Rassie Erasmus. Picture: ALON SKUY
Rassie Erasmus. Picture: ALON SKUY

In June‚ Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus cautioned against overoptimism after his side beat England 2-1 in a home series — but he could not have imagined such a humbling dousing of his team’s progress just two months later.

The Boks’ 32-19 loss to Argentina in Mendoza exposed their many weaknesses‚ including SA’s inability to win away from home. Since the 2015 World Cup‚ the Boks have won just three of 15 away games and their next two fixtures are in Brisbane and Wellington against Australia and New Zealand.

Slow starts in matches have characterised Erasmus’s Bok reign. While his team overturned large early deficits against England in the first and second Tests‚ and also against the Pumas in Durban last week‚ there was no way out of the 27-7 half-time hole in which they found themselves in Mendoza on Saturday. Australian referee Angus Gardner may have ignored Puma offside infringements and he may have been casual in his handling of the breakdown‚ but the Boks failed to adapt to the officiating and to Argentina’s ferocity. It is as if foreign fields are some sort of kryptonite for the Springboks.

"We had a terrible performance‚ it was unacceptable… we can’t perform like that in a [Bok] jersey," Erasmus said.

"We had so many opportunities to score tries in the first 15 to 20 minutes. We just didn’t capitalise on that. We played like a team that’s playing club rugby.

"I must point the finger at myself. When you play like this‚ the coach did something badly wrong," Erasmus said.

At least he had the grace not to try to "take positives" from the defeat as his predecessor Allister Coetzee did after the Springboks had lost 57-0 to the All Blacks in 2017.

Erasmus is quickly finding out how difficult coaching at the cutting edge can be. The defence was appalling, missing 27 tackles‚ while the lineout again malfunctioned and there was a lack of intensity at the contact points.

After a storming return to rugby in Durban‚ Eben Etzebeth was subdued and No8 Warren Whiteley was anonymous. It is no wonder Erasmus has apparently sent an SOS to Duane Vermeulen in Japan.

Openside Francois Louw has not looked the same player from a few years ago, while flyhalf Handré Pollard and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk struggled behind a beaten pack.

The Boks face Australia in Brisbane next and Erasmus has no more credit left in the bank.

"We had certain plans that we wanted to try against Australia‚ but that’s out the window now‚" he admitted. " It’s win at all costs now."