Boks have boxed stupid

2010-07-21 09:22

Rob Houwing

Young Francois Louw is a very unlucky Springbok this week, having been discarded both from the run-on XV and broader match 22 for the Vodacom Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane.

In a much-altered Boks squad for the must-win assignment if they are to retain a flicker of title-retention hope, he is the most spectacular of the sacrifices, some of them necessitated by injuries or suspensions.

And yes, perhaps it is a damaging setback for a 25-year-old who certainly lifted his personal game against the All Blacks at Wellington after a rough old baptism against these “special” foes in Auckland a week earlier.

I have partial sympathy with the extreme step taken, though not for reasons you might expect: I feel he is a classic case of a South African player – make that another South African player – having been worked to a standstill this season, poorly managed from a game-overload point of view at both Super 14 and international level and not able to deliver his best of late, however willing his mind may have been.

And when you go into a Test against New Zealand officially knackered – I use the term “official” because I fancy sports scientists would heartily back that branding even if there is denial elsewhere – you are going to battle to give 100 percent.

Louw played right through a taxing Super 14 campaign (semi and final as part of his roster for the first time, of course) with frighteningly fewer rest opportunities than most Stormers players, before being thrust into international rugby as a debutant against Wales after a long-haul flight the very Saturday following the Soweto final against the Bulls.

He has remained deeply involved with the Boks ever since – mostly because of the “crime” of making such a good impression ahead of the Antipodean trip -- and like it or not a dip had to come, despite the irony of his relative bounce-back showing at the Westpac Stadium.

The Boks have one more hurdle to leap on this unexpectedly traumatic tour before they go into a merciful mid-tourney hiatus of a few weeks. From that “breather”, I tip them to emerge strikingly resurgent on home soil for the three remaining Tri-Nations obligations: they usually do when the overseas leg has gone badly!

Falling as much into this category, I’m sure, will be Francois Louw, although he now has the job of clawing his way back to favour.

And I sense it may happen, as an imbalanced, “two No8s” policy in Brisbane featuring both Messrs Spies and Kankowski, with the latter rather dazzlingly out of position as a blindsider, is destined to failure either on Saturday or not too much further down the drag.

But my broad point is that Louw has fallen victim to crossover mismanagement between his franchise and the Boks.

And if you have a youngish set of legs looking inevitably jaded at this juncture, how can you expect vintage form (and we’re not getting it right now) from more crusty and similarly-burdened campaigners like Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie, Victor Matfield and John Smit?

It is some of the more veteran Boks who particularly require a degree of cotton-wool treatment, you would think, in the lead-up to the 2011 World Cup, but we are just not seeing tangible signs of it yet.

Observant neutrals have picked up on the matter. “This South African team looks tired to me,” former All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatrick noted a few days ago, mentioning specifically some of the players I have named here.

I can hear cynics protesting: “So why don’t New Zealand’s top players look as jaded?”

Well, the reason is that at Super 14 level key All Blacks have tended traditionally to be fielded more judiciously, with the benefit of an individual “week off” here and there or notably early calling to the dugout when a game is made safe long before the final whistle – as tends to occur too commonly against weaker South African franchises like the Lions and Cheetahs, admittedly.

Even Matfield, that fine, well-conditioned athlete and ace lineout dissector, appears to have succumbed to some manner of mental fatigue to accompany physical weariness recently – how short-sighted, I staunchly maintain, that the 33-year-old also turned out against Wales a week after hoisting the Super 14 trophy.

Habana, normally so electric a presence on the Test and first-class field, has also surrendered rather more sharpness than he or Bok enthusiasts would like on this trip and he, too, ought to come back smoking when South Africa open the second phase of their Tri-Nations campaign against the All Blacks at Soweto on August 21. (Though this Saturday would be a welcome bonus …)

As for the increasingly under-scrutiny Bok skipper Smit, there will be no harm at all in a spot of out-of-competition conditioning opportunity once Brisbane is out of the way.

The shedding of five kilograms or so, for his now apparently permanent return to the hooker’s berth, might be just what the doctor ordered as mobility, to be blunt, has not been his best friend in recent Tests.

In a nutshell, it may still be a tad premature to start pointing exit fingers at certain, perceived Springbok “has-beens”.

I’m more inclined to spare such thoughts for after the home leg. If the Boks continue to look off the pace in those three outings, that is the time to truly start worrying about their senior citizens’ World Cup credentials.

Oh, plus I firmly believe we have not heard the last of a fresher-faced investment, one Francois Louw …

Rob is Sport24's chief writer

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


  • Jack - 2010-07-21 09:42

    You dont hear Kiwis like Kieron Reed complaining about exhaustion when he has only played on egame less than Louw? This argument doesnt hold. I can see how a guy lack Matfield might be tired having played at the highest level for 6-7 seasons game in and game out, but Louw is not on the same scale...Poor comment in my view. Quite the opposite - Louw should have relished playing in the Bok jersey at the highest level.

  • Flou Louw - 2010-07-21 09:43

    ...shame, ....if Flou Louw cant take the heat, he must get out of the kitchen.... is not for poofter sissies....

  • Stegmann - 2010-07-21 09:46

    Deon Stegmann is much better... ....Open your eyes PDV..!!!

  • mike - 2010-07-21 09:55

    Louw was not good enough, full stop. His done and we need to find a number 6 while we wait for Brussouw to get back. Schalk has his chance this weekend to prove that he can still do it. If he fails then time to give Stegman a run and bring Juan back at 7.

  • DM - 2010-07-21 09:56

    and how about asking, what the heck are the coaches doing during the week. Gary Gold must be the biggest fraud in world rugby, while Dick Muir's Super 14 team won a grand total of 0 (that's zero, that's none out of 13) in this years competition. And now these two palookas coach our national side. I mean, c'mon. Do they think we're stupid? Are these the best coaches in the land. I think not.

  • scud - 2010-07-21 09:58

    Well said--our man management at this level is amateurish---but who must take the blame for this?

  • RugbyLover - 2010-07-21 10:06

    Not a bad piece of writing, just too many adjectives. I agree on the whole John Smit issue entirely, I have never seen a man so unfit and overweight in a long time. Just compare his build to that of Kevin Me-a-lamu, chalk and cheese, not an athletic bone in his body. Lastly, Kankowski didn't do too bad on Saturday I have to admit, but the last time I saw him put his hand up for the green & gold was two seasons ago, I mean WTF!?!?, are there no other loose forwards to choose from?, Francois louw doesn't play a bad game but what has Rob Houwing been smoking, talking this guy up?

  • stompies - 2010-07-21 10:11

    Rob, you may be halfway right, seeing that Kanko is playing out of position. But players like Potgieter should also be given an opportunity, and then there are still the two Free State iron men, when and if they are fit. So - no guarantees for Flo, then!

  • Jay - 2010-07-21 10:18

    Great article, I have to agree. I still dont understand some of P Divy's selection combinations. Maybe we are not supposed to.

  • Anti - 2010-07-21 10:23

    Agreed, now that the Boks have this GPS measuring system on all the players, the coaching staff can see exactly how many metres were run by each payer, and at what pace they ran them. They should be able to see when a man is falling off the pace and rest and recondition him. There's nowhere to hide, especially for the flankers.

  • Mike@CapeT - 2010-07-21 10:23

    A great article - I totally concur!

  • The florist - 2010-07-21 10:37

    Hi there Rob my skattie, when you've used up all the flowers you spread so generously amongst your colourful stories, I can suply you with more bunches. Seriously, you do put in too many words, doll - it gets a bit much sometimes.

  • Piet Parow - 2010-07-21 10:46

    Good article. The fact that Spies and Olivier have been piss poor for the Boks and keeping their places in the side is concerning. I would definitely have given Duane Vermeulen a go at the back of the scrum and shifted Juan de Jongh to the inside centre possie. He played very well next to Jaque in the S14 as they complimented each other quite well. Unfortunately Wynand, although a good player for the Bulls, has always been very average for the Boks. Perhaps he suffers from Green Fever? Also, give poor Big Vic a nice long rest - he certainly deserves it. John on the other hand needs extra hours in the gym..

  • Renegade - 2010-07-21 10:58

    Play Potgieter, Stegman and Gary Botha and replace Gio with van den Heefer

  • Sam - 2010-07-21 11:31

    Sorry, that excuse is not going to fly. GO bokke

  • @Renegade - 2010-07-21 11:40

    And P stands for?

  • Moerse Lucky is Ons - 2010-07-21 11:40

    We are so blessed to have so many genius rugby armchair commentators. PVD should look at these comments and take the world class insights coming from Pofadder to Pretoria - wow. Anyone who has any rugby brain knows Louw is the real deal and the article is decent analyse - maar miskien moet ek maar liewer vir my 'n klippies gooi...en vir iemand vra vir 'n paar bulle horrings!

  • D the M - 2010-07-21 11:46

    I have to agree, our players play far too much (consecutive) rugby...and not only that, but they spend far more time doing physical training compared to the other tri nations sides, who concentrate more on tactics and skills. We had improved under jake white and (seemingly) under pdv...but while he spoke of giving players rest (and opportunities) during the june tests this year he did just the opposite. We should be using the quality reserves we have like potgieter, gary botha, liebenberg, stegmann, peter grant, jl potgieter, jp pietersen (now fit), van der heever, lambi, jantjies, and rotating the squad we have there...whats the point of someone like de jongh sitting on the bench for 2 months during the tri nations when we need to give him experience ahead of next years world cup in case fourie/ de villiers gets injured/suspended?? Honestly, pdv needs to start using his brain again...

  • callie - 2010-07-21 12:27

    Dewald Potgieter is much better, and a no 7. Why another player our of position? Wake up DIV!

  • Koos Kaap (@Piet Parow) - 2010-07-21 12:29

    Spies en Olivier het hope talent, maar speel tans soos has-beens. Hulle sal op huidige vorm nie eens Koekenaap se B span haal nie. Beide verdien 'n laaste kans en ek hoop hulle kom hierdie naweek reg. Suid-Afrikaanse rugby het hulle nodig. As hulle egter bly kak speel, hoop ek deV het die guts om beide te pos

  • TerryG - 2010-07-21 12:42

    Whilst fatigue undoubtedly plays a part, particularly for those players who contested the S14 final and then played in the tests before the tri nations, there are clearly other aspects which influence the current ‘loss of form’. The Bulls won the S14 final reasonable comfortably by making sure they got to the breakdowns first and then had a second fetcher to manage the ball off of the ground. Div clearly didn’t learn this lesson but unfortunately Henry did and they starved us of the ball. In addition this was aggravated by January’s inability to clear the base when we did get the ball. Put Louw in a pairing with an out and out fetcher like Stegmann and the results from the past two weeks would be substantially better. Instead in the Aussie game we have an openside flanker who is not a fetcher and a blindside who is a No8. Braindead! Two of the past stalwarts who are not overplayed but have performed very poorly are Smit and Habana, they should be dropped until their form returns. We were also outplayed before we got onto the field being played up as the overwhelming favourites. Instead of the coach managing that situation he basked in the glory. The same Fitzpatrick started the rot by disclosing to the media how he was afraid of the Boks, what rot. Nonu spoke up Olivier, Mealamu spoke up Smit, etc. We were set up and went into the games without an effective strategy, underestimating the AB’s and poorly mentally prepared. And then the coup de grace, we continue to play good players out of position. Smit, Pienaar, Francois Steyn, etc. setting the players up for failure because not one of the experiments have worked. At the same time we select players who are nowhere near the best in their positions. Notwithstanding that the refereeing has been putrid we can control the above and in addition we can adapt on the field to the refereeing style. Or we can lose badly and blame everyone else. Of course all of this insight is like pearls to swine because the coach is too busy trying to make a personal impression on everyone to act in his team’s best interests.

  • STORMER - 2010-07-21 13:03 about hauling Joost, Naas & Johan Roets out of retirement? Your maak die Bulle almal Bokke stance is more HAND grenade (Kaboom) than RENEGADE you tonsil. I suggest getting rid of Tarzan, Barbie, Sideshow Bob, Pakslae, & Mourning Stain.

  • @Piet Parrow - 2010-07-21 13:57

    Watch the rugby, Olivier was the best backlinie player this weekend by a country mile. Don't believe me check the stats boet, wake up ppl. Seems no matter how he plays there are always those idiots that wanna bring him down. So much for supporting the boys, even when guys play well you moan about them. Aplon had a nightmare 40 min yet the same guys that go after Olivier think its great for him to be playing.

  • MARIUS - 2010-07-21 14:26

    Ek is bly JEAN is nou uit, hy's nie n vleuel se gat nie. Die ander groot probleem in die agterlyn is dat WYNAND en JACQUES goeie senters is maar as n kombinasie is dit n gemors. En natuurlik is die grootste probleem ou BABAVET SMIT. Ek skaam my dood as ek n Springbokkaptein is en ek lyk en speel so. Hy's dikker as Pavarotti.

  • Gtr - 2010-07-21 14:37

    @ @Piet Parrow: Ja, like I said before, Olivier was set up to fail with January on scrumhalf. Nor Jean De Villiers nor Juan De Jongh would have done any better with Ricky. Last year in the final Lions test, the same happened... Olivier got chosen with a team that only got together that week, with untested and new combinations, and a bunch of inexperienced Bokke. Jean De Villiers is lucky that he has the inside track, and has been one of the favorites since Jake White's days. I don't dissagree that he's not good, but to be fair to Olivier, give him the same chances.

  • Mossel Bay Lion - 2010-07-21 15:22

    TerryG we do have a problem on the captain part i have to agree. but if not smit WHO. the Bulls want Matfield the stomers want Burger. So if smit is out we end up with the '97n world cup problem with Joost & Andrews where we had a split team then we have a bigger problem. I agree smit ain't the best player but nor was Francois Pienaar but he was the best leader and maybe smit will turn out to be as well

  • dan - 2010-07-21 15:26

    the reason the boks are tired is due to the fact that they do not play as much "running" rugby as new zealand. they are not used to a high tempo game. new zealand ran them off the pitch. the boks win their games off set pieces. however, they weren't even able to dominate the set pieces in the last two games.

  • ag shame - 2010-07-21 15:45

    Rob you need to get over your stormers! Flow is tired yes, ag shame give him a rest! He is a capable replacement for Heindrich and Juan, but a replacement at best! He knows he needs to give 120% every game because as soon as those two return he will be kicked back into the Currie Cup where he belongs. Some guys cant make the jump! The bottom line is the AB's are on another level! We may have big stars, hey so did England and look what Germany did to them when they played as a team.

  • Weepee - 2010-07-21 15:50

    Does not take a Fitzie or a Nokes to see these guys are out on their feet. The body language is clear for all to see. Why the journo's (you included Rob) just dont come out and say it! PDV is clueless - his selections are strange, his players are physical & mental badly managed and he is tactically out of his depth. He loses his play maker & replaces him with Januarie for crying out loud! He was always going to be exposed this season. As long as he had inform stars in the Boks it was okay for Victor & Smit to call the shots about how the Boks play. It was also easy because all they needed to do was follow-on where Jake left off. Now we have a new set of rules and a coach that cannot adapt. PDV has even turned on his assistants (as in Gary Gold publically) and I suspect Muir will get it in the neck shortly. If PDV does not go after this season then we can laugh the WC off.

  • PROP DE VOS - 2010-07-21 17:02

    Why they still playing Wynand Olivier at center .....He is Made for Provincial Rugby/ Super 14 and not International rugby.... De Johng proved himself worthy of being a Centre in the test games...still they dont pick tallent ....South Africa is following Blue Bull Rugby...Pieter De Villiers should follow his own Structure....Not the Blue Bulls

  • GIDEON - 2010-07-21 17:30


  • jan bom - 2010-07-21 20:45

    I wonder what the outcome would be if the DIV- team were coaching the stomers and the Coetzee-team the boks??? I'm sure more creativity and more skillful rugby

  • Phil - 2010-07-21 21:31

    seems Jake's legacy is eventually starting to wear off, so I guess DiV will have to start coaching and start earning his salary. Would love to see how he gets out of this one, especially if Gold & Muir is packing their bags?

  • Tommygun - 2010-07-22 01:41

    Rob you have outlined it perfectly. The ABs are cock-A-hoop now but if they fall short to a fresh Bok side in the WC they will cry a river of tears when they realize these two wins was their downfall.

  • KUNZIE - 2010-07-22 03:02

    It is interesting to read all these comments.A fortnight ago we were on top of the world and now most rugby followers have written the Boks off.Do people not realise you don't just go to New Zealand and beat the All Blacks on their soil.Look what happened last year when the AB's had to start their campaign in RSA.What the Boks and Div and his management achieved last year was incredible and he loses two off the toughest tests he will face this year and everybody wants his head on a block and so too the captain and some other talented players.Guys lets have some perspective please and wether you are a BB,WP or Shark supporter get behind your team and stop being fair weather supporters.

  • Chris in Oz - 2010-07-22 03:34

    Maybe this is the weekend off for Francois Louw so he can rest before the home leg. Just like Ricky Januarie. I'm sure PdV is just resting him this weekend. It was hard work for him keeping the bench warm during the S14.

  • Chris in Oz - 2010-07-22 03:48

    @ @Piet Parow. I did watch the game and what I saw was that Schalk Burger had to go and show Pretty Boy Olivier how to get through and score a try. @gtr. So now Ricky January gets the blame for Olivier's lack of performance? Wake up. Olivier has never been good enough. I remember him being even out of depth in a second string Bok team that got too close for comfort to loosing against Tonga in the World Cup. Who should get the blame for his poor performance then? CJ van der Linde maybe? Just tell me what has Olivier done in a Bok jersey? Not much....! I predict Matt Giteau to run circles around him on Saturday.

  • Wait and see - 2010-07-22 04:39

    PdeV has always been in the news but never popular with large sections of the Ruby public. What people said he did best, man management, has now been clearly been called into doubt. Will the authorities act or must South Africa suffer embaressment of not only De Villiers mouth and lack of top notch coaching ability but his destruction of the Bok team?

  • Piet Parow - 2010-07-22 07:56

    @the chop without a name 7/21/2010 1:57 PM- Olivier is not Springbok material. He has showed that over and over and over and over and over again. He is by no means a bad player, he is just not creative enough. His poor stats for the Boks will reiterate my statement (how many tries has he scored for the Boks???) I am not "going after him" I am talking facts. He is a great defensive player but a piss poor decision maker. The reason why I back de Jongh is exactly for that reason - he CAN play well with Jaque and has an eye for a gap. ANY person, even avid tennis fans can see this. So seeing that you like to get personal why dont you go tell your mama to wake up.

  • William Shakespeare - 2010-07-22 09:53

    Div should be promoted to Team Manager, and a new coach be appointed who understands the game of rugby.

  • blou bul - 2010-07-22 12:33

    Hell but these stormer supporters are dof, the reason why the bok backline is so kak is because they get SLOW ball!! Why is it slow, - smit contributes fcall to the loose, so the other players has to do this work as well, plus he does not inspire the players like a mcaw does, and when the ball does get recycled old fatso janawarie is so slow getting it the ball to the backline the defence is orginised time and again, see the difference it made when pienaar came up. A player like tiaan or gary is like a 4th loose forward, and they actually make some yards when they drive. get rif of hasbeens in the team and the boks will win. for now the aussies will take it by 20 points again, and i say this because that is the margins the AB's trashed us with, which clearly shows there is BIG problems in the camp

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