‘Outwitted, out-skilled and outmuscled’: South African press reacts
Record defeat in Dublin the latest in a string of galling losses under Allister Coetzee
In a growing list of miserable recent defeats for the once-mighty Springboks, Saturday’s trouncing at the hands of Ireland must rank as one of the worst.
Joe Schmidt’s side ran out 38-3 winners at the Aviva Stadium - comfortably their highest ever Test win over South Africa - despite never needing to slip into top gear.
Much-maligned Boks coach Allister Coetzee has overseen some particularly galling losses since taking over in April 2016 - including a first ever defeat to Ireland on home soil in his first game in charge.
Since then there has been a 20-18 defeat in Italy, a first ever away defeat to Argentina and the nadir of a 57-0 loss to the All Blacks - the side they love putting it up to the most - in September.
Green shoots of recovery were evident when the Springboks then battled to a 25-24 defeat to New Zealand on October 7th - however Saturday’s thrashing in Dublin seemingly moves them back to square one.
And this is the view of the South African press, who have pulled no punches in their assessment of Coetzee’s side.
Indeed, on the Sport24 website, chief writer Rob Houwing writes: “The goriness of some of the Springbok reverses in Allister Coetzee’s head-coaching tenure has become an increasingly disturbing hallmark ... call Dublin on Saturday just the latest. . .
“In what amounted to easily their worst result ever against Ireland, they were thoroughly outwitted, out-skilled and outmuscled en route to a 38-3 and four-tries-to-nil setback at Aviva Stadium that gets their four-Test tour of the “north” off to the worst possible start.
“Coetzee, meanwhile, extends his record in Europe to nought from four, when you add in the three successive defeats in the 2016 trek.
“The performance also, sadly, only re-opened virtually all the wounds of their annus horribilis in his first season in charge.”
The Springboks’ travel-sickness has become a theme of Coetzee’s stewardship - and last autumn they were beaten by Italy, England and Wales, as well as a 31-31 draw with the Baa Baas.
And Liam Del Carme of the Sunday Times suggests Saturday’s result is an ominous start to the Boks’ autumn campaign: “They needed to win to set the tone for the remainder of the tour and ease the pressure on the perennially under the cosh coach. . .
“On a crisp autumn evening, the Boks’ game again appeared frozen in time as they frittered possession because of poor application, while their ambitionless kicking in the first half was at times mystifying.”
Meanwhile, in the SARugbyMag, Jon Cardinelli has lamented the listless Springboks performance: “So much for turning the corner. So much for that rousing physical and tactical showing against the All Blacks serving as a sign of things to come in Europe.
“What the Boks served up at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday was an embarrassment. Where was the smash-mouth rugby we saw at Newlands last month? Where was the intent and accuracy that had the All Blacks scrambling over the course of those 80 minutes?”
And he points to the power of Ireland’s Iain Henderson - who was imperious on Saturday evening - as being a perfect demonstration of the gulf between the sides.
He writes: “The sight of Eben Etzebeth being bumped off by his opposite number Iain Henderson said it all. It’s not often that the Bok captain goes backwards in the collision.
“In one instant during the first half, Etzebeth was knocked off his feet as the Ireland number four bulldozed his way through the Bok defence.”
However, while the South African press are clearly dismayed with their side’s performance, there is unanimous praise for Ireland - who were clinical as they punished the tourists.
Cardinelli writes: “Many expected Ireland to lack precision in the opening stages, given their four-month absence from the international game. Their attack certainly stuttered, with several passes missing the mark.
Meanwhile Del Carme writes: “Ireland played with greater vigour and vitality, vacating their defensive lines with zeal, smothering Springbok ball carriers.”
For Ireland, perhaps their stiffest task of the autumn has been passed with flying colours - but it could be a long old tour for the Boks.