Sorry for my absence. Work has been tough and getting Telkom to reconnect my ADSL is proving even more problematic than I thought, but I did follow the posts on the site and even commented on a few when I found the time to do so. Unfortunately, reading the most of the posts as well as a few columns on other sites left me feeling even more irritated than watching the Boks play ever did.
What has been bothering me throughout reading anything that has something to do with the Boks were everything starting with the word “If”.
“If we played the All Blacks today, we would surely have lost this one.”
“If Ireland played against New Zealand today, they would have lost 50-3 instead of leading at half time.”
“If Mallet was the coach the Boks would have played a more attacking game.”
“If it was Lambie playing at fullback, he would have attacked instead of kicking the ball.”
If, if, if.
We as South African supporters seemed to never be satisfied with whatever is happening at present and always either want the situation to change or we linger back to the times that we also weren’t too satisfied with at the time.
We want the Boks to play a brand of rugby that they never were able to do successfully for more than a season or so. This is not the first time the Boks were in Europe scraping past the Scots and the Irish while NZ were putting 50 past them with a rotated squad each week. This is far from the worst that the Boks have been on an end of year tour, but still we think it’s the end of the world.
Nick Mallet has been hailed as a rugby genius for stating the obvious in SS’ studios each Saturday, but his own failings as a Bok coach is never mentioned. The talk is all about the 16 he won in a row while playing running rugby but the attempt at number seventeen that he lost against an average English side does not get mentioned. Nor does his semi final loss against the Wallabies ever receive any attention by those wanting him to take over as Bok coach.
The rugby that the Boks played in those days were extra ordinary, but they lost the games that would have made that team immortal. Granted, the Boks did play well to keep the All Blacks from scoring in their 3-13 away victory and showed great resolve to come back from behind at Kingspark against the same foes, but when the record and the oppertunity to defend the Webb Ellis trophy was held right under their noses, they choked.
It is also interesting to note that so many supporters wants Meyer to emulate the Sharks. A team that has reached, and lost, two finals this season. Or the All Blacks, a team that’s in a very different stage of their growing as a team than the Boks are.
The core of the current All Black side has nothing left to prove. They got the monkey of choking at the World Cup off their backs as well as several Tri Nations trophies and Grand Slams under their belts. They are a team that can afford to play with more freedom and enterprise with the knowledge that they have the experience and discipline to fall back on should things not go according to plan.
They were able to defend their way to the WC title as well as grind it out against their southern rivals in the RC, pouncing at the correct moment to seal their victories, but they were able to employ mesmerizing attacking feats when the opposition allowed it and the pressure was off.
Interesting, though, that they weren’t able to clinch the one achievement they still had yet to achieve when they played against the Wallabies for win number 18. Choking again, perhaps?
Another joke I’ve heard was people saying that they would have been willing to see the Boks loose if it meant they were trying to perfect a more attacking gameplan. We did that in 2001 and in 2008, and everybody was screaming at the top of their lungs for the Boks to turn things back to the way they were.
After sixty minutes against Ireland and after fifty minutes against the Scots, it was apparent that the result was beyond any doubt. It would have been nice to see them employing a more enterprising approach, but the Boks kept both sides from scoring (The Scots will never be able to pull off that lineout move ever again).
The Boks are working on being effective and being able to judge the situation on it’s merits. This is a process that takes time. As a Bulls supporter I’m very concerned about what has been happening in the corridors of Newlands this season.
Although I have criticized the Stormers for lacking the killer instinct needed to bag the important trophies, they have laid a foundation from which they were able to back themselves to employ the enterprising play needed to clinch their first Currie Cup in eleven years. They were able to give the ball some much needed air knowing through experience that their forwards and their defence were solid enough to keep the game from slipping out of their grasp should they not be able to run it they way they planned. They now have that trophy and could well be on their way to secure the Super 15 next season based on the progress they have made in the Currie Cup.
What’s happening at the Boks is no different, but it is in a far more demanding environment than Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. The closest thing to the Currie Cup Meyer has is the EOYT, but unlike WP, Meyer didn’t have the foundation to work from that Coetzee had. Although the Boks’ defence weren’t bad, it was far from effective and the forwards were also found wanting. These aspects, I feel, have improved and are in for a stern test against a wounded England side next week.
The English aren’t a very effective attacking unit, but their forwards will give the Boks some problems, so a good performance in this department might enable Meyer to check these boxes after the EOYT. Next year, we face tier two countries and Scotland sans their Lions players. The Boks will do well to build on the showings of this EOYT and not concede any tries and dominate the exchanges upfront.
This will give the backs the freedom to attack and give the spectators something to watch.
Unlike Henry, Meyer does not have eight years to win a World Cup. He only has four. In this time he must make the Boks an unbeatable unit first and an entertaining unit second. When we face the French in the 2015 WC final, we’ll have to dump our entertaining brand for a conservative approach in order to lift our third Webb Ellis trophy.
Meyer is slowly working towards that goal, but unlike his predecessors, he will do it by winning a few tests and trophies along the way.