Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Strauss exit yet another blow to Boks

South Africa's hooker Adriaan Strauss will retire at the end of the year. Photo AFP
South Africa's hooker Adriaan Strauss will retire at the end of the year. Photo AFP

Wobbles for the Springboks keep on coming. They escaped with a late win at home against the Pumas but could not make up lost ground in last week's rematch in Argentina. It was a tight tussle but the sustained skill levels were not so strong.

It has been a tough start for new coach Allister Coetzee as the Boks escaped with a scrappy 2-1 series win against Ireland and shared results with the Pumas.

Now captain Adriaan Strauss is quitting. Strauss has been a Springbok since 2008 but mostly as an understudy until last year's World Cup. Bumped up to first choice hooker and to replace retired leader Jean de Villiers, Strauss has revealed after five tests in 2016 that this will be his international swan-song.

He's 30 which is prime time for such an experienced international hooker. This year, however, there has been an ebb in his production. When Strauss was at the Cheetahs he was a consistent package of efficient dynamism but back at the Bulls those sparks have been missing.

It's the same with the Boks. The mix of players has not worked and they have stuttered through attempts to change up their style and methods.

Political factors have not helped while the mass exits of players and decisions to pick some from offshore, have left an uneasy blend.

Strauss' exit plans make it even more unusual.

If he'd told coach Coetzee his plans pre-season then his elevation to captain seems more strange. It would have made more sense for Coetzee to pick someone such as No8 Warren Whitely for a decent run at the job while Strauss could have been a strong mentor.

If Strauss' decision is a sudden change of plan, then it provokes greater curiosity about the dynamics of the squad. If the hooker has shed his bite for the work and does not want to be involved, what has prompted that change and is it a sign of general uncertainty and malaise about the team's direction?

The Boks are combative up front but have been awkward outside the combative new halfback Faf de Klerk and now injured Ruan Combrinck on the wing.

Five-eighths Elton Jantjes struggles to find a strong pattern for his centres Damien de Allende and Lionel Mapoe and the shape gets more constricted and predictable when Morne Steyn is wheeled from the bench.

The Boks are missing injured backs such as Patrick Lambie and Handre Pollard and have not been able to find the balance of flair and abrasion which the Lions took to new levels this year in the Super series.

One consolation is that next stop is Brisbane and the Wallabies - a side in similar disarray.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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