When South Africa struggled to score a point in the last 15-20 minutes against Namibia, the obvious criticism voiced on social media was that the Springboks lacked a killer instinct. They were 54-3 ahead and had a one player advantage for 10 of those minutes. Yet they dropped ball after ball, and made mistake after mistake.
Watching the All Blacks against Canada yesterday, the defending champions were as awful in the final 20 minutes when they failed to add a point to the 63 points they had scored in the first hour.
The All Blacks are renowned for having that killer instinct and for hammering mediocre opposition. No team in world rugby can destroy inferior opposition like the All Blacks.
But the performance against Canada was as indifferent as the Boks’ beating of Namibia.
Admittedly the Boks and All Blacks are in a no-win situation when playing such poor opposition. They are expected to score a point a minute and when it is anything less there is general unhappiness from the two sets of supporters.
What the Bok and All Black matches showed against Namibia and Canada respectively, was just how big a factor the humidity was in the final 20 minutes of the game. It also highlighted very poor decision-making with ball in hand from the All Blacks, who made 20-plus handling errors. I don’t think I have seen Beauden Barrett spill the pill so much. In those conditions, logic would suggest taking the contact and minimising the risk. Yet so many 50-50 passes were forced and the result was a knock on. The All Black players were just as guilty as the Boks in getting white-line fever as individual glory took precedent too often over the team collective.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said the win against Namibia last week had served a purpose and All Black coach Steve Hansen would utter a similar post-match response, but neither the Boks nor All Blacks would rank their wins beyond a six out of 10.
Canada were hopeless in losing to Italy and while they were marginally more competitive in the tackle against the All Blacks, they were no better in any other aspect of the game.
Canada has a proud rugby history and they were a tough side at the 1991 and 1995 World Cups. It is sad to see just how Canada has regressed as a national team in the professional era.
These one-sided match-ups do nothing for the growth of the game and only emphasise how little growth, in terms of closing the gap between the top eight and the bottom eight, there has been in the last 20 years.
In yesterday’s other World Cup action France won for the second time in two starts, but this is a team that won’t offer much more in the competition. They scored a sensational early try, but thereafter looked every bit a team ranked eighth in the world.
The United States have been a big disappointment. I expected so much more from them under Gary Gold’s coaching. England destroyed them a week ago and against France they were never in the game.