Columnist Grant Ball believes that Springbok coach Peter de Villiers blew a chance to foster some belief in his coaching ability on his team's disappointing Tri-Nations away leg.
The results were always expected with that group of players with just John Smit likely to start at the World Cup, but the manner of the defeats is concerning. The least Bok fans could've expected was their side looking like they had a plan. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. It's not surprising, looking at past dirt-tracker results such as losing to Saracens and Leicester, but that doesn't make it excusable.
What's tiring for spectators is that it's the same problems after every Test under De Villiers, where the Boks look devoid of any strategy. The coach should be able to identify the problems and rectify them, but that isn't the case.
The Boks' breakdown problems and turnovers stem from their unimaginative attack, while their kick-chase game only exposes the defensive problems with no coherent system in place.
When the A team plays, they look largely rudderless, while starting with second-string individuals provided De Villiers with the chance to show his detractors that he can provide technical nous, leadership and guidance. He failed, again.
De Villiers blamed the Boks' defence on lack of preparation, but before the tour he said the side was blessed because they had so much time. He also said players reverted to their franchise structures when under pressure. That shows a lack of confidence in him and his coaching staff. The players can't be blamed for not believing in De Villiers.
John Smit predictably defended De Villiers last week. The players always talk of how nice a guy De Villiers is, but never about his rugby acumen. There are lots of nice guys in South Africa, but not all of them have the privilege of coaching the Springboks.
To see a Bok side disgraced with so little passion illustrates major problems in the Bok camp. If De Villiers and co can't get their players up for the ultimate Test in New Zealand, is the coach really doing his job?
De Villiers tried to play the hero and said the tour was a good investment for the future of South African rugby – but many of those players' confidence is now dented. That confidence-breaking trend for some of these players started with losses to Saracens and Leicester, and another failure in a Bok jersey only provides further bad memories and isn't easy to recover from.
That these last couple of results are so readily accepted indicates a drastic drop in standards under De Villiers. When that acceptance happens, a losing mentality develops.
Hopefully De Villiers hasn't inculcated this mindset in South African rugby that it's OK to lose so easily – with or without your top players. Previous Bok coaches were savvier in trying to bring in new players, either coming off the bench at an apt time or starting alongside seniors who could nurture them through.
To those who say it's only a B team - would the Bok A side give the All Blacks and Australian B teams 40 points? An answer to that question may come on August 13 and 20 when the Boks host those sides, who could rest some of their top players.
Many claim the proof of all the work done by Rassie Erasmus will become evident once the first-choice players start. Erasmus didn't have any effect on the B side after two weeks, while the pressure on the senior players will increase with them having to show whether improvement has indeed taken place.
The Boks' home-leg has now taken on even more importance. Australia and New Zealand have momentum heading into the World Cup (handed to them by South Africa). The Boks have to create momentum of their own: pressure time.
By Grant Ball
Follow Grant Ball on Twitter; @granted123
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