Boks showed heart, but failed to impress
"SINCE when is winning not good enough?" Springbok skipper Jean de Villiers asked on the eve of Saturday's match against Scotland.
He probably uttered those words again yesterday morning after mixed reactions to the team's 21-10 victory at Murrayfield.
It seems that under coach Heyneke Meyer the Boks can do little right with the rugby public in South Africa, even though they have shown tremendous character with wins in Dublin and Edinburgh on this tour.
On Saturday the Boks were at their belligerent best for the first 50 minutes, knocking Scotland all over the park as they ran away with a 21-3 lead.
But with tighthead Jannie du Plessis' withdrawal after a strong display despite a heavily strapped ankle and loosehead Gurthro Steenkamp fading at about the same time, the scrum turned from weapon to liability.
Seven scrum penalties and free kicks ensued and it allowed Scotland back into the match because they could dominate territory which kept the Boks pinned back.
And even so, at the end of the longest season in professional rugby history, the Springboks tackled themselves to a standstill as if it were a World Cup final. Guts, composure and bloody-mindedness won the game but because they don't play like the All Blacks, a win wasn't good enough for some. It seems victories must come gift-wrapped in double scissors movements with backflips.
The Boks admitted that they made some mistakes that allowed Scotland back into the match, especially at scrum time, but still there was a deserved sense of deep satisfaction in the camp.
"We had a few individual issues with the scrum at times," said hooker Adriaan Strauss, who scored two tries.
"We sometimes engaged early and our binding wasn't always perfect, which led to some problems and the guys also said they were battling to hear the referee calling the engagement sequence.
"I asked the referee to call louder, but that's not an excuse. If Scotland could hear the ref, we should have been able to as well.
"But our defensive effort was fantastic and when we were forced into a tough situation, we responded brilliantly. I told the forwards after the match that I haven't seen such character in a long time.
"We made massive hits, got off the floor and did it again. While it wasn't a great second-half performance, the character we displayed was incredible and that will do a massive amount for the development of this team.
"I must give credit to Heyneke and the coaches because from the beginning they have instilled in us the importance of respecting the badge and the country by giving everything we have out there. It showed tonight."