The Boks closed for stock take

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NOT NECESSARILY SPORT by MARC POZZO

What a whirlwind weekend I had last week. Courtesy of SAA and Premier Travel, the ZIFM Sports team headed off for some team building and quality time together, watching the mighty All Blacks take on the improving Springboks. I am still not sure if the All Blacks are just having a bad time of it lately, or have the Boks really improved that much in such a short time. Regardless of that, it was another Test match that can be banked as an all-time great.

We had great seats, and the atmosphere for a game like this was just unforgettable. A packed 50 000 stadium at Loftus in Pretoria (The home of South African rugby) is something special. It’s like a shrine actually. It all lights up when the South African national anthem is sung. The South Africans are passionate about their anthem, their Springbok jersey and their flag. I did, though, see as I was walking into the ground some fool…yes fool, sitting by his car with the old South African flag. How sad is that? What an absolute idiot. It crossed my mind to go up and actually grab the flag and shove it up his rear. It made me sad to be honest.

Then you get for the famous “Haka”, which never disappoints. Makes the hair on the arms stand up, that’s for sure. The “Haka” for those not ofay is a type of ancient Māori war dance traditionally used on the battlefield, as well as when groups came together in peace. Haka are a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity. Actions include violent foot-stamping, tongue protrusions and rhythmic body slapping to accompany a loud chant.

So my take on the game, and a major talking point following the game was whether Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus had erred with his choice of substitutions in the second half. The Boks threw away a 30-13 lead after 59 minutes and many – myself included – felt the rash of substitutions had disrupted the team’s rhythm.

Erasmus’ first substitution came straight after the Boks had leapt into a 30-13 lead, with Vincent Koch replacing Frans Malherbe at tight head prop.

And then a minute after the All Blacks reduced the deficit to 30-18 in the 61st minute, RG Snyman replaced Eben Etzebeth at lock.

Over the next 11 minutes, the Boks made a further five substitutions (Damian Willemse for Willie le Roux – 65min; Sikhumbuzo Notshe for Francois Louw – 69min; Embrose Papier for Faf de Klerk (72nd min); Bongi Mbonambi for Malcolm Marx (72nd min) and Tendai Mtawarira for Steven Kitshoff (73rd min).

The All Blacks scored again in the 75th minute and by the time Elton Jantjies came on for Damian de Allende in the 77th minute, the Boks seemingly had no more momentum. Erasmus said he was forced to replace key playmakers Le Roux and De Klerk due to injuries, but the timing of the other replacements should be questioned.

The stats of the game yet again showed that the Boks dominated possession and territory. But it’s the final result that counts is it not. One just hopes the old rivalry between these two great nations is back. A far cry from last year’s 57-0 clubbing in Albany.