Tank Lanning

Let loyalty not hinder form

2015-10-08 10:59
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
From bloody horrific in the first half, to bloody marvellous in the second. Yes it was against the equivalent of the Whistling Wolves C team, but World Cups are about momentum. And if the loss to Japan saw the Boks trying to climb Everest in boots covered in KY jelly, then last night’s win against the USA sees the Boks rampaging down the other side in Incredible Hulk suits.

So what have we learnt, and how can said lessons be heeded?

Last night’s dreadful first half and the loss against Japan revealed a key weak link to what is a pretty basic Bok game plan: Chop the one-off runners down, or slow the Bok ball down at the breakdown, and things go awry.

Wales, New Zealand and Australia will provide a wholly different, and vastly improved defence to that seen thus far in the UK. And if taking the Blunderbuss up front approach, that needs to be done whole heartedly and effectively, using the giant combatants coach Heyneke Meyer has as it his disposal. Hence his giving Willem Alberts all this time to prove his fitness!

The Boks were guilty of just churning it out to the backs against the USA in the first half, and without much creativity on attack, it did not work. It might not be pretty, but if going route one, as is obviously the Bok plan, then go all out route one. It’s only after the opposition have been battered into submission, that the gaps will appear.

It should be enough to get the Boks past Wales, but whether it will be good enough to get them past our antipodean cousins remains to be seen. I have my doubts. But I do like the fact that a call has been made.

Stuart Barnes, writing in The Times earlier this week, said: “Loyalty to a captain who outlasts his merits as a player is disloyalty to the rest of the team”. No he was not writing about Peter de Villiers’s call to play John Smit ahead of Bismarck du Plessis in 2011, instead he is suggesting that Meyer has been saved from making the same error through the injury to Jean de Villiers.

And with due respect to the De Villiers the man, I think Barnes is correct. In Damien de Allende and Jesse Kriel, the Boks are now playing their best midfield combination.

But will he learn from this, or could further misplaced loyalty cloud his judgment?

Do Victor Matfield, Jannie du Plessis and Ruan Pienaar really deserve their spots? Will his loyalty to these three stalwarts see form players Lood de Jager and Frans Malherbe miss out on the starting XV, and Rudy Paige left to sit in the stands?

Paige was outstanding when he eventually got onto the park last night. His pass is 11 times crisper than anything seen from Pienaar thus far. Why did Meyer wait so long to give him a run? Was he nervous that he would do exactly what he did – show up Pienaar?

The Bok scrum was a thing of beauty last night. Unlike against Japan and Samoa. The addition of Malherbe and De Jager clearly made a difference, and to my mind, the duo simply have to start. And how awesome would it be to have Matfield and Du Plessis to call on from the bench?

Mixing form with experience is a key balancing act for any coach. In Du Preez, Burger, Vermeulen, Bismarck, Beast, JP and Habana, there is plenty of the latter in the Bok squad. Let not loyalty to players who have outlasted their merit prevent form from also being part of the mix.

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.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    springboks  |  rwc 2015  |  tank lanning  |  rugby

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