Munster's RG Snyman and Jean Kleyn. Steve Haag Sports/Steve Haag/INPHO

Springboks show their range as Jones has dismal start with Wallabies

Despite sending key men ahead to New Zealand, the South Africans were dominant in Pretoria.

LAST AUTUMN, IT was hard to ignore the sense that the Springboks had loosened the shackles just a little bit.

While perceptions of them as a team that only kicks, kicks, and kicks again were never fair or accurate, their performances in the November Tests suggested that Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber were encouraging their players to look for the run option more often, to throw an extra pass or offload where they might not have before.

South Africa’s first Test of 2023 was a continuation of that theme as they shredded the Wallabies 43-12 with a display that included plenty of running from deep. 

The South Africans still kicked the ball 30 times, but they also produced 12 linebreaks with ball in hand. Their willingness to run the ball from inside their own half clearly caught the Wallabies off guard, perhaps most notably for Kurt-Lee Arendse’s first try.

It’s fullback Willie le Roux who receives the kick below and rather than replying in kind, he looks for the pass option and finds Lukhanyo Am.


Am does well with a smart double carry and then offloads to hooker Bongi Mbonambi, all of this just outside the Springboks’ 22.

A phase later, out-half Manie Libbok is swinging a pass wide to the left.


The Boks are still inside their own half but have no intention of kicking, even after a neutral carry on the next phase.

Instead, Libbok and le Roux shift the ball to the right edge where the Boks have held width. Back row Marco van Staden surges into the Wallabies’ half, then le Roux has another classy touch as he sends electric wing Canan Moodie up the right touchline.


The Wallabies are reeling and never recover, with Arendse scoring out on the left two phases later as the Springboks once again move the ball towards the edge rather than just carrying directly.

Their ambition and skill level were eye-catching in this game as the South Africans highlighted again that they’re about much more than kicking – even if they did that part well most of the time too.

The reality is that the Boks have always had attacking x-factor to go along with their physical might and astute control of games. Even when we think back to the last World Cup final, there were two brilliant South African tries on the big occasion.

But whereas they were previously more about lightning-quick counter-attacks, the Boks are showing that their repertoire includes multi-phase passages in which backs and forwards combine slickly. They will face much, much better defences this year but clearly, this team is developing an even greater range. 

This was a brilliant start to the year as they set out to defend their World Cup title. They meet Ireland in Pool B in France. Last weekend’s resounding victory at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria underlined the sheer depth that Erasmus and Nienaber have to call on.

15 players flew ahead to New Zealand last week to begin preparing for the round two clash with the All Blacks, including many of the Springboks’ leading stars. Despite the absences, South Africa were as cohesive, physical, and well-drilled as ever.

Munster lock Jean Kleyn enjoyed a good debut, RG Snyman made his Test return off the bench after a nearly four-year absence, wing Arendse kept on scoring with a hat-trick, Duane Vermeulen rolled back the years at number eight, and pretty much everyone played well. This weekend in Auckland will surely be more challenging, but the Springboks should be delighted with their start to a big year.

rome-italy-13th-feb-2022-eddie-jones-head-coach-of-england-during-the-six-nations-2022-trophy-rugby-match-between-italy-and-england-in-roma-olimpico-stadium-februari-12th-2022-photo-antonietta Eddie Jones has lots to fix. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

Meanwhile, it was a dismal start to the new Eddie Jones era for the Wallabies, who had a dreadful outing.

It was one of those days where most things go wrong and, worryingly, some of their most obvious failings were reminiscent of England’s shortcomings under Jones in recent seasons.

Over-focusing on kicking, they simply didn’t have enough possession to do damage after a decent start saw them score first. Such was Australia’s lack of possession, their top ball-carrier in the game was fullback Tom Wright with just six carries, a tiny number. Only one South African player, Vermeulen, hit double figures for tackles. The Boks simply weren’t put under pressure enough by the Wallabies.

The Wallabies’ kicking was poor. While there were individual errors involved, oftentimes it looked like they had no real plan, or certainly not one that everyone had an understanding of. Jones’ team invited more and more pressure as the game wound on.

Take the example below just after half time. The Wallabies have a scrum in their 22, so it’s a chance to enact a good exit plan. Instead, they came up with a nothing kick.


Quade Cooper’s kick bounces up invitingly for le Roux, who has ample time to kick back at the Wallabies and immediately put them under pressure by finding grass in the left corner.


It’s exactly where you don’t want to be and scrum-half Nic White has to fire a pass to Cooper, who has no space or time for his kick, only managing to find touch 15 metres from the Wallabies’ line.


It’s a fairly disastrous conclusion to the Wallabies’ exit efforts and the Boks go close to scoring from the subsequent lineout.

Similarly to Jones’ England, the Wallabies’ discipline was not up to standard, especially as the pressure rose. They conceded a total of 13 penalties, with nine of those coming in the second half. Time and time again, sloppy penalty concessions invited the Boks into threatening positions.

Yellow cards for hooker Dave Porecki and wing Suliasi Vunivalu were damaging to the cause on a day when the Boks’ discipline was excellent. The home side conceded only three penalties in the entire game, though this was obviously helped by the lack of heat applied by Australia.

When they did have the ball, the Wallabies’ attack looked flat. Defensively, they were disorganised and lacked physical edge at times. Jones has lots on his plate.

But just improving the kicking and discipline would give them a good shot at bouncing back against Argentina in Sydney this weekend, while Jones is expected to make changes to his starting XV.

Samu Kerevi should add power in midfield but one can easily make the case for shaking up every single department of the team. Jones will hope that different personnel can provide far more impact and energy than was the case in Pretoria.

It was a dire start to his return as Australia boss, so this weekend is an opportunity to show Wallabies fans that there’s no need to panic.

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