No disgrace for Ace as Springboks save face

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

It was very clear at half-time that the Automotive Ace – an infrequent though ever-welcome member of the usual gathering – was far from happy with the misfiring Springbok machine.

And had he been at Ellis Park he would likely have joined in on the resounding boos which followed a chastened South African team into the dressing-room 19-3 down to the fighting Irish. “That,” he said in a no-nonsense analysis of the first 40 minutes of the second Test of the three-match series, “was abysmal.

“Too many mistakes, no real go-forward with any real intent even with the amount of ball the Boks had. Poor kicking and aimless options. No wonder we are down in the series”. He was not alone in his summation of a half that for coach Allister Coetzee and his side surely brought back the agonising humiliation of the opening international of the series at Newlands and that the Boks would collectively certainly rather have forgotten.

It also succinctly summed up a passage of play which looked about as comfortable as a rabbit caught in the headlights. But the Automotive Ace was far from finished and was winding up for a full go at the Bok selections. “How can Coetzee blame Super Rugby for the lack of drive?” was the question he posed.

“And then he persists with players like Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw, who have not brought any form back from playing their rugby in Europe, and keeping the Lions players out of a team which has produced by far the best rugby by a South African side this season on the bench.

“It also looks like JP Pietersen is reaching the end of his career and Lwazi Mvovo is struggling at this level. He is also persisting with Willie le Roux, who looks like he has forgotten what made him so exciting a player when he came into the Bok side and keeps running sideways across the pitch.”

Once again there was little dissent about the Automotive Ace’s criticisms as the teams trooped out for the second half and the attention shifted from what had gone before to what the next 40 minutes promised.

The catalyst proved to be the immediate introduction of Ruan Combrinck, replacing Mvovo to earn his first cap and being rewarded with a maiden Test try – ironically from a superb offload from Le Roux in a flash of the player he can be – as Coetzee belatedly brought on the Lions players, Julian Redelinghuys giving some much-needed stability to a front row where Frans Malherbe had made little real impression, Warren Whitely replacing Vermeulen at half-time and crossing the line for a try shortly after the hour, and the hard-working Franco Mostert earning a much-deserved cap in taking over from Siya Kolisi.

And with Pieter-Steph du Toit and Damian de Allende adding tries, the Irish were sunk as the notorious extra player at Ellis Park – the thin Highveld atmosphere – took its toll on the tourists and the Boks, with fresh blood coursing through the veins of the team, completed a near-miraculous turnaround. It was left to the Automotive Ace to voice the question on everyone’s thoughts when the whistle blew on the 32-26 Springbok victory.

“Why couldn’t they play like that from the start?’’




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today in print