Let me start off by congratulating the All Blacks. A side that was under immense pressure, with a coach on the chopping block made it look like they were playing at home, so comfortable they were. On the other side the Springboks management were made to look like they were coaching rugby for the first time this week, maybe they should be put under pressure this time around.
Let me start with the 'Bomb Squad' a term equal in endearment and trepidation coined in 2019 when deployed on occasion. Back then the Boks relied on a horses for courses selection which meant that the 6-2 split only featured in specific tests, it was by no means the expect norm. For the second week on the trot the risk has proven costly. A 9th minute head knock sent Jessie Kriel from the field and suddenly the Boks were left with a single bench option in Herschel Jantjies for the remainder of the encounter.
This also lead to a rejigging of the backline as we had no out and out wing on the bench. Le Roux came on at 15, sending Willemse to 12, De Allende to 13 and Am to 14. De Allende struggled to have his usual impact in the wider channel, whilst the rejigged backline was caught out a number of times defensively as they struggled to gel in the face of an All Blacks running assault. Ronnie and I discussed the use of the 6-2 split and bomb squad in the Podcast, which you can check out here.
Moving on from the construction of the bench, there are two calls that absolutely shocked me this week. The selection of Joseph Dweba to start once Bongi was injured was an interesting one, considering Marx's man of the match performance at Mbombela. The player had a shocker of a test as Sam Whitelock looked like he'd been training with the Boks all week, pinching lineout ball at will. This aside, the coaches wanted to use this as an opportunity to give the player experience and show they back him, wow did they fail dismally.
To be substituted in the 29th minute is an insult, I don't care what 'plan' you claim it was part of. Either the player wasn't match fit at all and the Bok management weren't paying attention when selecting him, or they simply destroyed every ounce of the players confidence taking him off that early. What a joke it was to see Marx on at 29 minutes, the All Blacks front row must have been licking their lips at the fact they wouldn't have to face a fresh Marx in the second half.
Then to Duane, who was another early substitute. I am tired of the Springboks using test rugby to allow players to find form and fitness, it is simply not the place for it. The whole world knows that Thor is incredible on the field, but the Boks have an abundance of talent at loose forward and rushing him back, in such a massive test shows them up on many fronts. Players, whether a world cup winner or not, must earn the right to wear the Green & Gold. You perform well for your club, you earn a call up and go from there.
Vermeulen was substituted in the 35th minute with Jasper Wiese. Wiese has come into his own in the Bok jersey and whilst I have never been his loudest supporter, he did not deserve to be sitting on the bench on Saturday. Adding to this substitution was Ox Nche off for Kitshoff also in the 35th minute.
Before half time the Springboks had already made 3 substitutions, a decision that would come back to bite them. Altitude is clearly not a factor that benefits the Springboks anymore, with players scattered around the world, they are hardly used to it. Using the bench so early meant the players ran out of steam and the huffing and puffing was obvious. The All Blacks out coached the Springboks yesterday and their smart use of the bench made it look like they had trained at altitude for months, if you doubt what i'm saying, re-watch the last 10 minutes of that test and you'll understand.