Tank Lanning

Risky, but ballsy, from Meyer

2015-07-23 08:06
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

Against Australia in Brisbane last week, the 13 turnovers won by the Boks kept them in the game as they basically lived off scraps against a side that dominated all the attacking stats.

508 running metres from the Aussies v 355 from the Boks, 8 clean breaks v 4, 152 carries v 97, 26 defenders beaten v 17, 229 passes v 106, 7 offloads v 6.

But as has been proven time and again, it’s more often than not the team that spends the least time with the ball that wins the game in this overly complicated and subjectively officiated game. And so it would have been at Suncorp had the game been a 79 minute affair.

Of course I would like to see the Boks creating more chances of their own rather than living off scraps, but against one of the top sides in the world, away from home, missing some seriously key players, I am seeing that glass like the one in my hand at a Sunday braai - half full!

So given the success of Bismarck du Plessis and company last week, one can understand this week’s gamble on a three fetcher loose trio against the All Blacks.

Shut the All Blacks down at source and then live off the scraps secured at the breakdown. Not pretty but together with astute kicking (rather than into the hands of the best player of the ball in the air like last week) which turns those mercurial backs around, and an industrial, physical, swarm like defence, has that not always been the Bok game-plan against the best side in the world?

A game-plan that has worked better than that seen from any other sides who take on the Men In Black.

Three things have changed though. As seen from Israel Folau last week, players have got much, much better at securing ball in the air, making that box kick less contestable. Man beasts like Nadolo, Naholo, Nonu and Savea have made counter attacks from the back much more dangerous and less of a risk. And of course the All Blacks have developed a pretty damn good kicking game of their own, meaning it might be the Boks dealing with a similar attacking strategy to the one they are dishing out.

Throw in the subjectivity of how the breakdown is refereed, and instead of the 12 turnovers that worked so well last week, it could instead be 12 penalties against the Boks this week at Emirates Airline Park. Imagine that with a lineout sans Victor Matfield and an obvious option at the back!

The point being that it is a game-plan that comes with a fair amount of risk.

But don’t they all? And I think it’s fantastic to see Heyneke Meyer being ballsy and taking a risk. He could so easily have reverted to type and picked one of Arno Botha, Jacques Potgieter or Pierre Spies (the names suggested by Meyer should his current loosies not work out) as a traditional big ball carrying 7. Instead we have Heinrich Brussow back in the mix which is an excellent call.

It does leave the coach short on excuses not to have a look at Jaco Kriel, though. And where does that leave Oupa Mohojo? Chopped liver, or merely window dressing? Bloody tough to be a coach in South Africa!

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

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