Despite the body of work put together this season, despite everything I have reviewed on film, I backed the Boks to win on Saturday and I believed they would win. From the opening seconds it was bad. Lood falling over his own feet from kick-off, shortly thereafter lunging aimlessly at no one. There were lots of bad defending all around, it was the typical kind of performance we have seen this season, but with a new gimmick since the Scotland game: loading up the wide channels. Lazy coaching and inept tactics. We can't create space, so we'll just lump units out against the touchline and hope that numerically we can get someone free. Unfortunately, England didn't defend as naively as the Scots. We stifled them a little with double-teams on their first receiver, but they still manfully came at us and eventually weathered that storm. I'll give Damain credit for two things: 1.A rare offload, the kind Esterhuizen does under greater pressure and with more success regularly, and 2.The cover tackle. Aside from that there was major weakness on defence. We have been dominated on the gainline in all but one test since the Georgian game. I saw the warning signs there and it never rectified itself. We have become the weaker teams in the Premier League: Implementing a stifling limited game to stop the bigger teams from unloading a full assault. Try to keep the score down and from there, if you are still in the game in the final ten minutes, you might pinch a result. Australia and New Zealand, in all four tests, busted out defence for a combined total that is near 20 try scoring opportunities. Drops, some bad decision making really let us off the hook. Make no mistake, better Kiwi sides of the kind we are used to seeing would have put 50-60 points on us, we were that open. But why the surprise? Argentina ripped our defence wide open often. The Lions, when they actually used the ball, obliterated out pack and tore our defence apart. We are not a great defensive side anymore. We are a lineout and mauling team, who occasionally is dominant in the scrum - we were third in the RC. We are rock bottom on every attacking statistic. The team was beginning to look stale in 2019, and now we look totally off the pace. As our opponents improve under the high ball, we are finding it increasingly more difficult to apply our wonky kicking game. There never was any accuracy or intelligence to our kicking game, it was all about the jumper knocking it on, or winning a penalty as they come down and a ruck forms. This is very basic. With all the talk of Ole being sacked at United, I am hearing so many things that parallel the Boks. This coaching team just wasn't up to the task. Most fans seem to see Rassie as a nice guy, they like him. They have given him the easiest unaccountable ride of any Bok coach in all the years that I have been following the game. But in the end, the Boks mirror his other work. Nienaber doesn't appear to be the defensive guru he once was either.
So what next? A backline coach? I wish it were that simple, and this comment really highlights where the fans just don't get the game at all. Look at the structure of our forwards and backs. It all works together. Our entire blueprint is failing. But Rassie never was a coach who empowers players, he likes heavily scripted sequences to control everything that happens on the field. Rugby is too organic for something like that. Even American football can't go to such an extreme. I know that the fans want to see the positives to the season, but it doesn't have very much to be positive about. It was bad enough when we thought that Australia and New Zealand were the two best teams in the world, but now we see that they are not, that the NH have continued to break down the SANZAR trio. If you look honestly through the course of this season, you will see the Boks enjoying the greatest string of reffing performances they could possibly ask for. More often than not, they're opponents have been reffed almost out of the game, if not actually reffed out of it. For Australia, New Zealand, and England to overcome that says a lot about what they are actually capable of. Our ceiling is exceedingly low right now. We had some close losses, so we are top tier? Look at the reffing and the opportunities the opposition have missed and it is actually the other way around: we were let off the hook too often. In our solitary win against New Zealand alone, we could have conceded 5 tries inside the first half! We were broken wide open, helpless. Let off. For some that's fine, living on the cusp of a few results, hinging on some ref calls to get us over the line - I now see that the great expert Mallett agrees with World Rugby and has not defended Rassie. For years I heard that there was an expectation for more. I began calculating the irb rankings for 2021 in isolation, I can already see that we are not the number one team without the double ranking points of the world cup. It's the first time that I have ever found analyzing Bok games a burden and a chore. I have not enjoyed what I have seen. After all these games, I feel a great amount of disappointment.