‘Divided’ Boks back in disarray

2010-07-26 08:52

Gavin Rich

Johannesburg - The Springboks have returned from a disastrous Tri-Nations campaign in severe disarray with another player ruled out with suspension, a record which reads three-zip after as many matches and to reports of major divisions within the camp.

In three matches on tour the Boks conceded 10 tries and 93 points, and failed to even pick up a bonus point, all but ending any chance of them retaining the Tri-Nations title they won so convincingly in 2009.

Those who have known about the big differences in philosophy that exist within the coaching group employed to guide the team and the ongoing battle that started in 2008 between the various coaches and the players over what style of play to follow would not have been surprised at the reports which appeared in Independent Group newspapers on Monday.

It is alleged that significant differences exist between the coaching style espoused by the two assistants, Gary Gold, who has always been from the more structured school, and Dick Muir, who as we saw with his Lions in the Super 14, is in favour of a more free flowing style of play.

Head coach Peter de Villiers takes his lead from them and is said to be undecided on the way forward, while the players, who had the major say in playing style under the old interpretations last season, where they employed what could be described as the Jake White template, are divided in the absence of a clear voice to guide them.

Regardless of the veracity or otherwise of the reports, it was clear from the three matches in Australasia, but particularly the last two, that the Boks are caught between a rock and a hard place and are unclear what to do. Their game-plan seems to fluctuate between the old one, where structure and kick and chase is king, and one where willy-nilly running is the order of the day.

It contributed to a situation which was well summed up by skipper John Smit at the end of the tour when he described the defence as poor and the attack as ordinary. When you neglect structure, defence does invariably suffer, and so does attack if you don’t have players used to or equipped at off-the-cuff rugby.

It is also usually accepted by coaches that good defence and a great attitude to tackling, like was the case with the Stormers in the Super 14 under Allister Coetzee, is an indication of passion and good team spirit. Sadly too often on this tour the Boks have been made to look bereft of that, and this does lend credence to the stories emerging from Down Under.

The problem for the Boks is that the failures over the last fortnight can no longer be taken in isolation. Since last year’s Tri-Nations triumph, they have played six matches against top five teams, and won just one of them – the big win over France in Cape Town.

They have lost heavily to New Zealand twice, to Australia once and the scoreboard flattered them in defeats to France and Ireland on the last end of year tour, where a midweek team wearing Bok colours, selected by the Bok coach and coached by one of his assistants, also slid to two alarming defeats to English club sides.

Although their chances of retaining their Tri-Nations title would appear to be gone, the Boks will feel they can redeem some pride in the three home matches to come, starting with the clash with the once again mighty All Blacks in Soweto on 21 August.

However, in terms of showing the way in the build-up to World Cup 2011, these clashes may not say too much about the Boks and their chances as all of them this year are being played at altitude. This means the Bulls kicking-orientated strategy will give them an edge they won’t have in New Zealand in 15 months time.

The Bok performances in New Zealand and Australia were compounded by the four yellow cards they received, which meant they played 40 of the 240 minutes of rugby played on this tour with only 14 men. Ireland referee George Clancy was no better – he may even have been worse – than his countrymen from the previous two games.

Wisely Smit, who seemed to be the spokesman for the Boks in the aftermath of the 30-13 defeat in Brisbane that ensured they will return home without even a bonus point to show for their efforts, did not attack the referee this time. Good for him, for there was too much of that in the previous matches, and Clancy might have responded by saying that he had read that the Bok coach was hinting in the build-up week that they should push the boundary of the law so he watched out for it.

There can be no denying though that the Boks were murdered at the breakdown, and it wasn’t just Clancy dishing out the punishment. Indeed, it is hard to deny the feeling that the Boks shot themselves in the foot in this important aspect of the game with a dubiously selected back-row which included too many players who play loose and not enough who play too the ball.

Selections, as much as a confused reaction to the changing game under the new breakdown interpretations, played a bigger part in the Boks slipping behind the All Blacks (certainly) and Australia (maybe) than the refereeing.

The Boks will face the All Blacks without Jaque Fourie, who received a four week ban for the tip tackle that saw him suspended after just two minutes of the Suncorp Stadium Test. Bakkies Botha is of course out for the rest of the Tri-Nations season through the suspension incurred in the first international in Auckland.


  • Ryan - 2010-07-26 09:04

    It is obvious Muir is out of his league. The Boks backs since his tenure and the Lions in general have been rubbish.

  • BC - 2010-07-26 09:06

    If PdV cannot even get his coaching team into alignment with his 'plan' then the Boks are doomed. Surely we have the structure the wrong way round if PdV is taking his lead from his assistants. Muirs record on his so called style is abysmal and the coach is listening to him! The coach (PdV) should be the one taking the lead and his assistants should be helping him to establish his plans and patterns in the game. Clearly PdV is not a leader and the whole team now appearing incompetant. The recent overseas commentators can see it but because SA sport is now politically orientated it is doubtful that any changes will occur.

  • Grootbro - 2010-07-26 09:12

    Well done John Smith, admit your mistakes and go and fix it! Stop this neverending complaining about the ref, it just shows that you don't have a clue what goes on on the field and look for excuses. Even the TV commentators are half blind dimwits. Jaques's tackle was wrong, except it. Stupid Booby Skinstad's comment that' it could be argued that he was on his way to the ground anyway" just shows you how biased and unprofessional we have become in our view of how we play rugby. Get with it ! Show your strenght of character and stop all this bullshit! PLAY RUGBY!!!!!!!!

  • MikeL - 2010-07-26 09:12

    Has the Jake White wheel slowed down to almost a stop? Habana gave away three or four kickable penalties; does he deserve to be there? If there is dissention in the coaching camp can Smit be expected to hold the entire situation together? So who should the scape goat be? Has Muir shown anything in his entire coaching career; moves on before he has any significant results and just look at the Lions for an example. If Muir had been a politician he would have crept away with his tail between his legs unless of course he was an African politician! Does this apply to South African coaches where any excuse is acceptable?

  • Ruffdog - 2010-07-26 09:12

    Totally unprofessional, this is a pofessional game and the boks think time and time again that they can rest on their laurels. If you cannot decide on what type of game you are going to play then no decision is the worst possible senmario for any sports team, company, orgainisation - this means there is no leadership! Div has done well but time to bow out and lets see what a new qualified leader can do, secondly bring in the youngsters and start blooding them to peak at world cup the vetreans are looking tired rest them !

  • skywalker - 2010-07-26 09:14

    Dick Muir's influence blatently obvious in the Bok backline,no defensive structures to speak of...selections have been superbru spot on,and if we don't sort out this cr@p we gonna get whitewashed back home too..!

  • mike - 2010-07-26 09:14

    We all talk about transparency in goverment cause goverment is for the people and is funded by the people. Well news flash so is rugby, without us there is no money to pay the players and the refs etc etc. So I ask where is the transparency, these refs and boards that analyse them are all veiled in myth and legend. Even to the neutral viewer it is obvious that there is under handed actions at play here, so I ask, as the public that watch, love and pay for this game, where is our representation for the blatant cheating going on by these so called refs? What is out recourse, spaming forums which no one reads or will ever acknowlege... These refs think they getting one over on the players but they are cheating millions of viewers, this should be treated in a more seirous light! All we ask for is consistancy, how hard is that really!

  • shaunb - 2010-07-26 09:16

    Unfortunatley the boks coaching staff have being shown up good and proper. P Divy is certainly not up to international standard and his assistants are not much better. From this article it looks like we deflecting the spotlight onto the 2 assistant coaches, which i find strange because surely they should be taking the lead from the head coach not the other way around. I guess everyone is a bit scared to critise the coach incase they are they are labled a racist. Heads will roll im sure but it will be everyone else's before P Divy. How sad that we have to put up with this rubbish

  • Rudi - 2010-07-26 09:23

    PDV now have the excuse that the Springbok players are actually playing this bad and are loosing in an attempt to get rid of him as couch. Whach this space!!!!!!!!!!

  • wally - 2010-07-26 09:26

    what a crap biased article... Gavin.. your style as a writer is weak

  • Oliver - 2010-07-26 09:26

    Where there is smoke there is FIRE , there are obviously problems in the Springbok Camp , the question is , can it be sorted out by the men who are there ??????

  • Emile - 2010-07-26 09:28

    It is quite simple, the BOKS are not being coached and do not have a coach. Diffetrence between the sides in the Tri-Nations is quite evident - two sides have coaches and one side has a clown. AUS and NZ can just wish and pray for talent like the Boks have, but look what those coaches can do with very limited talent. Bok rugby is a shocker and I really feel for most of the players. Some of PDV's trophy selections don't belong near an international field (Smit, Burger, January), while others went from hero's to zero's within 5 weeks. I don't blame any of those players. You simply cannot be in mint form throughout the Super 14 and 5 weeks later against the All Black the exact same players look like school boys. I'm very sorry, but the entire coaching team should go. Npne of them achieved anything with any team they have coached and certainly is not of any help to the Boks. Not even in the time of Rudolph Steuli have we seen such absolute hidious team selections and especially the use of substitutes. PDV is clearly way out of his depth and we all predicted it all along.

  • Vaughn - 2010-07-26 09:28

    South Africa, what a country ! Only in SA do we appoint the coach of the team that did the worst in the super 14 history, as the assistant coach to the's that as a performance bonus ?! And then what's the plan; to play the World Cup next year with the oldest, slowest players but they got the experience...??? Oh, and I love the tactic of as soon as we get the ball we kick it back to the opposition so we can practise our poor defence.....when it does not work for the 137th time, don't they think maybe they should try and keep it for a while...? You can only get points if you've got the ball and they don't, but what do I know ?!

  • Chris - 2010-07-26 09:30

    Strange that the Stormers and Bulls adpated so well to the new rules that they ended up in the S14 final. What hapened in seven weeks?

  • webb - 2010-07-26 09:31

    Well it's pretty clear that head honcho PDV hasn't a clue how to fix the boks woes. He's played off the Jake white template over the past 2 years and does know what to do to counter the changing styles of top test playing nations. We are merely reaping the whirlwind from picking an idiot as our coach - s laughing stock and embarrasment in world rugby. We have the talent to still be a great bok team, if not handicapped with a clown in charge. The ABs are now hoping we retain Helium for the World Cup, knowing his influence will be to the detriment of the Bok chances. If that's not a problem then nothing ever will be.

  • patrick foley - 2010-07-26 09:31

    What a load of cobblers, you guys in the media really must take the public for mugs! Yes the three Irish refs, were no different from their other international counterparts, Rolland did the 2007 WC final and got complimented from John Smit, face up to the fact that the "thug" type of behaviour from the boks, is "old hat" and any ref worth his salt is going to penalise..Lewis, Rolland and Clancy, were no better or worse than any of the South African refs.its the selection of a rudderless team, with out a proper direction or strategy that's to blame..grab a leaf from Naas Botha's comments, not blaming the ref, but those players and mentors, who are not stepping up to the responsibility that's bestowed on them!

  • Vukani - 2010-07-26 09:33

    SA fans are making me sick. Last year when the Boks won the Tri Nations and the Lions Tour PDivvy was of International standard and everything was just Hey ok. Within a year things are going against us (All 3 unions suffer a bad year once in a while) and now PDivvy is not up to international standards. Make up your minds!!!

  • Jonas Shai - 2010-07-26 09:38

    Typical South Africans. This is not a new thing, great teams lose here and there. Our coaching staff, whether divided or not, whether taking the lead from assistants or not are a great bunch and all they need is to come back home and get our support at the National Stadium. The mistakes on the field are just that, mistakes! Take in account that they are in foreign land and there is your answer. Pdiv still has my support and so do the players. When we start looking like idiots over a prolonged period, then we can raise these talks. I also blame the media. Stop reporting on every little whisper, our coach and boys dont need it!

  • hasie - 2010-07-26 09:39

    PDV dink mos hy is 'n meneer en niemand gaan of kan hom iets leer nie. Wat Dick Miur daar maak sal ook net hy weet, hy kon nie eers 1 wen bewerkstellig in die Super 14 nie maar hy wil die bokke afrig!!!! Ons sit met 'n geweldige probleem van kampe in die bokspan. Dit is onmoontlik dat 2 SA spanne in die eindstryd van die Super 14 gespeel het en nou kan dieselfde spelers nie rugby speel nie, dit wys jou daar is kampe en ek kan nou al sê dit is die Blou Bul kamp en die res.

  • @Grootbro - 2010-07-26 09:39

    Very well said, I agree 100% with your views

  • THE MAN - 2010-07-26 09:40

    hahahahah, the spring bucks era is over finished and klaar, as i predicted they got murdered assasinated this weekend....they are not even competative anymore and not even in the top 5 anymore, your world cups mean nothing....dont even go the world cup next year because you will probably get knocked out by denmark hahahaha...uselss springbucks" die ou springbok era is dead and buried once and for all finally"

  • ken smith - 2010-07-26 09:40

    whats the difference between BOBBY SKINSTEAD and a 747 jumbo jet??????????????????? the 747 eventualy stops whining.

  • Brenda - 2010-07-26 09:41

    I completely agree with Shaunb. Look at the haed coach, he's the one whose supposed to lead us. I think we were lucky to win the tri-nations last year. Aus and NZ both played below par. Now that they've picked up their games, we are exposed.

  • vic - 2010-07-26 09:42

    The honeymoon is over! The last three years they were still riding the Jake White legacy, but it is clearly over now. We are now seeing the real capabilities of PdV and his subordinates. I think they just don't have what it takes....... I am still struggling to figure out what is wrong with the players, most of the guys are really good world class players!

  • David Meyer - 2010-07-26 09:46

    "Dick Muir, who as we saw with his Lions in the Super 14, is in favour of a more free flowing style of play." At last a plausible explanation for the collapse of the Bok defence.

  • Vrye Denker - 2010-07-26 09:48

    @Oliver: where there is smoke, someone needs to be FIRED ;)

  • BEE - 2010-07-26 09:52

    Unfortunately, we're not starting to see the cracks. That's what happens when you don't select the best people for the job, not just on the field, but behind the scenes too. It's a sad day for our country.

  • Alan - 2010-07-26 09:54

    The problem clearly lies with the coaching staff. Why is it that the Stormers and Bulls adapted so well to the new rules and as a result ended up in the S14 finals? Wake up Div & co.

  • Peet G4 - 2010-07-26 09:57

    PdV's luck has finally run out, he, he!

  • Fanus - 2010-07-26 09:58

    There is no excuse for the Boks, where is the best of the Super 14 players ? and plse if the coach is not up to it he and his assistants must go ! Rugby is to professional to be handled this poor.

  • GVA - 2010-07-26 10:00

    Don't worry the All Blacks have peaked too early again the 2011 RWC is ours for the taking!! Provided of course they fire that little monkey and both his side kicks and replace them with anyone who knows that to coach a rugby team you freeking get the basics correct and DEFENCE,DEFENCE,DEFENCE in place!! So the players wearing the SPRINGBOK JERSEY can once more walk tall and not look like a bunch of bumbling idiots!! Get rid of PDV before its too late!!

  • FUBAR - 2010-07-26 10:00

    There is no game plan at the moment. PdV is lacking the skill to take charge and implement a match-winning strategy. He is relying on his assistants, and unfortunately, Dick Muir has lost the plot completely. Look at what he's done to the Lions. The entire Bok coaching team should be canned, to be replaced by Heineke Meyer, with assistants Alistair Coetzee and Frans Ludeke. Habana should be sent back to play Currie Cup rugby, and try to get his game up to par. Look at the number of penalties he gave away this weekend. On two occasions he broke the line, going for the intercept, which he missed and this opened up a massive hole in our defense. The Bok team has become a one-man show, each player chasing the spotlight for themselves. And John Smith... Really? The best hooker? Explain to me what happened in the line-outs, especially the one where he completely missed a call, and threw over the jumpers in the front. The ball was caught by the Aussie, on OUR line-out! Drop the non-performers for the home-leg of the Tri-nations. Instead of banking on a miracle, give some youngsters exposure for the last 3 matches.

  • rayray - 2010-07-26 10:00

    The writing is on the wall, MUIR MUST GO!!!!!!!!!!! He is not a coaches @r53, look at the Lions (cubs).

  • Simon - 2010-07-26 10:01

    Poor coaching. Lack of team spirit. OUT: Smit, Januarie, Olivier, Kirschner, Habana, Pienaar (R), James. There is no place for these players in the side with current form of better players.

  • Andy - 2010-07-26 10:01

    @ Wally, you're name says it all!

  • Piet - 2010-07-26 10:05

    The problem is not with Dick Muir, he made a success of the Sharks team. The problem lies with PDV, how can a team that consist out of super 14 champs and runner-ups be so useless now? We need Heynecke Meyer - he is a real Coach.

  • Reene - 2010-07-26 10:06


  • jon - 2010-07-26 10:08

    Witless de Villiers is a faux test coach By Chris Rattue Monday Jul 26, 2010 Misplaced positive discrimination will hurt South Africa’s gifted black players more than anyone else. That’s a horrible irony of Peter de Villiers’ increasingly disastrous time in charge of the world champions. The coaching maestro Robbie Deans continued his promising reconstruction of the Wallabies in Brisbane, but the home side found it relatively easy to wipe out an incoherent Springbok side that is tactically inept and only finds an effective fighting spirit in sporadic bursts. Saturday night’s clash in Brisbane was a coaching mismatch more than anything else, as were the earlier tests in Auckland and Wellington. There is no disgrace in losing away games in the Tri-Nations, but the manner of the South African defeats reveals they are wasting their vast playing resources. A failure to eliminate poor discipline also indicates a leadership problem. De Villiers is a faux test coach, a man who got his lines from a joke shop with a free Groucho moustache thrown in. South Africa may feel the rest of the world is unduly harsh on de Villiers, but the rest of the rugby community can rightly feel miffed that the game’s leading team doesn’t take the job of head coach seriously enough. Having been given a leg up to the very top, de Villiers should be made to earn his stripes, increase prowess and prove his ability in the Super 15 while a competent man takes charge of the world champions. The South African rugby administration were open about de Villiers’ appointment after the 2007 World Cup, saying it had much to do with transformation (from out of the apartheid era) and was not based on his rugby credentials alone. They could hardly say anything else, though, since de Villiers had only ever been head coach of junior South African teams, along with a couple of nondescript seasons in the Currie Cup. A difficult decision was made in difficult circumstances but does not have to be set in stone, and de Villiers has dishonoured the position with his ridiculous verbal shenanigans. International team sport will expose such risky manoeuvring eventually. Head coaches get paid the big bucks because they are actually important – just look at Argentina’s tactical disaster under an impotent Diego Maradona at the World Cup. What is happening to the Springboks was inevitable under de Villiers, although the cracks have appeared a bit quicker than many of us expected. Men far more qualified than de Villiers have fallen on hard times with apparently good teams, but those who have earned their stripes through the grades – such as Graham Henry – can fight their way clear. Sports teams can function superbly when dominated and effectively run by legendary players, but only for a short time. They will self-destruct when age and fading form emerge and the old hands refuse to relinquish power or embrace new trends. Nothing exemplifies this more than the placing of the cumbersome Jean de Villiers on the wing. Under the new rules, which encourage ball in hand over kicking, the new breed in South Africa must be given their chance to take over, players such as Gio Aplon and Juan de Jongh. But these gifted players, many of them black, will land in the middle of a dysfunctional team, a side run by old players, tight forwards at that, who will fall back on conservative ways. South African rugby is now finding out the double trouble presented by a political coaching appointment. The successful candidate is unlikely to be good enough for the job and the administration has trouble sacking the bloke when things turn pear-shaped. The Springboks have world-class players to burn, but they were tied in knots by the Australian shoestring. Just imagine what Henry or Deans might achieve with South Africa’s player pool. The genius of Deans was there to see in Brisbane. He is building a new Australian rugby, and still coming up with just enough results to keep the vultures at bay. The Wallabies fielded a couple of rookie puddings in their front row and still the Boks got their just deserts. Deans has injected skill all over his backline. The immensely strong Will Genia, a Deans protege, is the best halfback in world rugby under the new rules because he busts through holes around the fringes that others don’t see or have the power to create. The skill factor has been upped by the inclusion of Quade Cooper, who has the most magical hands in rugby, although he is still no Dan Carter. Wing James O’Connor, with two of the fastest feet ever seen on a rugby field, can whirl his way out of almost any situation. But the Wallabies are down on overall power and tight-five class. Henry’s All Blacks will win well in Melbourne, especially with Cooper suspended. * Shame on the South African team management for strong-arming an apology out of former Wallaby Brendan Cannon, for calling de Villiers a clown. The Springboks threatened to withdraw Fox Sport access to their team. South Africa, which is still trying to recover from years under an evil regime, should value the importance of free speech. And Fox should have backed Cannon.

  • love africa - 2010-07-26 10:09

    Fourie 4 weeks for the same tackle the DeVilliers and Cooper made! Cooper will even try and get out of his suspension which is right because all 3 tackles aren't dangerous. Lets not blame Muir for the lions performances as those problems had been around way before him and they lost J.Fourie, W.Alberts and fullback name escapes me now. No coach can resolve the lions issues because its from the top!

  • Anti - 2010-07-26 10:12

    I never thought I'd say it but Muir should be replaced by Coetzee. But the real fact is that the media should've managed public expectation better. We were all Ra-Ra-Ra Yay we're Super14 champions, we're going to win! But nobody pointed out that the Boks were never likely to win in Aukland or Brisbane, where the Bulls and Stormers had also lost earlier in the year. The most we should have expected was a couple of bonus points, but alas we were even worse than that. But I expect it to change back on South African soil, and it will!

  • Habana moet uittree - 2010-07-26 10:12

    Dit is hartseer om te sien hoe die Bokke se beste wapen agteruit gegaan het by die WP. Hy kan die basiese goed van rugby nie meer doen nie. Tyd om hom te drop.

  • Matthew K. - 2010-07-26 10:21

    @Vaughn: Dick Muir was poached from the Sharks after they made the Super14 final and won the Currie Cup... BEFORE he tackled the Lions.

  • JOHN - 2010-07-26 10:21

    This mess has been predicted by many (probably a bunch of racist)!!!! The people that selected the inexperienced DIV above the very experienced MEYER must be held responsible and do the right i.e. resign. SA Rugby, players and supporters are the victims!!!

  • Joeman - 2010-07-26 10:21

    If my staff dont do as i want them to do.. I tell them to find another job.. simple. Gary gold was crap as a forwards coach with the stormers fire the fool and get a proper backline and defence coach. look how long after Muir left the Sharks, they are still struggling. PDV should have gotten rid of these guys BEFORE the 3n

  • JOHN - 2010-07-26 10:23

    This mess has been predicted by many (probably a bunch of racist)!!!! The people that selected the inexperienced DIV above the very experienced MEYER must be held responsible and do the right i.e. resign. SA Rugby, players and supporters are the victims!!!

  • Andy - 2010-07-26 10:24

    The reasons for the boks losing is - 1) poor selection...what is Januarie and Ralepele etc doing thing Earl Rose is on the bench? Kirshner out! Olivier out! Roussouw out! 2) not enough youngsters coming through and if they are given a chance its at the 70th minute...what is the point of that?! 3) the boks tactics are weak, kicking away possession at will and completely ineffectual on attack. If the boks continue on this path they will not win a match in this series. A serious overhaul is needed to get the boks on track. Item 1 on the agenda, get rid of PDiv.

  • sean - 2010-07-26 10:25

    RELAX gents don't win the WC the year before .At the world cup we will have the best loose trio ...Juan Smit , Brussouw and 8th-man Skulk....add to that the best player on God's earth at scrummie , then Frans Steyn ect ect ...and remember the WC is won with solid formations , not complete rugby !!!!!!!!!!!!!! That little WC piece of gold is not going to that mud-island.

  • Libembe - 2010-07-26 10:27

    There comes a time when coaches run out of ideas, very few coaches last a lifetime if any, and all I'm saying is that maybe p Div has his time run-out and should bow-out whilst we still like him. You can never play a sport like rugby and soccer without structure, format and flow. If the three are not there, you will play a re-active game where the opposition dictate the pace and flow and once that happens, you're gone.It's rather amazing that Smit has made a more compeling case for their loss than the coach, and for P Div to fail when it comes to taking decision of the structure of the game is boggles my mind. He should be taking the lead and stick to the decision. failing to take leadership has been very obvious with the loss of 3 games. We need our pride back and the coach better get in shape or leave.

  • Shr3k - 2010-07-26 10:29

    New Coach, new captain, new hooker please

  • moekie - 2010-07-26 10:32

    All the coaching staff should be replaced, as evidently none of them know what they are doing. They are making a laughing stock of the players.