Ex Boks analyse RWC strategy

2011-08-17 08:15

Cape Town - Given the team selections this year, it’s fair to use the words “curtain raiser” and “trial run” when you are talking about the Tri-Nations as that is exactly what this year’s instalment is for the Springboks and their antipodean foes.

Unlike the last three years, the Tri-Nations is not the biggest prize on offer this year and the big challenge for De Villiers and co, it would seem, is to find the balance between being competitive – and by that we mean winning without paying an unnecessary high price – and taking the steps needed to ensure that his team is at full-strength and the players at their absolute peak when they return to New Zealand for their World Cup campaign.

It was never going to be easy. However, if the Springbok management team had gone about this Tri-Nations tournament in a clever way, they could have laid a solid foundation on which to build on with an eye on the World Cup.

In an effort to find some answers, Schalk Jonker of Sports Illustrated magazine picked the brains of World Cup winning former Springboks James Small and Mark Andrews, and Sport24’s own Andrew “Tank” Lanning.

Please note that this discussion took place before the Tri-nations began, and was published in the August edition of the Sports Illustrated ...

What is the biggest thing you hope Peter de Villiers has learnt from watching this year’s Super Rugby tournament?

James Small:
I would think he needed to draw up a list of key players and not play them in the Tri-Nations, or use them very, very sparingly at least. I believe it is vital for him to give his players as much time between now and the Springboks’ first World Cup game against Wales to recharge.

Tank Lanning: I actually don’t think he learnt a lot and I don’t think he watched Super Rugby this year hoping to learn a lot. I also got the impression when I was speaking to him that he has made up his mind and I think if you look at the provisional World Cup squad that he picked, he very much went back to basics. He’s gone for the experienced guys and the team that he has picked in the past. I think the fact that he picked guys like RuanPienaar, Francois Steyn and BJ Botha is also proof of that. But I think what he could have learnt if he wanted to, is that we have depth in every position in South African rugby with the exception of perhaps tighthead prop and fullback.

There has been a lot of talk about the Boks’ gameplan, with the coach publicly stating that he isn’t keen on changing too much. He is still convinced if the Boks execute it perfectly, they will beat any team in the world. Your thoughts?

Mark Andrews:
It is fairly obvious for all to see that the Boks have been playing a Bulls kind of rugby by putting their opponents under pressure with the kick-and-chase game. And that’s all fine and dandy when you are dominating, but the rules have changed a bit, those Bulls players struggled at times during the season and the holes have been exposed. I think it is probably the best for the Boks that the Bulls’ gameplan has been exposed because if it hadn’t been and we had gone to the World Cup with it, we would have been in trouble.

But is there still time to change the gameplan?

Mark Andrews: If the coaching staff tryto develop a new gameplan for the Tri-Nations now, they will have a huge task on their hands. And then there will be the risk that all the Bulls players would want to go back to the old kick-and-chase gameplan. The reality is that it has been exposed and other teams in Super Rugby have shown that that approach does not work anymore and that there are plenty of ways to disrupt it.

Tank Lanning: In a funny way, I believe Peter de Villiers is going to be even more conservative than Jake White. I’m a huge Jake White fan and I think he is the ultimate student of the game. And his major point when talking about World Cups and what it takes to win them is that history repeats itself. He always said, and still stresses, that the World Cup is not a basketball tournament, it’s not Super Rugby. They are two very different tournaments. World Cups are won on kicking and defence – and I agree, even if it is a little boring. What the All Blacks have brought to the game is getting the ball away from the point of contact and keeping it in play. I still think there will be an element of that at the World Cup, which hopefully we have learnt a bit from. But realistically, at the World Cup, you’re not there to score four tries for a bonus point or lose within seven. You’re basically there to win.

Mark Andrews: Kitch Christie said World Cups are often won on kicking. It might not be a kick that wins you the actual final, but you rely on a solid kicking boot to get you through your games. Morne Steyn is a fantastic flyhalf when his pack is going forward, but he doesn’t manufacture anything from difficult possession. When he gets tough ball, he’ll kick it and give away possession. But who to play? I wouldn’t play Lambie, because I think he is going to get more and more exposed. It’s difficult.

Tank Lanning: I wouldn’t change much at flyhalf. I would still pick Steyn – who is always a better player when he has Fourie du Preez on his inside – and have Lambie on the bench. He is such an exciting player, but we need to see a little more of him in big matches. And they don’t really get much bigger than away-games against the All Blacks and the Wallabies. It’s great to know we have a capable flyhalf who will come off the bench and have a definite impact.

So a lot of first-choice players did not go on the overseas leg of the Tri-Nations. Was this a good thing?

James Small:
I would say there are at least eight first-choice players who do not need to prove anything and De Villiers knows exactly what they offer. You need form going into a World Cup, so I agree with putting some key players on ice for now because let’s be honest – we are going in with a bit of a senior citizen approach.

Mark Andrews: I would have preferred to have seen those players performing during the Tri-Nations. We want the side to win, because their next game after the Tri-Nations is their opening game at the World Cup. And you can’t afford to head to the World Cup having lost three or four of your Tri-Nations games because that will be a big setback confidence wise. What I’m saying is you need those guys to carry some kind of momentum through to the World Cup.

Do the fringe players still have a lot to play for?

Tank Lanning:
To be brutally honest, I don’t think these players should get their hopes up of breaking into the World Cup starting XV, as I believe De Villiers has pretty much settled on the majority of that team. But it is also a fact that modern day rugby is played by 22 players and not just 15 and I think in terms of those seven replacement positions, there are still places up for grabs. The Bok coach is probably still making his mind up on those and they are important spots to play for.

Let’s talk about John Smit. The guy has been taking a lot of flak from all corners, but the fact is he is still the Springbok captain.

Mark Andrews: I believe it was a really good move by Peter de Villiers to come out early and say Smit is still his Bok captain, because it plays a big part in establishing that stability that the Springboks will need this year. He may not be the best player at hooker, but the coach can still go and say Smit is his Springbok captain, although he might not be the playing captain. That will leave the door open for him to play Bismarck du Plessis and use John off the bench. I don’t believe you necessarily have to have your World Cup captain on the field for every game.

Tank Lanning: I would do it the other way around and have Smit start because for me Du Plessis is more the impact player. I believe Smit offers the team more when it comes to pure scrummaging and with the Boks looking a bit iffy at tighthead, Smit must surely be the guy to start. He’s a scrumming hooker and with him packing down next to someone like Jannie du Plessis – and Bakkies Botha behind the two of them, the Bok scrum suddenly looks a lot more solid. So you can have Smit do the damage upfront and then you bring on Bismarck du Plessis in the last 30 minutes or so to run riot. Just do not ever move Smit to prop!

James Small: The big problem I have with this, is that I am a little worried that Smit is more a translator for Peter de Villiers than he is the captain of the Springboks. But that being said I don’t think they can play without him. I think he can play cameo roles in all the games but I don’t think it should be more than that.

Do the Boks have enough depth?

Mark Andrews:
In theory we should not have a problem. We had some players playing fantastic rugby in the Super Rugby tournament, but you never know if they would be able to make that step up to international rugby. So ideally you want your back-up players to have at least played a couple of Tests. You do not want to throw someone in the deep-end in a make or break game at the World Cup. What it boils down to is that I am not sure we have the kind of Test rugby depth that we will need to win this World Cup.

Tank Lanning: As I said earlier I am more than a little worried about the situation at tighthead prop. At loosehead I think we’re covered with the likes of Gurthro Steenkamp, Beast Mtawarira and even someone like Dean Greyling, but Jannie du Plessis will be the likely starter at tighthead and let’s be honest, he was not that convincing during the Super Rugby season. I don’t think BJ Botha is the answer because he has always been too small to make it in my book. I think someone like Werner Kruger needs to at least be in the mix.

What do you want Peter de Villiers’ constant message to his players to be?

Mark Andrews:
The coach has to make sure that he has a certainty amongst his players and in his structure. He can’t afford to have one press conference where he says one thing and his media guy says another thing. He can’t afford to have his key players unsure if they will be playing. I think if you have that stability in your squad, it gives your players the confidence to just go out there and play. 

Talking about key players, pick one.

Mark Andrews:
It has to be Fourie du Preez. Things seem to work so much better for the Springboks when he is on song. He is very good at keeping the forwards and the backs together. You could see it in the Bulls side: when he wasn’t doing well, the whole team seemed to struggle to find rhythm. We need him to be back to his best.
James Small: I agree with Fourie du Preez, but I also think Jean de Villiers has a big part to play. I think we’ve got this thing won in the backline but then we need Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie, the best centre pairing in the world, at their best.

The above panel discussion was published in the August edition of Sports Illustrated. Look out for the December “Rugby World Cup” edition now on sale. Click Here to subscribe to either the print or digital version of the magazine.

James Small and Mark Andrews discuss the Bok RWC strategy (Gallo Images)

Sports Illustrated

  • Anneleen - 2011-08-17 08:25

    This morning, it still feels "fine and dandy" to be a Bok-supporter...!

      Drewka - 2011-08-17 08:43

      Cheers to that!!!

      JohnnyBB - 2011-08-17 08:56 will feel very different on Saturday..... ......Go All Blacks...!!!

      BlueSilver - 2011-08-17 09:39

      Jip Annaleen! Bokke all the way!! Go Bokke!!!

      Jay - 2011-08-17 10:16

      JohnnyBB you are a prat of note....................what a chop! lol i feel sorry for everyone who knows you!

      BlueRaven - 2011-08-17 10:34

      Anneleen ek se jou as hierdie Bok span wat almal so afskryf Saterdag wen gaan my klein toontjies omkrul van die lekkerte!

      flowing river - 2011-08-17 10:58

      James Small for coach! Feenish and Klaar ...................

      coolio_101 - 2011-08-17 12:02

      JohnnyBB looks like all the bulls supporters just have a 10 year memory span whereas REAL RUGBY SUPPORTERS have a 110 year memory span..... If u wana talk stats then get ur facts right u wife beater.....

  • kosie - 2011-08-17 08:44

    if only that centre pairing can learn to pass the ball, It looks like Jdv wants to take Meisiekind's spot as a non releaser. and if fourie and steyn can learn that an up & under doesn't work if the opposition is waiting for you to do it.

      docraven - 2011-08-17 08:55

      kosie, i have to agree.Our center pairing seem very predictable with ball in hand and simply boring.They dont seem to try new things or and lack flair.When Jean gets the ball he tends to put his head down and charge.!!!

      LionsFan - 2011-08-17 09:29

      JDV had the ball at least 8 times and passed once ,de jong is a much better bet or even wooly mammoth Frans steyn would do well (as he did in 07) ,move spies to wing in place of Habana and you have a back line that will destroy defences

      Jay - 2011-08-17 10:19

      Chaps they are playing to the game plan.................................give it some time it was the first game back after a long rest, it will take a few games to get the rhythm back. I recon we will be on song by our third pool game.

      Tools1 - 2011-08-17 12:57

      @doc Jean le te flak, hy het geen ruimte om iets te probeer nie. Die Ausies het ons takties uitoorle en sy spasie beperk. Hopelik maak ons dinge reg teen AB want dis n ander olifant daai

  • Johan - 2011-08-17 08:48

    Glad to see you have chosen ex players famed for their knowledge in rugby strategy... oh wait.

      Raka13 - 2011-08-17 09:01

      Knowledge, rugby strategy and a World Cup medal, more than our current coaches can say.

  • Drewka - 2011-08-17 09:13

    Good to see the two bok legends again. Reading into what James said before the TN, i think (and hope) Divv has got something up his sleeve for the RWC. The general public (me included) crucified him for not putting a strong side in the away leg of the TN's, and trial and error tactics & combinations in the last test. But do we really want to show our cards before RWC 2011?? I think that the boks have a better game plan for the tournament, tactics that they don't want to give the opposition sides to counter during RWC. Keep the best for last!!!

      Jay - 2011-08-17 10:23

      As much as i hate loosing rugga games, I really do believe the senior guys needed a rest, the boys are playing so much rugby these days its just not funny. If the guys are fresh and fit come Quarter finals stage then we have a great chance of winning the whole damn thing!

      Dragonpig - 2011-08-18 09:41

      The problem I had wasn't that we lost the games but we got hammered and I don't see much good coming from it. There doesn't seem to be a plan B at all and our back up players don't look all that special, 2007 we were quite competitive and almost even beat Aus in one game with our fringe players. This year not so much, NZ look to be the deadly team with the fringe players who can compete with other nations, if they settle on a team to lock in then they should win. they look alot like the Bok squad of 2007, only difference is their key players are playing in the Tri Nations and ours didn't, but there aren't all the friendlies beforehand, so their team is gelling now rather than try get it going in the WC. I still hope the Boks can win but to be honest I don't have much faith in PdV or his plan

  • amabok - 2011-08-17 09:15

    I think Small was probably on the oetz having flashbacks when making these comments, there's no way De Villiers and Fourie are the best centre pairing in world rugby anymore, haven't been since '09...and what's up with Andrews ridiculous bowtie?

  • Riaan - 2011-08-17 09:22

    Totally agree with what was said!

  • Chronoman - 2011-08-17 09:33

    An important factor that comes through in the interview with Small is his opinion (which actually realised) not to play key players too much in the Tri-nations. In all sports, individual ones included, when you prepare for a single, important event, you need to plan long in advance and work towards peaking at the right moment. Peaking consists of a number of elements of which psychology is an important one. In my view the All Blacks have once again peaked long before the RWC, very much like the Stormers did half way through the Super 15 series. The Boks are way behind but with the right management they can peak when they need to. My fingers are crossed.....

  • The Boss - 2011-08-17 09:55

    Wake up !! The All Blacks (B-team) are going to give the Boks a hiding of note. Cant wait !! Keep it up de Villiers

      Chronoman - 2011-08-17 10:36

      Its fine, let them win. The longer their winning streak the closer they are to loosing it, and that points towards that crucial blow at the RWC.

  • - 2011-08-17 10:26

    Andrew's hit the nail on the head you cant take the Bull's style of play to the World cup, we will also end up 7th.

  • supporter - 2011-08-17 10:31


      Straightdeal - 2011-08-17 11:07

      Supporter, sadly you hit the nail on the head.

      Raka13 - 2011-08-17 11:15

      Please switch your caps lock off.

  • Kleinbrak - 2011-08-17 11:15

    James Small adds no value to the discussion, but to suggest that players be rested. They looked rusty and unconditioned against Oz. Best they train and play. Jean de Villiers and Jacque Fourie is a very good centre pairing. The best. I doubt it. Smith and S B Williams? The Aussies? Giteau is not even making the side!

  • - 2011-08-17 11:56

    Tank i s a joke. He's apparently a big Jake fan. Don't talk rubbish!!! in 2006 you called for his head on countless occasions, just like a lot of moegoes are calling for PDV's. - 2011-08-17 12:30

      We lost 6 of our last 10 games and lost 9 out of 17 games since 2010. You damn right we calling for that clowns head. His going into the world cup with the same side we had in 2007. What changes has he made? - 2011-08-17 14:46

      Jake white lost 8/12 games in 2006. He won 1/4 against France. Lost every game against the AB's in NZ. Lost 49-0 to Aus. Everyone here claiming to be Jake White fans called for his head in 2006. And that my friends, is a fact!

      slg - 2011-08-17 17:12

      Everyone of course is entitled to their views. But you'd have to be blind to think Peter is anything but learning on the job, if he's learning at all, while we wait on the sidelines. He had NO experience at all in senior rugby. None. The mind boggles. This is the national team. Only the best in coaches and players should ever be selected. It's like "duh" what are we thinking.

  • Ozman - 2011-08-17 13:14


  • Waldez - 2011-08-17 14:40

    Aan Docraven, jy is heeltemal korrek Jean de Villiers is nie meer n senter nie ,maar n stormram, en is so rats soos n perlemoen

      DavesRave - 2011-08-19 08:52

      "en is so rats soos n perlemoen" Mooi Man:-)

  • rosemarie - 2011-08-17 14:43

    Sort out the centres and we have a chance in the RWC James Small’s statement that “Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie is the best centre pairing in the world” is delusional and absurd. Equally absurd and delusional is that Jaque considers himself the best centre in the word. On what does he base that? Is this some distant memory of Don Quixote fighting the windmills? Look at all the recent big matches and you would find the Jean de Villiers and Jacques Fourie combination as the missing link in the chain. A centre job is firstly to be perfect in defence, midfields breaks are difficult to defend (J&J are not perfect here by any stretch of the imagination) and of course to break the line (J&J don’t seem to be able to do that either) The crusaders centres Fruean and Sonny Bill Williams easily ran holes through Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie – 3 times in a row now. Why is that going to change? It is symptomatic of the Don Quixote syndrome. The same goes for the S14 Final, the S15 Semi-Final 2011 and the recent Wallabie test. Both are fond of gesticulating and waving of arms but those actions invariably follow some stuff they made. These gesticulations we are told are “organising the defence” what nonsense. We can win this world cup but not by believing that obvious flaws are somehow and miraculously get better. Sort out the centres and we have a chance in the RWC- stick to Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie and we can save the travel money.

  • Marius - 2011-08-17 15:08

    So het ons almal ons opinies,maar wat vir my interesant is, is dat so baie mense oor sekere posisies saam stem wat Pdv nie gemaak het nie. Oorsese spanafrigters lees ons game plan al toe oë en berei hulle voor vir stampkar rugby en die high kick en charge. Hulle weet ons spelers het die mentaliteit dat hulle groter en sterker as hul eweknieë is , so hulle het dit tot hul voordeel gebruik en met teenvoeters gekom wat ons eendimensionele spel verder ontbloot. Ons wil mos eerder die bal vir ons teenstaanders gee sodat ons kan tackle en as hulle met die baie bal besit dan foute maak, gaan Steynx2 mos pale toe skop. Ons gameplan is sodanig dat daar weinig geleenthede geskep word om driee te druk. Hoop die wyses het dit korrek dat Pdv iets wegsteek en met `n ander benadering sy span gaan laat speel. Volguns my is Sarel Pretorius en Lambie die spelers wat `n ander opsie kan bied. Dit is glad nie waar dat Lambie nog te onervare is nie,hy het in Die tri-nations gewys dat hy sy man sal kan staan asook in die super 15. Basson het ook al hoeveel keer gewys dat hy driee kan druk waar ander vleuels nie dieselfde sou kon doen nie. Netso ook Aplon,hy is `n moet as ons meer die bal wil dra en aanvallende rugby gaan speel. Indien nie is Habana en Jp reg op vleuels. Dit is maar my opinie en maak nie saak wat,my bloed bly groen.

      mycentswrth - 2011-08-17 21:28

      Stem saam, SP & Lambie sal die beste kombinasie wees. Albei is aanvallend, onvoorspelbaar en maak gapings oop vir spelers wat saam breek. Having said that, what the bokke miss is to play off the ball. I wish they will stop playing after they passed the ball. Also, it's n good for one player to charge the kick-off/high ball, just to see this player pass the ball as the chaser gets to him. At least three players need to chase to cut off the passing lane, thus trapping the player with ball. Simple stuff we learned at primary school. Another thing that pisses me off....they just can't pass. FDP passes(80%) above the head, which forces the flyhalf to slow down and strech for the ball, allowing the defence to smuther the centres. Pass stmach high 1m infront of player....WAKE UP... WTF!!

  • citizen1001 - 2011-08-17 15:47

    Who is also fed up with the fact that we cant produce a flyhalf who can pass, kick and run and a centre who can step and hit a gap with acceleration and still be able to offload in the tackle? I am a big boks fan, but often the most entertaining periods of games we play happen when the Aussies and (esp) the All Blacks have the ball! Is the fact that we have no creativity whatsoever written into our DNA as South Africans? Or is it the style of coaching from highschool and provincial level? Somethings gotta change. Rugby is evolving and we are being left behind in the dark ages of the kick-chase-pressure-opposition mistake-we score game. Anyone share the same thoughts?

      mycentswrth - 2011-08-17 21:44

      100%. We need Sarel Pretoriuos, Lambie en Hougard. They can do it. Imangine these guys in a AB or AUS team....awesome

  • citizen1001 - 2011-08-17 15:55

    Who is also fed up with the fact that we just cant seem to produce a flyhalf who can run, pass and kick and a centre who can step, hit a gap with pace and still be able to offload in the tackle? I am a big boks fan but I must admit that the most entertaining periods of Springbok games happen when the Aussies and (esp) the All Blacks have the ball. Is the fact that we have no creativity written into our DNA as South Africans or what? Or is it the style of coaching at high school level and at our academies? Rugby is evolving and we are being left in the dark ages with our kick-chase-pressure-hope the opposition makes an error so we can score tactics. Who else has similiar thoughts?

  • my2centsnow - 2011-08-17 16:07

    Its Tank Lanning an ex-Bok?

  • - 2011-08-17 16:32

    Why should I waste my time and listen to a wife-beating SOB???

  • Voorvel - 2011-08-17 18:35

    Since JW and PdV decided not to use Cheryll Calder to sharpen the ball skills of the Boks, guys like Habana en so aan lost form and as a consequence the ability to perform and score tries. What a shame!! Get it right, Pieter, it is not too late. Now she is training England's the Olympic team.

  • rosemarie - 2011-08-17 19:38

    @ Martin Of course we can’t change a thing – so much more the pity. Yes Bismarck can at times get over enthusiastic. But Bismarck also makes a huge contribution to general play. And no martin debate is debate. What did John do wrong? He made zero contribution to general play except for flopping around. Maybe the loose forwards hung on the scrum etc to get a message across to that dimwit of a coach The really sad thing is we could have sent a team that would be seriously competitive. But time unfortunately will tell.

  • pages:
  • 1