The Springboks under Jacques Nienaber have failed to inspire in 2022, there is no denying it. Whilst we still celebrate on the back of our World Cup win in 2019 and hope for what may materialise in 2023, the Boks are simply not cutting it at the levels we expected them to this year. A home loss to Wales for the first time in our history, failure to burry the All Blacks when they were on the back foot and questionable squad and team selections have left many a fan frustrated.
In the past the Boks have sent a somewhat understrength side to Australia with the first choice players heading to New Zealand to acclimatize (think 2018 and 2019) and this was seen as acceptable due to the desire to win against our biggest rivals, the All Blacks. There is no such tactic in place this year though as we have concluded our fixtures against New Zealand and for this reason, I am baffled by the match day 23 that was named so early in the week.
The Aussies have yet to name their side, but the Boks have largely stuck with the team that backfired against the All Blacks. It does not inspire confidence that if things don't go well for the starting XV, we have Elton on the bench who had a shocker against Wales at Loftus and Frans Steyn who hasn't played since sustaining a hamstring injury in the Currie Cup in May. Add to this the fact that Vermeulen is short of a gallop or two and Jasper Wiese is not there to come to his aid in the 34th minute, we could be in trouble.
In my opinion, a prudent coach would have reviewed the Wallabies clashes with Los Pumas and quickly realised that this Aussie side starts quite slowly. In both of their fixtures in Argentina they struggled in the first 40 to put things together and get their game flowing. Argentina even managed to score two tries in the first 6 minutes of the last test and they had managed to score their 4th try bonus point before the teams headed down the tunnel at half time.
Why then did the Boks decide to start the likes of Dweba and Vermeulen in the pack? Two players who failed to put in any major contributions at Ellis Park and cost us momentum with their lack of impetus on both defense and attack. The stats don't lie and Dweba's 4 stolen lineouts with Duane's total of 3 tackles with 14m gained on attack handed momentum to a wounded All Blacks side, momentum they were all too happy to run away with. Why not start strong against a side that starts slowly and build up an encouraging lead before allowing players in need of game time to get that in the latter stages.
Maybe I am wrong and Jacques Nienaber did in fact notice this, but decided he'd rather have a fair contest and keep the Wallabies in the fixture until the second half and then take a gamble at who can fire in the final 40. Maybe the Boks don't want to land that killer blow early because its got a 'rugby' reason. It is all good and well to say oh well we have the bomb squad and they will get the job done, but you don't need a bomb squad if the starting XV can do the job from the get go. This selection hardly says we've come here to set the record straight and I fear that we are staring down the barrel of two defeats in Aus for the second year on the trot.
An over reliance on past form, what has worked in the past and an inability to adapt is keeping the Boks stuck in the middle. Good enough to win some tests, but not all of them. The old mantra of 'change before you have to' has been forgotten and if the Boks continue to rely on what worked for them in 2019, they will watch from the stands as France or Ireland lift the World Cup in just over a years time. There just seems to be no innovation.