If only…

November 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

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.

9 responses to If only…

  1. A lot of the frustration is caused by inconsistencies and mixed messages from Heyneke Meyer.

    1. Before the tour he acknowledged that he sees Taute as a fullback but then plays him at centre over a specialist centre while he has yet to be given the opportunity to play fullback.

    2. Hougaard has played in all the tests and has not had a good game yet, whether at scrumhalf or at wing. Meanwhile specialist wings are left home or on the bench.

    3. Juan de Jongh gets overlooked for a fullback and when he finally gets his chance he sees the ball once.

    4. One of HM’s declared objectives was find his backup flyhalf but only Lambie got a chance so far and then playing a Morne-style game rather than his natural game and one can only assume that was on instruction.

    5. He uses CJ van der Linde as his backup tighthead while CJ is the third choice tighthead for his province.

    6. I can only assume he wants Hougaard to play himself into form but how he will get back in form at scrumhalf while playing on the wing is a mystery. Meanwhile Jano Vermaak has been in the squad for 11 tests going on 12 and hasn’t even seen the bench.

    And I’m sorry but winning ugly against the #9 team in the world doesn’t inspire confidence.

    Next year HM can up his winning percentage when we play Italy, Samoa and an understrength Scotland side in June. And hopefully he has more clarity by the time the Rugby Championships start and we face the All Blacks and Wallabies again.

  2. Well written post, boet! “If” only the majority of fans could be so open minded…!

  3. Great post and I like the way you think. Winning comes first in my book too but I am so tired of boring rugby, I can scream. Baylion makes good points too and I agree with most.
    The Boks will never be the ABs and we will only play our “traditional” brand of rugby with the odd small tweak or addition.

    • What Baylion said makes sense, but the most important thing about whatever Meyer says in the media is how it is relayed back to the players. Situations change every week and there a different things to consider on Wednesday when he must select his side than there were when he attended the press conference before jetting off to the UK. I just hope that he is open with the players regarding this.

      About the boring rugby. The match between Argentina and France was very entertaining, but there was so many fundamental errors made in defence by both sides that I felt the Pumas only needed to be more disciplined and grind out the victory instead of running it at the French.

      There were gaps that players were able to spot and run trough from almost ten metres out. A team playing the basics right should never have left these gaps and the French were lucky that Argentina was trying to entertain the crowd as well instead of grinding out a victory that was their’s for the taking.

      How many of the Scots’ running feats really paid off? They kept trying the same things over and over and never even looked like they would be able to breach our defence. The same happened to the Irish.

      We are seeing more and ,more teams adopting an expansive approach, but less tries are being scored. Especially in matches between tier one countries.

      If running from everywhere does not work, why should Meyer not seek an alternative?

      • Forget about the minnows. Our only win against a top side came when we actually opened up the game against the Aussies, albeit an injury-depleted Aussie side.

        • That’s my other problem. The lack of top sides at the moment. It seems that NZ are the only team from the Six Nations and the RC that can really feel satisfied with their season.

          Every other team is in some kind of problematic state. This is reflected in the current gap in the IRB rankings between NZ and the rest.

          Also, the amount of tries being scored in these two tournament has also been very low.

          This season, we played England and Ireland. Two teams that have been regarded as top teams for the past four years, but this year they seen as mediocre opposition.

          Australia are also seen as below par.

          • Massive number of injured due to the long rugby season. The All Blacks have depth which no other side has

  4. 1. It was 17 wins in a row. Nick did make mistakes in the RWC 1999 and he has admitted it. Still we only lost to Aus (a good team) in extra time by an fluke of a Larkam drop goal.
    Nick is a brilliant coach, I believe a lot better than in the 90’s when he coached the Boks. But he has promised his wife he will never coach in SA again.

    2. Agree the Boks and Stormers games look very similar atm both playing not to lose rather than to win. Only when WP realized that you need to be more attacking did they finally won a trophy.

    3. HM should stop playing players out of position. Hougie on the wing, Taute at centre has been bad choices. CJ as tighthead reserve nearly cost us the game on Saturday.

    4. Just as you hate if, if ,if. I hate the: We first need to build our forwards before we can start with the backs!! Why it is two different personal units the backs can also train.

    5. In the previous years we never had attacking FH’s Butch, Morne, Pretorius was the best we had and they are all not very good. Now we actually have more attacking FH’s in Elton, Lambie, Goosen. But still we kick most of our possession away. Why cause HM still believes tactical kicking is the way to go.

    6. HM said that he would like to replace JP with Taute on the wing because of his better kicking ability!!! Why don’t we just fill the team with FH’s and FB’s ???

    • 1.) I know the record was 17, but the streak started with Du Plessis’ last game in charge.

      2.) I’m sure Coetzee knew about the attacking thing way back, but is was this foundation of trust that was built by the defence during the S15 that gave the backline the freedom to attacking like they did in the CC. Have they lost the few close ones that they could have lost in the S15, it would have been a different matter.

      3.) I cant really say much about the playing players out of position thing. I would also like some clarity on that, but Meyer’s the one working with these players and I assume he had different expectation on how they would perform.

      4.) I’m sure the backs are already undergoing the progress and training needed, but this will only become visible once the forwards gel as a unit and they trust the defence like WP do.

      5.) I don’t want an attacking, kick or defensive flyhalf. I want a good option taker. Morne was one, I don’t know why he lost that ability. Just like kicking downfield can sometimes be the wrong option, so is pass it to the guy next you or taking on the defence at the wrong time.

      6.) Dok used to say “Any fool can play wing”. Haha

      Seriously, with what we can expect from the conditions and the importance of winning that match, Taute is a more than adequate replacement seeing that we have lost two of the best wings in the world already.

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