Will BIG be good enough?
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
I say judge Heyneke Meyer not after his first ever Springbok side announcement ... In fact, judge him not after the England series, do not even judge him after the desperately named Rugby Championship. Perhaps not even after the end of year tour, but rather after next year's incoming tour ...
The man is being paid a lot of money (admittedly not even a quarter of what Pitso Mosimane was being paid to coach the 68th ranked Bafana Bafana) to shape the South African national rugby side for a reason - because he is qualified to do so. And he deserves our faith.
But to ask us not to comment and discuss would be ridiculous ... Rugby borders on religion in this country and the Springboks mean a huge amount to very many people ... And not only is there passion, but knowledge aplenty too ...
Much like the coach can only pick 22 players to take on England this weekend, so SARU can only appoint 1 man to coach the Springboks. And much like there are equally talented players aggrieved at missing out on the Meyer’s 22 for whatever reason, so are there talented people round the world aggrieved at missing out on coaching one of the top three rugby sides in the world.
It just so happens that almost every single red blooded male in South African happens to be one of those people … So of course we must be allowed to comment!
Me, I have a few issues with both the squad of 32 and the match 22 picked to play England on Saturday. I find it ridiculous that Heinrich Brussow is not in either. I do not think Zane Kirchner or Wynand Olivier have provided any proof that they can take the step up to international level. I would have had Pat Lambie at fullback, and Chiliboy Ralepelle, Lwazi Mvovo and Bjorn Basson on the bench - which is particularly vanilla, soon to be in the spotlight no doubt.
I would have started with Flip van der Merwe to utilise his experience in what will no doubt be a testy first stanza, unleashing the explosive man mountain that is Eben Etzebeth in the second half, and had Werner Kruger on the bench because tighthead prop is more difficult to play. And to my mind, all of Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Robert Ebersohn and Tim Whitehead can feel aggrieved at missing out ...
But coach Heyneke Meyer has given reason (most of it sound) for his selections, and wanting to play a certain way, he has selected accordingly, perhaps initially going with those players he knows better ... And based on that I am not expecting free flowing basketball type rugby, but rather a brutally physical arm wrestle. And we should judge him on performance rather than squad announcements.
But it is this "Playing a certain way" that does worry me a little. Clearly Meyer likes his players big, and has said that he will employ a traditional “Maak sag voor, box kick and chase, defend like men possessed” South African game plan.
But it cannot be long before modern nutrition and training regimes render the traditionally massive frame of the South African a non-existent weapon? Some might say that day has already arrived. What then?
The SA Under-20’s had no “Plan B” against a physical Irish side who bullied the Baby Boks up front... The Wallabies also looked properly rattled against a Scottish side that took them on physically.
So with all sides being relatively evenly conditioned and physical, rugby then becomes about skill and natural talent … Yet both Brendan Venter and Meyer himself are on record saying that SA players do not possess the skill to play a more flowing, offload in the tackle type game the number one ranked New Zealanders employ.
How do we change that? Who's job is it to change that? Do we want to change that?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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