Gary Boshoff

Light at end of RWC rainbow

2010-12-07 08:59
Sport24 columnist Gary Boshoff (File)
Gary Boshoff

I guess one could say that the Springboks had an up and down season in 2010. 

The majority of fans would however like to argue that it was more "down" than "up" and primarily because of the poor results achieved during the Tri-Nations as well as the Springboks’ inability to capitalise on the golden opportunity to win their first Grand Slam title in 50 years! 

It is in the nature of the fan to judge the team on its results in the present and as such the poor 2010 results has led to legitimate questions being asked about the suitability of the coaching staff and the level of preparedness of the team ahead of the 2011 Rugby World Cup which starts in September 2011.

There is off course nothing wrong with this – it is part and parcel of what makes and keeps South African (and New Zealand) rugby strong, i.e. the intense passion for the game and the age old rivalry for the crown of world champions. 

It is this rivalry and passion that is already starting to captivate the imagination of the fans and the nation as a whole – September 2011 cannot come soon enough!

Despite the genuine concerns raised about the poor performances of the Springboks and the supposedly even poorer performances from the coach and his assistants, 2010 has given us a lot of reasons to feel confident about the Springboks’ chances in next year’s World Cup. 

Here are a few of the things that will stand us in good stead in 2011:

• In spite of his many public relations mistakes and tactless handling of sensitive matters around the team, coach Peter de Villiers has managed to build an impressive squad of players from which to select his World Cup squad. He has at his disposal a mixture of youth and experience that will enable him to send perhaps the best Springboks squad ever to the 2011 tournament. He has created opportunities for young players to gain experience on the field against some of the players and teams they will encounter at the World Cup which will prove invaluable for these players.

• The dominance of South African teams of the Super 14 instilled a lot of broad-based confidence among the top rugby players in South Africa, in their ability to beat the best the world can offer. The fact that a South African team has won the Super 14 two years in row is an indication of how the tide has swung in favour of South Africa. We always knew we had the talent, but never really believed we could beat the New Zealand teams. The recent success (Springboks 2009 Tri-Nations victory and the Bulls’ Super 14 dominance) is a result of a mental transformation among South African teams which they will carry with them to the World Cup next year.

• The emergence of strong contenders, until recently considered to be out of contention for World Cup selection, has sent the all important message to many senior players that their positions are not secure. They will have to jack up their performance and focus during the 2011 Super 15 to remain in contention for the World Cup. Players like Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel has become serious challengers given the shift in the Springboks’ game plan suggested by De Villiers after the Twickenham Test against England. Strong performances by Patrick Lambie and Lwazi Mvovo in next year’s Super 15 will make it very difficult for De Villiers and his selectors to ignore them. Add to this the return of Heinrich Brussouw, Danie Rossouw, Jaque Fourie and Fourie du Preez and the competition for World Cup spots is bound to hit fever pitch during the Super 15.

• Finally, the diffusion of the speculation about the future of the Springbok coach and the public notice (from De Villiers and Matfield after the England Test) about the Springboks’ intended game strategy for the 2011 World Cup, will have had a calming effect on the squad and would have ended any speculation about who is in charge of the Springboks. This will hopefully allow the coach and his players to focus on the World Cup and how to win it.

So when De Villiers says that 2010 has been one of his best years ever, I hope that he was alluding to the clearer focus on and the alignment to a game strategy reached at the end of the recent tour and not to his and his team’s on-field performances.

Nevertheless, while De Villiers has articulated a shift towards a more conservative, direct game plan, what he says in public is not necessarily how he plans to implement it. I am sure that this is another of those occasions.

Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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