Boks need to evolve
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Taking in both the All Blacks v Australia and the Springboks v Argentina Tests last Saturday proved a few things true for me. The two that stand out being that there is a thing called rugby evolution, the other is that the Boks are still walking on all fours and checking each other for ticks!
Argentina today are the Springboks of old - using a big scrum, natural strength, brute force, passion, a never-say-die attitude, and not much finesse. It got the Boks to where they are today, and will win or draw the Pumas a game or two, but cannot last forever ...
Yet Heyneke Meyer chose to react to that singular strength, select accordingly, and then take them on at that strength! Sure the Boks are missing a few man mountains, and had they been available, or the 22 played that took to the park in Mendoza played just a little better, they would probably have won the game. But surely the time has come for the Boks to evolve?
Upon raising the issue with a number of top SA coaches, including all the recent Bok head honchos, every single one of them has said that we do not have the skill or conditioning to play an expansive, off-load in the tackle style of rugby that the All Blacks are adopting.
So how do we change that?
First we need to want to. Seems obvious, but if the ethos of SA rugby remains the box kick and chase, with locks taking first passes from the scrumhalf, then things will never change … But let’s assume we do want to play a more entertaining and attacking brand of rugby, and SARU works on marketing this new ethos to all the stakeholders …
Then we get a man like Rassie Erasmus to do the job he should be doing for SARU in any case ... Seemingly out Meyer's inner circle these days, Erasmus and a team of similarly forward thinking men should be implementing a plan that will produce both skilled and conditioned players for the Bok coach to mould into a unit.
Apart from my school coach - the legend that is Basil Bey - Allan Zondagh is probably the only coach who ever had a team I was playing in doing drills aimed at building the skills needed to play a more continuity based game. Simple things like getting your arms above the tackle, pop passes in the tackle and from the ground after the tackle, and almost inconceivably ... Passing to your right!
You watch most senior sides in SA trying to pass to their right ... It's desperate!
So the blame cannot be placed solely at Meyer or any of his Bok predecessor’s feet, as the top man should not be expected to coach basic skills and condition players. SARU's long-term plan has to be to change the mindset of the players and coaches to a more attacking one, implement it at provincial and franchise level, and thus presenting the national coach with the best possible pool of players that he can then mould into a team that plays a game that can challenge every side in the world.
Erasmus was purpose built for this role. Wow, that would be exciting!
So we can’t blame Meyer for the general lack of skills, but my word, it was still bloody silly to take on the Pumas up front with an injured lock, a seriously average 7, and an 8th man playing out of position. And while it is exciting to see all of Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Juan de Jongh and Johan Goosen in the squad, it is the game plan that needs tweaking before any new personnel will be able to make a difference.
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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