Lessons for SA after Jake jibe

    2014-08-01 14:30

    Herman Mostert - Sport24

    Cape Town - While it's perhaps unfair to label Jake White a ‘Tactical Neanderthal’, a well-known Kiwi scribe had a point when he commented on the lack of spark from South African rugby teams in the 15-man code.

    READ: NZ 'bad losers' to Blitzbokke

    New Zealand Herald national newspaper sports columnist, Chris Rattue, earlier this week criticised his compatriots for being less than gracious losers after they lost the Sevens final at the Commonwealth Games to South Africa.

    However, Rattue did bring up a contentious issue which caught the eye of this writer.

    He praised the Blitzbokke for the spark with which they played in claiming Commonwealth gold, but questioned why this sort of inventiveness cannot be converted into the 15-man code.

    “South Africa were outstanding at the Games, with players such as Cecil Afrika and Seabelo Senatla setting the tournament alight - (the country) should be asking why it can't incorporate more of this attitude and spark into the 15s, where they insist on retaining tactical Neanderthals like Jake White," Rattue wrote.

    I certainly wouldn’t call White a ‘Tactical Neanderthal’. He has, after all, won a Rugby World Cup and turned the Brumbies and Sharks into genuine Super Rugby contenders.

    But White is renowned for playing a conservative game style and despite finishing third on the overall Super Rugby log, his Sharks team scored only (32) tries in 18 games in the competition this year.

    Former Bok coach Nick Mallett was also critical of the Sharks game plan after their semi-final loss to the Crusaders last week.

    Speaking on SuperSport after the game, Mallett said: "The Sharks' game plan can only be excused if they win every game they play because they don't play attractive rugby. It's pressure rugby, kicking rugby, too much playing without the ball. They do their best to put the opposition under pressure and then play off their mistakes, as opposed to hold onto the ball yourself and force the opposition into mistakes that way. Their kicking is often from first phase which is very easy for the opposition to read."

    Stormers coach Allister Coetzee, who was White’s assistant when the Boks won the 2007 World Cup, employed a similar style with the Stormers over the last few years but it was also found wanting when it really mattered towards the business end of seasons.

    Using a conservative approach, the Stormers became a team incapable of "chasing" games once falling behind. Coetzee has since been forced to employ a more open, attacking approach by new Director of Rugby Gert Smal.

    South Africa’s lack of inventiveness was evident in this year’s Super Rugby competition, and it came as no surprise to note that all five SA franchises feature in the bottom half of the tries scored category.

    The Bulls (28) scored the fewest number of tries, followed by the Rebels (29), Stormers (30), Lions (31), Sharks (32), Force (37) and Cheetahs (38).

    These numbers are way behind the 58 notched by the leading Waratahs who host the Crusaders in the final in Sydney this weekend.

    Rattue’s comments about a “lack of spark” in the 15-man South African game are therefore clearly NOT out of line and perhaps a few local coaches should take note…

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