Tank Lanning

Control the controllables

2016-10-13 08:58
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)

There is a trend in modern day tackling that concerns me... it sees players either going in for the ball steal, or to hold the opposition player up in order to try and get the resultant turnover. Achieve neither, and the resultant tackle is either missed or so passive it should be termed a hug.

And while much more technical pieces have been written about the Bok defence this week, this passive, stand up tackling definitely fed the All Black off-loading game in Saturday’s debacle in Durban.

Surely better to go for an aggressive “knock the player back” tackle, at least initially?

But in a week in which we have been likened to the West Indies cricket side by a Pommie scribe, and called “rugby’s dead men” by Stuart Barnes, to carry on about things as trivial as tackle technique seems a smidgen trivial - sadly - so I am going to weigh in on the dreadfully disappointing malaise in SA rugby.

There are so many things wrong with the SA game at the moment, that it's bloody hard to know where to start the repair.

One thing is for sure, though, it has to start with stronger and more defined leadership that now, as bravely pointed out by Duane Vermeulen, has to start with sports minister Fikile Mbalula and the government.

Without a clearly defined and communicated transformation plan, that includes funded ground up implementation, with very public support, the game, and its stakeholders, will continue to second guess itself.

We also need radical change to the administrative structures. As said many times before, what we have currently is a bloated amateur infrastructure trying to run a professional game.

But with bigger fish to fry, and cheap political points to be scored, it’s difficult to see any immediate change from government. And given that the SARU governing structures can only be changed via a constitution that requires said structure to vote for its own demise, I am not sure we can expect anything significant on that front for some time.

Yes, these are seriously dark times.

But instead of rolling over and playing dead, perhaps, together with the exchange rate, let’s call those the “uncontrollables”, and look to implement change via short term goals by aiming to “control the controllables”.

Next week’s coaching indaba is unlikely to deliver anything not said 10 years ago, but it’s a start. That it includes the CEOs who appoint them is key. We need a coaching succession plan as much as we need a player succession plan.

Speaking of which, it was incredibly naïve not to replace director of rugby Rassie Erasmus and defence coach Jacques Nienaber. Replace them now, even if with contracted foreigners to start with, and keep the mobi unit structures implemented by Erasmus.

Utilise said mobi unit as part of the Bok coaching structure.

Since chasing Oregan Hoskins out of town, there has been crickets from SARU. In fact, more like a vacuum of leadership.

Speak up Mark Alexander and Jurie Roux. Your country needs you. And if working feverishly behind the scenes, tell us what you are doing.

Most importantly, though, let’s define our selection policy and coaching KPIs, and then communicate these to the country.

Enough with the grey areas. We seem to be caught in “soutpiel” land trying to implement a ball in hand approach with younger players while still holding onto some experience, and not ditching our defence and power based “traditional game”.

The time has come to be bold. Gone are the days of the Boks physically overpowering opposition. Pick only locally based players, work extensively on continuity skills, go hard on conditioning, and implement a game that sees more ball in hand.

And most importantly, accept that we will make errors and lose the odd game, but do not be apologetic about it.

Springbok rugby is without doubt at a crossroad. Either we meekly apologise for trying our best in difficult circumstances, or we make some bold calls, communicate them well, and be courageous.

We need some backbone!  

Tank Lanning is a former Western Province prop and vociferous tweeter from @frontrowgrunt.

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.

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