Blitzbokke lead the way
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Quite a surreal day yesterday as I “watched” Heyneke Meyer announce his Springbok team to take on the Poms via Twitter on my phone while sitting at the press conference where Paul Treu was announcing his Blitzbokke squad for the Dubai and Port Elizabeth legs of the IRB Sevens series.
And after enjoying a truly enlightening hour long chat with Blitzbokke stalwart Paul Delport on my Front Row Grunt radio show yesterday evening, it seemed worth jotting down a few comparisons between the two codes...
While Meyer announced an unchanged run on side with Elton Jantjies replacing Morne Steyn on the bench being the only unenforced change to the match day 23, Treu was making light of losing Seven-a-side legend Cecil Afrika while speaking highly of new boys Kevin Luiters and Warren Whiteley.
Meyer has been open about Jaco Taute’s best position being fullback, but is not keen to give him (or others like Lwazi Mvovo or Raymond Rhule) a run for fear of making too many changes and handing out Bok caps wily nilly.
It has long been my opinion that South African XV-a-side rugby players are not as well conditioned as their peers Down Under or, swoon, even up north in the Mud Island. My thinking confirmed by both Brendan Venter and Rassie Erasmus in answer to my query as to why SA sides do not play a more expansive game that attacks the channels out wide.
This in complete contrast to the Blitzbokke, who have added some fantastically innovative drills and initiatives (like wrestling with Coenie Oosthuizen and hypoxic training with Hannelie Prinsloo) to their industrial training regime. Delport reckons it takes some time for the XV-a-side boys to come to terms with the training when they join the squad.
The lack of basic skills in our rugby players is another bugbear of mine, with the fact that schoolboys are playing to win and climb much published rankings rather than entertain being a key factor.
Delport confirmed this, saying that guys come out of school or age group rugby not able to pass both ways, throw 40m skip passes, or run basic attacking lines that allow you to play off the man with ball in hand. Treu and his coaching team spend hours and hours on improving the player’s skill set as that is what seven a side rugby is all about. You simply cannot rely on physical dominance and a monster box kick!
I have been calling for a central contracting system where SARU contract either all the professional players in the country (like they do in new Zealand), or at least the broader group of Springbok players for a while now as I see it as the only way to enforce the player management needed given the ludicrously long season.
The Blitzbokke do that, and while initially paying peanuts (less than a Vodacom Cup player), Delport says that has now changed, meaning that he can make a living as a specialist seven-a-side player.
Sure, it is on a much smaller scale, but to my mind, the shorter code is leading the XV-a-side guys in four key areas: Embracing young talent, conditioning, improving skills, and contracting.
Far from being the afterthought they once were, perhaps it is now time for SARU to use the Blitzbokke's methods as a guideline for managing the Springboks?Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt …
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