SA vs WALES: patchy game with some brilliant moments from the Boks!

Neil Jardine

Captained Rhodesia 1962 – 1969 Rector of Michaelhouse. (1978-1986)

"Rugby is a thinking game – its’ not a running or a kicking game. This mania for running with the ball and playing open rugby at all costs is stupid – you must adapt yourself to the circumstances and play to your strength"

Now 50 years later Niel Jardine writes for Frosty Rugby Fans ...


The Springboks took their opportunities; the Welsh couldn't or, more correctly, were not allowed to. Apart from some feeble tackling early on when Jonathan Davies cut through SA's first line of defence, the visitors' defence was solid throughout. Tackles were physical and collision was the order of the day. It was 'full-frontal-tough' out there.

Conditions made scrumming difficult, but this neither explains nor excuses yet another match slowed down by collapsing scrums. Nick Mallett has said that the new laws are supposed to prevent this sort of thing. Well, they don't. How many 'heels against the head' have you seen in recent matches? The scrumhalves still don't put the ball in fairly, refs are either myopic or don't care and one or other prop goes down in every other scrum. And as for the 'game being decided upfront', that parroted cry week-in-week-out, it is of course, utter nonsense. In this match, the scrums appeared to cope with each other fairly evenly to no marked effect on the game. (Rugby League administrators and players must be laughing up their sleeves).

The ref? Well I couldn't read his mind or work out his decisions. That's more a criticism of my ignorance than a criticism of him but I do know he became so frustrated he did something I've never seen before: sent off two props from the same side of the scrum, both apparently guilty of some serious misdemeanour at the same time. At other scrums - and there were only about fifteen in the entire match, how did he know who transgressed? Did he know or did he guess? I know that's not fair but it's a measure of my overall frustration.

The line-outs were fairly contested and from one, the Springboks scored a marvellous Bismarck du Plessis try from the subsequent maul. He showed real presence of mind under pressure by twisting around to ground the ball, something very difficult to counter. Habana showed his great talent when he made all the running for Jean de Villiers' try. But who was up in support of Habana? The indefatigable Bismarck, cruising up like a battleship to hand the ball on to his skipper. (His discipline was so much better than in the previous game). The other try was a beaut too, with Jaque Fourie's flick pass to Fourie du Preez extremely skilful. Was Jaque in front of du Preez when the latter kicked? If he was, the ref didn't pick it up and neither did the assistant ref, who was one metre away from the action. What an advantage it is to have a two-footed kicker in a situation like that. If, for example, Habana had received the ball there, he would have had to duck inside to use his right foot – not acceptable.

(What he's doing on the left wing is incomprehensible, and, what's more, he carries the ball under the wrong i.e inside arm when approaching the try line. Again, totally unacceptable! Do you remember, on the last Lions' tour how Ubogo missed scoring because he, on the left wing, had the ball under his 'inside' arm. JP Pietersen hit him with a massive smother tackle and he lost the ball. Elementary error. What do the coaches think they are doing? Well in that case, of course, they were busy losing a series they should have won. Three errors denied them – the one described above, failure to tackle Jaque Fourie into touch when he had 5 metres to go and was only one metre in from touch and scored, and O'Gara's insane tackle of Morne Steyn in the air in the final test. On such unthinking mistakes are games won and lost.)

So overall, it was a patchy game with some brilliant moments from the Boks. Breakdowns dominated and possession was equally distributed, but the Boks' defence was impenetrable. Hats off to the coaching staff in that department. Last thought: why do we still give away 5 kickable penalties, in this case, against a fantastic goal-kicker in Leigh Halfpenny, who played, on the day, like a sovereign?

(A friend, Peter Columbine, suggests free-kicks instead of penalties, for scrum infringements. What do you think? I suspect, teams will soon find a way to circumvent it to their advantage. But then, something needs to be done – soon!) I'm sick of the 'spin' pass! It slows things down and has absolutely no merit except for long passes.

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