One can’t help but comment on Meyer’s speech about the breakdown “blues” of this country. Meyer is of the opinion that if we can sort out the breakdown of South African teams we can win matches. Truer words have never been spoken but then one would have to look at why we are having breakdown issues.
Meyer likes to say we have breakdown problems but then why does he not pick the players who can resolve that issue in his squad. Why is their no Brussow? Hell I’d even go as far as picking someone like Deon Fourie at 6 because on the ground he is devastating.
To me the problem doesn’t really lie in the fact that we are “behind” other teams in the pecking order come breakdown time but in the players we pick to win the breakdown game! Meyer is also a culprit in this regard.
When Meyer took over as Bok coach he believed that to win matches you need to boss the collisions. Fair enough, but without any ball to play with the only way you’ll win a match is tackling a team into submission.
I believe that this philosophy of big players has filtered down into our Super Rugby thinking. Of all the teams out their only the Cheetahs play a true fetcher in Brussow. The Stormers are playing a “big” loose trio but none of them really play to the ball. The only person who can is Duane Vermuelen but he is an 8th man and “fetching” is not part of his criteria. The Sharks have Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes. Botes doesn’t make the starting team often and Daniel is fair on the ground but no where near the likes of Francois Louw or Brussow. The Kings have Watson but he is injured and way past his best and the Bulls have Stegmann who has never ever ever been anywhere near class… never mind international class on the ground.
Our team selections these last few years has been based on a Meyer philosophy of size wins games. Now Meyer is singing the breakdown blues. It makes no sense. I feel we have the talent and I believe to sort out our new Meyer issue we should pick the appropriate players for the role. Being great at the breakdown is a talent and not something that can be coached. The top three for this country, in my opinion, at the moment are Francois Louw, Heinrich Brussow and Deon Fourie. Of course when Bismarck comes back we have an extra “fetcher” and Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen are also not bad on the ground come ruck time.
So I do not agree with Meyer in saying that we are not good at the breakdown. If anything team choices make us bad at the breakdown. We look bad because we don’t pick a specialist. Looking at Meyer’s training squad selection it looks no better and I foresee a loss at the breakdown if Louw gets injured.
This would have been my Bok squad also without international players, based on current form in the Super XV:
Loosehead: Tendai Mtwarira (I know he is out of sorts but won’t play without him), Steven Kitshoff
Hooker: Adriaan Strauss, Kyle Cooper, Chiliboy Ralepelle
Tighthead: Coenie Oosthuizen, Wiehan Herbst, Frans Malherbe
4 Lock: Flip van der Merwe, Steven Sykes
5 Lock: Franco van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit
6 Flank: Heinrich Brussow, Deon Fourie
7 Flank: Lappies Labuschagne, Rynardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi
8th Man: Duane Vermuelen, Phillip van der Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht
Scrumhalf: Cobus Reinach, Shaun Venter, Francois Hougaard
Flyhalf: Morné Steyn (as much as it pains me), Pat Lambie, Dimitri Catrakilis
Left Wing: Bryan Habana, Raymond Rhule
Inside Centre: Jean de Villiers, Robert Ebersohn
Outside Centre: Juan de Jongh, Lionel Mapoe (for lack of a better option)
Right Wing: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen
Fullback: Frans Steyn, Joe Pietersen (for lack of a better option)
Note: I did not select current major injuries
So all in all I feel we are not behind when it comes to breakdown play… we just aren’t picking the right people for the job.