Australia’s 37-20 win over Argentina in Mendoza in the early hours of Sunday morning moved them to second on the standings on 15 points‚ one point better than the Boks.
Gauging the Boks’ progress this season is difficult because they were wildly inconsistent as their two results against the All Blacks showed.
Losing 57-0 in Albany was abject‚ but the Springboks returned with a sensational performance at Newlands‚ yet still ended on the losing side.
The All Blacks 25-24 win ensured their went through the tournament unbeaten for a second straight year and took their Rugby Championship record to an incredible 30 wins in 33 matches with only two defeats and a draw over six years.
The Boks’ record now reads – played 33‚ won 14‚ lost 16 and drawn 3.
Considering where the Boks were in Albany the loss in Cape Town felt like a win but that should be a worry in itself.
Celebrating heroic home losses is a symptom of how far the Boks have fallen.
Although SA were third on the standings again‚ and only won two games this season – the same as in 2016 – they also only lost two matches compared to four last year.
Two draws against the Wallabies was an unusual return so in terms of a simple win/loss ratio the Boks have shown marginal improvement in 2017.
“Our performances this season have showed that our processes are on track‚” Bok coach Allister Coetzee said when assessing the season.
“We just needed two points (against the All Blacks at Newlands) to win.
“We are heading in the right direction. In both matches Australia we were in it and could have won it‚ but did not. The 57-0 defeat in Albany was not going to define us.
“The players are enjoying playing for the Springboks‚” he said. “They have a massive work ethic. We can fix some things‚ like the scrum. But working for the mate next to you; that is something you cannot coach and that makes me so proud to see how they play for each other.”
Captain Eben Etzebeth also praised his team efforts but was visibly shattered by the Newlands result. “I’ve got mixed emotions‚” said Etzebeth.
“On the one side I am very proud of the guys for the performance they put in‚ but I am also disappointed by the result. “We would have loved to win this game at Newlands.
“Coach Allister and the rest of the guys put in perfect plans for us to win this Test match‚ so thanks to the brilliant management team that we have and then also the individuals there back in the team room. I am very proud of them.
“Unfortunately‚ we needed two more points. We will look at that and see where we went wrong‚ where we could have gotten those two points‚ but we will have a week or two off now and then start preparing for the end-of-year tour then it is back to the drawing board.”