Boks must show some fluency

2010-11-19 06:52

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Edinburgh – Saturday at Murrayfield here would be an ideal time for the Springboks to remind the rugby world that they are capable of doing more than crashing and bashing their way to dogged victories.

That may sound a little cruel, with the Grand Slam dream halfway to realisation and by a weakened squad, but the respective victories over Ireland and Wales were both nail-biters and marked more by great South African resilience and physical relish than any special, consistent attacking wizardry.

Indeed, at the Millennium Stadium last weekend the Boks positively butchered a few wonderful try-scoring opportunities when these did present themselves, leading some neutral commentators to suspect they are particularly vulnerable to surrendering their World Cup crown in New Zealand next year.

There were some four-on-three and three-on-two situations, for instance, when tries seemed emphatically on against the Welsh, yet were clumsily botched as general rhythm and telepathy among Bok backline players went AWOL -- some instances of dreadful passing technique and option-taking hardly helped, either.

Whatever the forecasts may suggest, this is fickle Scotland where you might get four seasons in one day – and usually not very much of a summer component, of course – so whether match-day conditions will suit decent spreading of the ball through hands remains to be seen.

At least it is a daytime match against the Scots, with the potential that offers for warmer and more willing hands and fingers if the pitch stays reasonably dry.

Last week the All Blacks had to play under lights here, and yet they gave a veritable master-class in slick three-quarter play during the 49-3 walloping, marked by simplicity and smoothness of passing at an awesomely high tempo and with new “union” capture Sonny Bill Williams so often a key string-puller.

Bewildered Scotland were simply run off their feet, and had conceded the imaginary “bonus-point try” by as ludicrously early as the 27th minute.

In that breathtaking period, barely a hand was laid on players who received the final pass and duly touched down, such was the flow and charisma to the raids.

 Thereafter the All Blacks went into cruise control, though didn’t surrender too much fleet-footed lustre as they gradually substituted senior players to cocoon them for challenges ahead.

Now, in a city that still shudders at the painful memory of a certain 10-68 scoreline in the early Nick Mallett coaching tenure, can the Boks produce a slightly overdue new charm offensive themselves?

You would like to think so, especially if the largely settled Springbok pack – the tight five wholly unchanged again – can gain an early choke-hold and maintain it, allowing front-foot possibilities to exciting runners like Gio Aplon and debutant Lwazi Mvovo, who could just turn into a surprise package of the nastiest kind to the Scots if the Boks have a broad spirit of adventure.

We know from Super 14 experience, of course, that the better South African sides are capable of running even the best-calibre Antipodean opponents ragged if they are really up for it ... so why should the Boks not be capable of such artistry against one of the traditionally weaker Six Nations outfits?

Generally, the composition of the latest Springbok side hints at a desire by Peter de Villiers and company to see some “racehorse” endeavour at Murrayfield rather than just pack-mule graft.

Ryan Kankowski at No 8 (he offers a slightly different form of explosiveness to in-form Pierre Spies, of course) and quicksilver Francois Hougaard at scrumhalf seems a good enough start if that is indeed the intention.

There are critics who cannot be blamed for lamenting that precocious Pat Lambie hasn’t been offered a tantalising start at No 10 for this one, although Morne Steyn did show some signs against Wales of preparedness to “mix up” his game a bit once more, I thought.

The Bulls flyhalf had demonstrated some delightful attacking touches during the early part of his franchise’s successful Super 14 campaign much earlier this year, but then seemed to go strangely sterile and predictable for a few months, even as his amazing place-kicking efficiency remained a stay-out-of-jail card.

Then there is the Bok midfield: are there others who share my creeping fear that Jean de Villiers at 12 (for all his proven class) and Frans Steyn in jersey 13, even in admittedly very fledgling days as a combo, somehow don’t quite gel as a go-forward force?

This is their chance to prove any doubters wrong. It would be a handy  opportunity for either or each player to sparkle over 80 minutes, given that Juan de Jongh and Jaque Fourie are absentees from this tour whose stocks may actually quietly benefit if the Boks continue to struggle for true verve at centre at Murrayfield and then Twickenham.

There is a lot at stake for Zane Kirchner, too, questionably returned to his favoured fullback position for the challenge of the Scots – he must assure us there are greater subtleties to his attacking armoury than the monotonous hoof-and-chase.

Yes, if howling winds and lashing rain stay away – and for the record they are supposed to -- from this scenic and vibrant metropolis on Saturday, some sexed-up Springbok rugby would be welcome and timely.


  • KH - 2010-11-19 07:33

    Nice comment mentioning the Super 14 teams running their opponents ragged. I still have fond memories of the Stormers against the Blues this year and thinking of not seeing that kind of running rugby from a South African side for a long time. In New Zealand nogal! It just showed what we are capable of and it would be awesome to see the Bokke doing the same!!

  • FuzzyStorm - 2010-11-19 07:51

    It seems that PDV and his fellow clowns have decided that Backline play is superflious in SA rugby.

  • justitiae - 2010-11-19 07:57

    Since when is Pierre Spies "in-form"? He is arguably the season's biggest dissapointment and probably the most questionable selection for the tour - the man cant defend to save his life and 2/3 good ball carries a game does not hide that fact at this level. Rob Houwing is an idiot that cares more for pleasing certain sections of the reading audience than for actual fact based reporting. Rob - Just because the northern hemisphere idiots like the man, doesnt make him "in-form". They wouldn't know an inform player if one knocked at their doors.

      Egg-Zachary - 2010-11-19 08:20

      er... did you not watch last weeks game!?

      cheryl.kristiansen - 2010-11-19 08:25

      In form since he won the man of the match last week you pillak!!

      green_goblin - 2010-11-19 08:51

      guess who is not the inform (ed) one now... burn!!

      pcpcoetzee89 - 2010-11-19 09:02

      Your never ending drivel about SPIES makes you a "one eyed ... one track minded" doubtful rugby analyst! SPIES is certainly not the most devastating defender on planet earth [incidently his late father had the same weakness] - yet as a ball carrier he is second to none. He simply isn't supposed to "tackle everything in sight" as it will inhibit the very reason why he is selected ... to "make yards" with ball in hand; to provide forward momentum, to aggressively attack the advantage line, to create momentum for consecutive "phase play"!! If SPIES has to tackle "everything in sight" ... he will be "the core of every loose scrum and break point ... thus on the deck!!! Instead of being on his feet as far as possible!! Now please read and study what i have said here ... bring your pencil and note book as you will be evaluated on Saturday evening 23h00 ... and no cheating!!!!!

      sannahan - 2010-11-19 09:04

      Yes, and this tour is the opportunity to check whether Alberts or Kanko can do it, but, no! Alberts would have made an even bigger impact if he had been on the park from the start.

      justitiae - 2010-11-19 09:22

      Yes, man of the match last week... According to whom? He was voted man of the match by Brian Moore - enough said. Devastating ball carrier on defence? Why must he be far away on his feet when defending? His father was a wing and had the same problem, not the same position or defensive responsibilities. Who's the bad analyst now? Open your eyes people. If ball carrying is his biggest strenghth then we are in trouble. Other international eighth men are far more prolific that him - Kieron Read, Jamie Heaslip, Imanol Harinoduque etc etc etc - not too even mention local boys such as Alberts, Kanko or Vermeulen...

      Jaco - 2010-11-19 09:35

      You don't know much about rugby.

      Pietie007 - 2010-11-19 10:46

      Justitiae I agree!! Juan Smit have to do his tackling for him and then Juan gets up and carries the ball much better. Spies just stands around and touches everybody and every brakedown. It`s for this reason the All Blacks doesn`t pick a player like Sione Lauaki anymore.

      Justin - 2010-11-19 11:18

      I agree Justitiae. Spies should play as an impact player on the wing. Kanko is possibly the best attacking no. 8 in the world, but he just never gets a chance in green & gold to prove himself. My loose trio against the poms. Juan at blindside, Stegman at openside, Alberts at 8th man. After 50min, once our tight 5 have broken the poms backs, bring on Keegan to openside, Kanko to 8th man, and move Alberts to blindside, while Lambie comes on with Hougaard. Move Morne Steyn to fullback (just in case). Oh and someone tell our centres to swop jerseys please.

      xperdt - 2010-11-19 11:38

      Here we go again... "Spies does not tackle, spies is not strong enough, spies use steroids, spies does not score every game" bla bla bla "I hate spies...I hate spies...because, because, his a blue bull and because his a Christian" ya that it. PLEASE girls get a life or just a job! Don’t come spitting your bitter gall on this site- its family friendly. Go drivel on your boyfriend’s face.

      tktoplis - 2010-11-19 11:46

      I agree with justitiae, the guy didnt have a great game by any means, a couple of carries in my mind doesnt warrant man of the match. Kieran Read is devasting with ball in hand as he is on defence, Spies take out your notebook

  • Shauno - 2010-11-19 07:58

    Looking forward to the game, lots of exciting players to watch, will be interesting to see how they have gelled as a team. enjoy all

  • sannahan - 2010-11-19 08:20

    It is worrying that the coaching staff cannot enable the backline play to step up. If we cannot get it right now, it will not happen at the World Cup. Yes, other sides fear our tight five, but that's it! Who cares about our backs? Other teams work out plans to score tries because of our inferiopr backline play, but don't have to waste time on master strategies to counter top-class play. We need Lambie, Aplon and Mvovo to grow on the international stage and make a much-needed difference.

  • skywalker - 2010-11-19 08:25

    I don't think Scotland are as useless as everybody seems to think....they were just made to look so by an exceptional display by the ABs....Boks should take it up front but dodgy Dick Muir backline will struggle on defence and attack again.

  • Weepee - 2010-11-19 08:33

    A lot is being said about this side and winning the grand slam bla bla bla. I do not think I have ever seen a bok side play as badly as they did in the 1st half last week. The truth is they are a shadow of the side 2 years ago. It's a 15 man game and the Bok backs are shocking - fact!!!!!!! Here is a prediction. England will hammer us! We have a prodigeous talent like Lambie and PDV cannot see his way clear to play the guy despite two poor performances by the imcumbent backs. I dont get it.

      sannahan - 2010-11-19 09:00

      Agreed. Wins on this tour are of no use if their is marked improvement in our general play. What would have happened if we had played The All Blacks last Sat? They would have klapped us! PdV promised that he would improve on the "dour White way of doing", but when will that start? Get Lambie on the park. A dynamic gameplan needs a new general and Lambie CAN do it! The AB's and Wallabies have no sleepless nights over 'kick-up-and-down' Steyn. Why wait?

      justitiae - 2010-11-19 09:25

      I tell you why you dont get it... why none of us dont get it... Its because PDV and his the selectors are idiots and dont care about anything except their own suvival. i.e. winning the next game at all costs. Forward thinking has no home in the SARU Circus!

      Jaco - 2010-11-19 09:37

      I have to agree with you.

      sannahan - 2010-11-19 11:41

      Yes, justitiae. Now, let me think... what would they like to share with their grandchildren one day? How they have helped to rubbish rugby or try their utmost to sidestep any rugby topic. They have the opportunity to take us forward, but that means clever thinking and staying one step ahead. If they cannot do it, get off the bus. I root for the Boks, but really don't see any mastermind plan for the future. If they don't risk and step out they cannot shape SA rugby for a better future.

  • bill - 2010-11-19 08:43

    The problem seems to be Jean de Villiers who is completely out of form , missing first time tackles and dying with the ball, unlike the fast distribution of the All Blacks.

      sannahan - 2010-11-19 10:51

      Yes, we have become too predictable. We don't have to run like crazy horses. The Shrks have shown the way. The Boks don't have to carbon-copy them, but players like Jean have become crash-ball obsessed and shirked their flair. I'll back PdV if he can really set a fresh new way. Tackles -he's not the only one. If you miss tackles against average opposition they grow in confidence and start running at you. Our backline should watch video clips of Andries Strauss and then DO it!

  • BardofAvon - 2010-11-19 08:51

    Since the country is obsessed with race, the Boks must be fluent in Rugby, English, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu and Tswana.

  • jg77430 - 2010-11-19 09:29

    If the Boks continue to stupidly kick away possession they may as well go home now and not bother to go to New Zealand. I fervently hope that idiot Ruan Pienaar does not get to play

  • Quintin - 2010-11-19 09:52

    Our backline will always be poor as long as the Flyhalf (Morne Steyn) plays so far behind the advantage line. I feel for Jean De Villiers, first he had to play next to Willem De Waal in the Curry Cup (who also stands meters behind the scrumhalf) and now he has to play next to Morne Steyn who only catches the ball in a standing position 15 meters behind the gain line and then passes. Kicking 90% in test match rugby can`t be the only reason for selection anymore. The Boks are talking about keeping the ball in hand more, then why do they pick a purely kicking flyhalf. We do have flyhalfs that can get a backline going and kick as well (maybe not 90%, but 80% - Lambie,Grant). With these flyhalfs we will score more tries and won`t need to rely on penalties as much.

      Pietie007 - 2010-11-19 10:22

      Genius!!! 110% correct!!!

      xperdt - 2010-11-19 11:26

      Hey yo stupid this is not 'n nathaniel homo & skinner conference! If you watched last Saturday’s game, take your hands from your eyes and boyfriend knees and see that both these fly-halves you’re talking about is sheet scared and not ever capable to even play curriecup. lampster throw the ball how many times behind dVilliers 3-4. he's a boy and morne a man-huge difference! because morne kicks so freaking brilliant you miss his FAST ball spreading & good line running, that why he break every record dumb @ss. but because silly girls like you and your mate hate spies, morne, olivier, matfield, bakkies, steggies, fouriedpreez, zane etc.and etc. You go on and on and on... yawn. girl, we think pls stop this bitter jealousy and pathetic uselessness and get a job!

      BardofAvon - 2010-11-19 11:27

      Almost a good argument. When the other #10s can get to 90% (actually I think Morne's Bok record is even more than that... didn't he get 42 kicks in a row over?) then they will have a chance. But a coach can't - just can't - leave a points machine on the bench, especially if his playing style is more a function of what he has been told to do than a lack of ability. Morne is not dumb, and certainly not not talented.

      Pietie007 - 2010-11-19 12:39

      @xperdt - You are clearly a Blue Bull supporter. Your stupid and uneducated comment gave you away! Please stop commentating on this site, this site is only for people who atleast finished school. But don`t feel bad, I`m sure you are an excellent gas station attendant.

  • Emile - 2010-11-19 11:30

    Get a coach and these guys will play any brand of rugby. They play brainless rugby cause there is no game plan, no coaching, nothing.

  • tktoplis - 2010-11-19 11:47

    I agree with justitiae, the guy didnt have a great game by any means, a couple of carries in my mind doesnt warrant man of the match. Kieran Read is devasting with ball in hand as he is on defence, Spies take out your notebook.

  • siphosm - 2010-11-19 12:08

    xperdt you are clarly a dutchman and a fool. A typical Blue Bulls fan. Morne Steyn is unfortunately one dimensional and plays "manne krag" rugby learnt at Loftus(Biggest gay club in the World). Lambie completely destroyed Steyn and co in the Semi and then showed Wilem De Waal and Schalk and JDV to score a great try in the final.... a boy? I don't think so. The reality is we need to look after this kid and we can potentially have a Dan Carter mixed with a bit of quade Cooper, Percy can assist with his kicking game....

      tktoplis - 2010-11-19 13:12

      Key ingredient in our inabilty to play an all round game... look at the predominant feeding schools into the provincial set ups. Affies, Grey, Paul Roos etc, and what does their gameplan revolve around? Forward dominance and the ability to beat oppositions into submission by brute force, Manne Krag absolutely, this hinderence starts at school level by coaches that dont know anything other than that and it stems upward. In my opinion there are only two schools in the country that CONSISTENTLY utilise their back divisions to their full potential, namely: Bishops and Monument Pretoria. @ xperdt:Bulls set up:positions 12 & 13 are purely extensions of the forwards that crash the ball up, 11 & 14 are there purely to chase the ball and defend, and 15 is there as an extension to 10 to add to the mindless bombardment of up and unders at all times. How the bulls mauled the chiefs in last years s14 final and the reds in 2007 by those ridiculous scores, is beyond any logical explanation. I hope that new centre Watermeyer gets snapped up by any other team in the s14, than be retained in that team. When Zane Kirshner was first on the scene with Griquas, that man was unbelievable on attack and brocken play, a few years down the line at the bulls the oke has forgotten his attacking instinct thanks to the brains trust at the bulls. The Bulls should not be allowed to purchase any rising stars that are in the backline - forwards , by all means, but to nurture that talent, send them elsewhere

      xperdt - 2010-11-19 13:16

      IS RACISM ALIVE??... "you are clarly? a dutchman" sipo, sipo, my confused african boyki, should anybody take your commend seriously? becareful what you write on this site...Its not nice to insult the dutch, bulls, morne or anybody who made such huge contributions to our beloved country!...aspecialy if you know & come from all the gay clubs- this IS infact a rugby site. "Lambster completely destroyed Steyn..." you must be in love or stupid?even YOUR dumb sharks & wp coaches- muir, gold and divvy, persevere with this destroyed steyn??did you ask yourself WHY??mate you have alot to learn. and for the record, sorry I'm not dutch, but I respect the Afrikaners greatly!-90% of them are the best rugby payers in this country.You should to!!!

      tktoplis - 2010-11-19 13:33

      xperdt - grow up, and practice what you preach

      tktoplis - 2010-11-19 15:14

      Nevermind, I hope for the worlds sake that you have had a vasectomy.

  • tktoplis - 2010-11-19 12:14

    Sad truth is that we have always lacked a potent backline, times when we have wowed the world are too few and far between. No deligent planning has ever been applied to that part of our gameplan with any coach for a sustained period of time. And naturally we cannot evolve.The Lions in this years Currie cup looked a completly differnt team with Spencer in charge of the backline. We need that in the bok team. Muir was a class act in his time and in my opinion it was during his brief involvement as a player with the boks ( 97 - Beginning of Mallets tenure) that we looked the most devastating in the back devision.But somehow he cannot ignite our backline the same way he did in his all too brief bok career. I believe at some level, every player from prop to fullback, should have natural ability to simply "play" the game,IE: keep the ball alive and run, look for support, create space, run good angles whether you are carrying the ball OR not - that too manipulates defenses. I am not saying run at all costs, that ridiculous even for the aussies and AB's.But our guys should have an inherent ability to simply attack. Channel 1 crash strategy works for certain situations, doing it 24/7 - no way. The only reason I can deduce as to why we play the way we do with no urgency to change, is that every World Cup to date has been a display of defense, patience and attrition, we know that better than anyone, but next years World Cup I believe is going to be a whole differnt kettle of fish .

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