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The raged-up Springboks find their intensity again and enter the box seat

By Ben Smith
Makazole Mapimpi of the Springboks scores a try then reacts towards Marika Koroibete of the Wallabies during The Rugby Championship match between the Australia Wallabies and South Africa Springboks at Allianz Stadium on September 03, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

We’ve seen this Springboks side before.

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You know the one, the raged-up, aggrieved Boks, playing the victims to fuel a response.

The same approach was taken in the second British & Irish Lions test, with the backs against the wall and the drama surrounding the surfacing of the Erasmus video after the first test.

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A similar scoreline was also achieved then, a 27-9 victory, to the 24-8 in Sydney.

There have been other occasions, like the second test last season against the All Blacks after a three-game losing streak where they were absolutely desperate to get a result.

The beast awakens from mediocrity to deliver a flurried frenzy. It is on the edge but exactly the intensity needed for test rugby, just minus the antics after the whistle in this case.

It makes for great entertainment but undeniably is an ugly look when the aggression goes past the play, like Makazole Mapimpi’s response to Marika Koroibete or Etzebeth’s alpha moment.

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Was the Springbok winger actually worked up about what happened last week? About getting popped in a tackle? Perhaps aggrieved by the victim narrative that the Wallaby wing and officials were to blame for spilling the ball an inch from the line, despite jumping into contact?

The try Mapimpi scored in Sydney to seal the game was fantastic, this time going low and staying grounded, but grabbing the throat of the Fijian afterward was too much.

Koroibete plays hard, that’s it. He puts his body on the line, with no malice, this week and last. He’s a man from a humble background and culture.

There were no issues with this tackle. Why are you grabbing his throat after scoring and standing over the top of him?

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Instead of celebrating with your teammates and enjoying the moment, it sparked an anger-fuelled fracas.

If there was ever a moment to celebrate and saviour, that was it, the try that made certain a nine-year drought in Australia would be broken and saved the Springboks Rugby Championship campaign. It was far from a moment of elation or enjoyment.

It happens of course, emotions run high in sport, but then Mapimpi couldn’t believe he was getting carded afterward, highlighting what must be a victim mentality.

The reaction from their fans is always aggrieved, always offended, everyone is out to get them, conspiracies everywhere, finger pointing and ref blaming. Maybe the team has to also believe in the nonsense to find it in themselves to show up, who knows.

The shame is that the rage-Boks play at a level above what you usually see, the enigma with them is why they can’t deliver that intensity each week.

It can’t just be the standard that they play at, it’s the result of outrage after being whipped into a frenzy after buying into some lizard brain-level conspiracies, faux injustice or just plain embarrasment from dented egos it seems.

They were angry at Nic White after last week and went after him, demeanour out of the window. The fired up Aussie No 9 tried to give it back equally but it only led to self-destruction.

The verbal targetting put him off his game, with the Wallabies halfback getting lost in the chirp and failing to exit consistently or bring stability to the attack. His kicks were unable to give the Wallabies breathing room as the Springboks rolled over the top of them.

The Wallabies self-imploded with the ball by trying way too much at the wrong end of the park. Problems just compounded into errors and penalties.

Captain Siya Kolisi had his best game of the year, dominating the breakdown to consistently spoil Wallaby ball with three turnovers. The Wallabies couldn’t handle the intensity of the breakdown.

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Possession is said to be nine-tenths of the law, but in rugby, interpretation should be nine-tenths of the law. If the referee lets it go, it’s good. That is the game and it’s easier that way.

Different referees will see things differently and officiate accordingly, no need to get angry about it. They are not perfect, they are humans, but their word is law. Remember that.

If Ben O’Keeffe doesn’t want to police players going off their feet to clean out, it’s good. The Springboks obliged, doing what was necessary to move bodies out of the way and keep the train moving. It was what they needed to do last week, take matters for their ball into their own hands, and they rectified it this week.

Damian de Allende crashed over to open the scoring after the Wallabies took a pounding and the home side could not get back into the contest after that.

The Wallabies held firm at times, and repelled the Boks, but couldn’t muster anything meaningful with the ball to even look like threatening.

In their defence, they lost key players during the game which severely hurt their chances of executing their attacking game plan effectively.

The Springboks defence was outstanding, getting up off the line in a flash and not giving the Wallabies anything, limiting them to just one break.

It was a comprehensive victory by South Africa who rescued their Rugby Championship campaign in the process, with two tests remaining against Argentina, one at home and one away.

Los Pumas have only won twice at home in 15 tests against the Springboks, and three times in 32 fixtures overall. The Springboks should be favourites for both.

They are now in the box seat to deliver a proper Rugby Championship title, their first full one, as the up-and-down All Blacks have to travel to Melbourne to face the Wallabies.

Perhaps this year’s title rests on the Melbourne fixture, if the Wallabies win, it’s still an open race with the Springboks in the lead.

If the All Blacks win it, you can almost guarantee them the title the next week at Eden Park.

The Wallabies chances in Auckland increase if they win the first one. The trip will seem far less daunting with just one game to make history and win back the Bledisloe Cup.

But if they have already lost it for another year, it could be ugly.

No team has swept their opponent yet this year in what has been the best The Rugby Championship in its history with the revised format.

With each team on two wins and two losses, any of the four teams can still win it at this stage which is refreshing, but it feel like the team that does manage to sweep a rival will get the title, otherwise it will be decided on bonus points.

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