watched, analysed and dissected the Springboks three-Test series against
ever-improving Ireland, I would like to firstly say well done to Allister
Coetzee and the boys.
However, with a pinch (or heap) of salt, To put it
mildly, our beloved Bokke are in trouble!
this as a forewarning to Coetzee and his coaching staff with the Rugby
Championship looming. Our foes here are mighty. The two matches against the All
Blacks alone will prove to be our toughest in recent memory. Australia will be
smarting after their humiliation by the English and Argentina know they can
beat us now (if you need convincing, take a look at what their junior team did
to ours last week).
four darkest days were undoubtedly the 2015 Rugby World Cup
embarrassment to Japan, the pathetic 53-3 loss to England at Twickers,
shockingly losing at Loftus of all places to the All Blacks by a record 52-16
scoreline and the 49-0 drubbing by Australia under Jake White.
The average fan
is doing cart-wheels at the 2-1 series win but the life-long, die-hard
supporters such as myself know that this team are nowhere near their best and
are fearing something similar this time.
initial fire and excitement for the new era was subsequently doused and
extinguished with the opening 26-20 loss at Newlands (with an extra man for
most of the match).
I have never seen a Bok team play with so little passion.
The traditional ‘Bok-lash’ was evident in the second match at fortress Ellis
Park with altitude and individual brilliance saving our bacon. Ruan Combrinck
almost single-handedly carried the team in that second half in what was quite
an epic comeback, to win 32-26. Trailing 19-3 at half-time was however truly
abject, indeed worrying and extremely unacceptable.
The third Test saw a
welcomed improvement from the boys in Port Elizabeth, especially our scrum and
overall set-piece play, but we still weren’t anywhere near convincing enough and
scraped a 19-13 victory. Ireland could have easily seized the series as they
lay siege to our tryline in the final five minutes.
inconsistent from the men in green and gold and if they continue to play like
this, we are bound to get cut apart in the upcoming Rugby Championship.
What I have gathered from the series is this:
a constant improvement from one match to the next. Coetzee tweaked certain
aspects and match day line-ups were improved as well as our set-pieces. Our
scrum really tore into the Irish in the third Test and our lineout was
imperious. Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit will probably make the
starting team for a World XV and the second row is probably the only area where
we can confidently claim to be on par or better than the All Blacks (don’t
forget about the gentle giant Lood de Jager). The injection of certain Lions
players is most definitely welcomed as well. Combrinck, Jaco Kriel, Faf de
Klerk, Warren Whiteley and Franco Mostert, among others, should form the core of
this team up until the next World Cup. Another positive is that the good old
fashion Bok fight is still there, proven by our tough-as-teak defending in that
I start? Firstly, the coaching staff as a whole. Mzwandile Stick was promoted
to Bok offensive coach after doing the same job for the worst team in Super
Rugby - the Kings. How on earth does he deserve this job ahead of more
seasoned, deserving competitors? Forwards gurus Johann van Graan and Matt
Proudfoot are not the best tacticians and Coetzee himself couldn’t even get
over the line in Super Rugby. Ill-discipline is another huge factor. Giving
away unnecessary penalties is the one area where we have shown consistency sadly.
Basics are not being carried out - ball handling, touch finders and kicking out
of hand (aimless as usual) are just a few of the basics we have failed to get
right. Goal kicking also remains a concern. Elton Jantjies is not the most
reliable first-five-eighth and one conversion can be the difference between
winning and losing. Our defensive strategy seems to be outdated and similar to
Coetzee’s Stormers days, teams quickly began to decipher it and the All Blacks
will tear it to shreds. We missed tackles than the Irish, more
turn-overs were conceded and had more defenders beaten. We had fewer clean breaks
than them, fewer metres run, carries, loose balls collected and were
forced to make more tackles. I think the only areas where we did succeed were
with more offloads and scrum wins. Don’t even get me started on territory and
possession - you do not want to view those stats! These are startling
statistics for a team about to take on the likes of the All Blacks. Our
attacking prowess is almost non-existent and our maul is lacking the grunt of
old. How do we plan to cut through New Zealand’s black wall? The contentious
issue of transformation also always comes in to play and the almost
non-existent game time that Rudi Paige gets off the bench proves the coach is
trying to make up some numbers. This is also the reason Malcolm Marx may not be
called up and why Jaco Kriel hasn’t been given the start that he deserves (we
need a fetcher - our breakdowns and rucking are yet another poor aspect). Also,
JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo will be in their mid-30s by 2019 - way too
old for wings. I could go on and on.
negatives sadly outweigh the positives and fans should be quivering at the mere
mention of the Rugby Championship. We are unbeaten in 10 years against England
and I fear even that streak will end come November. If Eddie Jones can down us
with Japan, what are his former world champions England, going to do to us?
would like to suggest a foolproof, five-step plan to Coetzee on how to successfully
topple the All Blacks at least once this year:
1. Start praying
2. Wish for a miracle
3. Hope that the day we face them is
indeed their one ‘off’ day (law of averages and all that)
4. Consult a sangoma (even though
this didn’t even work for Bafana Bafana)
5. Rely on luck and the ‘bounce of
the ball’ on the day
I hate to
be a pessimist and sarcastic, but see myself now more as a realist. As a
die-hard fan for 21 years, this is the first time that I am actually expecting
the worst. Normally after the first few Tests of a season fans look forward to
the Wallabies and All Blacks games with fervour and excitement. This time it is
more with fear and trepidation. Oh dear Boks, I don’t mind sampling some humble
pie and implore and beg you to go out there and prove me wrong!
Dhirshan Gobind is a 30-something freelance sports
columnist/writer /blogger and a UKZN alumnus with a degree in Marketing
Management. He also has a column in ‘The Post’ and ‘Galaxy News’ and writes
regularly on Sport24.
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