Why all the fuss around the return of Handre Pollard? He should have been there last week, and he should be enjoying an extended stay as the Boks move toward playing a more modern game.
The Blunt force trauma approach worked last year because the Bok scrum fired, human Redwoods like Willem Alberts, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and Flip van der Merwe ran through and over people, and Fourie du Preez kicked and played like the rugby god he is.
Now without Alberts, Van der Merwe, the scrum and Du Preez, and with Etzebeth only returning from a long term injury, plan A is not working so well for the Boks. Plan A requires complete and utter destruction up front. Difficult to achieve with modern day conditioning.
And while toying with (and talking about) a Plan B, one that sees the Boks do a little more with ball in hand, it is not gaining much traction. Sadly, it just seems so alien to a team that has played one way since day dot.
While the All Blacks can replace Dan Carter with Aaron Cruden, Beauden Barrett or even Colin Slade and continue to play a national pattern, Morne Steyn and Handre Pollard are like the proverbial chalk and cheese.
Morne Steyn has only started one Rugby Champs game, yet he is fifth on the kicks out of hand list. Pollard has started two and does not feature in the top 10. Pollard is your take the ball flat and try get the backs away guy, while Steyn is your man for owning the territory game.
Pollard should be the man marshalling a Bok backline that has a proper attacking 13 like Juan de Jongh outside Jean de Villiers, who then bring strikers like Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks and Willie le Roux into the game more.
That said, perhaps the biggest discussion should be around the man passing the ball to the flyhalf! Something Ruan Pienaar does fairly rarely given that he leads the kicks out of hand race on 32. All Black Aaron Smith is third on 27 kicks, but it is the difference in quality of kick, together with the crispness of service, that sets these two apart. The Boks have a real issue at scrumhalf and it seems criminal not to have given tourist Cobus Reinach at least some exposure at this level.
In closing then, a comment on SARU’s transformation strategy which aims to have half the national side represented by players of colour by 2019 - this to be in line with national targets.
Given that I coach a UCT Under-20 side that had an all black front row in most games this year, and given the amount of black talent I see coming through at schoolboy level, I actually do not think we will have an issue meeting this quota.
But are we not missing a trick here? Does it really matter that a lithe, speedy black community fuels the national football side and that a chunky, powerful white community fuels the national rugby side? Is this not just part of being a diverse “Rainbow nation”? Should the national drive not be about getting the whole country supporting the best athletes we have to offer, no matter the ethnicity?
I do know that SARU, despite not showing it in the Bok side, are the golden child of transformation given what they do from school through to the Currie Cup, and this plan will just reinforce their stature.
But with only 19% of the side currently down under being non-white, and only 12% (Beast Mtawarira and Trevor Nyakane) being black, perhaps this is a not so subtle prod in the coach’s ribs? His handling of Elton Jantjies, Juan de Jongh, Oupa Mohoje, Siya Kolisi, S’buru Sithole, and Nyakane has hardly been stellar has it?
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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