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How does a team that came of such a high in 2009 hit such a low in 2010, more importantly, can it be fixed?

To answer the second question, yes it can be, the problem is when we look to answer the first question, have we correctly identified the problems?

Parallels and comparisons have been drawn in just about every conceivable form to find answers for where Springbok rugby finds itself. Individual analysis of games and players can also highlight what is perceivably, or possibly the source of the problems the Springbok team currently experience.

I have myself ventured into the statistics arena of debates in recent weeks, discussed player selections and game plans and tactics and various other elements which all possibly contributes to the current state of affairs.

But just this weekend following the last test between the Springboks and Wallabies and specifically studying the defensive structures of the Springboks I was reminded of what Peter de Villiers said on the overseas leg of the Tri-Nations where after he studied one of the losses to the All Blacks on video, he could not pin-point where it all went wrong or identify the problem…

Of course that statement has given the media enough ammunition to crucify the Springbok coach but on Sunday, when I watched the game again I realised this is probably the most honest assessment Peter de Villiers gave of the Springboks in his three years in charge and his most accurate.

What occurred to me is Peter, and his management are not so much wrong with their statements like there is little wrong with the defensive structures, because the problem is not the structures.

A couple of months ago I challenged Dr. Ross Tucker to provide us with some insights into the psyche of the Springbok team and management and two things he mentioned, or warned us against, has become evident in the last part of this year and the Tri-Nations and to my mind, the biggest contributor to the fall from grace the Springboks have experienced.

The first issue he touched on was sport cycles, or cycles in sport, and the difficulty for any team or individual to achieve sustained success in professional sports.

Much has been said in recent years on the point and purpose of players like John, Victor, Schalk, Juan and the likes on the reasons they still stick it out, where most believe they have achieved all they needed to and possible needed to step down after the British and Irish Lions series in 2009. The players told you they had one more goal to achieve, and that was to avenge the defeat at the hands of the Lions 10 years ago and for the opportunity to play in such a series, an honour not afforded to every rugby player.

They were motivated, focussed and hungry for success, and they achieved it. Because they are that damn good.

Following that series talk shifted from the Lions series, to be the first team to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup for the first time in history in New Zealand in 2011. And they have the ability to do this, because again, they are that damn good.

But then of course there is the small matter of 2010, the year in-between these two goals which is honestly more of a hindrance than a blessing…

Remember we are talking of players here that has won every single medal that can be won in professional rugby, that has beaten every team in every country they played in, hanging on for that one last opportunity to go down in history as legends of the game of union, the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

How do you manage these guys through a period like 2010, where they will sub-consciously enter into preservation mode rather than defend a title they have won twice already against teams they play 6 times every year?

It is easy to say rest them but you simply cannot send them on a 4 month holiday as tests are there to be won regardless and game time management is also important for players even during times of conditioning or mental rehabilitation. It is a very fine balance.

But it should have been done, and it was not.

The second problem we have comes down to exactly what happens within this team. Mentally teams learn very little from success, and it is quite easy to fall behind the guys chasing you and you are easily caught up in the mentality that you simply have to do what worked for you before.

The reality in rugby union however dictates that you have to continually evolve and adapt, the Springboks did not.


Well Peter de Villiers’ management style has been discussed many times. Empowering the players or elements within the team is one thing, doing it at the expense of losing all your own power however is quite another, and this is a trap De Villiers has fallen into.

Rugby success or failure is made up of the sum of parts, each part playing a vital role in the sustainability of a team’s success, but having parts of this system (players) drive this system is not a very bright idea.

It seems that Peter de Villiers biggest strength when he started off as a coach of the Springboks, has become his biggest enemy because it was not managed properly.

Jake White realised this just in time to fix his failings in 2006, not the way he managed his players or coached them, but that the system needed forces from outside, sometimes not even directly related to rugby and tactics and game plans, to drive the system to ensure honest, critical and constructive analysis is done on the team and its individuals, including management to ensure you sustain good performances and success.

For parts in just about all the tests in this year’s Tri-Nations apart from the opening test in Auckland, the Springboks played some inspired rugby, only for it all to fall apart or for them to conspire against themselves.

The question is not therefore whether we can play the type of rugby to beat the best in the world, the question is why this cannot be done more often and for longer periods.

Peter de Villiers does not have very far to look to find the problem with his team, but I doubt whether he is looking in the right place. There are individuals out there that will compliment the Springbok setup, one of which is the likes of a guy that predicted all this months ago already…

78 Responses to Nothing that can’t be fixed

  • 51

    @ superBul:

    Whats the bet???

    I need an external HDD, bet him one of those!

  • 52

    wise words from news 24 blogs

    To be fair, players like Habana, Frans Steyn and a couple of others have really let Divvy down, these are supposed world class players but of late they’ve been lacking that BMT that is so vital to winning against teams like New Zealand and Australia. But I think that the single biggest drawback in Springbok rugby is the public. You can bet your house that if we, the public, and our media gave Div the support that he should have had from us unreservedly, things would have been much different right now.

    To finish off, I believe that there are better coaches in South Africa than Peter De Villiers, but I also believe that Div is a competent rugby coach at any level. I think that overall he’s got a raw deal by us the people that should be assisting him by way of boosting his and the teams morale. If Div is going to stay in charge till next years World Cup, then we need to get firmly behind him because it’s definitely not going to help him or the players if we constantly criticize and find fault. The nature of the game means that there will be losses along the way, and just as the All Blacks are peaking right now and we are in a slump, things turn around pretty quickly and as I mentioned on Ariku’s post yesterday, our slump right now may just be a blessing in disguise, in this game, especially between the three Southern Hemisphere giants, there’s actually a very fine line between winning and losing.

  • 53

    @ superBul:

    I cant remember if it was on this thread or another (too lazy to check) I told tighthead about my view on coaches in this country…

  • 54

    @ grootblousmile: Well the 9mm bullet has better penetration but the .375 has knocking down power. If you wanted a guy to think about his wrongs for a while, shoot him with the 9 mil, but dont hit a vital organ.

  • 55

    @ Pam Anderson: ha ha…I’ll coach the shooter, but will not be an accomplice as previously indicated. I was more worried about the bloggers than the coach, he looked about ready to do himself in…they need mental coaching …..very seriously.

  • 56

    @ superBul: This is the biggest single reason I say the Bok coach job is a poisoned chalice you need buffalo hide to do that job. We once tried getting a rugby fan association together…what did we achieve about 300 people was it. The rugby fans love to criticise in SA and misery loves company, the unfortunate thing is that 90% of them dont understand much about the fundamentals of the game. I reckon the problem is not that hard to fix…PDV is exhausted as are his assistants probably…so our way forward is obvious. Jake has the neccessary thick skin.

  • 57

    50@ Morné:
    You’re just difficult and obstinate, flok!

    Gedra jou, al is dit sleg!

    Let me redirect my words, more carefully…. so you don’t get your knickers in a knot, again…. flokken WP Supporter….

    I am embarrassed by the Springbok defence, individually and as a collective.

    I suppose where we differ radically is that I attribute the collective failure on defence to the inability to coach the collective unit to know and execute INSTICTIVELY, as a machine… and do the right thing in unison.

    Honest question… Do you differ with me that players seem to be unsure in certain situations whether they should drift the opposition to the sideline or employ the umbrella defence. Point in case…. 1 try on Saturday… Habana shot up quickly and inwards (typical umbrella tactic), whereas his mates tried to drift… collision between Bokke players going for same opposition player… try time.

    Then individual mistakes… man, I saw Habana make at least 3 on his own….

    As you know, I used to think the world of Habana, but he’s been sooooooo bad this Tri-Nations… maybe it’s fatigue, maybe it’s confidence, maybe it’s now a case of over eagreness to regain form… Do you or don’t you think it’s time, apart from the now obvious conditioning break, to give someone else an extended run at left wing, if so who would your candidates be and for what reason.

    Some players need more critisism than others at the moment, but one needs to recognise when someone is playing well too. My knife’s been out a bit for John Smit in the Tri-Nations in general but I felt on Saturday he had a slendid game, so too Victor Matfield… how brilliant was that chip kick and collect for Mossie’s try.

    Regarding one player or the coach… that’s not the issue here, the issue is rather a sum of a lot of things, and one reaches the end of a rope after a while. That’s how I feel about Snorrie, Dick and Gary… at the end of the tether… that’s also how I feel about Habana, he needs to make way for someone in form… and I feel there are 2 candidates who tick the boxes, Basson & Mvovo.

    My points regarding possession is known, I will not bore you with it, other than to ask whether you agree we still sit with too little possession in a game, in general.

    Go spread your false gospel…. flokken WP ledeprediker….. hehehe

  • 58

    50@ superBul:
    Flok, neeeeeeeeee, my PC is ‘n MASJIENNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN !!

    Kom, ek sien Morné praat van ‘n External Hard Drive…. 1.5 Terrabyte External Hard Drive… dissie so duur nie, seker hier by R 850.00….

  • 59

    @ grootblousmile:

    I think you will find we do not differ that much at all…

    All the failings of 2010, I put in the basket of two men, PDV and Smit because that is where it all starts.

    We can break down and analyse parts of all this to death, it will all come down to the same thing.

    Perhaps it is a case that when I actually criticise the coach I am not doing it well enough because most think I am complimenting him…

    I have said many times a fundamental flaw I have always had is to back the coach, any coach, first and foremost.

    Where we differ I believe is where I think the Bok problems are not that complex, and not that difficult to fix, from what I read, you think it is…

    Where we agree and saying it in different ways, is that I am unsure that PDV has the ability to identify the real, actual, underlying problem – but a year out from the RWC, I don’t think many will add more value.

    PDV took his eye off the ball, he suffered the consequences, he has the ability to fix this and we have the resources to win the RWC in 2011, but I am afraid the changes I believe necessary, will not happen in time.

    But for now, I live by the hope that he does realise this and fix this, because no-one, other than him has a better opportunity to do this, certainly from my belief, no-one currently outside the setup such as Jake or Heyneke.

  • 60

    Raait kom ons raak bietjie meer persoonlik … Puma en die Sharke gaan dit nie like nie. Habana stem ons almal saam was nie wel Saterdag nie. Maar waar de hel was Frans Steyn? Watse rol het sy AWOL vertoning gehad met die swak verdediging.
    Ek weet mens moenie CC met Toetse vergelyk nie maar kyk die guts van Zane in verdediging, hoe vreesloos hy ingaan en ek het hom nie eenkeer sien mis nie. Nee wat golden banana boy was maar lekker absent.

    Dit maak dit 2 swak verdedigers, klaar n gat so groot soos n waenhuis deur.

  • 61

    gbs, i agree with your view on habana, basson and mvovo. I understand the frustrations of supporters. We don’t like being dominated and embarassed. But i did expect this year to be a hard one to swallow. You dont embarass the ab’s with a whitewash and expect to get away with it. 🙂

  • 62

    sb, ja, Frans was nie great nie maar wraggies Zane het nie sy kanse in die boj trui benut nie. Selfs toe ek hier op Mbombela vir hom sit en kyk het vs pumas kon ek nie dink hy is n Bok met sy vertoning nie.

  • 63

    59@ Morné:
    I believe the Bokke problems or flaws are clear and patent.

    That said, I do not think Snorrie has it upstairs to realise it, identify it or fix it. I think he has saddled himself with a halfwit in Muir (wish you could have been to the 3 press conferences with me where Dick had to speak this year) and a pedantic paper planner in Gold.

    That leads me to believe that the problems are certainly fixable and not difficult, but that neither of these 3 gents can do it, therefore the insistence on someone with more cerebral capacity as coach…. and I think it is manageable to achieve for the right candidate.

    Divvie’s eyes are definately off the ball, yes. I do not consider Jake a rocket scientist, not by a long shot…. but I do consider Heyneke quite intelligent, having spoken to him and heard him speak on various issues.

    Your issue with backing the coach comes from 2 things… one having played and trusted a coach and two having been part of a coaching team and believing in it’s integrity….

    I tend to be the opposite, I have been taught and conditioned in a profession to stand objective, one side, no matter whether someone was going to go to jail or worse…. my instincts are to donner someone who does not perform and condemn them to a hole if needed, so I have very little love lost or compassion for an underperformer, a liar or a dimwit….

    Divvie seemingly fails to see the big picture, loses focus and blames others… traits that I also do not like!

    So, how’s about that bet…. come on folks….

  • 64

    @ Met Uysh:
    Ek kry so speler jammer, hy was ons beste speler op die veld in die 1ste toets, maar wat kan hy eintlik doen as die span so sukkel. Hy het niks verkeerd gedoen sover ek kan onthou nie.
    Die Nelspruit game was net na hy onder die invloed van DM uitgekom het, kyk net Saterdag het Pieter Roussouw se invloed weer begin werk.

  • 65

    @ grootblousmile:

    Nope I dont think so, I take the side of coaches more often than not because I know the complexities that comes with the job.

    Oversimplfying the problem, means you are going to oversimplify the cure, and that never works.

    My point is to identify the real problem.

    And yes having talked to Heyneke myself as-well, he is brilliant, but having the goods in your head to do something, and applying it in a specific situation are two very different things.

    Rassie Erasmus for instance has a brilliant rugby mind, but in my view is a shit coach.

    The exact demand currently required in the Bok setup does not compliment Heyneke’s intellect and ability to make a success of something.

    And I say EXACT demand because this isn’t your everyday situation.

    But I must be off now, ciao, thanks for the chat. Catch up tomorrow.

  • 66

    Goeie punt, en stem saam oor Muir. Was n groot fout om op leeus in s14 te konsentreer pleks van bokke.

  • 67

    65@ Morné:

    I do not understand why you say what you say about Heyneke… he’s brilliant, that we agree on, he’s won a Super 14… he knows half the team intimately as coach already… I don’t see the impediment!

    What do you mean by EXACT DEMAND…. or is it just fancy-speak for “hey farker, I’d rather not see him there”.

    Come on, he’s a shoe-in, he’s got the credentials…. if they would be wise enough to be bold enough! He was next in line for the job anyway, as well….

  • 68

    @ Rugby_Princess:

    I tried the website that “Met Uysh” suggested but it does not include NPC stats for the NZ players so I have no “apples v apples” comparisons to start an analysis with.


  • 69

    @ Rugby_Princess:

    Its got only the games each player played for the NPC for the New Zealand players, unfortunately not the minutes.

    You could compare number of games and nr of tests.

    Try the following link, and enter the players name. It will show you his individual record. It is a timeous excercise, believe me, it took me a week to do my post on comparing the number of minutes between the AB players and the Springboks.

    Or you can just read my post on it in the link provided.

  • 70

    @ Morné:

    Morne, Hope you don’t mind. I am going to post your article on my blog. I will credit you and put a link to this article here. I think it is a very valid point of view and it makes a lot of sense. Especially in the South African context. It was like this during Jake White’s tennure as well. They focussed on winning the world cup from the start. The focussed on become England’s daddy. The knew that they were the team to beat in our group. Hence, we didn’t focus on the 3N and we went from hero’s in 2004 to zero’s by 2007. But they did what they focussed on and that was win the World Cup.

  • 71

    @ Met Uysh:

    You dont even have to ask me, once it is printed it is for everyone out there.

    Go crazy.

  • 72

    @ Met Uysh:

    Okay, I will just take your stats at face value then 😀

    So a question is this : Brad Thorn v Victor Matfield

    There is only 3 games differnce between them in playing time & Thorn is 2 years older – so why is everyone saying Matfield is on his last legs & needs a rest ?

    On the whole in the last 12 motnhs ABs & Boks have played about the same amount of rugby – Boks probably a little more Club /Super & ABs more Test minutes.

    Could it be mental more than physical perhaps ? After all I am sure it would be genuinely difficult to be giving 110% week after week if you have lose heart or have no direction /or leadership.

    For all the jokes about Ted’s “stern school master” facade none of his players could ever claim to be lacking for direction or mentoring.

  • 73

    72@ Rugby_Princess:
    I’ve wondered for a while now…. how do you guys arrive at the abreviation “Ted” from “Graham”?

  • 74

    @ Rugby_Princess:

    Three matches is quite a lot I would think. But I didn’t think Matfield looked off the pace in this tri nations, I think he had a brilliant tournament and is one of the stand out guys in terms of work rate. But he has to rest now in order to be ready for next year.

    On the whole there is about 3 matches difference per player and it is mostly due to the 2 Super 14 finals the Bulls played and the one the Stormers played I think. Also, when it comes to Currie Cup, we tend to play our Boks as soon as they return. The key AB’s play about 3 NPC matches.

    The major thing in this analysis for me was that our top players play way more rugby than the All Blacks top players. Our top 10 in terms of the analysis played 451 matches between them in the past two years (45 per player) while the top 10 for the All Blacks played 385 matches in the past two years (39 matches). That is 6 matches more, or 6 weeks of 80 minutes of rugby every week difference, while the average ages of the two groups are both 28.

    I agree that mental fatigue plays a huge role, especially considering Morne’s post about what the players might be focussing on, and then we lose so many games and there is even more pressure on the same guys, with harsh criticism and insults coming to individual players. I think it adds to the whole fatigue scenario.

  • 75

    @ grootblousmile:

    GBS, I am really not sure – the players I think. Poor man, his 94 year old mother lives in Christchurch – he had a few anxious minutes trying to track her down after the earthquake !

  • 76

    75@ Rugby_Princess:
    I hear that Steve Hanson, assistant coach’s home was devastated….

    And I hear there were more after shocks.

    Glad that the injury toll was low.

  • 77

    @ Met Uysh:

    I was intrigued by Matfield because I was reading on RSA websites that he did not participate in the “contact” training for much if the 3N – of course the could all be bollcoks too I suppose.

    In measuring the rugby minutes they play test matches ought to be weighted to a greater degree as feedback from players (well certainly ABs) is that a test match eats significantly more energy than Club or Super Rugby – which is logical I suppose given that you have two “best of the best” teams facing off.

    I would not go as far as to say Matfield was not performing so much as his shoulders seemed perpetually slumped as he loped his way to each line out – generally not the sign of someone feeling as keen as mustard both physically & mentally.

  • 78

    @ grootblousmile:

    Yes, many of the greater AB travelling group in Sydney had homes damaged to varying degrees. Sadly the Deans family homestead which has stood for generations looks unrecoverable.

    Here are some scary earthquake stats for you :

    The quakes that struck Haiti & Christchurch were both 7.1 in magnitude. It is estimated that 230’000 died in Haiti & $50bil of damage occurred whereas is Chch there were no fatalities & an estimated $5bil damage. Sadly, this is the difference between the first & third world. NZ being part of the “ring of fire” has had VERY strict building codes since the mid 1900’s specifically to minimise the carnage during earthquakes – clearly it works.


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