Boks to bank ‘boring’ for now
Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town - Revolutionary changes to the game-plan for South Africa’s
final Test of the year against England at Twickenham on Saturday?
Forget it, I suspect.
least for the time being, the Springbok hierarchy - coaches and senior
players alike - will almost certainly continue to take accusations that
they are blunt, boring and brutally forward-obsessed stubbornly on the
chin.Video highlights: Scotland v South Africa
Boks are on the verge of a first clean-sweep conquest in the northern
hemisphere since 2008, when it was also a relatively short, three-match
Thus far, the tours have other things in common:
after the first two matches four years ago, South Africa’s wins (against
Wales and Scotland) had also not earned especially enthusiastic
The then-World Cup champions had beaten the Welsh 20-15
and the Scots 14-10, and there was a school of thought that both matches
had actually deserved to go the other way - at least this time, the
16-12 and 21-10 victories over Ireland and Scotland respectively have
been reasonably apt outcomes whatever the merits and demerits of the
South African performances.
Be that as it may, the Boks of 2008 -
touring with a stronger pool of first-team stalwarts than they are now,
it probably needs to be noted - were stung into more fluid action in
the last match at “Twickers”, posting a record tally of points against
the unsuspecting English at their stronghold as they romped home 42-6
and by five tries to nil.
It may be seriously optimistic to
expect anything like that score-line again, and maybe also the 20-14
loss for the home side against the so-so Wallabies this weekend wasn’t
quite the result the 2012 Boks might have hoped for; England ought to be
in some sort of chastened, redemption mode on Saturday.
Once again, however, you can safely bet that Heyneke Meyer
will gratefully bank another win, virtually regardless of how it is achieved.
wishing to sound like the apologist for the head honcho that I am
defiantly not, Bok coaches always have to be mindful of their “win/loss
ratios” because they are, simply, constantly reminded of them by public
and press alike.
Meyer entered this particular tour under
pressure on that front - he had hitherto managed a dangerously low four
triumphs from nine starts, and suddenly his six from 11 seems rather
more palatable on paper, doesn’t it?
If he can claim England’s
scalp for the third time in four meetings this season (one dead-rubber
draw at Port Elizabeth), his record will balloon, whether you like it or
not, to seven from 12.
He would have some pretty good
statistical ammunition, under those circumstances, for saying that his
troops are slowly maturing and that winning is at least starting to
become a bit more habitual again after his first season at the job.
might again sound like a defence of Meyer, but the end-of-year venture
is also a less than suitable or realistic time for many of his
near-exhausted, over-played resources to be willing to tear up a
template at short notice and muster the mental energy to determinedly
make it “sexier” with the snap of the fingers.
The vast majority
of the key Bok players, I have no doubt, will happily eke out another
win in London, by hook or by crook, and then go off on much-needed
Regroup? Rethink? Pah, save it for next year.
objective of this tour, given its relevance to seedings for the next
World Cup, was to secure and then fortify status as second-ranked team
on the planet behind runaway leaders New Zealand, and that goal is
obviously well on track.
But that is not to say that Bok
supporters who are getting increasingly militant about the sterile,
shackle-dragging manner in which the national team have been going about
their business recently don’t have every reason to do so.
Africa are certainly strangling pretty limited opponents in a rather
joyless, battering fashion on this particular tour and even Meyer must
know deep down that a significant drive to rekindle a gradually slipping
skills factor among backs and forwards alike will be necessary in 2013
if the Boks are to at least close the gap on the ever-sprightly All
whose “brand”, frankly, deserves and doubtless commands much broader appeal worldwide at present.
lamenting the not dissimilar bankruptcy in playing style of this year’s
England side, former British and Irish Lions lock Paul Ackford acidly
observed in the Sunday Telegraph of the Boks: “Can’t do much else apart
from scrummage, crunch the breakdowns and smash the collisions.”
Who knows, perhaps two negatives will combine to create an unlikely “positive” in spectacle terms at Twickenham on Saturday?
If lucky enough to anticipate one, just don’t stake your Christmas bonus on it.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing