Allister Coetzee’s seven-month stint as Springbok coach must surely be over after the Boks slumped to only their third-ever Test loss against Wales in a 110-year history of contests between the sides.
Defeat at the Millennium Stadium last night condemned the Boks to their eighth Test defeat in 12 outings this year – their June series win over Ireland now a distant memory. It is the first time the Springboks have ever lost eight Tests in a calendar year.
Within minutes of the final whistle SA Rugby issued another statement – like they did after last week’s defeat to Italy – reiterating that they would review the Springboks season thoroughly. It won’t take very long to work out that tactically, mentally and physically the Boks have been bankrupt in 2016.
Coetzee defended himself during the week, citing lack of time between his appointment on April 11 and the first Test against Ireland on June 11 as reasons why he was on the back foot from the outset.
But England coach Eddie Jones said in the week that his job was not to teach players how to play rugby, but rather to teach them how to be a team. England won their 12th consecutive Test under Jones’ guidance earlier in the day by beating Argentina.
Coetzee can complain about all the issues that plague South African rugby, but he hasn’t forged a team with a sense of direction and purpose.
His team selection for this match – with a backline that had only 40 Test caps between it – suggested he had run out of ideas. Building for 2019 was his reasoning for fielding such a callow unit.
Predictably there was lots of huff and puff early on with the youngsters trying to run everything, but very little on field leadership.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies had another poor game in the green and gold and his halfback partner Faf de Klerk also struggled.
From the outset Jantjies looked a shadow of the player that swaggered through Super Rugby. Early on he showed his rust with a poor inside pass that was forward, another pass that missed its target altogether and an attempted chip kick that Wales flank Justin Tipuric charged. Ruan Combrinck had to desperately tidy the mess up.
Without direction from Jantjies and De Klerk the Boks never once looked close to scoring a try until the pair were withdrawn around the hour mark. Initially the backs ran laterally and when they did bash it up, Wales’ defence easily coped with the pressure.
De Klerk also earned a silly 42nd minute yellow card for a deliberate knock on and while he was off the field Wales stretched their 12-6 halftime lead to 20-6.
Fullback Leigh Halfpenny added to his four first half penalties with a fifth directly from De Klerk’s infringement and hooker Ken Owens scored from a driving maul minutes later. It was a dagger to the heart of the Boks slim hopes.
But the introduction of Pat Lambie and Piet van Zyl gave the Boks better direction at halfback and from a rolling maul tireless flank Uzair Cassiem, who enjoyed a strong debut, scored to keep the Boks alive in the contest.
Jantjies’ early penalty was just reward for a bright start but repeated mistakes set the Boks back. A lineout infringement by Lood de Jager, not rolling away by Adriaan Strauss, and an accidental offsides by Rohan Janse van Rensburg allowed Halfpenny to keep the scoreboard moving.
The Boks were also turned over in contact twice in the first half alone when fullback Johan Goosen and Janse van Rensburg having the ball ripped off them.
Wales secured their victory when Tipuric ran a wonderful angle on to a Taulupe Faletau pass to score and end a season of misery for South African rugby with the Springboks lined up behind the poles for the 35th time in 2016.
Wales – Tries: Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric. Conversion: Leigh Halfpenny. Penalties: Halfpenny (5).
South Africa – Try: Uzair Cassiem, Conversion: Pat Lambie. Penalties: Elton Jantjies (2):