Time to deliver for Springboks

Barely 10 months after its World Cup triumph, South African rugby is back at the crossroads peering with concern at disaster.

The glitter surrounding the Springboks’ success in Paris last October has been dulled by three defeats in four Tri-Nations Test matches this year. New coach Peter de Villiers is under intensive scrutiny as the ‘Boks new game plan under his tutelage has failed to deliver. Furthermore, the South Africans have been criticised by the IRB for their coach’s carping at referees and their captain’s on-field questioning of their decisions.



Rumours, those perennial elements that are seldom far from the surface in Springbok rugby, abound that all is far from well in the camp. It is suggested that the senior players are influencing selection and increasingly demanding an input into tactics.



Peter Bills looks at the key match-ups in Durban

New Zealand’s 19-0 win in Cape Town last weekend (the first time ever that South Africa failed to score a point at home against them in Test rugby) has increased the volume of the sirens being sounded. Without injured captain John Smit, South Africa has often looked rudderless. The whole has not matched the sum of the parts.



And so to Durban where gentle breezes waft in off the Indian Ocean and temperatures in the mid-70s suggest summer not winter. But there will be nothing gentle about this Test match. The Springboks, although now highly unlikely to add the Tri-Nations title to their (albeit tarnished) World Cup crown are increasingly desperate for a break from the relentless criticism. They know this is delivery time.



“We need to stand and deliver” said centre Jean de Villiers this week. “If we don’t, then some guys including myself should be replaced. It is about performing in pressure situations and that is what we have to do.”



The Springboks’ chief difficulties have been at the breakdown. Wallaby flanker George Smith destroyed them in Perth and New Zealand captain Richie McCaw did the same in Cape Town last week. That’s partly because South Africa lacks a genuine open-side flanker, or fetcher as they are known in this hemisphere. The Springboks’ lack of accuracy and precision at the breakdown has been a serious cause for concern.



Surprisingly, De Villiers elected to make only one un-enforced change from last week’s defeat, recalling Conrad Jantjes at full-back in place of Percy Montgomery. Jantjes will add pace but South Africa will miss the lightning fast Bryan Habana on the wing due to a hamstring injury. Jongi Nokwe, admittedly no slouch, takes his place and can expect some examination going backwards under the high ball.



South Africa did scrummage extremely well against New Zealand last week and will look to exploit Australia’s vulnerability in this phase. They must also strike the necessary balance between their coach’s desire for a faster, more fluid approach against their own tendencies to play a more structured game. But an area of concern might be that this is their third game in successive weeks. So far, no side has looked capable of dealing with that pressure of physicality and expectation this year.



Australia has had three weeks to digest their heavy 39-10 defeat in Auckland. They are without Luke Burgess and Adam Ashley-Cooper but believe the break has been beneficial. Preparing in Cape Town, not Durban, this week, coach Robbie Deans has professed himself satisfied with the build-up.



The weight of expectation on the Springboks is enormous. Defeat could cause serious ramifications, not just for the coach but many players. That fear factor may inspire a fighting, backs-to-the-wall performance that is good enough to see off the Australians, particularly as the latter have not won any of their last 15 Test matches away from home, and are without a victory in South Africa since 2000.



Yet betting against teams coached by Robbie Deans is a dangerous game. The wily New Zealander has adapted better than anyone in world coaching to the nuances of the new laws currently being trialled.



Picking winners this time is about as difficult as forecasting world oil prices for next month. But perhaps home advantage and a threatening fear of failure may just get the Springboks home.



TEAMS



SOUTH AFRICA: C. Jantjes; JP Pietersen, A. Jacobs, J. de Villiers, J. Nokwe; B. James, F. du Preez; B. Mtawarira, B. du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, A. Bekker, V. Matfield, S. Burger, J. Smith, P. Spies.



AUSTRALIA: D. Mitchell; P. Hynes, S. Mortlock, B. Barnes, L. Tuqiri; M. Giteau, S. Cordingley; B. Robinson, S. Moore, M. Dunning, J. Horwill, D. Vickerman, R. Elsom, G. Smith, W. Palu.



REFEREE: L. Bray (New Zealand)

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone