Eddie Jones: Boks have peaked – the only way is down

Calling the shots

It may seem a strange thing to say about a South African side celebrating a first series victory over the Lions in almost 30 years, but to my way of thinking the Springboks look as though they are running on empty.

Last week in Pretoria they were really quite poor in a surprising number of areas: the late try from Jaque Fourie and Morne Steyn's magnificent long-range kicking got them out of jail. I don't believe those escape routes will open up for them indefinitely. In fact, I can see things starting to come apart.

Whether that will be of much help to the Lions today, it's difficult to say. I think Ian McGeechan's team will play in an uninhibited way, they are certainly due some luck and no matter how hard the South Africans fight their own complacency, they have already won the war and know it. Unless the opposition is being completely outclassed – hardly the case with the Lions – it is never easy to go from 2-0 to 3-0. There again, Ellis Park is one of the more difficult places for a foreign side to win. I don't discount the Lions' chances by any means, but if the Boks get away from them early, they could pile on some points.

Of course, today's match marks the end of the road for this Lions vintage, which can only live in the moment. The Boks have a future to think about, both short-term and long-term. The forthcoming Tri-Nations series promises to be bloody hard, with the Wallabies developing nicely and the All Blacks smarting from some recent setbacks. Then, there is the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand, where the South Africans will be defending their title.

The trouble for them right now is that many of their best-known players have won everything there is to win and, as a result, will inevitably start to slip off their standards. Something similar happened in Australia after the Wallabies won the 1999 World Cup and then beat the Lions in 2001: when you've done it all, the problem of finding something else is a tough one to solve. Add to this the fact that the Springboks look a little under-coached and you see the scale of the issue they are about to face.

They can certainly do without the kind of problem presented to them by Schalk Burger. When I worked with the Boks during the last World Cup, I found Schalk to be a terrific guy. If he goes at the the game hard – very hard, I'd say – he never struck me as a dirty player, and I'd consider the business with the hand in Luke Fitzgerald's eye at the start of last week's game to be out of character. But it happened, all too publicly, and the authorities have to ensure that the punishment goes at least some of the way towards fitting the crime. If, as now seems certain, the International Rugby Board adopts new powers to bring its own appeals against inappropriate punishments, it will be no bad thing. Rugby is quite tough enough without this kind of nonsense.

As for the incident involving Bakkies Botha, banned for charging into a ruck and dislocating the shoulder of Adam Jones (left, who, I should say, really impressed me over the course of the tour) – well, that was much more grey and blurred. It's unlikely he would even have been cited had Jones simply absorbed the hit and carried on playing: let's face it, someone can be seen operating outside the strict letter of the law at virtually every breakdown. The clear-out at the tackle area is one of rugby's fine-line areas, especially for a player like Bakkies who always operates on the cusp. If the Lions were undone in last week's match by a heavy injury toll and the move to uncontested scrums at the start of the second half, I would argue that they also paid the price for one or two gaffes in selection and their decision to stick with a tactical approach that wasn't quite flexible enough for the conditions at altitude. As I mentioned before the Pretoria game, a high-energy, multiphase approach is a tough ask on the highveld. Just how tough was evident in the final quarter, where the Lions ran out of legs, played too much kick-chase rugby and allowed the Boks to find a way back.

But I wouldn't be too critical of them. I always believed that, man for man, the Boks had an edge. Yet by performing with an enormous amount of pride, developing a genuine sense of purpose and coming together in the spirit of unity, the Lions threatened the world champions and fought them to within an inch of their lives. If the South Africans have been short of their optimum and the tourists came with a high-risk strategy that didn't quite work for them, the Tests over the last fortnight were still massively competitive. More of the same today? I hope so.

Suggested Topics
Sport
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Voices
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
Sport
world cup 2014
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
News
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
people
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Sport
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
News
business
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice