South Africa’s rugby team are reeling from a second consecutive defeat to Australia, the loss of their world number one ranking and a torrent of criticism back home.
While the Springboks are used to criticism over their style of play after the victorious but dull Lions series, their infamous tactics met their match one again in Brisbane as the Wallabies beat them 30-17.
Next up is the rampant All Blacks, now the official best team in the world, on Saturday.
And the Boks head into that match under immense pressure after their latest poor performance.
The South African publication dished out a brutal set of player ratings, with half-backs Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard only scoring 3/10.
Of Pollard they said: “Kicked better than last week but that’s not saying much. Can’t tackle all of a sudden. Missed a number of crucial tackles. Badly out of sorts which is a massive concern as the gap to the next best fly-half (Elton Jantjies or even Morne Steyn?!) is huge!”
While the verdict on de Klerk was: “Deserved yellow card for cynical play cost his team dearly. Kicking game was acceptable, but so keen to give away possession the game-plan has to be questioned.”
SA Rugby Magazine described South Africa as being at a crossroads after the two defeats.
Writer Zelim Nel wrote: “While it’s not the first time the Boks have been at a crossroads since 2018, there’s a perceptible lack of direction as they prepare for an especially meaningful showdown with the All Blacks.
“Rally to chase New Zealand to the final whistle and a semblance of confidence will be restored; clinch an unexpected win and the losses against Australia will fade into a distant memory; capitulate in another lacklustre effort and the sirens will begin to wail.”
Craig Lewis added: “The Springboks have been bullied and beaten by a Wallabies side that has brutally exposed the shortcomings of the world champs.
“Most pundits felt that the Boks’ last-minute loss to Australia last weekend was an aberration rather than a sign of things to come.
“On the eve of the rematch at Suncorp Stadium, Springbok captain Siya Kolisi said the team had taken a hard look at themselves this past week – and could, and would – be better.
“Yet, as it turned out, they were worse. Considerably worse.”
It wasn’t just in South Africa where the knives were out. Former All Blacks coach Laurie Mains claimed “four or five” Springboks players are not good enough to play international rugby.
“I think there’s four or five players in that team that simply are not up to Test level, and I think you’ll see that the All Blacks’ three-quarters will run riot against them,” Mains told the Stuff website.
“The centre and the two wings look simply just not good enough to be playing at that level.
“And, I’d have some questions over one or two of their forwards too. It’s all very well they have big strong props, but boy, they’ve got to be mobile.”
The two Springbok centres were Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am, while the wings on Saturday were Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi.
While the Springboks themselves admitted it was their worst performance since 2018, a spikey Pollard accused the Wallabies of getting away with questionable tactics, although he didn’t specify what they were.
It is thought he was referring to the way Australia countered the world champions’ famous box-kicking game by getting players in between the chasers and catcher.
“They are very street smart,” Pollard said. “They definitely train it and the referees don’t see everything. If referees pick it up now and then, great. We do prep the refs on that as well.
“It’s very difficult to see a lot of stuff off the ball with the refs focusing on the ball and breakdown. They’re good at it. They do it very well and they get away with it 90 per cent of the time.
“We don’t do that. We don’t coach that and we don’t play the game that way but it’s not a problem if they want to do it. We should handle it.”
Pollard also snapped back at suggestions the Boks’ attitude to the game had been wrong.
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