Leader at a loss: Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth following his side’s  57-0 drubbing in Albany, New Zealand. Picture: PHIL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES
Leader at a loss: Springbok captain Eben Etzebeth following his side’s 57-0 drubbing in Albany, New Zealand. Picture: PHIL WALTER/GETTY IMAGES

It doesn’t get any worse than a 57-0 defeat for the Springboks. Never before, in 126 years of competing at the highest level, has an SA team lost by as many points and in so disappointing a fashion.

The All Blacks were duly praised in the wake of their eight-try performance in Albany. Some, including Bok coach Allister Coetzee, had claimed the Kiwis were vulnerable after their unconvincing showing against the British & Irish Lions in June and, more recently, against the Wallabies in Dunedin. The All Blacks answered their critics with an emphatic display that was as entertaining as it was effective. The buildup to Nehe Milner-Skudder’s first try, when flyhalf Beauden Barrett threw the most audacious no-look, round-the-back pass to the winger, won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Unfortunately for the Boks and SA rugby fans, the result in Albany won’t be forgotten either. Last Saturday, Coetzee’s Boks became only the fifth SA side to concede 50 or more points, in 471 tests played so far by the national side. The 57-point loss broke the record held by the team that lost 53-3 to England at Twickenham in 2002.

The All Blacks are clearly back to their best. They have won all four of their Rugby Championship matches to date and are only one victory away from securing the title – their fifth in six years.

The Boks would do well to finish the tournament in second place. One would expect them to beat a struggling Australia in Bloemfontein on September 30. The subsequent clash against the All Blacks in Cape Town, however, may witness more pain and embarrassment.

The Bok coaches and players don’t have a lot of time to turn things around. Coetzee and his lieutenants may also be thinking about what the result in Albany may mean for the Boks in the long term. SA have been drawn in the same pool as New Zealand at the 2019 World Cup in Japan — less than two years away.

The Boks simply have to bounce back over the next few weeks. A victory against the All Blacks may be too much to hope for after what transpired in Albany. Indeed, the Boks haven’t beaten the All Blacks since 2014 and have lost 10 of the past 11 clashes. That said, what the fans and stakeholders will want to see at Newlands on October 7 is a more accurate and determined performance.

The Boks embarrassed themselves in Albany. The abject showing at the lineouts and at the gainline compromised the attack. The poor decision making by the halfbacks and centres made the All Blacks defenders’ job a lot easier. The Boks’ own defence, especially in the wider channels, was a disgrace.

The Boks went into that game on the back of five wins and a draw. While the results up till then were encouraging, the performances had been far from polished.

The All Blacks were able to exploit the Boks’ weaknesses in Albany and highlight the huge gap between NZ and SA rugby.

The team, as well as the coaching staff, will be under pressure in the coming tests. The Boks conceded 57 points to the All Blacks in Durban last year. They conceded 57 in Saturday’s match. Another 50-point defeat, this time in Cape Town, would further challenge the claim that this Bok team has made progress in 2017.

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