Australia (13) 23
South Africa (10) 23
A draw is hardly a place from which South Africans can see progress, but the Springboks’ away Rugby Championship result against Australia yesterday represented just that.
In probably their biggest test in a season in which they have shown a promising response to a wretched last year, the Boks failed to win for the first time in six games, but, taken in its entirety, the 23-all draw still confirmed the suspicion that they are a team on the up.
This was in no small part thanks to a barnstorming second half, where they finished the game the stronger side after looking every bit a team out of sorts and not quite what their countrymen have come to expect this season.
Allister Coetzee’s men comfortably put in their worst first half of the year.
Their scrum dominance didn’t quite show in the first half thanks to the Aussies’ street smarts; their discipline let them down; their kicking out of hand was overdone and inaccurate; they were as sloppy at the breakdown as their hosts; and they came off second best in the aerial contest.
Perhaps mindful of the fact that they were the away team, the Boks’ approach was to play for territory.
While it started off well, it then bordered on the pointless as not only did they fail to kick out to force the Aussies to use their wobbly line-out, they hardly looked like getting the ball back.
A sign of the lack of enterprise by both sides was how they scored the four tries. The Boks’ first, by centre Jesse Kriel, came against the run of play from a Pieter-Steph du Toit counter-ruck inside his own half.
The hosts’ response was from a botched kick-off receipt by the Boks, which saw Kurtley Beale take the blindside and find just one Bok defender to beat and score.
The next two tries, by hookers Tatafu Polota-Nau and Malcolm Marx, were from rolling mauls.
While the first half was a scrappy affair that bristled with intent but didn’t boil over into a full-blooded game, the desperation not to lose was the stimulus that turned it into a red-blooded contest.
During that time, three Bok players involved in the first half, Du Toit, Coenie Oosthuizen and Siya Kolisi, upped the intensity, while the flaming-haired Steven Kitshoff again brought the heat from the bench.
Du Toit was massive in the game, counter-rucking for the visitors’ first try; earning the first ruck penalty; being the Boks’ go-to man and stealing ball in the line-outs; and making some decisive carries from the base of the ruck.
Oosthuizen, who led the Boks in the tackle count with 15 at one stage, is a man transformed as a destructive scrummager at tight head, while Kolisi has a wonderful knack of reading when a game needs him to make a game-changing play. – City Press correspondent