South Africa were beaten 21-17 against a Scottish side that were comprehensively thrashed by the All Blacks a week before. It would be fantasy to believe that the Scotland side performed a miraculous turnaround in a week. The truth is their game is just rising to average and their performance today wasn’t much above this benchmark. South Africa were awful in every facet of the game barring the rolling maul. The curious decisions started before kick-off with Ruan Pienaar left on the bench when 2 weeks ago he was a hero against Ireland in almost identical conditions. Many rate Hougaard very highly but after this performance, it is painfully obvious how much we miss Fourie du Preez.
The first 15 minutes of the game looked promising for the Boks who were dominant in the front and 6-0 thanks to the reliable boot of Morne Steyn. Unfortunately this was the highlight of the Springboks game and they seem to still believe that games can be won without possession. The rest of the game was a mixture of kicking the ball away, watching backline that didn’t ignite and some dubious throws into the line-ou,t which fortuitously led to the Boks’ only try. To make matters worse, Stuart Dickinson was appalling as a ref making some rather harsh calls but he in no way contributed to the South African’s demise.
Pieter de Villiers has had my full backing right from day 1. He picked up where Jake White hit a ceiling in terms of Springbok playing style and turned the world champions into true champions, winning the Tri-nations last year with the best rugby South Africa has ever played including beating New Zealand at home, something that has been a rarity. Sadly whilst he had taken South Africa to new highs in his tenure, his recent performances have been unconvincing and the questions asked about his ability as a coach and a manager are gaining momentum. South African rugby has gone from a side with an impenetrable defence and slick moving backline to a team with 15 headless chickens. There seems to be little structure in the Springbok camp and the many injuries do not explain the lack of organisation in the backline.
Focusing on PdV management ability, many fans will remember curious substitutions that nearly lost the opening game in the British Lions series and recently against Ireland the substitutions almost cost us the game. De Villiers has often been under fire for his tactical substitutions and today these substitutions cost SA any chance of winning. I am all for exposing the new players to the pressures of international rugby but we are a nation that believes winning is the key metric for judging a team’s performance. Substituting Steyn for Lambie was an unforgivable mistake and leaving Hougaard on the field for 45 minutes was 40 minutes too long.
South Africa’s ineptitude to comprehend the importance of possession was highlighted with 5 minutes to play when they were awarded a free kick in their own half and promptly used this as an up and under attempt, which returned possession to the Scots who effectively ensured SA wouldn’t see the ball again. This was a performance to forget, played in terrible conditions against an average Scotland team. Pieter de Villiers has a lot to answer for and a win against England is non-negotiable for the fans to have any confidence in his ability to retain the William Webb Ellis trophy. If we lose on Saturday Pieter de Villiers should gracefully admit defeat and resign before he is pushed.