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Nic White rolled the dice just like De Klerk and the smarter pest won

By Ben Smith
Nic White of the Wallabies reacts during The Rugby Championship match between the Australian Wallabies and the South African Springboks at Adelaide Oval on August 27, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

There were signs at Ellis Park that all was not right with the Springboks when a 14-man All Black side scored two tries in the final ten minutes to seal a 35-23 win.

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The overseas-based Boks genuinely looked tired at altitude as the one-time advantage became a hindrance with the strategic misfire of the 6-2 bench exacerbated by Jesse Kriel’s injury.

After finishing up their seasons in France and Japan, instead of having their summer holiday and integral rest period, the offshore Boks are fronting up for test rugby for the second year in a row.

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The rolling continuous seasons for these overseas based Boks will at some point take a toll.

Even those who play in the reformed United Rugby Championship for a South African based side are watching their Irish, Welsh and Scottish counterparts enjoy the off-season.

Such is life with fingers in two pies in both hemispheres.

That unavoidable fatigue might be here now based on the evidence in Adelaide.

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The Wallabies burst into life in the opening minute and ran all over the Boks to score inside the first minute.

They ran the ball down their throat, manhandling bodies at the breakdown by any means possible.

Two deft passes from the forwards sliced up the Springbok interior defence all too comfortably as Fraser McReight crashed over for his first try.

Don’t like the way the ref officiates the breakdown? Men being blown away past the ruck? Upset about spoiling tactics at the ruck on your ball?

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Then do something about it. Physically, the players must do something and stop them. Move those players out of the way.

If they can’t, then sit back and enjoy getting steamrolled by a physically superior team.

Because it sure looked like the Wallabies were the superior team in Adelaide.

It took the Wallabies sixty seconds to break South Africa’s try line. When afforded untold opportunities at the other end, the Boks could not find a way over.

The rolling maul looked lethargic and seemingly had the foundation of a sand castle.

The Wallaby pack jumped the gun at times with their counter shove, but they were penalised for it when they were too overeager. The rest of the time they shut it down.

When the backline went wide the ball hit the turf frequently and passes weren’t where they needed to be.

Playing under advantage disguised how bad the backs were at times. Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk chipped one into touch on the full down the blind side.

His flyhalf Handre Pollard had half a sniff and characteristically coughed up the offload attempt. It was another one of those days for him as he shanked his first two attempts at goal.

The reason why Marika Koroibete had the time to make his cover tackle was Makazole Mapimpi had to wait too long for the pass to get to him.

The timing was thrown completely off after the ball spewed out of the scrum and Faf de Klerk had to scramble backward to find it.

If Mapimpi caught the ball on the run he scores untouched and makes the Wallabies pay for their indiscretions.

Because you can’t ignore they had a one man advantage for the final ten minutes of the first half and still couldn’t score, even with 69 per cent territory and 52 per cent possession.

Faf de Klerk’s swinging arm on the stroke of halftime was likely made out of frustration as things were already unravelling.

He had already had one run-in with his opposite number, shoving White over in an attempt to get the ball earlier in the half after the Springboks got a penalty for an incorrect entry by the Wallabies on their own ball.

His shove could have reversed the initial penalty and cost the Springboks their first three points, but the referee let it slide. Yes, that’s right, calls can go both ways.

De Klerk went after White multiple times and it backfired. Plain and simple. There is no one to blame but De Klerk for the yellow card.

If you want to throw a swinging arm with the way the game is officiated these days, good luck to you because you’ll need it.

White himself took a massive risk, having being pinned in his own in-goal afterward. The Springboks would have had one last chance to score before the end of the half with a five metre scrum without a review.

Both took a risk but one halfback had calculated the odds of a favourable outcome better than the other.

He rolled the dice just like De Klerk and the smarter pest won.

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With De Klerk in the bin, the Wallabies did what the Springboks couldn’t – take advantage of a 14-man defence.

With some slick handling down the right hand side early in the second half, the Wallabies ripped apart a tired side with speed and skill from a wide set-piece play.

After the surge down the right side, Len Ikitau nearly cut his way through before Koroibete put the shake-and-bake on Pollard on the next phase and busted through two more tacklers to score.

They setup the Boks perfectly for their third try and second of the match for McReight.

White ran a halfback wrap off the ruck going right-to-left from around the middle of the field to get the ball to the edge.

When they ran the wrap play a second time from nearly the exact same spot on the field, they hit the Springboks with the inside pass variation to flyhalf Noah Lolesio instead of playing the ball back to White.

It was perfect animation and application to fool the big inside men who had switched off after seeing the play the first time around.

Reserve prop Vincent Koch tripped over his own man and Lolesio played a daring flick pass to send McReight over.

At 25-3 it was game over after 63 minutes. It was as comprehensive a win as you could as you could ask for.

The Wallabies took their opportunities and the Springboks squandered theirs. They had a mountain of possession and penalties and they couldn’t get anything done until garbage time with five minutes remaining.

They were on the right side of a 16-9 penalty count, and had the Wallabies down to 14 twice.

There are no excuses other than perhaps the final realisation that this Bok team is tired, in some cases too old, other cases not fit enough coming back from injury, and overall just not that good.

Dave Rennie’s impeccable record over South Africa continued with three-from-three as Wallabies head coach.

Do the Springboks have it in them to avoid a 2-0 sweep this year?

For the sake of their reputation as World Cup holders, you’d hope they don’t go 0-4 against Australia.

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