Attack! Attack! Attack!
Sport24 columnist Breyton Paulse (File)
With Heyneke Meyer into his second season at the helm of the Springboks and the players now more settled and accustomed to his methods, my hope is that the Boks will begin to adopt even more adventure on attack.
Under Meyer’s guidance, it’s a given the Boks will offer a strong defence, a solid forward effort and possess an intelligent tactical kicking game. However, on attack, I believe that the Boks have become too predictable.
If we take an example from Super Rugby, while the Brumbies reached the final by playing low-risk rugby, it was the Chiefs who ultimately won the competition by playing an attractive yet effective brand of attacking rugby.
While I appreciate the fact that there is even less time and space in Test match rugby, I refuse to believe rugby supporters would choose to spend their hard-earned cash to watch a game showcasing little flair and skill.
Personally, I wouldn’t want to buy a rugby ticket to watch an all-out kicking duel. I have no problem with a well-executed kicking game and a side that is strong on defence, but their needs to be balance to a side’s play.
The Springboks failed to beat the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship last season, largely due to the fact that they were too conservative in approach. I understand that jobs are on the line and the pressure is magnified at international level, but what’s truly at risk affording our players an opportunity to express their true potential?
I’m frustrated that they don’t appear to be afforded full creative licence on attack. Willie le Roux, a player with real X-factor was devastating for the Cheetahs in Super Rugby this season, but I have reservations whether he will be as effective within the current Bok structure. That said, his retention at fullback is a positive sign.
However, the notion of conservatism is nothing new. During my playing days, I would frequently go looking for work as the Bok gameplan back then was also largely dominated by the forwards. Often I would slip in at scrumhalf to spark the backline and most of my tries were scored from moments of individual brilliance.
This Saturday against Argentina, I would like to see the Springboks come up with some variations on attack and surprise their opponents with a few different plays and offer some deception.
I believe our backline players have the necessary skills – now it’s time to bring something different to the party.
Having played in many Tests, I’m mindful that the first quarter of most internationals are tight affairs dominated by the forwards. However, once the Boks get a foothold in the game, my message to the players would be: Give the ball air and trust your skill-set.
We simply cannot be scared to play and make mistakes. Mistakes offer a learning curve and ultimately develop well-rounded rugby players.
I believe this Saturday’s game in Soweto affords the Boks an opportunity to send out a strong message to their rivals. It’s time we also start scoring tries from counter-attacking play, which remains a really strong weapon.
I feel that the Pumas’ backline defence – particularly their midfield – is a weakness that the Boks can exploit.
Lastly, I would like to touch on the significance of the Springboks playing on Nelson Mandela Day. I had the privilege of meeting Madiba and enjoyed lunch with him at his house, where he spoke about his boxing days.
Madiba has done so much for sport in this country and it will be fitting for the Boks to beat Argentina in honour of the great man.
I’m backing the Boks to celebrate the day in style and win by a minimum of 15 points.Paulse played 64 Tests for the Springboks and was a key member of the 2004 Tri-Nations-winning side. He is currently a commentator and analyst for SuperSport.
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