Boks in danger of being second-tier nation
So where to from here for the Springboks? An eighth defeat this year and ending November’s northern hemisphere tour winless for the first time since 2002 are other additions to a growing list of embarrassments for South African rugby in 2016.
Allister Coetzee’s Boks played three tests – losing 37-21 to England, 20-18 against Italy and 27-13 to Wales – to rack up defeats six, seven and eight.
They also drew 31-31 against a makeshift Barbarians team.
This touring party was not even an impersonation of a Springbok team, it was a shallow facsimile of a once-powerful rugby collective.
South Africa has been playing test rugby for 125 years and there has never been a worse season because, despite everything, Coetzee has not controlled what he could control.
The coach has spent the last month, since the historic indaba, hammering home the message that South Africa’s rugby’s structure is weak and that the Springboks’ problems are the symptom of those weaknesses.
But that does not exonerate him from his duty to develop a team and construct it on simple, time-honoured rugby basics.
Defence, something that Springbok teams have been revered for over more than a century, was treated as a discipline that would take care of itself rather than a top priority.
Three defence coaches over a period of 12 tests underlines just how shambolic the preparation for the season was.
Coetzee has complained that he did not have time to prepare properly, given that he was officially appointed on April 11.
It is a point, but then he should have prioritised the basics and prepared a team with a watertight defence and a limited gameplan to ensure better results.
Not only did he not control the controllables, as sports people say, he never even identified what they were.
In 12 tests, the Boks leaked 35 tries, which included nine against the All Blacks in Durban when they lost 57-15.
It was the most tries per game (2.9) the Boks have conceded in a season in the professional era.
In 452 tests between 1891 and 2015 the Boks conceded 692 tries, or an average concession of 1.5 per test.
They have nearly doubled that rate, and that is why, more than any other reason, they have lost 67% of their matches this year.
Losing to Ireland at home for the first time, when the tourists were down to 14 men for the bulk of the match, was the first sign that 2016 was going to be wreck.
The disaster continued unabated through the Rugby Championship and smashed into a wall on the fields of Europe.
All that’s left now is for Coetzee to be shown the door and a new coach – with vision and a blueprint – to start the process of rebuilding the image of Springbok rugby to be strapped in.
If the Boks endure one more season like this year, they will be consigned to a permanent place among tier-two nations.