Boks decline coming at the worst possible time.

In the last real chance to test themselves against the other top two teams in world rugby before the 2011 World Cup, South Africa have managed to find their worst run of form since 2007. The timing is poor to say the least, the Boks have not experienced 3 defeats in a row for some time, and the magnitude of the loss to Australia last weekend will really hurt deeply. But let’s be clear, these defeats have not come as a result of great misfortune or controversial refereeing; the Boks have been their own worst enemies with some suicidal indiscipline.

Coach Peter De Villiers is now under significant pressure.

In each of the last three tests, two against New Zealand and one against Australia, they have had players sin-binned within the first ten minutes. Losing players at such an early stage in a match damages any side but when you are playing the All Blacks in New Zealand it makes it even harder. Bakkies Botha, Danie Roussouw and Jaque Fourie all helped to put their side on the back foot right from the start in each of the tests, and the indiscipline continued, Matt Giteau and James O’Connor knocked over 6 penalties between them last Saturday. Take away those points and the Boks would have won. John Smit, the captain, didn’t exactly mince his words afterwards, “We’re not on the money really on anything, we’re very realistic, how poor, how average we’ve been in most areas in the last three weeks. We’ll be the first to say that we’ve been poor, the defence has been poor, the breakdown’s been poor.”

Full back Zane Kirchner loses the ball against the All Blacks.

The Boks now have a week off in the Tri-Nations and the chance to sit down and correct things. Whilst they can no longer mathematically retain the title, they can look ahead to next year and restructure, to try out new combinations. They are missing a load of top class players, Fourie Du Preez, Heinrich Brussow, JP Pietersen and Juan Smith to name a few, so not all hope is lost, but the squad is not getting any younger. More importantly, to lose the way they have in New Zealand ahead of the World Cup next year is a huge psychological blow, and a huge boost for the All Blacks. This mental edge could be the key if it comes to an All Black and Springbok final next year. Time will tell how much damage has been done.


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