Lure of the lucre costing Boks

Everything about Francois Louw screamed ‘Springbok’ as he stood there on Saturday night trying to make sense of it all.

South Africa's Eben Etzebeth is dragged down by Peter O'Mahony. Picture: Eóin Noonan

From the chiselled face to the giant frame decorated with the fashionably retro blazer that his grandfather Jan Pickard might have worn when on duty with South Africa back in the 1950s when he won four caps.

He speaks with an Afrikaans accent that has had some of the edges taken off it by a long stint in England with Bath and therein lies the not-so-secret clue as to just why these Boks can be bashed by 35 points in Dublin.

Of the 23 players listed in Allister Coetzee’s squad at the weekend, only Louw plies his trade in Europe and anyone who knows anything about South African rugby will tell you that a team of exiles up here would beat the current Boks any day of the week.

Add in the lengthy enough injury list that was presented to the head coach before they left home shores and it seems natural to ask if so much of what we saw on Saturday has its roots in the rootlessness of players chasing the pound and the euro.

“That’s a very good question,” says Louw. “Who knows? Sometimes consistency comes down to the players. We have lost players but at no stage is that an excuse. Every team goes through a transition phase at some stage.

“Maybe ours has come and gone and it is time for us to step up. No more excuses. It is something we need to get right.

“We need consistency. We need to get solid performances back to back.” This, after all, was close to the same team that lost by a single point to the All Blacks in Cape Town, South Africa’s last game before this northern tour, and yet the performance was night-to-day. A pall of darkness after the glint of hope.

How do you explain it? “The processes is a bit more intricate and difficult to explain. It’s a terrible place to be in, definitely not the result that we came here to achieve, or expected at least. It’s very disappointing. The biggest problem lies with our training transfer.

“I thought we had a good week and that we had a good plan and a good strategy in place. But we didn’t execute that dominantly. We didn’t impose ourselves in the right areas and that resulted in a pretty awful Test match.”

Pressed earlier he had admitted that this record beating by an Irish side ranked up there with the “worst” experienced by the Springboks who suffered a 57-0 trimming against New Zealand in Albany earlier this season.

The hope is that adversity and embarrassment can stir them again this time and Louw’s focus this week will be on the breakdown where he and his fellow back rows were a distant second-best to their Irish counterparts.

“They definitely had our number there.

“We knew that the refs would perhaps be a bit stricter there with the new laws coming around the breakdown and entry.

“We found ourselves a little short there at times but Ireland were dominant there in the collisions.

“We allowed their players to get in over the ball and force turnovers. We need to realise why we are here.

“This is a tough tour. It is tough to come over here and play in Europe. I play my rugby here and I know what it is about.

“The Irish came out at full force and executed accurately and put us to the sword.”


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