What’s gone wrong with struggling Springboks ahead of must-win Wales game?


Wales v South Africa tips: Springboks bets reflect struggles

A worrying string of six defeats in seven internationals definitely qualifies as a crisis for South Africa.

The All Blacks and Australia apart, the Springboks were rated best of the rest in world rugby 12 months ago, but have now slipped to fifth in the rankings and could even end 2016 a place lower if Wales beat them in Cardiff on Saturday.

When former Rainbow Nation assistant Allister Coetzee finally got the nod in the top job and succeeded Heyneke Meyer this spring, South Africa were bringing a backroom influence from their victorious 2007 Rugby World Cup campaign into the hotseat.

Coetzee has won just four of 11 Tests since taking charge of the Springboks going into the Dragons game, leaving media calls back home for his head.

A look at the stats suggest he’s maybe been a little unlucky, though, and the visiting Proteas are 8/5 with Coral to end their run of poor form by defeating their hosts at the Principality Stadium.

Is that a wise investment among Wales v South Africa tips, though, given the latter’s difficulties? Well, they’ve lost just twice to the Dragons and drawn another Test, dominantly leading the head-to-head record with a whopping 28 wins.

Stats make for grim reading

Proteas pain at first-ever defeats to Italy (20-18) in Florence last time out and Ireland (20-26) on home soil during the summer that began Coetzee’s tenure reflect an agonising average.

Under their current head coach, South Africa’s mean margin of victory/defeat is losing by a converted try’s worth of points (6.81 to be precise). You can enhance Wales’ outright win price (1/2) by backing them for a win by 1-10 points at 11/5.

As if going down by seven points or less in four of Coetzee’s matches in charge (the same amount he’s won) isn’t agonising enough, Springboks supporters saw their side grab the first scoring play in all but one of their last 10 internationals.

More than half the time when taking the lead in those (five out of nine), the Rainbow Nation benefited from a penalty kick to punt themselves ahead

That makes the Proteas a shout to get the first scoring play via a penalty here at 6/4, so it’s another of our Wales v South Africa tips. Three tries and a drop goal account for the other occasions when they’ve got their noses in front.

Throwaway leads and missed kicks costly

Yet, as reflected in Springboks bets, they are struggling to turn advantage of any kind into wins. Only half of their four victories under Coetzee so far saw South Africa lead after 40 minutes and maintain that to the final whistle.

The Proteas have proved more likely to throw away a half-time advantage and end up losing (three of nine when scoring first) than rallying to a second-half recovery to come from behind (just twice).

South Africa/Wales in the half-time/full-time betting is thus an intriguing 11/2 chance.

On two other occasions when grabbing points before their opponents, South Africa have been behind at both half and full-time.

There is also room for improvement in the kicking department with under 85 per cent (84.23) of penalties aimed at goal and conversions going between the posts.

First-choice Springboks fly half Handre Pollard has missed the entire of 2016 through injury, so the side lacking the clinical proficiency off the tee is perhaps understandable. Given the narrow margins of defeat outlined above, however, his absence at 10 is one keenly felt.

Too much tinkering by Coetzee?

Plenty of stats paint a worrying picture for the Rainbow Nation, but none more so than the number of changes made by Coetzee to his XV.

At an average of more than three alterations (3.36) per game prior to their Dragons duel, the only ever-presents in South Africa’s starting line-up are front row forwards Adriaan Strauss and Tendai Mtawarira, better known as ‘the Beast’.

Eben Etzebeth is a lock for inclusion in the second row, pun intended, but Coetzee used four different tighthead props before settling on Vincent Koch. Neither are selected to face Wales, however, with the former injured and the latter dropped.

Fitting try-scoring forward Pieter-Steph du Toit (three crossings under Coetzee with two after coming on as a replacement, and 10/1 anytime scorer here) in as well as Lood de Jager is a thorny problem for the coach. Proteas predecessor Meyer played the former at flanker.

Du Toit looks so much more accomplished at lock, with high-profile losses to Japan during the Rugby World Cup pool stage and a first in a decade to England as black marks on his CV when operating in the Springboks’ back row.

There simply isn’t room for all three of Etzebeth, De Jager and Du Toit in the second row, but this isn’t an issue for the Cardiff class with the former injured.

Francois Louw is missing the Autumn Internationals at flanker through injury, though Coetzee regularly calls upon Warren Whiteley at number eight.

Whiteley and De Allende are pluses

This late-comer to international rugby has rewarded that faith shown in him with two tries in nine starts (and another as a replacement that helped him force his way into the XV) for the coach.

Without the experience of World Cup scrum halves Ruan Pienaar (above) and Fourie du Preez, there is real naivety at nine with just 17 caps between Faf de Klerk and Rudy Paige, who has started both Autumn Internationals.

Pollard’s extended absence leaves the half back area weakened, and veteran kicker Morne Steyn came in to play a couple of games at the end of the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship.

Elton Jantjies covered for both Pollard and Pat Lambie when he too was injured, though you can’t help feel the Rainbow Nation’s number 10 jersey is just being kept warm for Pollard’s return to action next year.

In midfield, Coetzee has tried four different pairings, with Damian de Allende a definite starter when fit at inside centre. Two tries from eight caps under the coach is evidence of his promise.

Coetzee has partnered De Allende with Francois Venter during the Autumn Internationals, with highly-regarded utility back Jesse Kriel out injured. Against Wales, it’ll be Venter and debutant Rohan Janse van Rensburg at centre.

Combrinck a good call

Juan de Jongh, who played rugby sevens for South Africa at the Olympics in Rio, also got a brief run at outside centre, with Lionel Mapoe still in the squad. The 13 shirt remains up for grabs, then.

While experimenting with Lambie at full back went horribly wrong as New Zealand inflicted a record home defeat on the Springboks (15-57), Willie le Roux and Johan Goosen, who boasts two tries in four starts under Coetzee and is a 3/1 anytime chance here, have both had turns wearing 15.

An injury-interrupted year for JP Pietesen means a disappointing return of just one crossing from four caps under Coetzee, and that is below-par when it comes to what the Proteas expect from him.

Ruan Combrinck, averaging a try every other game for South Africa so far (and 13/8 to cross in Cardiff), is the wing option full of promise, but all the eggs seem to be in one basket.

Habana still a hero, but for how long?

Springboks legend Bryan Habana, now 33, is still getting a game as he closes in on Victor Matfield’s record of 127 caps. Although he’s got three in seven internationals this year, there has to be real doubt over any long-term involvement in the set-up.

Habana’s record 67 tries cements his status as an all-time Proteas great, but he’ll be 36 come the next Rugby World Cup and his raw pace will continue to diminish between now and then.

That’s why it’s been so disappointing to see neither Francois Hougaard, another sevens player for South Africa in Rio this summer, nor Lwazi Mvovo seize chances given to them by Coetzee. We’ll have to see if Jamba Ulengo on his international bow can do better.

With four tries in 11 career Tests against the Dragons, Habana would be among our Wales v South Africa tips, but coach Coetzee leaves the legend out for this win or bust Test for the Springboks in Cardiff.

Wales and South Africa sides

Wales: 1 Gethin Jenkins (c), 2 Ken Owens, 3 Tomas Francis, 4 Luke Charteris, 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 6 Dan Lydiate, 7 Justin Tipuric, 8 Ross Moriarty; 9 Gareth Davies, 10 Dan Biggar, 11 Liam Williams, 12 Scott Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 14 George North, 15 Leigh Halfpenny.

Replacements: Scott Baldwin, Nicky Smith, Samson Lee, Cory Hill, Toby Faletau, Lloyd Williams, Sam Davies, Jamie Roberts.

South Africa: 1 Tendai Mtawarira, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 5 Lood de Jager, 6 Nizaam Carr, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 8 Warren Whiteley; 9 Faf de Klerk, 10 Elton Jantjies, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 13 Francois Venter, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 15 Johan Goosen.

Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane, Franco Mostert, Jean-Luc du Preez, Piet van Zyl, Pat Lambie, Lionel Mapoe.


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