All Blacks continue their losing streak with a 26-10 loss to South Africa. Videos / Sky Sports
OPINION by Gregor Paul in South Africa
If Ireland broke the All Blacks, South Africa certainly broke them and any hope, however lost, that recovery is possible under this coaching regime is certainly gone.
It’s time to call Scott Robertson and tell him to hold off with his hand-picked assistants, and that he and Jason Ryan should proceed to rebuild a legacy that risks being horribly damaged if it doesn’t definitive action to be taken.
Nothing can happen now to convince anyone in New Zealand – anyone who knows the game – that the All Blacks will miraculously improve without a total and brutal purge and restart.
Confidence is shattered, all hope is gone and it would be madness for New Zealand rugby to do anything but pull out the chequebook, pay the termination fees and usher in a new era.
That’s five defeats in the last six games, most recently a 26:10 defeat. This is now the worst run in All Blacks professional history and there wasn’t a shred of evidence in Mbombela that he’s going to stop. That’s the fate of the All Blacks if they don’t do anything.
Forget the scoreboard as it may only tell half the story. It only confirms South Africa’s superiority and dominance, but it doesn’t show that the All Blacks didn’t look like a serious contender for victory even after 80 minutes.
They didn’t even look like serious contenders for a try and it was as if they were a balloon that South Africa was sitting on, slowly adding more weight with the certainty that it would burst.
And that’s why this All Blacks team is broken – they don’t play a gallant and heroic role in defeat. There is no audacious defiance and a sense that they may soon be on the other side of these mounting losses.
Instead, they seem to have resigned themselves to their fate from the start and from the earliest exchanges in Mbombela – particularly after the first scrum gave the Springboks a free-kick and the second a penalty – it immediately became a case of wondering how big it might be the margin of defeat would be.
After 10 minutes, the best the New Zealanders could hope for was a valiant effort to hold on. what they got
Perseverance has become the All Blacks’ thing and they are perhaps the best side in the world right now when it comes to stubbornly sticking their finger in the levee and holding out the inevitable tide for a surprisingly long time.
And that’s because they’ve become resident residents of a no man’s land where they fail to put much pressure on their opponents, yet fail to play so disastrously as to suggest an imminent collapse.
They just seem to assume they’re going to die a slow death, and they throw themselves into defense with so much passion and energy until inevitable defeat comes.
For the fourth game in a row they conceded an early try and for the third time they were barely sighted in the opposition half for the first 40 minutes.
It wasn’t until Richie Mo’unga converted a penalty to touch in the 52nd minute that the All Blacks had an attack within South Africa’s 22.
And here’s the catch with this All Blacks team, they don’t have the patience nor the ability to be a possession team right now.
Just like in Dunedin and Wellington – with the exception of the third quarter – they hardly had the ball in Mbombela and that was mainly because they couldn’t go more than three periods without a rally.
It’s easy enough for ball carriers to be isolated after more than seven stages, but to be picked off as easily after two or three as Malcolm Marx so often managed suggests a systemic failure or chronic confusion about basic strategy.
These All Blacks have a hunter’s mentality of playing off errors, forcing turnovers and counterattacking broken defenses.
It’s what they’ve been doing and who they’ve been for the past decade or so, but to play like that, passing and catching have to be razor-sharp, awareness high, and the transition from defensive mindset to attacking blazing fast.
And here’s another catch with this All Blacks team: Skill execution has eroded from its golden age peak between 2010 and 2016.
Offering so little and playing with so many inaccuracies is not how the All Blacks team should be.
History must be rewritten and new characters introduced to refresh a plot that has become decidedly predictable.
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