougaard to have the vision of All Blacks scrumhalf Aaron Smith when he makes 8 handling errors and can’t even pass consistently.
Here is what we need to realise: the Springboks camp isn’t a space where players still need to learn basic skills, it’s a finishing school.
The Springboks coaches aren’t hired to still teach players not to make 37 handling errors in a Test match.
That’s the job of provincial coach, preferably one at age-group level.
Heck, a player needs to be taught basic handling skills when he’s eight years old.
South African rugby is dying because the coaching expertise at grassroots are poor.
It’s dying because primary schools are satisfied with letting the father of one of the Under-8 B-side members “coach” the team.
These guys are invariably armchair critics who still believe defence is the backline standing a few steps behind each other – and we wonder why our senior players struggled with a rush defence!
It doesn’t get much better at the upper levels.
Provincial rugby has a dire shortage of top-class, experienced coaches.
Our South African Schools team lost all their games this season.
This year’s Craven Week was a circus of unbalanced rugby, an absurd spectacle where everybody wanted to cross the whitewash but no-one wanted to tackle.
Our Super Rugby sides haven’t won the tournament since 2010.
The Cheetahs and Kings are struggling to cope with the basic demands of playing in the Pro14.
Nobody wants to watch the Currie Cup anymore because its format keeps changing every year and its competitiveness sinks annually.
In fact, we’ve reached the stage where the team that can keep most of its Super Rugby staff wins the tournament.
That’s distinctly unhealthy.
And let’s not forget the administrators.
Saru president Mark Alexander early last week said the Springboks could in future field two sides – one for the Southern Hemisphere season and one for the Northern.
They don’t even have enough depth to score a single point against the All Blacks!
Now there’s talk of Griquas and the Pumas also joining the Anglo-Saxon cup on the basis of them beating the Cheetahs and Western Province.
And people wonder why the Springboks got thrashed…