Six steps to beating All Blacks
Richard Carlson became famous for his books about “Sweating the Small Stuff”. In the books he argues that we spend too much of our valuable time dawdling over small issues and in the process we worry ourselves to death about things that almost always never come to pass.
However, I would contend that in the case of the Springboks, it is exactly the “Small Stuff” that the players and coach should start “Sweating” about if they are to successfully defend their RWC title in New Zealand.
You see, contrary to the gloom and doom in the Sunday and Monday press about the Springboks’ loss against the Wallabies, I felt that the Springboks put up a decent, competitive performance against the Wallabies.
It is true, losing a Test match against Australia can never be anything but bad, but condemning the Springboks as has-beens and over-the-hill is a bit over the top in my opinion.
The Springboks faced a highly professional outfit, coached by a coach who many considers to be the best coach in the world and who has been working with his team for almost two years now. He had a group of confident players (the Reds just won the Super Rugby title) at his disposal, eager to prove themselves to their coach and nation ahead of the RWC. If anyone thought that this Australian team will just roll over to be beaten by the RWC champions they were badly mistaken. No, they came here to win and they did.
In reality, when the Springboks, All Blacks and Australia play each other, there is always a chance for an upset win or loss. So let’s not read too much, too soon, into this loss against the Aussies. However, if things take a turn for the worse against the All Blacks on Saturday we should raise the alarm.
I was particularly impressed with the Springboks’ intensity throughout. There was an eagerness and dare I say, urgency, about the way both forwards and backline kept at it in that first half in particular. There was good patience in the attack build-ups, testing the Australian defence on a number of occasions. It was a classical contest between two of the world’s top teams. The winning margin of just five points is testimony to that.
In a way we expected this to happen, in fact it was predicted that the Boks would start strongly, will probably be a bit rusty due to a lack of match practice and fade slightly towards the end, mainly because of a lack of match fitness. The game turned out to follow that trajectory exactly, in the end finishing with a victory for the Aussies.
In the upcoming Test against the All Blacks, the Springboks need to start to address and if needs be, eliminate the “small stuff” that curtailed their game strategy against the Aussies. These must include some of the following:
• Make a firm decision on what happens to John Smit when Bismarck du Plessis takes the field. He cannot stay on the field in a position that compromises the team. As a rule Bismarck should start and the captain must play from the bench.
• Get rid of those players who do not protect possession of the ball. Rugby is primarily about getting your hands on the ball and keeping it until you score. Danie Rossouw is still dropping vital passes and losing his ball because of poor ball carrying technique, which, at this level of the game, is intolerable. He has been carrying the ball like this for the last 10 years and will not change now. He should not play for South Africa again.
• Read them the riot act. Those players that still believe that to score 50/50 opportunistic tries (Bryan Habana in particular and Jean de Villiers as well) is more important than holding your defensive lines against the most innovative backline in the world. What was Habana thinking? Lwazi Mvovo is up for the task I say!
• Get rid of the overweight Frans Steyn now! We have Lambie and Gio Aplon. We don’t need Steyn! Lambie offers much more than Steyn in my view in any case. It is not a difficult decision to make.
• Stop whining at the referee John Smit! On Saturday Bryce Lawrence had to ask Smit on three separate occasions to hush up and play rugby. It seems to me the Springbok captain was more worried about how the referee interprets the laws of the game then leading by example. The truth is the more you complain to the referee the more he turns against you. Ask any referee.
• Finally, Victor Matfield should focus and concentrate on winning his own and the opposition’s lineout balls and getting his scrumming effort up to another level. This is where he is needed and not to weigh-up tactical kicking options or whether to take the outside gap in the midfield! James Horwill has transformed himself from being a mobile No 8 to a classic No 4 lock. Watch the video Victor and learn.
So while the general impressions of Saturday’s game was "not too bad", I am of the view that if the coach and his advisors don’t take firm action in addressing the list of “Small Stuff” highlighted above, the Springboks' road to the 2011 RWC will be an uphill one.
Gary Boshoff is a former SARU player and current Afrikaans rugby commentator on SuperSport.
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