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The Springboks’ woes are set to continue for the remainder of the year due to the severity of their shortcomings.

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The Boks’ stuttering form this season stems not from a singular weakness but rather an array of frailties in various facets. There is, therefore, no simple solution, hence the frustratingly slow rate at which the new-look Boks are progressing.

Ironically, it took the first loss in the Heyneke Meyer era at the weekend to illustrate that improvement is well being made, albeit it at a snail’s pace. The performance against the Wallabies was still a far cry from what is expected of a Springbok side, but it was a vast improvement on the shocking draw against Argentina.

Their tactical kicking, a key feature in their territory-driven game plan, was much-improved, as was their defensive effort. Although they leaked two tries, they increased their tackling accuracy from 72 percent in Mendoza to 88 percent in Perth.

It was the Wallabies’ ability to maintain possession, helped in no small part by Meyer’s reluctancy to play a specialist fetcher, that sucked in defenders and lead to the two five-pointers rather than any glaring glitch in their defensive structures.

There’s no doubt that additional changes to the side need to be made. A lack of an out-and-out opensider would be a recipe for disaster against the mighty All Blacks on Saturday, while Morne Steyn’s shaken confidence and suspect defence remains an on-going issue.

It’s important to understand, though, that whilst thrusting the likes of Francois Louw or Heinrich Brussow, who finds himself outside of the squad at present, or play-making prodigies Johan Goosen and Pat Lambie into the starting line-up would speed up the rebuilding process, it would not assure immediate success. Even with these talented prospects, the Boks would still struggle against their Antipodean rivals.

No amount of tinkering or time on the training field during the week will change the fact that the Boks are lambs to the slaughter what Saturday’s showdown in Dunedin is concerned. There simply is no quick fix. Experience is hard earned, and it’s only through experience that the Boks will grow as a unit.

It is imperative, however, that Meyer identifies the players he deems best suited to take South African rugby into the future and afford them a prolonged run in the starting XV in order to build some sort of foundation and continuity heading into 2013 and beyond.

Only the most die-hard of Springbok supporters would put money on a Bok victory this weekend. It would be a monumental upset. A clever tactical approach from the Boks, however, could make for a more competitive contest than many expect.

Although they won’t be aided by the whirlpool Wellington wind, the Boks will do well to follow – and improve – the Pumas’ blueprint, which doesn’t differ too much from the Boks’ current conservative game plan. Attitude, passion and aggressive yet disciplined defence are what served the Pumas well against the All Blacks. The inexperienced Bok pack, in particular, will need to take the fight to their hosts.

Targeting the talented but inexperienced Aaron Cruden ought to be the focal point of the Boks’ strategy this weekend. Cruden struggled to stamp his authority on the match in Wellington and Aaron Smith also suffered from the ripple effect caused by Dan Carter’s injury-enforced absence.

It was clear that Smith struggled without the composed Carter, who takes a lot of pressure off the young number nine. Expect the experienced Piri Weepu to start at scrumhalf and shoulder much of the responsibility from the base on Saturday to ease the pressure off Cruden.

If Ruan Pienaar, who should be given another run as starting scrumhalf, and the Bok back rowers can unsettle the All Black halfback pairing, they could make matters difficult for the world champions. If they are unable to do so and the potent All Black backline gets clean ball, it could be a blow out.

78 Responses to The Rugby Championship: No quick fix for the Bokke

  • 51

    50 @ Just For Kicks:
    All the talent in the world counts for nouht if it doesn’t get picked!

  • 52

    51 @ Scrumdown:
    Maybe even nought.

  • 53

    To all the Meyer critics out there, who do you want to coach the Boks? Rassie – not interested; Alister – the Boks would have played the same way with probably the same players; Mallet – been there done that, not interested in working with SARU again; Jake – he burnt his bridges with SARU; Plum – He is good but he has won a Super 14?; Mitchell – always seems to have issues with player; Naka – we will loose but play pretty rugby.

    The sad fact is that that after the previous regime we will be in a building phase.

    Here is the squad for the last game in the RWC
    15 Pat Lambie (still here)
    14 JP Pietersen (injured)
    13 Jaque Fourie (left)
    12 Jean de Villiers (still here)
    11 Bryan Habana (still here)
    10 Morné Steyn (still here)
    9 Fourie du Preez (left)
    8 Pierre Spies (injured)
    7 Schalk Burger (injured)
    6 Heinrich Brüssow (injured)
    5 Victor Matfield (retirement)
    4 Danie Rossouw (left)
    3 Jannie du Plessis (still here)
    2 John Smit (Capt)(left)
    1 Gurthrö Steenkamp (left)
    Replacements
    16 Bismarck du Plessis (injured)
    17 CJ van der Linde (who knows were he is)
    18 Willem Alberts (still here)
    19 Francois Louw (still here)
    20 Francois Hougaard (still here)
    21 Butch James (time for Bok rugby is over)
    22 Gio Aplon (has a heart as big as the Free State but too small for international rugby)

    The sad facts are:
    1) there is nobody else that will/ can coach the Boks
    2) We lost a lot of experience
    3) (not so sad) HM has a plan and it will work.

  • 54

    47 @ The_Young_Turk:
    No, I don’t feel bad at the critisism Heyneme Meyer as a person is getting…. I feel bad that the Bokke coach gets this type of critisism after only 3 months…..

    However, remember I disagree with Heyneke Meyer’s rigidity too and want the Bokke to play ball-in-hand rugby…. and I want balance in loose forward combination selection, I want the breakdown points to radically improve.

    So, CONSTRUCTIVE CRITISISM, which I believe to be the best critisism, is what I want… or rather would like to see.

    I believe you and Kickers have lost a lot of sense of reason, in favour of emotional irrationality…. maybe it’s a WP thing…

    You guys have been looking for a reason to bury Heyneke Meyer from the outset, however hard you try to pretend it’s not so.

    Maybe it’s because in my life, and in the lines of work I’ve done and still do, there has always been the need to MAKE solutions with what you have, to MAKE things work, in stead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater…. maybe it’s simply the fact that I’m a positive person… and will continue to be one.

    Tell me one thing… does the way you guys bitch and moan add ANYTHING to solve the problem…. or is it just an emotional vent of frustration?

    48 @ Scrumdown:
    Yip, I suppose Kempies and the Lions is so radically different…. go figure.

  • 55

    @ grootblousmile:
    I also get frustrated with the way the Boks played. But the Argies have shown against the ABs they will not just roll over – that does put Mendoza in a bit of perspective. (The Boks were bad though). We have pretty much a new pack and I think that is a big part of our problems. That and the blerrie break downs!

    Do you recon we need a fetcher?

  • 56

    55 @ Boerewors:
    Boerrie, for sure we need a fetcher! Undoubtably so!

    Having been a fetcher in my time, I am very critical of the way the loosies combine… I look at that first and foremost when I analize a game!

    Openside… a fetcher is a MUST
    Blindside… a tackler who is also a hybrid fetcher and a strong strike runner
    No 8… a man with golden hands, good decision maker and hard strike runner, who is not shy to tackle either

    In modern rugby, with the advantage going to the team in possession, the breakdowns are even more critical!

    The opensider and loosies in general have a duty to steal ball or at least slow opposition ball down.

    In modern rugby one expects at least 180 breakdown situations in a game, compare that to about 17 scrums and maybe 20 lineouts per game.

    But the breakdown battle can’t be won by loosies alone, one needs the grunt of the tight forwards to counter-ruck and blow over the ball, one needs backline players to contribute at the breakdowns… and one needs an added contribution of the modern day hooker to be an additional fetcher.

    Let me put it this way… our breakdowns would have to radically improve, to be able to play a ball-in-hand game of rugby.

  • 57

    54 @ grootblousmile:just vent emotional frustration – every comment by anyone outside the inner circle of managers, coaches and selectors is just that, so a strange comment. One would hope though, with enough of the same frustrations vented, someone in authority may sit up and take notice.

    For every emotional comment I have penned, I have tried to offer a reasonable reasoned solution, and, see it as pretending it’s not so, but if the Ostrich was prepared to drag his ass out of the past, and start to implement a plan that the side could work towards in the future with a style of rugby that is both competitive and entertaining, I would be 100% behind him. I was when he was first chosen, and would be again.

    If this is not the case, I would rather see him go, and get someone else in who will rebuild the team now. Simple as that.

  • 58

    @ grootblousmile:
    who would you pick for our loosies?

    I am disappointed with Alberts. I did expect more of him. Coetzee is a find!

  • 59

    58 @ Boerewors:
    I would add Brussow to the mix…. he was back at the Cheetahs this week… and looked great, up to the last second in the 85th minute!

    I believe Heyneke’s choice of loosies has improved, Flo adds good value, Marcell Coetzee is a revelation. Spies is gone (I believe he does not have hands of gold and is not a classical No 8 in the true sense of the position), Vermeulen needs to regain form and sharpen up still… and like you say, Willem Alberts has been less than adequate.

    I also think you are spot on when you say we have an inexperienced forwards combination as a whole compared to last year during the World Cup… one does not change 7 or 8 forwards in a squad and not expect forward play to suffer quite a bit.

    The general impatience of the moaning kind of supporter is what gets me a bit… as if ANY COACH in the world could change things in the blink of an eye…

    Hell, we had to endure Snorrie for 4 years, but some want Heyneke meyer out after 3 months of working with the actual BOKKE PLAYERS.

    Who would I pick as loosies….

    No 6 – Heinrich Brussow
    No 7 – Francois Louw
    No 8 – Duane Vermeulen / Marcell Coetzee

    Alberts on the bench with whichever of Coetzee or Vermeulen.

  • 60

    Dear SARU.

    It is with a heavy heart and pure frustration that I write this letter, let me firstly say I really do hope you read this and respond with an informative and thoughtful communication.

    I have never been a Bulls supporter and therefor knew little of Heyneke Meyer prior to his appointment. I was well aware of the squad he built with the Bulls in the early 2000’s and the success he has had (Frans Ludeke subsequently).

    With our very poor record over the last two years preceding Meyer’s appointment, I welcomed the thought of a new coach. By all accounts the Bulls supporters were in 7th heaven at the announcement that Heyneke Meyer will be taking the reign for the next four years.

    Understandably due to little preparation time before the English Test series, I like many other Springbok supporters didn’t expect any revolutionary rugby during that series, but in turn would have been satisfied with a 3-0 series win.

    For the Rugby championship my expectations based on the performances during the Super XV and specifically the poor form of the Australian Stars, my expectation was to win 4 out of six matches minimum with hopefully a win against the all Blacks at home to make it 5 wins. I also expected at least one bonus point win against the Argentinians at home.

    You may say as Springbok supporters our expectations are unrealistically high, but then you need to understand that South African rugby must aim to be number one in the world.

    Second place is simply not acceptable, anything worse than that is frankly embarrassing.

    We have riches of talent that is only rivaled by New Zealand, however there is a question mark as to why of the more than 200 South Africans plying their trade overseas, more than 70% of them are forwards.

    There is a belief that South Africa’s traditional strengths lie with our forwards, which in my view is fast becoming a myth. Prior to the professional era our natural physical prowess provided us an edge over the opposition and there for played a big role in our successes prior to the professional era. The reality is every professional player these days, spend enough time training in the gymnasium to negate our natural physical prowess. What other teams have learnt in the professional era is to play intelligent rugby, something we have as yet not adapted to.

    Part and parcel of the belief that we are physically at an advantage, has encumbered our willingness to create intelligent forwards and backs, there is a distinct lack of willingness to create space, running a player into space, offloading into space.

    This stems from the fact that we play too deep from 10. Look at any of our back line moves over the past number of years, our inside center receives ball way behind the advantage line, which essentially means that opposition defences simply have to drift as we naturally run towards the sideline, no player comes on the inside shoulder of the ball carrier and as what happened this weekend, the ball carrier and support runner are simply bundled into touch.

    Hence we continue to believe it is better to attempt to run through defences rather than creating space.

    The first lesson I learnt as a young boy playing rugby was to always pass the ball to a player in a better position than me.

    Our Players have forgotten that principle.

    Merely passing the ball from 10 to 12 to 13 to 14 (if it ever gets that far) is not achieving much at all.

    We never create doubt in defences, they know exactly what we are going to do, so our primary focus is to hope someone misses a tackle, if not, well then we just don’t score.

    I was listening to Victor Matfield commentate on the Currie Cup match between the Bulls and Lions the weekend, and by way of his comment it showed me the mindset the Boks have had for the past number of years. He spoke about kicking the up and under to pressurize the fullback, hoping that the pressure can turn into a penalty of maybe five pointer.

    So our focus is not to create scoring opportunities, but rather hoping for opposition mistakes, be it a transgression or a turn over.

    There are two things wrong with that sentiment, it tells me we don’t have the belief or confidence that we can keep ball in hand and display enough patience and creativity to outfox defences.

    It also tells me our mindset is to accumulate points by three’s.

    If that is the case, it is no wonder we have not cultivated any creative back play, our coaches don’t believe in it, and our players certainly don’t believe in it.

    My question to SARU is simple.

    Are we aiming to be the leaders in rugby, or are we simply content with being also rans?

    If SARU and Springbok rugby are aiming to be world leaders, you are doing a very poor job of convincing this Springbok supporter and many others like me.

  • 61

    The thing here is: if this was Pieter De Viliers coaching there would be blood in the streets, but it isn’t so we are all expected to be calm and allow HM to develop / build / experiment with the Springboks.

  • 62

    61 @ Loosehead:
    Exactly the opposite my friend…. if it was Peter Pienkdas, we would have accepted yet another loss, with less moaning, Vaseline tin in hand and busy bending over!

    In fact if it was Peter Pienkdas who had to lose 7 World Class Bokke to overseas or retired PLUS another 7 World Class Bokke out injured and effectively having had to rebuild from scratch, we would have seen true disaster by now…..

    Still, there are things and game plans which need to change….

    Remember Heyneke has been forced to play without the following, compared to Snorrie:

    Gurthro Steenkamp
    John Smit
    Bakkies Botha
    Victor Matfield
    Danie Rossouw
    Schalk Burger
    Juan Smith
    Pierre Spies
    Ryan Kankowski
    Fourie du Preez
    Jaque Fourie
    JP Pietersen
    Heinrich Brussow
    Coenie Oosthuizen
    Chiliboy Ralepelle

    Up until last week he was without Vermeulen and Goosen and Francois Louw too….

    Oh, and one can go on….

  • 63

    @ grootblousmile:
    Brussow coetsee strauss

  • 64

    54 @ grootblousmile:
    Hehehe.

    Kempies is so RADICAZLLY different from the rest of the KNOWN UNIVERSE!

    Sh1t there are some strange sights wandering the streets of this town.

    As for the Lions, well what can one say.

    Bastions of professioanlism in business, great media relations and innovative in their negotiating skills with their parent body.

    EVERYTHING thee modern sports administration body should be striving towards. Or what say you?

  • 65

    @ smallies:
    Met die groep wat hy daar het 6 flo 7 coetsee 8 vermeulen

  • 66

    OK guys, so I’m just a bird who enjoys watching a GOOD game of rugby. Yes HM has only been in the saddle for a few months, but surely any coach worth his salt is able to see where the type of game that SA are playing currently is going. He should be able to think on his feet and change his coaching style to adapt to the talent that he has been given. We have more talented players than we know what to do with – Please HM, make the most of them.

  • 67

    66 @ bean1:
    What is GOOD rugby?

    Stormers Rugby… most Stormers were extatic with the Stormers boring game this year because they were winning… till almost the end but not when it mattered most.
    Sharks Rugby…. they lost 5 in the beginning of Super Rugby (and their supporters will tell you they were missing injured players then, like Heyneke Meyer does at the moment)
    Lions Rugby… they lost almost everything and are now relegated but some want Mitchell and Carlos Spencer to coach the Bokke now
    Cheetahs Rugby… They lost so many games they had to vote against the Lions in Super Rugby to consolidate their future participation
    Bulls Rugby…. they ended nowhere this year

    Once again, change does’nt happen and game plans don’t change overnight… it’s a situation you inherit and have to change over an extended period of time.

  • 68

    When the selections for bok coach were being bandied about I put forward that there would only be 3 realistic options for Bok coach.

    Gert Smal who has been doing good things with Ireland and has been part of the Bok setup before.

    Alistair Coetzee who was the Bok backline coach and has won coach of the year.

    Heinecke Meyer who supposedly lost out to Pieter De Villiers at the last minute previously.

    I don’t rate AC, never have and don’t think WP will win the Super Rugby title with him at the helm.

    I was a fan of Smal, liked the way his team handled the Boks in past tests. he has learned a thing or 2, but HM would be fine too. At the time i pegged HM as a very good manager of systems and people, who may be better served as a DOR type of person than an on-field coach. I still maintain that this is where he excels and that he won’t bring much more to the party than any of his predecessors did, in fact he may bring less as some, like PDV had a certain “maverick” to them.

    I don’t peg HM as a man with a great deal of “out of the box” type of thinking and this has been borne out in his current tenure. To me he is showing that he is simply going with what he knows. The thing is, Heynecke is correct in saying that we shouldn’t look at plan B if we can’t even execute plan A correctly. This is to say that plan A may actually be the right one (in his mind) but we cannot judge as they cannot pull it off yet. So when he says that they need more coaching that makes sense if you understand where he is coming from.

    The error in his thinking is that the rugby field is a fluid situation demanding a dynamic approach to the game, something that he seems against allowing the players to do. This is where the problem comes out. Against softer teams you can get away with not executing plan A perfectly and still win, but against teams that are sharper and more dynamic and at the same time can front up to us physically we struggle. This was perfectly illustrated not just against Australia on Saturday but 2 weeks before that in Argentina. They could well have won that game and did it by bringing something different and at the same time matching us upfront.

    What is clear is that if HM persists with his version of insanity (doing the same thing each time and expecting a different result) will bring us a lot of angst and disappointment.

    Do I think that HM is still the right man? Yes, as much as he ever was, BUT he needs to realise that the game plan of forward dominance that he polished so successfully at the Bulls worked primarily because he had several of the best players in the world in their respective positions to use, something that he no longer has under these Boks. The question is, can he work with these players as well as he did with the greats like Gurthro, Matflied, Botha, Rossouw, FDP, et al?

  • 69

    62 @ grootblousmile:these guys are injured or retired. HM has to make do with the current crop of players, who are all very talented.

    Where you are missing my point is: the Boks under Ziebie are playing a totally crap style of rugby. They are actually playing the Stormers game [ not the Bulls] without the kicking nous of Grant ( Overjoy ) and Joe Pieteresen ( Worry) and none of the attitude on defense and making a crap job of it.
    Why is it that Beast, Jannie and Alberts all look tired and pretty average? It is not due to the long season, as the Wallabies and New Zealanders have played in the same S15 and the same number of tests as us? Surely there is a coach to tell Morne to stand closer and flatter? Funnily enough, I remember More as being a running flyhalf when he was in the junior ranks. Hougaard was the kicking flyhalf. That flair has been coached out of him. [ [not all by HM I am sure]

    At the moment the team look clueless, poorly lead and poorly coached. The game plan is out of date and HM & JDV are in denial.
    Rugby has evolved since 2007, this coaching set up hasn’t.

  • 70

    67 @ grootblousmile:Are you asking me what good rugby is? Don’t you know? Good fast paced, ball in hand rugby which is EXCITING (I know that now you are getting on a bit, this may cause a few heart palpitations), but seriously, the best match I have seen this year was the Province Bulls match last weekend – I culdn’t give a flying fark who wins the match, as long as there is, at least some, entertainment value. I think that you will find that I agree with your keeping HM – I’m not against the man, he must just think outside the box a bit. Verstaan jy?

  • 71

    61 @ BobbejanklimdiebergStormersboySpringbokJan:why do people keep harping on about players who have retired / made themselves unavailable? HM knew that they had all moved on before he took the job. He should adapt or have another plan as a coach.

    Are we going to start hearing [granted not from him yet] that Frik Du Preez, Wahl Baartman, Os Du Randt, Johan Styger, Ulli Schmidt, Danie Gerber, Naas Botha, Andre Joubert, Joost, Honiball, Smit, Matfield, Ollie et al would have featured in the squad but they unceremoniously retired before his tenure as coach started?

    SA had three teams in the S15 play off’s, so we have the players…………………………….

  • 73

    69 @ Loosehead:
    Could the monster travel that the SharkBoks had to do before this tourney started taking its toll now those players bodies? I think it could. Remember they travelled 4 times across the world. Durban/Joburg/Brisbane/Cape Town/Sydney/NZ/Joburg/Durban. Then after they came back that Sunday night they had to be with the Boks the next day in Cape Town. They were already in training on the Tuesday. I personally think that could be coming back to bite Meyer on the backside as he never gave those players a week off after getting back. They should have been rested for a week. They still had another week after that to train for the Bok/Arg game in Cape Town then head straight off to Mendoza and back. That is unbelievable travel. It will be taking its toll now. The Shark players in the Bok team have not rested since they played the Bulls and then with all that travel they must be buggered really moeg now.

    I personally think if they were granted a week rest after getting back from NZ that time and only joining up with the rest of the squad the following week, we might not be seeing so many injuries coming now too. That also comes with tiredness.

  • 74

    @ Loosehead:
    That was my point, the game plan that worked with those players doesn’t seem to be working with these.

  • 75

    70 @ bean1:
    You see, I’m glad I asked you what GOOD rugby is…. because see, we differ radically on that!

    You like open running rugby (and I like it too when it is done well mind you), but I can tell you a game ending in a 5 / 3 score can be bloody good too to the purist…. bloody good if the forwards battle is monsterous, bloody good if the tackling is feirce and devastating, bloody good if creativity by one side is met by sublime defence by the other and vice versa, bloody good if every player on the pitch is motivated and diciplined, bloody good if they apply their minds well in the 5 / 3 scoreline….

    Sometimes open running rugby is severely flawed, like we saw from the Lions under Dickie Muir and thereafter… that is helter skelter freekishly farktup rugby, mindless rugby… losing rugby.

    Exciting is a relative term…. in your case you want free-flowing and high scoring rugby, in my mind I want a real battle, effective communication, very, very few unforced errors, crunching tackles, strong set pieces, sublime mind games… and effective execution.

    To me the WP / Blue bulls match was terrible, because only one side pitched up…. and only to THEM it was a good match.

    So, I understand good rugby and I also understand where you are coming from, yet we differ.

    What I am on about, about our current situation is that we are not playing ball-in-hand rugby — which is the type of rugby the modern rugby Laws favour…. yet I understand that we in South Africa in general have played this way as a Nation for yonks now, and I do not expect it to turn around overnight.

    What I do expect however is movement in the right direction, movement towards a more rounded ball-in-hand type of game, to suit modern rugby.

    You see, I do give a flying fark who wins… I want the Bokke to win, every time, whether by 1 point or by a massive margin…. I want to see the Bokke win more against both the All Blacks and the Wallabies than they lose to them…. I want the Bokke to be No 1 consistently.

  • 76

    Hi guys, sorry I could only get back now.

    YT, broer I didn’t offer those insights because I was offended by either you or JFK calling HM an ostrich or getting emotional. So please don’t pull out of this discussion because of me, ok?

    I just thought I’d share some stuff with you.

    So, don’t mind me as Loosehead would say……

  • 77

    75 @ grootblousmile:
    So are HM’s Boks playing good rugby?

  • 78

    77 @ Loosehead:
    No, they are NOT…. but refer to Morné Pismier’s arguments and you have your answer why.

    That said, I am also not happy and would like to see change in game approach and ball in hand rugby.

    We are all unhappy, I get that… I’m unhappy too… and want Heyneke to adopt a less rigid approach… with a change in overall game plan.

    The man has had 3 month to work with the players, interrupted by a month and a half of Super Rugby inbetween… whereas there has been continuity in coaching at both Australia and New Zealand, where Deans has been with the Wobblies for 5 or so years, Hanson has been with the All Blacks now for almost 9 years (8 of those under Graham Henry).

    Perspective is required over emotional irrationality here…. give it a bit of time brother.


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