I am only 36 years old, but one of the many valuable lessons I have learned is that life isn't fair. Sometimes you get things when you don't deserve them and other times when you absolutely deserve it then you don't get it. This was the case on Sunday morning when the Springboks played Australia in Wellington, New Zealand.
I don't think that anybody can dispute the fact that the Boks deserved to win the match. The Springboks had around 75 percent territorial advantage, 65 percent possession and they only made about 50 tackles compared to the 145-odd tackles made by the Australians. These statistics tell a very sad story of how the Boks dominated play, but failed to take their opportunities and subsequently lost the game.
We love to blame the referee
As South Africans, we love to blame the referee when things go wrong and, by all accounts, it seems that this week will be no different. So let me deal with Bryce Lawrence and his performance first and then I will discuss my ideas of why we lost. Bryce Lawrence nailed the Ozzies in their pool game against Ireland and maybe that was in the back of his head going into this game. I don't think he made blatant mistakes, but sure did allow a lot more at ruck time than would normally be the case. Did he cost us the game? No, I think we can only blame ourselves for not taking clear-cut opportunities.
So why did we lose this match? Well, firstly, we allowed the Wallabies to start well and build an early eight-point lead. They were a team lacking confidence after their loss to Ireland and we should never have given them the opportunity to build a lead and, with it, self-confidence. We also missed Francois Steyn immensely as his long-range penalties could have helped us go into the half-time break leading by nine points to eight. Morne Steyn missed two long-range penalties that Francois would definitely have converted.
The big blow, however, came when Heindrich Brussouw was injured and had to leave the field. I am sure the Wallabies targeted him and that led to his departure. This gave David Pocock free reign and he single-handedly destroyed our attacking game. Yes, he was lucky to get away with a few steals at ruck time, but that is an open-side flank's job. Pocock's ability to slow our ball down helped the Australian defence set and move forward off the line. This is where Bismarck du Plessis could have played a major role and I think Peter de Villiers should have put him on as soon as Brussouw left the field.
The missed opportunities by the Springboks played a major role and if they had converted only one of them, we could have won the game. Pat Lambie's awesome drop goal shaved the upright and could have put us in the lead. Jean de Villiers broke the line beautifully and had to make a forward pass because Kurtly Beale the Australian full back had put himself between De Villiers and Pat Lambie. That could have been seven points that would have sunk the Australians. All these "could have" and "should haves" count for nothing in the knock-out phases, as you only have one chance.
Sad day for Victor Matfield and John Smit
So the Boks will be arriving in Joburg this afternoon and it will be a very sad day for players like Victor Matfield and John Smit, who will never play for the Boks again. I know the feeling as my last game for South Africa was also in a World Cup quarter-final loss, but against New Zealand. For them it is a bit different as they have achieved massive milestones, like playing 100 tests, beating the British Lions and winning a World Cup. They are true leaders and champions and I hope the rugby-supporting public remember them for what they did in the past and not their failure in this World Cup. As I said earlier, life isn't fair and I am sure that in some circles they will be remembered for World Cup 2011. My support is now for New Zealand and I really hope they win the World Cup. They have the ability, but I hope their belief matches their ability. If they get past the Wallabies next week then I am sure they will win it. Let's wait and see!