De Villiers' Boks are as clueless as their coach

After an undignified week the world champions descended into disarray
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The Independent Online

Now try telling the South African public everything is fine in their rugby garden. Try, too, suggesting that this Test did not matter, that with the series won it was a dead rubber, of no interest to the Springboks. What, with a 118-year record to break? If the world champions were short on motivation with a first whitewash against the Lions within touching distance, they should not have been out there.

The fact was, the Springboks were desperately poor, a weak shadow of the side they ought to be. But can we be surprised, given that they played for only the first 50 minutes in Durban and the last 20 in Pretoria ? Here, they faced a Lions side without probably its five top players yet they looked second best throughout.

The ludicrous build-up to this Test, with the Springbok coach again the focus of attention, was a clear distraction. Peter de Villiers' lunatic antics and crazy statements are starting to have a direct effect on the performances of his team on the field.

The world champions were all over the place, just as they had been for an hour in Pretoria. Sure, they were without eight of their best players but the talent coming through is such that they ought to have been able to beat a similarly depleted Lions side.

The fact that the Springboks were so outplayed was a dire indictment of what is going on within their camp. Mistakes can always be made by individuals – that is inevitable and excusable. What is not acceptable is a complete lack of structure within a team that calls itself the world champions. Certain players looked only moderately interested – others quickly realised that, given the general mess and mediocrity, they had little chance of turning the tide. A couple of the youngsters brought back into the fray in the second half – Ruan Pienaar (as a scrum-half, after playing at fly-half in the first two Tests) and Frans Steyn (replacing a centre after playing full-back), raged against the dying of the light and the mess around them. But too few others managed much.

To see a South African side so lacking in shape and discipline was a worry with the Tri-Nations so close. De Villiers sought to suggest that inferior performances by players unable to make the step up from Super 14 to Test rugby lay behind the Boks' failure. Yet how come many of those players had looked world class for the Bulls in the Super 14 final only recently? Can they play or can't they? It appears they can, in certain situations. For sure, they never did in Johannesburg yesterday.

Heinrich Brussow did his best to make an impact up front and the flanker won some useful turnovers. But the Lions had a greater belief in what they were trying to do, much better organisation and far more commitment. Sub-standard displays of this nature by the South Africans just will not do. If they thought it did not much matter, they were sadly mistaken. For no side can be happy when their play fluctuates so wildly from the sublime to the ridiculous. That is the Springboks' problem right now.