Springbok rugby has been left battered, bruised and bewildered after a nine-try slaughter it suffered at the hands of the rampaging All Blacks in the final final 2016 Rugby Championship encounter here over the weekend.
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee and captain Adriaan Strauss both sported the look of punch-drunk boxers at the post-match press conference where the media led off by telling them that Saturday's 57-15 drubbing was South Africa's heaviest-ever home defeat.
"We're definitely hurting and really to the extent that we feel very embarrassed," Coetzee said. "New Zealand, off and on the field, are just in a better class. They're world class."
Coetzee said it was expected that the South African team's dismal performance would again evoke fresh criticism that Springbok rugby was indeed in decline. "One can understand that (severe criticism). Sometimes you produce your best effort but it's not good enough," said Coetzee.
"I don't think the way we've prepared or the way we have planned and started this match that it ends like this tonight. There're lots of reasons but yet again, the players and coaching team will have to have a hard look at ourselves because it's only us that can turn it around."
Coetzee was at pains to answer questions ad nauseum about how it came about that the Springboks were lagging so far behind the All Blacks in just about every aspect of the modern game.
"We've tried to play the distance kicking game and field contestable kicks coming back. Our aerial skills aren't good enough. They keep winning the possession and we don't even win our contestable kicks back but it's not a Springbok thing (problem). I need to hear from the coaches (at the franchises)," said Coetzee.
The coaches from South Africa's Super Rugby franchises as well as members of SA Rugby's rugby department and high-performance rugby committee will have an indaba (conference) in Cape Town from Oct 19 to 21. A number of invited rugby specialists will also be in attendance.
Coetzee feels the indaba could save Springbok rugby from extinction. "The indaba is important so that we address those focal areas, where we feel, we're lacking. I know what we need to fix but I would also like to know from other top coaches in the country. I need to hear if they agree that there are skill sets that we're lacking or we need to improve on as a country," he said.
"Contact skills, getting into good positions on the field and then losing it are just some of the things we can talk about but for now just accepting defeat and staying patient is probably the best thing in times of affliction."
The Springboks will be in action in a month's time again when they start out on their Britain and Italy tour but before then South Africa Rugby could step in make changes to Coetzee's support staff. Coetzee, on the other hand, may look to another player group to carry the baton forward for Springbok rugby.
"We've taken a few steps back (in terms of playing ability) to be honest with you, and the end-of-the-year tour will really determine if we're going forward as a group of players. Systems are so important but I will have to be patient with the players. If there are players out there that can strengthen the squad, certainly, I will have a look at them but I can guarantee you, there not many out there," said Coetzee.
"For now we have to take lessons from this Rugby Championship and learn from it while we focus on the year-end tour when we'll try to turn it (Springbok rugby) around. These players have been under constant pressure to win Test matches while we restart a new World Cup cycle. We're sitting between a rock and hard place because we need to win Test matches but also evolve as well," he said.
With a young group of players who just got their first Test caps, it has been quite challenging and tough. We have to make sure we move forward and as a South African nation, we've gone through a hell of a lot, on and off the field. It's embarrassing like I said but we'll definitely stand up and fight."
The Boks will play the Barbarians at London's Wembley Stadium on Nov 5 and then play England, Italy and Wales in successive weeks.
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK.