Wrong players in key positions, an unbalanced back row, injuries to key players and playing an outdated game plan has all been voiced as probable reasons.
Heynecke has responded to most of these criticisms by making changes to the team but still the team seems to be tentative almost scared to do anything. They played like a golfer obsessed with his golf swing so focussed on getting it exactly right that he forgets to hit the damn ball. The ‘boks played exactly like that in the first half; careful, almost scared that they will make a mistake (not getting it exactly right). The result of that –and it has been the case in some of the four nation’s test matches as well- were that they became tentative and pedantic when going into contact.
We’ve all seen Heynecke in the coaches’ box shouting like a man possessed. He is clearly a passionate and intense character. He is clearly a man that attends to detail and who wants to get things exactly right.
Those are all great attributes for a national coach but I believe he is overdoing it and needs to ease up a little with the team especially in the last couple of days before the match. Thing is if you work on detail you slow things down and that is good because you need to work on making sure everyone understands his role. The downside of it is that you get so focussed on getting those steps right that you become careful and tentative.
You then take that tentativeness into the match with disastrous results. You get overpowered at the collisions like this picture shows.
The boks came out in the second half with a simplified approach, focussed on hitting the advantage line with speed and impact. It worked. It’s like the golfer who can’t get it right until he decided to hell with this and starts whacking the ball with conviction. A lot of times that brings immediate improvement.
Slowing things down and working on detail is fine but the approach has to change in the last two days before the test. Meyer and the other coaches has to step back during the captains run the day before the match and the players need to do short but extreme high speed repetitions of certain ‘bread and butter’ moves with lots of rest in between.
The focus in the last day before the match is to pre-set the nervous system; essentially to prepare the players to do things at high speed while hitting contact. The high speed stuff can be done against tackle bags and against each other and or against the players not selected to play in the test match. Get the tentativeness out of the system. Do it faster than you are going to do it during the match and spill the damn ball during practice. The nervous system will learn from the exposure and will adapt for match day.
Apart from being over coached I thought the bokkies were reasonable in the second half. I was happy with Lambies performance and thought Ruan Pienaar had a great game. I would have liked to see the backline using dummy runners in order to put Pietersen in space.
CJ van der Linde, Hougaard and Taute I thought struggled. Zane irritated the hell out of me yet again and he was one of the players (the other one being CJ) who were guilty of losing the ball going into contact. I would like to see De Jongh on 13 and Taute on fullback and would not mind if CJ move to the bench.
I am also not entirely convinced that the loosetrio is well balanced. Alberts and Vermeulen are just too similar in style. Both had good games making lots of tackles but I long for a No7 or 8 that can link better with the outside backs.