South Africa were, once again, taught how to play test rugby by the New Zealand All Blacks—and more specifically, how to play a tough rugby test in wet conditions while being under immense pressure to perform well and get a favourable result.
The All Blacks controlled the ball and played their brand of hard-hitting, fast-paced rugby like the professionals they are. Although there were some shocking referee decisions, the kiwis showed what it means to play a game as a professional. The Springboks looked ill at ease and unnerved by the circumstances.
With good defense, the Springboks managed to keep the score down to a respectable defeat and were one point behind at halftime when the All Blacks led by nine points to eight.
However, Sout Africa's attacks were pedestrian, their ball control and decision-making were poor, and their set pieces fell apart under the pressure dished out by New Zealand.
It has to be said that the Springboks probably should have been playing against 14 men for at least 10 minutes, but this should be no excuse. A true professional sportsman must be able to focus on the task at hand despite any distraction or setback.
The players in green probably, and understandably, felt hard-done by some of the official decisions, but they could not get their heads into the game at all. This weakness was exploited by the All Blacks in a most impressive fashion.
Instead the Springboks effectively faced 16 men for 80 minutes. The referee displayed his interest in what was actually happening on the field when he referred an obviously botched drop-goal attempt to the TMO after all the players had already left the field for the half-time break.
I, for one, can not wait for the "white card" recently experimented with in the Varsity Cup in South Africa to be brought into the game at test level. This allows a team's captain to appeal a referee decision during play under certain conditions.
Something else that we all would like to see if rugby is to grow in any way is disciplinary actions against officials. They are, after all, also part of a professional game and should be held accountable for a bad day on the pitch.
Their decisions directly influence the course of a match, a test series, or a competition like the Tri-Nations, and can even have an effect on player earnings and on a player's career.
While all this is said, nothing should detract from the All Blacks' victory. They were cool under pressure. They were relentless in attack and deadly in defense. They deserved their win and their subsequent ascension to the top of the I.R.B. world rankings.
As a Springbok fan, I hope that the Green and Gold can step up their game and give the All Blacks a decent run for their money in this weekend's test. We can only hope that they have learned from their mistakes.