One of New Zealand’s most respected scribes has called for Scott Robertson to replace Ian Foster as tensions reach breaking point across the Tasman following the All Blacks’ 26-10 defeat to the Springboks over the weekend.
“It’s time to ring Scott Robertson, tell him to be waiting with his hand-picked assistants and for him and Jason Ryan to get on with rebuilding a legacy that is in danger of being horribly tainted if there is not definitive action taken,” wrote Gregor Paul in the New Zealand Herald.
“There is nothing now that can happen to convince anyone in New Zealand – anyone who knows the game – that the All Blacks are going to miraculously improve without a total and brutal cleanout and reset.
“Confidence has been shattered, all hope lost and it would be madness for New Zealand Rugby to do anything other than get out the cheque book, pay off the termination fees and usher in a new era.”
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The strong column comes after the All Blacks slumped to a 24-year first, as the nation slumped to its third straight defeat after previously losing their first home series in 28 years.
The 16-point loss, which was also their fifth defeat from six Tests, will see New Zealand drop to a historic low of fifth when World Rugby updates their rankings.
But, as was pointed out, it was not just the scoreboard that revealed the grim picture, it was the nature of the All Blacks’ defeat.
Foster’s side barely fired a shot.
It took until midway through the second half to get inside the Springboks’ 22 metre line and, for much of the game, they were suffocated by a rush defence that forced errors from the usually highly skilled New Zealand backs.
Malcolm Marx was the chief disrupter for the All Blacks, as the Springboks hooker, playing his 50th Test, regularly got on the ball and turned it over.
The All Blacks only made two real chances.
The first they bombed after some Beauden Barrett brilliance from his own goal-line ended in a terrible forward pass from flanker Akira Ioane near halfway.
The second chance saw Shannon Frizell slam the ball down out wide after Caleb Clarke crashed the Springbok defence, before brilliantly being tackled from behind by a diving Damian Willemse.
“In their defining hour, their day of reckoning, the All Blacks barely fired a shot,” wrote Liam Napier for the New Zealand Herald.
“Mbombela Stadium exploded at the seams with 45,000 screaming South Africans forming a sea of green; a piercing atmosphere. The locals sure had plenty to shout about, too.
“In that white hot cauldron, among swarming Springboks, on their first venture to South Africa in four years, the All Blacks failed to cope with the relentless aerial and physical assault on their senses.
“It wasn’t the All Blacks were intimidated. It wasn’t they were caught off guard, either. The Boks stuck to their unimaginative kick-heavy, forward-dominated blueprint and executed it to perfection. The All Blacks knew it was coming – and still had few answers.”
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Some of the more colourful writing came from Jamie Wall.
“Here we go again. Another All Black loss in 2022, the third in four tests, another week of mounting pressure on the coaching staff and the people that put them there. The loss was another extension of the gaping wound that is the national side, now festering with pus and infection, stinking to high heaven of defeat and desperation,” Wall wrote for Radio New Zealand.
In his post-match interview, Foster described the defeat as “probably our best performance of the year”.
“We’re bitterly disappointed but I felt it was our most improved performance this year,” Foster said.
“Some of the areas we really shifted our game forward. In a game dominated by defence we defended well but our timing was out a little bit in terms of the attack so we’re going to have to go and have a look at that. There’s a few players over here for the first time feeling the pressure that comes from this type of team.
“We’re pretty excited about the next challenge of playing at Ellis Park for a trophy.”
Wall said that “seems somewhat laughable considering it was the heaviest defeat to the Springboks since 1928.
“But really, the sad truth is that he might be right.
“However, if that’s all there is to brag about, then the labelling of this test shows just how delusional this side is about the way they are playing. As if it wasn’t already, this is a serious crisis that is only going to get worse before it gets better.”
Long-time rugby writer Marc Hinton quite rightly pointed out that there was nothing shocking about losing to the Springboks, but he added the heavily one-sided nature to the defeat was concerning. After all, the All Blacks did beat the Springboks 57-0 in 2017 — a match which included eight players in the 23 from the weekend’s 26-10 loss.
“This was a limited, painful and at times gormless performance from an All Blacks side that has completely lost its mojo, its confidence, its rhythm and, to be frank, its wherewithal,” wrote Hinton for Stuff.
“Ian Foster’s coaching tenure now hangs by a slender thread after his All Blacks proved patently ill-equipped to handle a superb display of high-intensity rugby from the world champion Springboks.
“The South Africans started and all-but finished this Rugby Championship opener, in front of a passionate, seething crowd of over 43,000 at Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, with players being driven off the field in medi-carts, but in between they applied a massive knockout blow to these reeling All Blacks with a 26-10 victory that was every bit as one-sided as it sounds.
“It is no disgrace to lose to a side of the calibre of this South African outfit. Plenty have over the years, and plenty more will too in days to come. But to go down so decisively, and largely fail to apply anything resembling sustained pressure on their opponents for so much of this one-sided contest, well, it spoke to how far this All Blacks side has plunged.”
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Meanwhile, the South African media basked in their team’s glory, but highlighted that this was the most “convincing winning margin in the professional era” over the All Blacks.
“They may have failed to keep the All Blacks tryless in a Bok win for the first time since the Wellington success in 1998, but the 16-point buffer was by far their most convincing winning margin in the professional era,” wrote Khanyiso Tshwaku on news24.com
“It wasn’t pretty – seldom is the Bok way of rugby – and it is said that only a mother could love how they go about their business.
“However, they earned the love of not just the 42 387 who packed into the giraffe-propped nation, but the entire country. “It was aggressive It was physical. It was faultless and flawless in every sense.”
Craig Ray, writing for DailyMaverick.co.za, said the Boks were “dominant, emphatic, claustrophobic and clinical.
“The Springboks have seldom, if ever, dominated an All Black side so comprehensively. Despite a 26-10 final scoreline, the tourists were lucky it was not a lot worse.
“New Zealand hardly had any ball, they lost the aerial battle, they were destroyed on the ground and smothered when they did try to launch attacks.
“All Blacks coach Ian Foster’s time in charge is now surely measured in hours, not days.”
Brendon Nel, writing for Super Sport, instead focused the attention on the marvellous Springboks.
“You could sense it walking into the stadium. The electricity in the air. The nerves, the tension. So many of us who have arrived at these games before – in places across the world – know there simply is no thing as a bad All Black team.They may be wounded, but they are dangerous. And before the naysayers take out another knife for the now-inevitable demise of Ian Foster’s coaching stint with the All Blacks, let’s say it fairly – This was a magical Springbok performance,” Nel wrote.
He continued: “This was a night that Nelspruit had been waiting for. There weren’t just one or two heroes, but an entire team.This was a night where the ghosts of the past were laid to rest, where the passion and pride in Springbok rugby showed that while there may be those who relish writing them off across the world, those who have turned Springbok-hating into a sport, nothing can stop the heart of a Springbok.”