Cape Town – Sport24’s Herman Mostert highlights FIVE talking points following the Springboks’ 22-20 defeat to Wales in Washington DC:
1. Wales a bogey side for Boks?!
The headline above would have been unthinkable a few years ago but Saturday’s defeat in the American capital was South Africa’s third straight defeat to Wales.
Overall, the Welsh have won only five times in 34 Tests against the Springboks but – and rather worryingly from a local perspective – they’ve now won four of the last five encounters between the nations.
It’s not acceptable for a nation with South Africa’s depth to be struggling so often against Wales.
The so-called ‘aura’ of the Springboks took a battering over the past two seasons and new coach Rassie Erasmus has a monumental task at hand.
2. Not the best advert for World Rugby
The Test at Robert F Kennedy Stadium was hardly a spectacle World Rugby would be proud of.
If this match was their aim to grow the game in America, then the PR stint failed.
Reports indicated that World Rugby had to pitch in with a financial rescue package to bail out the organisers of the match after it failed to hit the break-even target of 27 000 spectators through the turnstiles.
In the end, the official attendance was 21 357, less than half the stadium’s 45 596 capacity.
The quality of rugby on display from two second-string outfits also left much to be desired.
The litany of handling errors, kicks into no-man’s land and countless reset scrums would not have appeased the average American sports fan…
3. Boks made me fall asleep!
The Springboks’ first half performance was right up there with the worst efforts seen in the Allister Coetzee era.
Several dropped balls, defensive lapses and woeful tactical kicking – with halfbacks Ivan van Zyl and Elton Jantjies serial offenders – made for ugly viewing from a South African perspective.
I’ll admit I struggled to stay awake!
The quality of rugby dished up in the first stanza was not what one would expect from professional rugby players.
The Boks did well to regain the lead in the second period and should have held on for the victory, but for a fatal charge-down error from replacement flyhalf Robert du Preez.
4. It was NOT a penalty try
I felt English referee Matthew Carley made the right decision when he ruled against the Springboks’ appeal for a penalty try in the second half.
With the Boks attacking close to the tryline in the 56th minute, centre Jesse Kriel had followed up on a chip kick over the Welsh defence by Jantjies.
Kriel and two defenders contested for the aerial ball in the in-goal area, before Wales centre Owen Watkin slapped the ball over the dead-ball line.
This was no doubt a cynical infringement and the Springboks immediately appealed for a penalty try.
However, after looking at several replays of the incident, Carley made the right call when he gave the Wales centre a yellow card.
He was also right by not awarding a penalty try.
The referee’s explanation followed: “He (Carley) deliberately plays the ball out (but) 15 red is in a position to make the tackle if green catches it. So, no penalty try, but a yellow card.”
The referee explained it well – he could not with certainty say that Kriel would have scored if the ball was not tapped over the dead-ball line.
However, in the end it did not matter much as the Boks scored from the ensuing scrum – via left wing Makazole Mapimpi…
5. Bok standout
There weren’t many Springboks who put their hands up for selection for the first Test against England in Johannesburg, but my Bok standout award goes to centre Andre Esterhuizen.
The burly Sharks midfielder can be proud of his debut Test in which he impressed with a few bullocking runs.
Esterhuizen has proved this season that he is not just a battering ram, with his offloading skills improving markedly.
In Washington on Saturday, Esterhuizen had a hand in both Bok tries – his crunching tackle set up Travis Ismaiel’s intercept, while his surge for the tryline got the Boks on the front-foot before Mapimpi rounded off in the corner.