Talent not the issue for struggling Boks

2016-10-25 11:01
Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit (Gallo).

Cape Town - The struggles of the Springboks since Allister Coetzee's first Test against Ireland back on June 11 have made it easy to get down about the state of South African rugby. 

It is hard to remember a time when things were worse. 

A 57-15, 9 tries to 0, thrashing from the All Blacks, at home, was the final nail in the coffin. 

It has been a woeful start to Coetzee's tenure. He knows that more than anyone. 

A two-day coaching indaba provided some much-needed discourse and direction, but still the Boks are up against it when they head to the northern hemisphere for Tests against England, Italy and Wales next month. 

There is little optimism surrounding this team right now, with many predicting just the one win over Italy on that tour. 

The SA Rugby Awards, then, were untimely. 

How do you celebrate the achievements of your country's rugby players when the mood is this battered and bruised?

Earlier this year, English Premier League club Aston Villa canceled their 'Player of the Year' Awards following a disastrous season that ended in relegation. 

"We're sure our supporters will understand," was the official line from the club. 

They did. 

The SA Rugby Awards, though, rolled on. 

The production itself made for some cringe-worthy moments, but in the end there were few winners that anyone could take issue with. 

Pieter-Steph du Toit did outshine Eben Etzebeth this year, Elton Jantjies was the catalyst that sparked the Lions' Super Rugby success and Malcolm Marx was the standout youngster. 

And, as the evening progressed, that was precisely the thing that stood out. 

The quality of the individuals nominated made it hard to accept that South African rugby and the Boks are in such crisis. 

Etzebeth, Du Toit, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Ruan Combrinck, Jantjies ... these are all players who have had fantastic years. 

When you factor in the individuals who were not nominated - Damian de Allende, Lood de Jager, Bryan Habana, Francois Louw, Duane Vermeulen - it becomes even more difficult to accept that the Boks are where they are. 

A look at the five nominees for the 'Young Player of the Year' award is as encouraging as anything: Marx, Curwin Bosch, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Seabelo Senatla, RG Snyman. 

Those are five players who have shown this year that they can become world class. 

So, why all the doom and gloom? And, more importantly, how can we be struggling with so much obvious talent available? 

This is where Coetzee's desired coaching blueprint that emerged from last week's indaba becomes relevant. 

All of the individual star-power in the world counts for absolutely nothing if it is not channeled the right way. 

We have seen it time and time again in sport. 

Coetzee needs to get the most out of his players and that is the ultimate challenge for him moving into the end of year tour. 

Getting everyone on the same page, understanding the direction the team is moving in and the desired philosophy is the first step.

The training and coaching that follows will be shaped by whatever that philosophy is. 

Then, that philosophy needs to be embraced by everybody involved in the game, from the top to the bottom. Get everyone on the same page so that the talent of our players can be harnessed with consistency.

Coetzee's intentions are to do exactly that, but implementation remains the concern as Super Rugby coaches and franchises are under pressure to produce their own results that have nothing to do with the Boks.  

There are certainly problems facing Coetzee, of that there is no doubt. But Monday night reminded us that, with the quality he has at his disposal, losing by 50 points will simply never be acceptable.


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