Springboks move to Scotland in better shape
The Springboks can move to Edinburgh with a spring in their step after they rode their luck against France in Paris on Saturday to snatch a dramatic injury-time 29-26 win over Les Blues.
The margins at Test level are so fine that despite winning the game with a try as the final credits were rolling‚ the Boks are no better or worse because the result went their way.
Having been cruelly denied a chance to win the game with a penalty in the dying seconds of their tour opener against England the previous week‚ the Boks finally had some luck.
Hooker Bongi Mbonambi’s winning try from the back of a rolling maul four minutes into optional time handed the Boks a win that was perhaps fortunate on the balance of play.
But as SA learned the previous week at Twickenham when losing 12-11‚ dominating most of the match doesn’t necessarily translate to winning.
In their previous two clashes against the All Blacks in Pretoria and England at Twickenham they were the better team for most of those encounters and lost.
Sometimes you win games you shouldn’t and on other occasions the opposite happens.
What is becoming evident with these Boks under Rassie Erasmus is that they are competitive in every match.
There are no blowouts anymore‚ unlike the ghastly 2016 and 2017 seasons when the Boks conceded 57 points twice to the All Blacks and lost 38-3 to Ireland.
The Boks might have only won six out of 12 games this year‚ but other than a dead-rubber third Test against England in Cape Town in June‚ which they lost 25-10‚ there have only been a handful of points in every game.
The Boks’ average score this year is 25-24 in their favour‚ which sums up their season. Nothing has been easy but nothing has been terrible either.
They have had to battle for wins and have lost some heartbreakers too.
Three of their losses have been by two points or less‚ and three of their wins have been by three points or less.
“Last week (against England) we took it through 15 phases to get a penalty to win the game (and it didn’t happen) and this week we had to score a try to win the match‚” Erasmus said after the win against France.
“It was definitely not the most clinical performance but the team was gusty enough and it feels much better.”
France led 23-9 early in the second half but the Boks rallied well to comeback just as they had done against England in June in the first two Tests and against the All Blacks in Wellington.
France scored two tries in a four-minute period either side of halftime to stretch the lead‚ unlike in previous matches when the Boks fell behind in the opening quarter of matches.
“We’ve done it a few times this year where we were behind quite early in the match‚ but this time it happened just before and after halftime and that made it tough‚” Erasmus said.
“There were a few big moments (for us) and I thought our guys handled those and the pressure very well.”
The Boks moved to Edinburgh to prepare to face Scotland at Murrayfield next weekend.
The lineout was one big area of improvement after it fell apart against England with the Boks winning all 13 of their own throws against France. It’s a much better foundation for the Boks to build on against Scotland.
The Scots produced a handy‚ confidence-boosting 54-17 win over Fiji at the weekend and showed enough attacking intelligence to ensure the Boks won’t be complacent heading into their next clash.
Erasmus must now weigh up his need to blood some young players against the demands of winning against Scotland.
Embrose Papier and Louis Schreuder in particular need game time at scrumhalf while loosehead Trevor Nyakane and hooker Bongi Mbonambi could do with a start.
Likewise lock RG Snyman could do with a full game and the loose trio might need a tweak with No 8 Warren Whiteley struggling for form.