Where Did We Go Wrong?

A few things were glaringly obvious in the game against the Scots. It was always going to be a game of attrition. The Boks looked liked a team scared of losing and not one hungry of winning and Lambie played a very Morné-esque sort of game.

We played well in the first half and we were determined to stick to our structures, sort of play in our “comfort” zone. In the second half the Scots realised we were never moving out of second gear and more than happy to stay there. Then they upped the anti and the Boks were scrambling like mad men. Something that should never have been allowed to happen.

Gone are the days of outplaying a team in the first half and then using that killer instinct to slaughter them in the second. The Boks were on top of the Scots but in the second half it almost looked like we were relieved to be in front and rest on our laurels.

Two things stood out as negative points for me in that game. Lambie playing Morné rugby and CJ still being considered as a world class prop. The game obviously didn’t suit Lambie. There was none of that free flowing spirit we have seen from the young lad. He seemed stifled and perplexed for big parts of the game. In some way I think the “game plan” stifled him and in others he didn’t do himself any favours. Besides playing in a plan that obviously doesn’t allow him to be him, his kicking out of hand was atrocious. Seeing Lambie that far in the pocket had a lot of tongues wagging. The question is why? Why was he so far back? Why wasn’t he flatter? Why was he kicking so many up and unders? Why? Why? Why?

A lot of questions can be asked of his style but similarly a lot can also be asked of his execution. I would love nothing more than to start throwing conspiracies around but let’s face it, Lambie did not do himself any favours on Saturday. The problem with that is that it now gives Meyer the chance of bringing in Morné, so that the bore-fest can continue… in earnest… and alienate even more supporters of the green-and-gold.

Another thing that someone couldn’t help but notice was the glaring fact that our back players, bar De Villiers and Lambie, never got ball unless it was given to them by the opposition. Juan de Jongh touched the ball once, had a magic little half break and then never got given the ball again. Right there it proves that something is fundamentally wrong in the make up that is Bok rugby. Maybe it is the reason why Jaque Fourie refused to return. He doesn’t want his role at the Boks to be one of a tackling centre. Mallet summed up the de Jongh situation nicely after the match.

The turning point of the match, in my opinion, was the introduction of CJ. Once we lost dominance in the scrums we seemed to loose dominance in the forwards as a whole. We were slipping tackles and looking ever more lethargic as the game wore on. What makes it worse is that I do not blame tiredness. Our ascendancy was no more and the Scots took full advantage. CJ was the biggest instigator in this free fall and it almost cost us dearly.

Now I know a lot has been said of the style of rugby that the Boks play and that it has always been an ingrained thing in South African players. The kicking game is our game. But then again what was said in the Supersport studio rings true. Even with Naas as our flyhalf we had world class backs outside him, Gerber, Du Plessis, Huenis, Pienaar… legends of yesteryear.

Another interesting fact is that when we had our 17 match winning streak with Mallet as coach we did not have a kicking flyhalf. We had Henry Honniball and at 12 Dick Muir, a maestro of distribution. What I mean by this is we played our best rugby when not playing the traditional Bok style… if such a thing exists.

All in all I feel there is a stifling of development under Meyer and I don’t see it ending any time soon.

Bok Game a Tale of Two Halves and an Inconsistent Ref

Well, well, well. That was a tale of two halves. I read a lot about how the Boks upped their game in the second half and how poor they were in the first half. True they were but what was really at the root of the Bok problem in the first half?

One thing was sure about the game, and especially after the second time I watched it. Barnes had a shocker… again… surprise, surprise! He seemed to do a lot of guessing and taking in to account how the penalties were blown it seems that only one arm worked and that was the left one.

In the first half both teams struggled to find any rhythm and it was easy to see why. Both teams were struggling to play the way Barnes was adjudicating. Why is that you ask? Easy, because Barnes was all over the place. Non of his decisions had any consistency to them. His handling of the ruck was a prime example. Bodies were on the ground, or players were holding or suddenly daylight wasn’t given, even though the player in question was the arriving player and not the tackler. It was a lottery, I know it generally is but quality refs tend to stick to a formula that teams can suss out and then play to, and in Barnes there was none of that.

Nothing was more clear in Barnes’ inability to control a match than when the handing out of handbags started. He stood off to one side and let the show carry on. He wasn’t interested in keeping discipline. Yes he gave two yellow cards in the game. One was a dangerous tackle and merits could be made for the awarding of the card but Heaslip getting a yellow for what wasn’t even a repeated offence was a bit strange.

So why did the Boks improve in the second half? Simple, they started playing the ref and not the laws. This allowed the Bok forwards to gain the ascendancy they needed and shut out the Irish.

Now don’t get me wrong here. I am not saying that only the Boks were blown up by Barnes. He was pretty harsh on the Irish as well. How someone like Barnes is even allowed to be an international ref after all his blunders escapes me, and I don’t mean in just this match. He has been shocking almost every time he has reffed a game.

Anyway, this is how I rate the Bok performance for Saturday’s clash against the Irish:

First XV:

15 Zane Kirchner 6

It was a solid showing at the back once again but the man still lacks the ability to create an attacking opportunity from the back. I wish he would stop prancing around and just take the ball in full flight into contact if need be. At least he’ll gain metres and not get tackled back.

14 JP Pietersen – 6

Despite that one miss-timed tackle JP had a solid game and a few good runs. The man is clearly in the mood for rugby!

13 Jaco Taute – 6

Still not my first choice 13 but he got better as the game got on. Still I think Juan de Jongh’s fleet-footedness could have come in handy. Taute was much better in his defensive channels this time around.

12 Jean de Villiers – 6.5

Definitely one of Jean’s better games in a long while. Maybe the small break from Currie Cup duty did him good. Took the ball up well. Would still like to see him try and link up with his back line players more.

11 Francois Hougaard – 5

Another quiet game from the once vibrant and slippery player. He needs to find his mojo quick because I fear time might be running out for the man. Give him an impact role when the game is more open. Maybe then he can win back some confidence.

10 Patrick Lambie – 6

The mercurial Lambie didn’t get to do much in the first half and did look a bit out of sorts but produced a much better display in the second. His kicking out of hand wasn’t to good either and I put that down to nerves. He knows he is playing for his rugby life under Meyer.

9 Ruan Pienaar – 7

Ruan produced one of his most mature games in a while. I think getting an extended run at 9 is helping his confidence grow.

8 Duane Vermuelen – 6.5

Stole one or two balls and tackled very well. Would just like to see him link up with the backs a bit more.

7 Willem Alberts – 6.5

Not at his rampaging best but still a solid game. Tackled very well and made them feel it.

6 Francois Louw – 7.5

This man is proving to be talismanic. Slow down opposition ball and is a menace on the ground. Great cover defence too.

5 Juandré Kruger – 5.5

Had a quiet game. His forte is the line out and he has usually been an excellent stealer of the ball but wasn’t as effective as he can be. Also disappeared a little in certain stages when the game got tight.

4 Eben Etzebeth – 7

This kid will be a legend one day if he can carry on like this. Extremely strong and stole a few line out balls.

3 Jannie du Plessis – 6

Someone should give the doc a rest. He has had a massive season and keeps chugging along. Another solid performance but he could do with a breather.

2 Adriaan Strauss – 8

He had a massive game. One of his best. I am sure playing opposite his cousin gave him extra incentive and it showed. Played very well and was all over the park.

1 CJ van der Linde – 6

I was worried when it was decided he would start. I have never rated CJ as a strong scrummager but he was solid. Good game

Reserves:

16 Schalk Brits – wasn’t used

17 Pat Cilliers – 6

This man had a good game. Scrummed well and really threw himself into tackles.

18 Heinke van der Merwe – 6.5

Really showed his power in one scrum and played a pleasing game with the time he had on the field.

19 Flip van der Merwe – 6.5

If there is one person this year who has made me swallow my words it is Flip. He is really showing good growth and ever since he has “calmed down” and shown controlled aggression, he is playing some good rugby.

20 Marcell Coetzee – 6.5

This kid looked like he was on speed. Threw himself into everything and had one monster tackle.

21 Morné Steyn – wasn’t used

22 Juan de Jongh – wasn’t used

23 Lwazi Mvovo – wasn’t used

I do find it interesting that no substitutions were made in the back line, especially Hougaard as he wasn’t having his best outing again.

What is Meyer thinking?

One thing has become very clear in Heyneke Meyer’s messages these last few days. His emphasis on kicking. It is sad really when one can see the potential in almost all of the players present. South African rugby fans are making a lot of noise on general team selection and it generally tends to be the same. Play the players who have that something extra in them.

Yet Meyer is ignoring these calls. He is steadfastly sticking to what he perceives he knows. I use the words perceive in this case because Meyer has done his fair bit of backtracking on stances he has taken. To highlight the most obvious one is the case of flyhalf. The country has been talking about Lambie and Jantjies a lot, and not just the last few games but for a while. Yet Meyer seems to stand fast on denying there talent. One thing I knew to be bull when he talked about it was Lambie’s perceived lack of tactical kicking. The kid has always been brilliant at it yet Meyer has come out and said that Lambie needs to work on his. What rubbish!

The kid probably has the biggest rugby brain and cool head in the entire squad. His tactical kicking has always been good, his defence has always been rock solid and his attacking acumen is probably one of the best in the country. Elton has shown the glimpses of brilliance we know he has. Has he been as steady as Pat? No but he hasn’t been up and down like a yo-yo either. Yes he had a shocker in the semis to a degree but he didn’t play that badly either. Yet Jantjies hasn’t even made the bench.

Morné Steyn has had one of those seasons that any normal person would want to forget… and quickly. He hasn’t been his metronomic best this whole season. Yet he makes the bench based on one good game for the Bulls to make the semis of the Currie Cup, yet has another shocker against the Sharks a week later. Other than his boot he offers nothing yet he gets the nod because Meyer perceives him to be a better tactical kicker. Well someone should tell Meyer that Steyn’s kicking has been so bad this season that he even made Peter Grant’s kicking out of hand look sublime.

Meyer harps on about tactical kicking and kicking to posts yet not once has he said anything about a complete game, something Lambie and Jantjies can offer. Steyn only offers kicking. Which in a way scares me when you think about what Meyer might be thinking about, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who has. Meyer has made no secret about the fact that he doesn’t rate Lambie. He has put his favourite player on the bench in Morné. Does that mean Lambie will be subbed after 20 minutes? Hmm. Also by picking Morné, who has had a shocking season, above someone like Jantjies, who has had a good season, are you not psychologically telling Jantjies that you don’t rate him either?

Now on to Zane Kirchner. Captain Niknaks has been solid but other than his placement and kicking out of hand he has offered about as much as a church mouse to the church coffers. Zane’s kicking, Meyer explains, is what gives him the nod above someone like Taute. Taute can hoof a ball miles, yet he can also run and is an extremely strong tackler. Zane doesn’t offer those last two at all. When Captain Niknaks starts dancing on the spot like a jack rabbit… wait I shouldn’t liken him to the jack rabbit because the jack rabbit can actually side step. When Captain Niknaks prances on the spot like a jack-in-the-box he becomes the easiest target to tackle.

Taking Taute to 15 and bringing on Juan at 13 would have made perfect sense. You have a kid who knows the defensive lines of outside centre patrolling outside centre. Plus you bring on someone who is tenacious in his defence and someone who in the blink of an eye can actually do what a jack rabbit does, evade would be predators!

Almost the entire country bar the truly fanatical Bull supporter can see that removing Zane and Morné from the equation greatly improves our chances against the Irish, so why can’t Meyer? All I know is that if we do lose this game on the Emerald Isle, Meyer will have a lot of explaining to do, not to the South African fans only, but to a certain Mr Gwede Mantashe too.

Has Meyer Missed a Trick?

With injuries having played a massive role this year one can excuse a watered down Bok team… or can we? One thing that has been obvious during the Currie Cup is the emergence of young players. Yes it was a watered down version because a lot of the Boks were missing but in the final the Sharks were almost full strength and the “young guns” from WP pulled them through.

We have a plethora of young talent coming through and someone like Eben Etzebeth has proved that by announcing himself on the world stage even. Meyer has chosen his squad to tour Europe but I can’t but help feel he has missed a trick. He has still stuck to his “guns” as he likes to point out. I do applaud the man however for picking Rhule. The kid has been in sublime form for the Cheetahs. Yet overall I feel Meyer is still lacking in vision.

Where is Ludik, Groom, Reinach, Jordaan, Whitehead and the likes? These guys have proved themselves this season. We have had a terrible time at scrumhalf. Pienaar offers stability but after him who do we have? Yes we have Hougaard and Vermaak but they have no form to speak of. Yet Groom and Reinach have proved that they can play an all round game. Plus Reinach has clearly inherited his dad’s pace! Hougaard’s future is not at scrumhalf and will never be. If anything he will always be an impact player or wing. On this tour one could have picked both Groom and Reinach to gain some experience. So why didn’t he? Simple, he still plays favourites.

At centre we have been thin this year. Jean is holding the ship together, not just in the midfield but also as captain, Frans Steyn is injured and we seem to be short on genuine inside centres. So then Why not take Someone like Whitehead or Serfontein with? They are definitely the future! Ever since the departure of Fourie we have also been lacking for a 13. Juan de Jongh has shown he has the temperament but unfortunately his size under Meyer will always count against him. Unfortunate really since he showed South Africa what he can produce on the big stage. Frans and Jean are not the answer as a centre pairing. So why not give Juan his chance and bring someone like Jordaan on tour who can only benefit from it. Why not even take someone like Catrakilis along?

At full back Ludik has been in sublime form. The kind of form that would make anyone stand up and notice… unless you are Meyer. Meyer’s blind faith in Captain Niknaks is bordering on insanity. He offers nothing from the back. Yes he is solid but his one on one defence has never been great and he has no attacking skills to speak of. His only claim to fame is kicking, which Meyer seems to prize above all else. I would play Taute there and Ludik as backup… plus if you really have to you have Lambie. Zane doesn’t even need to feature… at all… ever!

I also feel Meyer missed a trick With Deon Fourie. Our only fetcher in the group is Francois Louw, and no matter how much Meyer wishes it, Coetzee will never be in that mould. Why not then pick someone like Fourie who has been a revelation at 6? I can only think size once again… which is sad really. And what about someone like Anton Bressler or even Jaco Kriel from the Lions? Don’t get me started on the Keegan Daniel debate. The man would be a shoe-in anywhere else.

The other trick that Meyer has missed is in his player “32”. In the group we have one genuinely world class tighthead in Jannie. Pat Cilliers is still on probation. Why not pick another tighthead in the group instead of Heinke van der Merwe, another loosehead. We basically have have three looseheads, one tighthead and one all rounder in Pat Cilliers. CJ doesn’t count because he can’t scrum on his best of days!

However the biggest trick Meyer has missed is in the naming of his match day 23, and here is the team to take on the Irish:

First XV:

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements:

16 Schalk Brits, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Juan de Jongh, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.

Zane at 15 should not even feature in the team or bench. Taute isn’t a 13, his defence is shoddy there. Francois Hougaard has not done enough to warrant a starting berth at wing, his form is shoddy. Having CJ on the bench and not Guthro makes no sense and never ever will no matter which universe you find yourself in. Having Morné Steyn on the bench can only mean one thing… Lambie will get substituted… very soon in the game. I confess I would be very surprised if we beat the Irish with this team, especially is Lambie gets taken off.

A better combination would have been as follows:

First XV:

15 Jaco Taute, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermuelen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Eben Etzebeth, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtwarira.

Replacements:

16 Schalk Brits, 17 Guthro Steenkamp, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Francois Hougaard

I only pick Vermaak for lack of a better choice. There is so much potential that Meyer left at home its actually scandalous. I read that he bemoans the fact that we lose so much talent overseas but it is easy to spot why. If someone keeps on picking the talentless above the talented, then don’t expect the talented to stick around.

Does Meyer Trust the Future?

One thing I like about life is the constant change. It is all about the move forward, the need to improve. Things are constantly changing and adapting. But not Bok rugby!

Why do I say this? Well I have been reading a few articles about Morné Steyn being back in the picture due to Goosen having a season ending injury. Now I know that due to Goosen’s injury the net has to be cast for a new number 10 for the Boks, but then why take a step back to Morné instead of taking a step forward to Jantjies or Lambie?

Yes our kicking has been atrocious throughout this series, no matter who kicked, but does it warrant going back to a kicker that was just as atrocious, never mind his kicking out of hand? No. The one thing that did improve after the dropping of Morné was the distribution and the attacking prowess of the back line. With Morné their and even if his kicking returns, I don’t see our back line performing better, actually I see the opposite.

Sure it is the northern hemisphere with “heavier” fields, but it doesn’t mean our kicking game becomes more important. The one thing about kicking rugby that is important is accuracy, now since Morné’s radar out of hand is about as bad if not worse than his goal kicking it won’t matter if he play or not. Not only will our kicking be bad but also our general back line play. There will be no attacking impetus, their will be no killer instinct. Why? Because Morné stands so far back in the pocket that by the time he has passed to someone, they get caught behind the gain line by 5 or more metres. That doesn’t sound too clever to me.

Another thing that bothers me is that there is talk of his return even before he has proved any form whatsoever. For the Boks to move forward and find an all-round game it will be important to find a flyhalf who can play an all-round game. In Morné we don’t have that but in Lambie, Jantjies and Goosen we do. Morné has had his time. It is about time we move away from the old and bring in the new, fresher faces. Meyer said our loss to the All Blacks was because of inexperience. Well Lambie, Jantjies and Goosen can only get that by playing the game, not by sitting on the bench and coming on with 3 minutes to spare.

I’m not asking for an all out attack mentality like the Aussies and the All Blacks. I’m not asking for a kick-and-chase orientated display. I’m asking for an all-round solid platform. I’m asking for the Bok management to look to the future. I’m asking Meyer to give the future a chance. Will Meyer trust their skills and abilities or will he try force them into a conservative corner?

Heyneke Meyer – the Harvey Dent of Springbok Rugby

Well I had an interesting week and saw absolutely no rugby. Not fun! I did however read about the squad call ups and on the one hand I am happy for the players and on the other not so happy.

Why is CJ van der Linde called up? We all know it is because he can scrum on both sides of the scrum but as anyone will probably testify, he doesn’t scrum well on both sides of the scrum. When he was at the Cheetahs he looked like a shoe-in for Bok colours but then came his trips to every province out there and his game has never been the same again.

I like the fact that Jantjies and Taute have been called up. Jantjies has been playing brilliant rugby and everyone knows of the potential in Taute. But has Taute been at his best? Probably not but he will get there. This however could cause a bit of a headache for another great player in Lambie. It is clear from Meyer’s handling of Lambie that Meyer doesn’t rate him at all. He has had something like 18 minutes of test rugby this season. But now with the inclusion of Jantjies, also not a Meyer favourite but who is on form, and Taute, who is a Meyer favourite, Lambie’s days seem even more numbered than before.

Meyer has also once again reiterated that he will not drop Morné Steyn, no matter how many Bok fan heart attacks he causes. Meyer has also made the statement that he doesn’t just drop anyone from the squad because that is not who he is, he believes in the people chosen. Now that might ring true for the out-of-formers that are Steyn, Kirchner, Jacques Potgieter and Jean de Villiers, but it smacks of hypocrisy for players like Daniel, Mvovo, Engelbrecht and Lambie who are all shunted to the side or out completely, no matter their form. Also bare in mind that he dropped Bekker after one shoddy appearance but has kept faith in a man who has cost us more games than Bekker ever will.

Meyer is showing dualism, the Harvey Dent of the Springboks (Two-face in Batman). He has shown his hand and picked his favourites. What this means is that if you happen to be a very talented fullback vying for a place against Kirchner, you will never get picked, no matter how much you do right and Kirchner does wrong.

I have asked Meyer to explain this duality in his Q&A session on Supersport. If he answers it will be interesting to see his response.

So in light of the squad and Meyer’s unwavering belief in his favourites here is the match day 22 he will pick in my opinion:

First XV:

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13, Jean de Villiers, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermuelen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etsebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtwarira.

Reserves:

16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Jaco Taute, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.

On a side note, because there is doubt over Frans Steyn’s availability I think that if he is sidelined, the centre pairing will probably be Jean at 12 with de Jongh at 13. The only reason being that de Jongh has more test exposure than Taute. This also might be a slight blessing as Jean performs better at 12.

Anyway let’s see how right I am. Bar a few selections I feel I might be pretty spot on.

We have the bloody skills!!

I couldn’t help myself. I needed to write another post in reply to to what I have read and from other coaches regarding Meyer and his game plan.

First up we have our good friend Jake White. Now when Jake speaks I tend to listen. Why? Simple, the guy took no name players and turned them into household names and to top it off he won a world cup. He was a guy who was in a rebuilding phase that almost got derailed by angry Bok supporters demanding Bok results. In the end sanity prevailed and he turned our team into champions.

Let’s look at why. Jake had a clear plan. He knew what he wanted his team to do and went about finding the right mix of players with the talents he needed to turn them into a winning combination. He finally found that mix and everyone gelled. Everyone remembers how he experimented with Meyer Bosman. The difference with Jake and Heyneke is that Bosman didn’t quite fit Jakes plan. So what did Jake do? He went looking for someone who would and found Butch James. Not a kicking flyhalf. Jakes game was built around building pressure and it worked because he went looking for the players who could implement that plan. And therein lies the reason (in my opinion) that he was never dropped as coach. He managed to convince the powers that be that he was close to finding HIS mix.

I also listened to a Gary Gold interview on Ballz Radio. After a while I stopped the 18 minute video because Gold was blowing so much smoke up Heynies butt (excuse the pun) that my eyes were watering. He went on and on about how Meyer was a man with a plan and that plan is successful and that plan won the Bulls some Super 14 titles. True it did. But laws have changed and so has the game. He said that Heyneke is an astute coach who knows what he is doing and where he wants to go.

Now I have never doubted that Meyer doesn’t have a plan. I do know he has one. I do know where he wants to go with it. Everyone knows what Meyer wants from his team because he has never hidden the fact. He has shown his game plan every week and every week it is the same plan. That I know. My problem with Meyer is that he has chosen a team of players with a set of skills that does not match his “vision”. He has picked players who thrive with ball in hand. He has picked players who cannot implement his plan and then to top it off has stuck with especially two players who in my humble opinion cause the plan to falter, to fail.

That is what ticks me off. Not that Heyneke has a plan but that Heyneke has failed to see that the players he has offer so much more than that plan. His blind loyalty to a player that does not deserve a starting birth. His blind loyalty to a plan that is causing more harm than good. Gold says that he always hears how we moan about not playing like the All Blacks. That is not what we as fans moan over. We moan over the fact that we can use the ball but don’t.

Gold says that the South African rugby player does not and never will possess the stepping and game breaking ability of an All Black. Now that’s how you build confidence! Look a kid in the eye and tell him you will never step like Dagg. Bull!!!!!!! Pat Lambie, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Paul Jordaan, Jan Serfontein, Johan Goosen, Francois Hougaard, Johan Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Wille le Roux, Jaco Taute, William Small-Smith, JP du Plessis, Marcell Brache, Jesse Kriel, JJ Engelbrecht, Bjorn Basson, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Tim Whitehead, Marcell Coetzee, Duane Vermuelen, Keegan Daniel, Ryan Kankowski, Eben Etsebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, CJ Stander… the list can go on and on. We have the players who can play with the ball in hand. Are we asking them to play like the All Blacks? Bloody hell no!!! We are asking them to play like South Africans! Like Danie Gerbers, Ray Moordts, Carel du Plessis’ and Johan Huenis’s of old! These kids have the potential to play a ball in hand game. We have the flyhalves who can put us in the right positions to use that ball and use it well.

Aimless kicks down field with the hope of forcing a turn over will only ever work if you have a rock solid defence, ask the Stormers. But you need more than that if you want to be the best ever. Look at what the Sharks did when they utilized their skills to maximum effect. They were unstoppable and I’m sure if travelling wasn’t involved the Chiefs would have had their hands full. Even the Chiefs played with the ball. But what made them stand out? They had structure and a belief in their overall play. They knew they could use the ball and they did. They didn’t just bank on defence, or a kick-and-chase, or an all-out attack. They where good all over and knew if the one skill set was a bit off on the day they had others to back it up.

So if I hear one more person like Gary Gold say that as South Africans we do not possess the necessary skill set I will tell them to “Shut the front door!”

Heyneke is right when he says he only needs to tweak a few things. In my opinion the would be to not just kick down field and hope for the best. It would be to kick into space, gain us ground. Then when we are in their half to use the ball and gain the metres. And lastly to play the situation. If you see something that could cause potential havoc to the opposition then use it. Don’t get so caught up in the plan that you never look for any other opportunity. And lastly I would send Morné to find his form in the Currie Cup and pick players like Goosen and Lambie who offer something other than just kicking.

What is the cause of the Springbok rot?

Well it has been one of those weeks for me. One you want to forget and never ever remember again. Our family lost a dear friend this week past and it hit us quite hard. So because of this I have been loathe to write anything about the Boks loss to New Zealand. However now that the grieving process is over I feel I shall return to my comments on the game I love.

What I cannot and probably will never understand is how, with a dominant pack, we still lost. It’s easy to point at certain players and say they had shockers. It’s the simplest way to point out problems. But is it sorting out the overall problem that is obvious throughout the team? No.

Zane Kirchner has proved now that when it comes to attacking rugby he has no clue as to what to do with the ball. I have played the game and one thing I could never really understand from our provincial players is how they cannot pass the ball into the arms of the person next to them. You don’t have to be particularly skilful to achieve this seemingly easy feat. Zane proved me wrong. Apparently you have to be the most skilful rugby player ever to find a flying Bryan Habana. Or maybe it is Habana’s fault for being just too quick for Zane’s slow brain. It is ridiculous in the professional era to not be able to complete the most basic of rugby tasks, the pass! It’s plain criminal actually!

Ruan Pienaar had a shocker. He looked pedantic and useless. It was like his body was moving to fast for his brain. He was always four or five moves behind in his head. This in turn didn’t help Morné find the form he so desires.

Speaking of Morné, the man should be posted back to Currie Cup duty so that he can work on his game. You cannot and should not expect him to find his form in a green-and-gold jersey. It is a slap in the face to the players who actually do have form. Being a Springbok doesn’t require coaching back into form, it means you should already have the form to call yourself a Springbok. I know Meyer likes to point at Habana but the obvious truth is that Habana was already busy rediscovering his form at the Stormers, so when he played his first game against England he was back to his brilliant best. If you follow Meyer’s logic and believe in the fact that he coached Bryan better then why did it take him less than one game to prove his credentials and it is taking Morné 7 or 8 and still not rediscovering his radar?

If Meyer wants to coach players to become better players then he should go back to coaching at a provincial level. The job of the senior coach is to take the talented and in form players and make them gel. Use their skills as they are because it is with those skills that they impressed you in the first place.

That is what is scaring me about Goosen. We all know he can play and that he has the potential to become the world’s best flyhalf, but what will happen to him under Meyer? Meyer has made no bones about his kicking plan. It is the game he will force on players even if it means his death. Won’t that game pattern stifle Goosen’s natural ability? Goosen is the kind of player who can do anything, kick, run, pass and step, but what if Meyer only ever forces him to kick (which is likely) and the rest of his game turns south? It happened to Morné. He was known as an attacking flyhalf at the Bulls, someone who could run and take on the defensive line. Not any more. Under Meyer’s guidance before he left, that part of Morné’s game has been in steady decline and carried on declining even after Meyer’s departure because the Bulls don’t coach any other way but Meyer’s way. It is now at the point where it is useless to use his attacking skills for there are none.

To give you an idea of how things change in today’s game then let’s have a look at the current table propping Bulls team. They have a kicking flyhalf and recently lost to Griquas. Griquas have bought a Bulls throw away in Francois Brummer. His game at the Bulls was below par. He was made into a kicking flyhalf and it obviously didn’t work for him. At Griquas he is blooming into a very capable flyhalf who can not only kick but attack as well.

Look at all the talent the Bulls have bought over the years, and even with that talent they can not play winning rugby this year. They bought players with huge promise in Sadie, Venter, Engelbrecht, Visser and a few others. Yet those players are not living up to that promise. The things that made them great, their vision and adventurous spirit are being stifled by a kick-and-chase approach.

Hougaard is a player that thrives on ball. He can make things happen. He wasn’t given the opportunities to showcase his talent because he had to play against his natural abilities, not use them. As soon as you turn anyone against their nature how can you expect them to thrive? What you have effectively done is make the person in question fight against himself before worrying about fighting against the opposition. He will be more worried about implementing the game plan than playing the situation.

I know Meyer said the team only needs a few tweaks. He is right, but I bet you he will tweak the wrong things because he will not tweak the cause of the problems, namely the game plan.

And from what I have read between the lines regarding Morné and Zane, he won’t drop the second cause of our problems either.

Bok Team to Face All Blacks – Common Sense, Meet Brick Wall

The South African team has been announced and lo and behold Meyer once again proves his stupidity. Loyalty is one thing but plain blindness to a player that is a major cause for our heartaches is another.

Meyer has seen the steady decline in Bok play and only makes one unforced change. He picks Francois Louw at 6 at the expense of Coetzee. Shocker!! His one forced change is to bring in the penalty machine Flip van der Merwe to replace Eben Etsebeth. No I know he had to make a change but then why pick a guy who will cost you a match when given half a chance?

A better option would have been to move Alberts to lock and Marcell to 7, where he will no doubt shine again because the shackles he has been placed under will have been removed. Alberts would give more grunt to the tight 5 and our scrums would not be worse off or maybe even better. Marcell would be allowed to play to his strengths which is taking the ball up. Picking Flo is good because it frees up the others to do what they are good at. Picking Flip only proves that you want to lose. Etsebeth had a little brain fart after numerous tests. Flip has numerous brain farts in one test.

The persistence of Morné at flyhalf cannot be comprehended. It is impossible, it is an unsolvable maths equation and if you do try ponder its meaning your brain will go numb, melt and die! Meyer has probably given a number of people the country over a mild heart attack. The one guy who has consistently been, for lack of a better word, crap, does not deserve a mention in a Bok squad when others who have performed better, albeit mediocre, get chopped after one game. It is ridiculous and borders on being mentally insane.

Zane did have one of his better games against the Aussies but that is because they played to his strengths. But all he did with the ball he received was kick. When he was at Griquas he could attack. His move to the Bulls has blunted that obviously overrated skill at the Bulls to non-existence. Which brings me back to Morné, when he was playing behind Derrick Hougaard he was considered a running flyhalf, someone who could get a backline moving. However, after taking over from Hougaard he has become nothing more than a programmed robot with the primary and only programmed event being that he kicks possession away.

When Zane tries to go against his programmed event of kicking he starts bouncing in one spot looking like a rabbit in headlights. When Morné does he looks for the nearest tackler. It is like a safety program built in by Bulls coaching. In case said robot wants to override primary coding, loop to secondary coding of self preserving the out dated game plan. Plain English, make sure Morné kicks and doesn’t run again.

Jean de Villiers… oh captain, my captain… retire please. You are not an outside centre. An outside centre can step, straighten the line, hand off a tackler and on defence can tackle. You have failed in all departments. Go out with your head held high because in this position under this coach you will end your career as a laughing stock. Once considered one of the best centres in world rugby you are fast dropping down the list of acceptable test centres.

I know I have singled out individuals but our team as a whole also looks lacklustre. They are underperforming and it’s anyone’s guess as to why. It could be that they are being forced to play in a way that does not suit them or it could be too much rugby. In Meyer’s case I hope it’s the latter because if it’s the former it means his team does not buy in to his game plan (which would make them clever). If a team does not buy in to your game plan then no matter what amount of coaching you do you will never bring out the best in them.

Meyer has had numerous chances to fix his mistakes but he seems intend on fixing things that aren’t broken and not touching the things that are. It can only be a bad thing for Springbok rugby if this trend continues. Expect a drop in world rankings if it carries on.

Shocking! Bok Player Ratings

Well it was another disappointing day for Bok fans on Saturday. Not only did we lose but it was another abysmal performance from the team. It clearly was a game of two halves but it was the Aussies and not the Boks that produced two different halves.

The Aussies were clearly outplayed bySouth African the first half and the reason was that they were playing right into our hands. It was a kicking game and we clearly had the advantage. So what did the Aussies change in the second half? Simple, they kept ball in hand and it worked. What did the Boks change in the second half? Nothing. It was the same old kick-and-chase nonsense! This just proves that the Springboks under Meyer have no plan B.

Here is how I rate the players out of 10:

15 Zane Kirchner – 5

Definitely one of his more solid performances and had some booming kicks but offered no attacking options. His first instinct when he caught the ball was to kick and not look for space.

14 Bryan Habana – 6

He wasn’t given any opportunity from an impotent backline and went looking for work. When he went looking for it he scored and had a good steal later in the game to. He was more effective on the ground than our loose trio.

13 Jean de Villiers – 2

He did nothing except miss tackles… often. Good captain he may be but under Meyer’s tutelage his game is suffering. He is not an outside centre and he is not built for this game plan. Maybe age is catching up to the once great man.

12 Francois Steyn – 3

His skip passes are costing our outside backs much needed space and had a kick charged down. He gets the ball to far behind the advantage line when playing with Morné and cannot offer any impact.

11 Francois Hougaard – 3

His positional switch did not help one bit. He never got ball and hardly ever went looking for it.

10 Morné Steyn – 1

Twice he had overlaps and twice he went alone. Was he trying to prove he can run with the ball? If he was it turned out to be a spectacular mistake. He kicks possession away and stands to deep to give our backline any meaningful penetration. How many more chances will he get to ruin a Bok victory?

9 – Ruan Pienaar – 4

Not a good game by a man many were hoping would give the backline some speedy ball. One could clearly see the game plan message in the style of his play. Kick the ball. Due to slow ball we lost one at a ruck because he kicked it back into the ruck to make sure everyone was ready before he would kick.

8 Duane Vermuelen – 4

When he took contact he went forward with the ball which is more than Jacques Potgieter has done in the green-and-gold. Unfortunately he was very rusty. He was rushed in by Meyer prematurely. It was a big mistake and it cost us.

7 Willem Alberts – 3

Not doing was he is meant to. We know the potential because againstEnglandhe displayed it, but in the last few matches he has offered nothing. Maybe as a 4 lock he would offer more?

6 Marcell Coetzee – 3

Clearly he is no McCaw and no matter how Meyer tries to mould him to be one he never will be. It is not his game. He is not a player that plays towards the ball. Can’t help but feel sorry for the young lad because this game plan is killing him. He might also be a bit burned out and tired.

5 Juandré Kruger – 5

He was clearly a more solid performer than Bekker the week before. Did his job but one can’t help but feel he weakens the scrum. He was also involved with Morné in a defensive lapse that gave Higginbotham his try.

4 Eben Etsebeth – 6

Bar the little missed head butt incident he was clearly the most productive of all the forwards on the night. Pity no-one else seems to want to match his intensity.

3 Jannie du Plessis – 2

Was he even playing? Is he really this bad without his brother at his side? It seems to be the case. Shocker of a display!

2 Adriaan Strauss – 3

Found his jumpers, and that was all he contributed. Muted performance by a man who can produce so much better!

1 Tendai Mtwarira – 2

There was no roar from the Beast. There was no passion in his play. His body language was not the same as it was at the Sharks. Maybe he epitomises the squad’s belief in Meyer’s game plan… and it doesn’t look good.

16 Tiaan Liebenberg – not enough time to judge

Who knows, maybe his all-in approach is just what the Boks need in the forwards to wake up.

17 Pat Cilliers – 5

He looked better than Jannie or the Beast when he came on. No support from the pack though.

18 Flip van der Merwe – 6

He actually had a solid game and provided some oomph.

19 Francois Louw – not enough time

He may not have had much time on the field but he was definitely a site better than the other three loosies combined. Playing towards the ball makes a big difference in any game

20 Johan Goosen – not enough time

Also a guy who didn’t have much time to prove himself but when he did touch the ball things happened. Had a good inside outside step which gave the Boks some very good front foot ball. In fact for those 10 minutes he and Lambie were on the field, it was by farSouth Africa’s most productive period!

21 Patrick Lambie – not enough time

He also proved that it is better to run than simply hand back possession.

22 Lwazi Mvovo – 3

He made a big blunder when trying to take a kick off. We all know he is better than that.

Now we all know that things have to change in the Bok setup for them to be able to win again. Now wholesale changes can be made to the match day 22 but it will all still come to naught if we don’t change the game plan. Kick-and-chase rugby is dead, it has no place in the game anymore. A team cannot win without the ball. Meyer needs to wake up and realise that he is not utilizing the skills of the players at his disposal. On the contrary he is blunting them.

We need a fetcher! We need a flyhalf who is willing to attack the gain line! We need brains on the field and not just brawn. So what if you dominate collisions when all you do is give the opposition the ball the whole time. We can do better and we deserve better!