Meyer’s Breakdown Blues

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.

24 thoughts on “Meyer’s Breakdown Blues

  1. I completely agree with you, we have the players to win the breakdowns but like you say, no use we have them but then dont select them.
    I like your team selection. Although I would start looking for a new captain and replacement for JDV. And frans steyn can move to fullback, but he better lose a few pounds..
    Interesting, you have no place for bekker at lock?

  2. I think its more a matter of changing the way we clean out.

    Our players tend be stupid, and if you can change the team structures so that your cleaner is always there at the right time, and that cleaner always cleans successfully, then your current smaller statured breakdown specialist that goes over the ball (Brussouw, Fourie, Steggies, etc) will be totally nullified. The only slowing down he will do will be illegal and worth points.

    • Not so sure… especially if we are the ones trying to steal a ball… in situations like that people like Brussow and Fourie are invaluable because of how quickly they get over the ball, either causing a turnover or making the attacking team concede a penalty

      • But if you go into contact smart (and not like some idiots who run into contact just because they were standing at 10, but there is no forward close to him to clean) and the resulting cleanout is effective, then your breakdown is clean.

        I hear what you say from a defensive point of view, but Duane, Strauss and Bismarck already play to the ball. So does Coetzee, Habana, and Hougaard. You don’t need someone who’s only job is to do that.

        • I hear you. Coetzee I don’t agree with playing to the ball. Not good enough. Duane can but Duane’s roll is more about 8th man than “fetching”. He’ll be more effective roaming. Strauss, Bizzie, Habana and Hougie are all ok at fetching save maybe Bizzie who is world class but an effective fetcher in the mold of McCaw, George Smith, Warburton and the like can change games and we need one. We have Flouw but after Flouw we have no-one because Meyer doesn’t pick the obvious successors. Look at what a difference Flouw made when Meyer picked him. It freed Alberts up to play his game. His partnership with Duane was equally as effective because now it allowed Duane to be more of a ball carrier which suits him better. Playing a fetcher allows your other players more freedom to play their game and that’s what happened when Flouw played. When Coetzee was tried it caused Alberts and Co to play more to the ball because Coetzee wasn’t effective on the ground. Alberts couldn’t play his natural bone crushing game. If you pair Coetzee with Flouw you’ll see Coetzee’s game take a drastic rise in form because then he too can concentrate on what makes him great. Just my two cents

          • Jeez I’m still pissed at Divvie for not picking FLouw and Luke for recommending him to Geech.

            On the other hand, that would have meant no Siya in the Stormers side for another few years.

  3. Did you say SR form????And why is Hougard there? I like the guy is pure talent but he has to know that regardless he has to make the hard yards 1st,i tend to think that his loss of form is purely becuase he thought he didn’t have competition for the 9 jersey i’d replace him with van zyl or based on meyer’s rugby duvenhage.what about de jager from the cheetahs?but i have to give you credit with venter he is a very good player i wonder how old is he??

  4. JP Marais was the form 15 of SA in SR before injury and Willie le Roux is a prospect for fullback I think he is too intelligent for a winger

  5. Agree, I also believe this is were the Stormers are missing the trick they should start Fourie at 6 not 2.

    I disagree a bit about which players to pick. The game have changed a bit true out and out fetchers like Brussow or Matt Todd maybe a bit “old school” because they bring nothing else.
    Players like Flo, McCaw and George Smith are big guys that can carry the ball as well. I believe fetchers like these guys are the future.
    This is why HM should have Flo’s name 1st on his selection sheet. And that is why he is the only logical player for future captain.

    • I agree… the bigger the fetcher the better. A guy like Fourie punches above his weight and Brussow too. As for Flouw as captain it makes sense but then again he is the wrong side of 25

  6. Hi Mark

    I believe we are too obsessed with size and brute force, and disregard players with flair and skills. That is why players like Brussow, Willie le Roux, Aplon, Juan de Jongh etc get ignored. You have to win the ball first before you can play. I want to puke when I see guys like Marcell Coetzee, Alberts and Spies bash the ball up and never pass the damn thing.

    • Hahaha… ok. Spies can’t bash unless its against lesser opponents. Juan is at least in the group an is the only recognized outside centre picked and on recent form the best in the position. But agree on the likes of Aplon, Le Roux and Brussow. But then again players like Jacques Engelbrecht, Lappies Labuschagne, Phillip van der Walt can also be counted as unlucky and they are “big” players. Arno Botha in my opinion is probably the luckiest “Bok”. He has done nothing last year or this to prove his inclusion. Same with Zane and Jantjies. Hougie is also lucky but has the skill whereas the other two don’t. Also combinations play a big part in team play. That’s why a loose trio is only effective as a group, each augmenting the other’s strength. One could go on all day about the squad selection and no-one person will ever completely agree. But there does seem to be a big consensus about certain players being lucky and unlucky.

  7. Meyer is killing the Boks, his squad is a pure joke apart from new guys like Ebersohn or Du Toit.

    Loosehead props : Mtawarira isn’t playing his best rugby, but he plays. Imo, the best loosehead prop SA have : JC Janse Van Rensburg, the guy is a scrummaging monster, but he don’t play at the moment. What a pity. He has signed a deal with Bayonne next year, he will play against world class scrummagers in France. He will surely improve like Steenkamp did in Toulouse. Nyakane, Kitshoff are good scrummagers, and play decent rugby.

    Hooker : Nothing to say. Bismarck is the best hooker in world rugby.

    Tighthead : Herbst and Malherbe are the best SA tighhead at the moment. Jannie has never been a world class player, he is a bad scrummager… Destroyed by Corbisiero, the england loosehead last November. Mujati is by far the best tighthead SA could have, pity… He’s zimbabwean.

    Locks : Eben Etzebeth-Pieter Steph du Toit, not a complementary second row but very destructive and bloody…

    6 flank (SA openside) : Deon Fourie is the best SA openside, never been a hooker. He can even be better than the austalian opensiders (Pocock, Gill, Hooper, Smith…). Brussöw is second best. Daniel is also a very good ball player, and a good fetcher.

    7 flank : SA have choice. Louw (even if he’s considered as a fetcher), Coetzee, Labuschagne, Kolisi, Elstadt, Alberts, etc…

    8 flank : Duane and Vleis Engelbrecht are the best 8th men in the country.

    9 : Cobus Reinach or even Duvenage.

    10 : ? ? ? ?

    11 : Raymond Rhule or Aplon

    12 : Jean de Villiers captain ? A pure joke, has-been. Retirement, Europe or Japan. He has done great job for SA, but time to retire. Robert Ebersohn should be the man.

    13 : De Jongh or Jordaan

    14 : JP Pietersen

    15 : Willie Le Roux. I love that guy, pure class.

  8. Meyer should keep an eye on the kings players (i mean the kings backrow). Wimpie Van Der Walt, Jacques Engelbrecht, Cornell du Preez, Luke Watson… If Watson does well for his comeback from injury, Meyer should select him. He could bring something Boks don’t have.

  9. I fully agree on the breakdown game. According to reports, the reason for Brussows absence is his penalty count. Personally I think that is utterly ridiculous, considering he is about the only Flanker in SR, who actually contests a ball at the breakdown. If you want to be a contender at the breakdown, you have to pick a fetcher, that is just the way of the modern game. Look at the Bulls this season, their breakdown game and penalty count is frighteningly poor this season. For me stick louw in 7 and brussow at 6, and you’d have a devastating Flanker combo.

    Despite that, still my biggest concern is the passing game. In fact, there is none, our whole back line just chases a ball, never offloads, ever. Offloading and keeping the ball in motion is the key to unlocking an opponents defense. The bok backline is incredibly linear, its just, pick up, pass in one direction, make some ground, tackle, rinse and repeat. There’s just this complete reliance on bulk in the bok squad that needs to go. Your backline is not suppose to rival the weight of your forwards. Not only is this mentality hurting us, I think its highly unfair to some of our finer players who arent the biggest n who get skimmed over selection, not to mention the natural styles of certain players. Hougaard is case n point example, when he burst onto the scene, quick feet and strength were his guns, and he used them very, very well. This kicking game the are drilling him with, is not his forte, and he just looks incredibly uncomfortable with it. Far as our backline goes for running? We got some outstanding talents this time around, very very young blokes with oodles of time to developed and sharpen skills, Le Roux, Rhule, Serfontein, Ebersohn, hell if Sias didn’t go overseas to the Force, I’d have thought he could have made a good FH. Half backs in SA is still my top concern, know its very difficult to develop a backline when they spend 75% of the pitch chasing the ball in the air, only to get their hands on the ball when they are in the opposition 22. Bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. Why Sarel Pretorius wasn’t chosen I will never know. Age is perhaps his only weakness, which boggles me because Jano Vermaak was selected, and here is the strongest attacking SH in the country, with 6 and a half years of experience at SH and the 2nd heaviest behind Hougaard. I just hope we drop the kicking game and spend more time with ball in hand.

  10. i really enjoyed your blog & you’re spot on mate.. with the start of meyer’s 2nd year of bok coaching, i get the feeling that meyer is convinced, no wait, he blindly believes that he has the right players & that they just have to adjust or improve on some facets of play for his gameplan & the Boks to be a success (which is ultimately being RWC champions again). And that’s fair enough, he is the Bok coach after all.. Only problem, THE WHOLE WORLD can see that there are players in the Bok squad that dont belong there & others like Brussouw & Fourie that does.. *sigh*

    I wish the RWC was done already so that his tenure can be over & done with..

  11. Agree fully on the Fetcher part, another positive is if you play Brussow and Ebersohn you can have fetchers on both sides of the field.

    Also, not to be a stick in the mud here, but there is a difference between there and their. :)

    Good post.

  12. I would like to add my ‘agree’ to the magnitude of ‘agrees’ above with another motivation to fixing this problem. I believe the yellow card should be produced more often, to send off players that do not stay within the rules being blown by the ref. Penalties for the attacking team at the breakdown is robbing the attacking team of an opportunity to produce a great game, and allow the defending team to regather. Similarly, stupid off-side penalties (due to pressure), inside the 22, should also be dealt with harsher, as it is again, robbing the attacking team from an opportunity. I want to see guys playing the game, not seeing how far they can push the ref: you know the rules, if you cannot remember, take 10min in the sinbin and read the rule, possibly even from flashcards produced by the sinbin ref:-)

  13. nice blog. you cant go without a fetcher. look at what old man smith is doing for the brumbies. he is world class though and i dont think we have anybody in this country at this moment at that form, including brussow. dont get me wrong, he is good but not a poopcock, smith of mcsteal good, at the moment and picking him based on what he can do and not what he is consistantly doing is like picking spies because once longlong time ago he was great.
    the biggest problem with your team, from HM ‘s view, would be that you picked too few BBs. otherwise i mainly agree.

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