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Boks need solutions on the pitch

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Australia’s Quade Cooper kicks ahead during the Rugby Championship Round 3 match against South Africa at CBus Stadium on Sunday. Picture: EPA, Dave Hunt

Expressing your frustration to the referee is one thing, but a solution should’ve been found on the pitch against Australia, writes Ashfak Mohamed.

CAPE TOWN – Of course the Springboks couldn’t come out and directly blame referee Luke Pearce for Sunday’s 28-26 defeat to the Wallabies, but behind closed doors, I wouldn’t have blamed Rassie Erasmus if he had made another video highlighting the mistakes by the officials.

But the South Africans will also know that they had themselves to blame for the loss … and it wasn’t just about conceding two yellow cards, giving away penalties that contributed to Quade Cooper’s 23 points, or Handré Pollard’s worrying goal-kicking woes.

The Boks spoke all week about knowing what to expect from the Australians – that they were going to play with ball-in-hand to stretch the defence and make greater use of their backs on attack.

Being world champions, it is almost inconceivable that they would not have prepared for the old Wallaby ‘tricks’ at the scrums and breakdowns, and with contesting the ball in the air.

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The Australians are past masters at twisting their binds, scrumming in and generally making it a free-for-all at the rucks. Yes, they would’ve expected Pearce and his assistant referees to pick up those infringements and penalise the Wallabies, but it didn’t quite work out that way.

Springboks player Duane Vermeulen receives a yellow card from referee Luke Pearce during the Rugby Championship match on Sunday. Picture: EPA, Dave Hunt

The home side got away with a lot on the night – surely that Samu Kerevi pass for Andrew Kellaway’s opening try was forward? – but that is almost expected these days when playing away from home.

Bok forwards coach Deon Davids spoke yesterday about presenting the right “picture” for the referee at the scrums, but the players and coaches themselves must also take responsibility for what happens.

ALSO READ: Sbu Nkosi: Boks ‘don’t need to go back to the drawing board’ after Wallabies loss

Sometimes in rugby, things need to be sorted out on the field. What’s the point of complaining about the match officials afterwards, when you have already lost the Test?

You would’ve thought that the Boks learnt that the hard way after the first Test against the British and Irish Lions, when Australian Nic Berry’s questionable officiating resulted in Erasmus’ famous video.

On Sunday, the blocking of the Bok chasers of the up-and-unders infuriated Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi, and it took a huge chunk out of the visitors’ approach to the game, as they thrive on winning those contestable kicks and attacking from there.

ALSO READ: Cooper consults his ‘ego’ before downing Boks

But the blocking was allowed to continue by the officials, and the South Africans did almost nothing about it. Expressing your frustration to the referee is one thing, but a solution should’ve been found on the pitch – whether it was changing the tactic to grubber kicks, chips over the top of rucks, or even pushing those Wallaby blockers out of the way.

It was a similar story with the scrum, where Taniela Tupou blatantly scrummed in on Ox Nche in the second half, but was still not penalised by Pearce.

They also missed a beat by asking Pollard to take shots at goal when he was clearly off his game, instead of going for the touchline and setting up another maul, which produced three tries.

The Boks will be full of fire and brimstone on Saturday at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium in an attempt to fix the problems from last week, but let’s hope that they come up with solutions in the heat of the battle if things don’t go according to plan.

@AshfakMohamed

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