Rugby Championship

How to fix the Boks in 5 easy steps

2016-09-02 11:34
Allister Coetzee (Getty)

By now it is no secret that our beloved Springboks are in serious trouble. Any fan who still has some hope of us catching up to the All Blacks or views us as the rugby power of old, think again ‘china’. From inexperienced coaches, lack of a game-plan, bad selections, quotas, poor captaincy, tactical and technical deficiencies and more, it is clear that something drastic needs to be done and soon. Remember 2002/2003? This was easily our worst period post-isolation and we are heading towards something similar, if not worse. I would like to humbly suggest a few (some controversial) changes in order for us to be respected as a rugby powerhouse once again.

Get a new coaching team

You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that our coaching team are lacking experience and x-factor. Only with the Proteas and Boks do we employ coaches who have zero international experience. Try doing this in football and fans as well as pundits will have a right old laugh at you. Yes it worked before with Jake White and for a while with Heyneke Meyer but test rugby is not a finishing school and you can’t afford to go in ‘green’. Allister Coetzee hasn’t even tasted success at Super Rugby level and his body language and tone in press conferences is worrying. He is most definitely not the worst we have had (remember Rudolph Straeuli?) but his lack of structure and tactical nous in his first five tests is worrying. Also, when you employ a coach from the Kings (Mzwandile Stick) then you are logically asking for results that are typical of the Kings – our worst Super Rugby team. Other current coaches are also lacking in true pedigree. I suggest roping in a Nick Mallett with Rassie Erasmus as forwards coach, Johan Ackermann heading up the backline (and being groomed for head post) and Jacques Nienaber organising our defence. We would also do well to get a technical advisor (remember Eddie Jones in 2007?) in the form a New Zealander. Anyone know if John Mitchell is available? A proper goal kicking coach is also advisable. A new coaching team will sort out the tactical and technical problems alluded to above.

Relax the quota system and remove politics from the game

Yes this topic has been done to death and I can see some fans shaking their head already. However, this is a key point if we indeed want to attract the best coaching team as hinted at above. Sadly, the best in the business are terrified of coming anywhere near this poisoned chalice and this is mostly due to the fact that a coach can never truly pick the best players due to transformation and targets. This has nothing to do with one race being better than another (remember I am non-white myself) but simply about picking the best players you possibly can (black, white or purple). Players like Rudy Paige and Bongi Mbonambi are always on the bench but get close to zero game time – this proves beyond doubt that Coetzee has them in the team to ‘make up numbers’ and by logic, this weakens the team and prevents the best in their positions (like Malcolm Marx), from making their mark.

Get a new captain

Adriaan Strauss has served the nation well over the past eight years or so but his appointment as captain was a strange one.  Most fans were expecting the indomitable Duane Vermeulen to take the reins. Currently, the majority of fans will agree that the energetic, inspirational Warren Whitley should be the man to lead us to the next World Cup in 2019. What he has done with the Lions is more than enough proof to warrant this new leadership move. With Strauss announcing his retirement this week, the timing seems perfect.

Squad selection

As mentioned above, certain players who are the best in their position are being kept out of the team, either due to transformation targets or plain old poor thinking and reasoning by the coaching team. Where is Rohan Janse van Rensburg for example? Why are has-beens such as Bryan Habana and Morne Steyn in the squad? I would like to put forth the following ‘common sense’ team who in my opinion would turn things around (if all are fit and available):

15 Johan Goosen, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Oupa Mohoje, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Patrick Lambie, 23 Ruan Combrinck

Yes a bit thin in terms of transformation and people may moan about that but this is merely my opinion of the best match-day 23, irrespective of colour. The above has a fresh feel to it with a good dose of youth who can slowly build up caps. Players such as Bismarck du Plessis, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Franco Mostert, Damien de Allende, Willie le Roux, Siya Kolisi and Frans Steyn can form a wider core of players from which to choose from. Maybe we should prevent overseas players from being selected altogether?

Game-plan

At present, we seem to be stuck between a kicking and running game. Elton Jantjies and Morne Steyn sharing flyhalf duties doesn’t particularly help the situation. The coach needs to take a decision and stick to it in order to create a structure. We are too predictable and susceptible to any rush-defence system by aimlessly running towards opposition players like headless chickens instead of looking for gaps and off-loading accordingly. We also seem to kick possession away all the time. Combining traditional Bok strengths such as set-piece dominance, driving mauls and good old fashioned physicality with a Lions type running game can only bear fruit for the team.

Conclusion

Yes all the suggestions above are unlikely to happen any time soon, if at all. In football, a few bad results and a coach is sent packing. Unfortunately, even if Coetzee were to lose ten on the trot, he will in all likelihood keep his post until the 2019 and so will his assistants. Eddie Jones took over a poor England outfit and less than a year later they are ranked number two and look unstoppable. Thus Coetzee’s excuse of building a team and asking for time doesn’t quite hold up. There is so much more to be done other than my few suggestions, from junior levels to Super rugby. The outlook is already looking so bleak and we haven’t even faced the Wallabies or All Blacks yet. I hate to be the harbinger of bad tidings and prophet of doom but suggest that fans prepare themselves for the worst in the coming months and unless something drastic is done soon (it’s not too late), Springbok rugby could be dead and buried in no time.

Dhirshan Gobind is a respected freelance sports columnist/writer/blogger. He is a writer for ‘The Sport Freak’ (www.thesportfreak.com), has columns in ‘The Post’, ‘Galaxy News’ and writes regular opinion columns on Sport24. Email: dhirshg@gmail.com

Read more on:    springboks  |  rugby championship  |  rugby
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