Carl de Villiers, Zululand Observer
THE title and tag line of the famous R.E.M. song ‘Losing your religion’ relates to something that has pushed you so far that you would lose your faith over it – being nudged to the brink as it were.
That is exactly where South African rugby supporters were taken in Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against Wales at Twickenham.
And just as the R.E.M. hit actually has nothing to do with religion, so too were the cries of ‘praise the lord’ by the tens of millions of South Africans when scrum-half Fourie du Preez raced over for the match-winning try with five minutes to go.
Pre-empting coach Heyneke Meyer’s signature post-match phrase, it was more an expression of relief than a belief that the gods intervened to push the Springboks into the semi-final.
As a strongly religious man, Meyer knows full well it would be a breach of heavenly protocol for the gods to take sides and influence rugby outcomes.
It simply doesn’t work that way, so as the god of the Springboks’ brains trust it will be up to him, feet planted firmly on Earth, to work on the master plan to outsmart the ominous looking All Blacks.
Quite a few areas of concern presented themselves against the Red Dragons.
Why, for example, when the Boks comfortably controlled possession – at one stage the statistics showed a 80% domination – could they not break the defensive lines and score tries, instead relying on Handre Pollard‘s boot to keep them in the mix?
And yes, praise the gods once more that Wales displayed far more ill discipline to keep South Africa in the hunt.
But what if they didn’t? We may not have been sitting here smiling now.
It stood out like a sore thumb. For some reason or other the Springboks were clearly indecisive.
It is one things designing and practising fancy trick moves and channel running, but if you don’t succeed in breaking down the defensive lines and score tries, penalties aren’t always going to do the job – especially against the Kiwis.
It must be said though that according to Meyer the Duane Vermeulen-Du Preez try manoeuvre which saved our bacon was the result of one such well-crafted and rehearsed move, but the point is that we need consistency in purpose.
The other disturbing aspect was the number of turnovers conceded to the fiery Welshmen. Without disrespecting the Dragons who put their bodies on the line and outfought the Boks in close quarters, the Springboks were not sharp in support at the breakdown points.
Such a slow motion approach to diving into the coalface coupled with indecisiveness will mean only one thing against the All Blacks – the Boks will have their butts kicked off the park.
The South African camp’s psychology department also has some work to do, chiefly with former golden boy Willie le Roux at fullback.
Mr Showboat who consistently wowed the crowd with his X factor attributes is suddenly struggling to recite the ABC without a hiccup.
Against Wales especially the Boks’ back triangle looked vulnerable, something one Dan Carter would have noticed.
This needs to be fixed post haste.
Pat Lambie at fullback, which will also give you added goal-kicking backup when Pollard blows hot and cold?