Boks to bank ‘boring’ for now

2012-11-19 07:04

Cape Town - Revolutionary changes to the game-plan for South Africa’s final Test of the year against England at Twickenham on Saturday?

Forget it, I suspect.

At least for the time being, the Springbok hierarchy - coaches and senior players alike - will almost certainly continue to take accusations that they are blunt, boring and brutally forward-obsessed stubbornly on the chin.

Video highlights: Scotland v South Africa

The Boks are on the verge of a first clean-sweep conquest in the northern hemisphere since 2008, when it was also a relatively short, three-match undertaking.

Thus far, the tours have other things in common: after the first two matches four years ago, South Africa’s wins (against Wales and Scotland) had also not earned especially enthusiastic acclaim.

The then-World Cup champions had beaten the Welsh 20-15 and the Scots 14-10, and there was a school of thought that both matches had actually deserved to go the other way - at least this time, the 16-12 and 21-10 victories over Ireland and Scotland respectively have been reasonably apt outcomes whatever the merits and demerits of the South African performances.

Be that as it may, the Boks of 2008 - touring with a stronger pool of first-team stalwarts than they are now, it probably needs to be noted - were stung into more fluid action in the last match at “Twickers”, posting a record tally of points against the unsuspecting English at their stronghold as they romped home 42-6 and by five tries to nil.

It may be seriously optimistic to expect anything like that score-line again, and maybe also the 20-14 loss for the home side against the so-so Wallabies this weekend wasn’t quite the result the 2012 Boks might have hoped for; England ought to be in some sort of chastened, redemption mode on Saturday.

Once again, however, you can safely bet that Heyneke Meyer will gratefully bank another win, virtually regardless of how it is achieved.

Without wishing to sound like the apologist for the head honcho that I am defiantly not, Bok coaches always have to be mindful of their “win/loss ratios” because they are, simply, constantly reminded of them by public and press alike.

Meyer entered this particular tour under pressure on that front - he had hitherto managed a dangerously low four triumphs from nine starts, and suddenly his six from 11 seems rather more palatable on paper, doesn’t it?

If he can claim England’s scalp for the third time in four meetings this season (one dead-rubber draw at Port Elizabeth), his record will balloon, whether you like it or not, to seven from 12.

He would have some pretty good statistical ammunition, under those circumstances, for saying that his troops are slowly maturing and that winning is at least starting to become a bit more habitual again after his first season at the job.

This might again sound like a defence of Meyer, but the end-of-year venture is also a less than suitable or realistic time for many of his near-exhausted, over-played resources to be willing to tear up a template at short notice and muster the mental energy to determinedly make it “sexier” with the snap of the fingers.

The vast majority of the key Bok players, I have no doubt, will happily eke out another win in London, by hook or by crook, and then go off on much-needed holiday.
Regroup? Rethink? Pah, save it for next year.

A key objective of this tour, given its relevance to seedings for the next World Cup, was to secure and then fortify status as second-ranked team on the planet behind runaway leaders New Zealand, and that goal is obviously well on track.

But that is not to say that Bok supporters who are getting increasingly militant about the sterile, shackle-dragging manner in which the national team have been going about their business recently don’t have every reason to do so.

South Africa are certainly strangling pretty limited opponents in a rather joyless, battering fashion on this particular tour and even Meyer must know deep down that a significant drive to rekindle a gradually slipping skills factor among backs and forwards alike will be necessary in 2013 if the Boks are to at least close the gap on the ever-sprightly All Blacks
whose “brand”, frankly, deserves and doubtless commands much broader appeal worldwide at present.

While lamenting the not dissimilar bankruptcy in playing style of this year’s England side, former British and Irish Lions lock Paul Ackford acidly observed in the Sunday Telegraph of the Boks: “Can’t do much else apart from scrummage, crunch the breakdowns and smash the collisions.”

Who knows, perhaps two negatives will combine to create an unlikely “positive” in spectacle terms at Twickenham on Saturday?

If lucky enough to anticipate one, just don’t stake your Christmas bonus on it.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • jacques.wijngaerd - 2012-11-19 08:57

    I have to agree in no uncertain terms and as much as win at all cost should be the motivation behind International rugby, I just don't see the Boks doing anything outside the box. I believe in structure, game plan etc but if one were to compare the NZ team and strategy to any other in the world, no-one comes even close. BUT the thing to remember is, its not only the coach as the All Blacks have pretty much always played this way, even with Mehrtens so the questions should be, "Why arent the players taking more control of the game?" Lambie is the prime example and I am probably his biggest fan and still think he is our answer to flyhalf or fullback for the rest of his career. But against Scotland on Saturday, Lambie played like M Steyn especially in the 2nd half. Lambie never plays like that for the Sharks and he has never played this way for the Boks in the past. The problem I think is as simple as the issue with Brent Russell a few years back. Such talented ball players, runners, decision makers etc but they are limited to the coach's ideals, game plan perhaps and even the lacklustre skills, vision of the players around them. Lambie is a genuine ball player who can do pretty much what Dan Carter can but Carter has more experience but most of all, in my opinion, he gets freedom from the coaching staff to play his style, his teammates simply fall in with whatever he decides to do. Isnt it time our players are given a bit more freedom to exert their own uniqueness?

      brad.draper.56 - 2012-11-19 09:53

      I agree totally with you. It is definately clear that Lambie is playing under instruction and as for JDV lack of ability to pass the ball is also of great concern. When JDJ got the ball he looked promising but unfortunately seemed to be on the field only to tackle. I also dont think that Ruaan is the right guy for scrumhalf he is too slow to get ball out he prefers to chat to the ref pick his nose and scratch his balls before doing something which only allows for the opposition to get their defence organised. The forwards to me played well except for the lack of urgency at the breakdown, i feel they are too slow to react which allows for the opposition to challenge on the ground, it seems that they all want to hang back in the backline instead of firstly making sure we win clean ball, as i see it now our backline is only there to make tackles. There were a few possitives but unfortunately not enough for me to feel very confident in the future of SA Rugby if we continue with this style. This is obviously my opinion.

  • dirk.vanschalkwyk.581 - 2012-11-19 14:45

    Agree with both of you, but why do we watch rugby? Why do we push everything aside on a Saturday when the Springboks are playing or for that matter the provincial teams we support? It's entertainment. Sport is entertainment. Rugby is suppose to be entertaining. The way NZ is playing is entertaining. There is different ways of playing and trying to be the best in the game. NZ is a perfect example of being the best with attractive, entertaining rugby. A couple of years ago I would be absolutely nailed to the screen when the Boks were playing - now, I'm quite happy to interrupt the game for myself, by doing something else, if necessary. Whats next. Skipping games all together? Its just not entertaining anymore. I'm starting to loose that absolute hunger for the game. Don't think I'm the only one. Yes, winning is important, but the game will also have a slow death in SA if we don't fix the brand of rugby we're playing, get supporters back to the games. This year was the first year that I've seen huge open spaces in SA stadiums with international games. Come-on guys. We can run with the ball.

  • neil.meyer.12 - 2012-11-19 18:29

    7 wins 2 draws and three loses will be OK. He has not yet gotten to play with a full strength team something those with a anti bull sentiment should remember.

  • gershon.rorich - 2012-11-21 19:54

    Sometimes its important to note that we do have a young team. And as much as HM said that the team needs to build experience. However the big fact that stares everyone in the face is the tackle count. Now the stats show that in saturday's the team tackled almost twice as much as the Scots. Tackling takes far more energy out of a person than attacking. and it leads to far more injury. Now we ask ourselves why our players are not giving us a full 80min. the answer is simple. They dont have the energy too. They are sore and tired. Man management is important i agree but the game plan we are using is killing our players. HM needs to wake up and start changing his thinking patterns. If he keeps up like this he will not have a team for the next world cup

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