So the Springboks won their Tri-Nations encounter against the All Blacks 18-5. The way the Boks went about it suggests to me they did everything in their power to ensure they did not suffer the embarrassing feat of having their first winless Tri-Nations tournament ever.
But there’s a small matter of a World Cup lying ahead – and most pundits are using the build-up matches, such as the one played in Port Elizabeth, as a barometer.
If I were Peter De Villiers, I would be worried – especially with the World Cup almost upon us. Worried because this team still refuses to score tries.
Imagine if the Kiwis had taken their opportunities. No, they weren’t possible penalties or drop-kicks that were missed or not taken by the All Blacks. These were try-scoring opportunities I’m on about.
If the All Blacks won, it would have been nothing short of a national disaster in South Africa right now and damage control would have been the order of the day.
The Boks must remember the adage that goes: One swallow does not a summer make. Win one match and you’re on top of the world.
The Boks were playing not only for pride, but to keep an increasingly critical and impatient South African public at bay. Now, the Boks are back on track, through one solid victory built on solid defence, the odd up-and-under, tactical kicking and stealing the opposition’s ball. Or are we, really?
One thing is clear. Morne Steyn will stay at flyhalf. No matter to what extent he is criticised for being a one-trick pony and merely a link in the team, De Villiers knows he is in fact the cog around which the team revolves.
If someone as brilliant as Dan Carter is having an off day with the boot; you’ll bet 11 out of 10 times Steyn wouldn’t. And if Steyn does in fact have a bad day and their defence-minded strategy implodes, then the Boks will look like a “C side” again.
The All Blacks it must be said were disappointing, only because they were too error-prone on the night. They outplayed the Springboks in terms of attacking options, but found the opposition’s defence too tight and desperate.
The fact the Boks won wasn’t a huge surprise to fans of the game. Many felt the team/squad Graham Henry brought to PE could not guarantee victory against a desperate Bok side – and some players did their reputations no good at all.
On the night for both these teams it seemed like two steps forward and two steps back.