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Springboks Slip Sliding Away

While reflecting on Saturday’s match between the Springboks and Wales, a Paul Simon song kept popping up in my head:

“You know the nearer your destination, the more you’re slip sliding away.”

Perhaps the “destination” of this tour was getting it behind them.

In a post-match article, Andy Capostagno writes:

“With perhaps the exception of a glorious half-hour against England, the team has limped along on three cylinders for a month. That is partly owed to the long, hard season stretching behind most of the squad. It is no coincidence, for instance, that Lambie has been in vintage form since returning to the side; he has been injured for most of the year and starved of game time.”

The flare-up of motivation came against the arch-foe, England. The rest was possibly just not worthwhile getting excited about. On Saturday, the third cylinder also packed up before the Springboks ran onto the field.

In 2014, South Africa played 14 games, winning 10, and losing 4, against the All Blacks, Australia, Ireland and Wales. Meyer’s winning margin, since he took over, stands at 79%.

Ironically, the raft of rules introduced to make the game safer for players appears to have resulted in an increase in the number of long-term injuries. A Springbok side containing all those currently on the crocked list would look substantially different from the side which ran out last weekend.

Rather than try to dissect the game, one should perhaps ponder on the positive outcomes of the tour.

Those on the flight home with enhanced reputations include Duane Vermeulen, Marcel Coetzee, Eben Etzebeth and Pat Lambie. Where we had serious problems at flyhalf a year ago, this is possibly the least of Meyer’s concerns at the moment, as is the loose forward situation. It also appears to be the end of the line for Morné Steyn, who never featured once on the tour.

Our major headache appears to be at scrumhalf, where Francois Hougaard again proved to be the weakest link. If Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar are fit, we should be strong in this department, but in their absence, there are no real strong contenders outside of Cobus Reinach, judging by Meyer’s call-up of Ross Cronje in the wake of an injury to Rudi Paige. The latter’s inclusion ahead of Nick Groome and Sarel Pretorius was already questionable, so it appears to be a major concern for the Bok coach.

Jean de Villiers’s injury so close to the World Cup appears to be a case of history continually repeating itself. Did Heyneke’s comment, that Jean was the only certain selection for rugby’s showcase, put a jinx on Jean? With Jaque Fourie and Frans Steyn out of the picture, the centre berth appears barren. I suspect that a healthy helping of humble pie may just get Frans Steyn back in the fold.

That’s 2014, done and dusted. Even my liver did a double backward flip at the thought of a break before the festive season starts.

Unfortunately, this will be preceded by the year-end party season, so there will be no respite for the weary.

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