Time to work on Plan B
Springbok coach Peter de Villiers won't say it publicly but privately he must now be getting quite concerned at the poor form that is being displayed by several senior Springboks.VIDEO: Breyton chats to Sport24
Most of the players on national contracts are lacking form at the moment, and with so many of them being guys the Boks will be relying on in the World Cup in New Zealand in September and October, that has to be a concern. We need the senior players to set an example for the others to follow.
In this World Cup year we also need the top players to pick up momentum. We saw how important that was in 2007, the last World Cup year, when for the first time ever two South African teams contested a Super 14 final and then rode that wave through to a winning World Cup effort.
At the moment it is the New Zealanders, through the Crusaders, who have the early momentum, and in the last round of matches two of their most recognised match-winners and stalwarts, Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, weren't even playing.
The Reds, by beating the Stormers at Newlands, also sent out a loud warning on behalf of Australia. For a long time the one thing South Africans had on Australian teams was that they were more physical than them, but the Reds managed to outmuscle a Stormers team that had in turn out-muscled the Sharks and the Bulls in previous weeks.
It does seem the other nations have started to catch up with us in terms of physicality and forward play, and it is one of the reasons the Bulls'
game-plan, which has been tried and tested and implemented successfully over many years, suddenly doesn't seem to be working.
We always used to say when playing against the Bulls that if you fronted them physically it was half the match won and they became easy to beat.
Unfortunately, for most of the Stormers and Western Province teams I played for over the years, fronting the Bulls physically was a much easier thing to say than to do. And it was like that for most other teams too, which was why the Bulls were so impossible to stop.
But you get the impression now that they no longer have physical superiority over the other teams, at least not to the extent that they are used to. So while I agree with those who say we should be okay at the World Cup because the rugby that gets played at the World Cup tends to be a lot more conservative, we must be careful of just assuming that we will have the forward platform needed to play that game.
The Reds pack is not highly rated but they gave the Stormers a good working over, and perhaps the most significant thing about that Newlands match was the way the visitors won it playing a game which was the opposite of what would have been anticipated beforehand.
The Stormers played as if they were expecting the Reds to run at them, but instead of doing that the Reds attacked the Stormers with a kicking game.
With the Reds forwards able to lay the platform, the halfbacks Will Genia and Quade Cooper controlled the match by pinning the Stormers back inside their own 22 with some masterful field kicking.
The Reds showed they have more than one way to win and we already know that about the Crusaders, who have Carter as their regular flyhalf. Everyone talks about the All Blacks' running style but we have often seen them in recent years win with a territory game when they have to, and with so many of their forwards stepping up to the plate this season, they appear to have the raw material to do so.
The other two main contenders for World Cup honours do seem to have a Plan B they can fall back on, and that should be the challenge that the Boks set themselves between now and the World Cup - they need to develop a Plan B so that they can take away the predictability aspect and have another way to win when we have to.
I am confident we do have the players to play a different game, in which the key will be the ability to make an onfield decision to combat how the opposition are playing it.
The Stormers, when they have taken the ball through phases and brought the attacking abilities of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie into play, have looked capable of it at times, while the Sharks won the Currie Cup last year with an all-out attacking style of play. It will be interesting to see how those teams develop their games in the remaining months of the competition as a pointer to what the Boks can employ at the World Cup.
*The Powerade Chosen One
for this week is Willem Alberts who has developed into such a consistent performer for the Sharks that he even wins man of the match awards on days when his team loses.Powerade Weekly Hydration Tip:
By drinking Powerade Preservative Free Sports Drink during a match, you can help maintain your glucose levels and thus help to delay fatigue.
Breyton Paulse is a former Springbok player and is the Powerade "Chosen One" expert columnist
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