Bokke over coached?

What the hell is going on with our beloved Springboks? This, I believe is the main question every SA rugby supporter wrestle with at the moment.

Wrong players in key positions, an unbalanced back row, injuries to key players and playing an outdated game plan has all been voiced as probable reasons.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.

Also I thought Adriaan Strauss was the man doing all the talking on the field.

38 thoughts on “Bokke over coached?


  2. Agree – our players have been turned into robots – do as you are told or you’ll be fired – they are puppets on a string – rugby is a running passing game, offloads, side steps, one player multiplies his strength x 2 if he passes, x 5 if there are 5 passes, 15 players passing 5 each means your team is 75 times stronger, where the hell does STAMP KAR KAK GET THE TEAM ??? – answer the strength of 15 players is restrained to the strenth of ONE PLAYER. Forget coaching with tackle bags – that is school teams

    • I’ve attended quite a number of S15 training session as well as an All Black training session. They use tackle bags/pads all the time. Especially the day before match to do speed work. It prepares the nervous system for match tempo and improve ball control at high tempo on impact.

      You don’t want to do a full contact session a day before the match. Controlled speed work with emphasis on team work and ball control should be the aim the day before the match. It’s not a fitness or strength session it’s a sharpening session. If you don’t do it – and I believe it’s missing in the teams prep work- then your players enter the match not prepared to do their moves at high speed and while taking contact.

  3. If this was PDV. your tune would have changed to “undercoached” ..

    bottom line.. k@k coach, brainless tactics.. he needs to go

    • Maybe so. The evidence of this match indicate tentative players in the first half that played 100 percent better in the second half after the game plan was simplified and the focus changed to be aggressive instead of doing things with care.

      I’ve got no problem with the attention to detail what I am advocating is that there should be sharpening training before the match. Over coaching is a common mistake that most coaches/parents make at some stage in their life. You can teach and coach and help but at some stage you need to step back a little, sharpen up and leave to the child/player to set himself up mentally for the contest.

  4. Well written article . Its sad to see a team playing with so little ambition and being coached like they were in the Under 14’s league !!

    • Heynecke is giving 100 percent and I respect that but his intensity is I believe a bit overbearing. He needs to learn to step back a bit especially the day before the match. Let the captain and team set themselves up doing some razor work.

  5. I understand where you are coming from, but wasnt it last year when everybody was crying about snorre who wasnt coaching the players, but john and victor doing coaching. The fact that bok fans will never be happy is quite clear. before this weekend the boks lost 3 out of the 4 games played in ireland, so all things considered this wasnt such a bad game.

    • Over coaching is a trap a lot of coaches step into. Heynecke is I believe a good coach. You can see improvement in a lot of areas. The structures are getting better.

      The problem for me seems to be that he players are so drilled to follow certain structural patterns that the forget to play the situation. Fact that we played so much better in the second half indicate to me that the players were to concerned about instructions in the first half.

      • Thats true but its still a vary young team, and as they get more experienced things like “playing the situation” will fall in place. HM like a well “structured” game and i guess drilling it into the guys now will reap the benefits in the next 12 months or so.

        but i also do feel HM needs to get his combinations right, as the current back 3 and the centres aren’t gelling at all. i do feel Zane had one of his better games though he came into the line more often than not. I don’t think Houghie will start the next game though.

        • Yes, it’s about getting the balance right. You need to do those drills repeatedly untill every player does it automatically. But you also need to trust your players do do the right thing. Don’t leave them with the impression that you doubt their ability to read the situation as that will make them hesistant.


    • Yip, It is my observation as well that Heynecke likes a controlled enviroment. As a consequence he don’t want to select players that is to individualistic. I doubt he would have selected players like Mannetjies Roux and Gysie Pienaar if they were available now.

  7. You took the words out of my mouth ! , Great Article
    Lets Hope H/M reads this one ,as he said when he became Bok Couch
    ” I dont know the road to success but I do know the road to failure and that is to try and please everyone ” at this moment I think he is just trying to hard !

    • Over coach is common terminology amongst coaches. In practical terms it essentially mean you are too intense, are trying to hard and should step back a little.

      Parents often fall into this trap especially when their kids are involved with very technical sports like cricket, tennis, and squash for example. Rugby has become very technical at the breakdowns and my theory is in essence that Meyer by working so hard on detail cause the players to become tentative. When my kids tell me during a karate training session ‘you are confusing me’ I know I need to step back a little. Players of course can’t say that to a coach but constant stopping of practice drills to check body, feet and hand positions can make players tentative. There seems to be a pattern with the boks at the moment namely that they start matches in very tentative fashion. They also seem to play better in the second half after some simplifying has been done.

  8. Good Blog.. I think its more than that though. 2 other things. Player selection and game plan. HM’s whole game plan is predictable. Our opposition just need to target our “strenghts” and they have the game won. We still depend too much on forwards and dominating the break-down. Why can’t we offer some variation and force the opponents to question our next move? We depend too much on our forwards to get us over the gain line. We still kick too much possession away without enough chasers. With a guy like Ezthebeth we should be looking more to line outs. Also Kirchner is no good up in the air. Ludick would be my choice for fullback. On the whole it seems that the whole lacks belief. Hopefully in time things will change and they can start expressing themselves without fearing the wrath of the coach.

    • Agree, more variation is a need. More set moves of the back of the line out (like France did against the Wallabies) is one way to bring variation to the pods.

      Also using two or three runners coming into channels 1 and 2 like the AB is something we should try as well. A sort of triangle attacking channels 1 and 2 is something we should investigate in. For instance No9 passing to one of three players running into channel 1 or 2. The opponent never know which of the three is going to run into the ball. Secondly the other two players then run a line into space to either side of the ball receiver who offload to them before contact. The opponents don’ t know who is going to receive the ball. The two supporting players can cross if the ball receiver turn around and play the ball back just before contact. The ball runner could also move himself between the supporting runner and a defender with receiver either taking the ball literally out of his hands or receiving a short pass. The Lions of 1997 did this with the wing and fullback n the blindside.

      Another variation the AB use is to play this for while then shift to mostly backline play with dummy runners and then to short stab through Kicks just behind the close lying defenders and so forth.

  9. In other words, the players should be-able to coach themselves at some point… sounds familiar?

    I have to disagree with you on almost every single aspects. You need to take off your green blinkers on this and unbiasedly asses the game. Had Ireland kept playing the way they played in the first half, they would have beaten us. They tried to play Bokke style rugby in the second half which played right into SA’s hand’s.

    Total lack of a creative gameplan/formula from Heineke. They simply went into default first phase bash mode, because then at least he looks like he knows what he (heineke) is doing. Even Streauli was more creative than this out dated petender. The problem with Heineke is that he cannot adapt to come within a compromise to player selection. The players that could ultimately deliver his tactics effectively does not play anymore unfortunately.
    There needs to be a compromise between player selection and players buying into the coaches methodology.

    At the moment Heineke is a dictator and its clear for every1 (unbiased) to see. He developed into an experienced Super rugga coach but it is clear he is out of his depth at international rugby. If you thought PDV was stubborn, well then Heineke is simply a fool not to pick the best players.

    He’s arrogance will be his own demise

    • You wrote: “In other words, the players should be-able to coach themselves at some point… sounds familiar?”

      No not at all. It is actually common practice that the coach are not involved during the captains run (last training session before the match).

      The idea of the captains run is for the team to do a high speed final prep for the game under the guidance of the captain. The All Blacks do it and SA have been doing it on numerous previous occcations; I have my doubts that it’s actually happening at the moment.

      Note the captain is not coaching he is preparing the team to do what the coach (and he hopefully) have decided to do. This last session is not a coaching session; it’s a sharpening-up session.

      Big difference!!

    • You wrote: “Had Ireland kept playing the way they played in the first half, they would have beaten us. They tried to play Bokke style rugby in the second half which played right into SA’s hand’s.”

      I have to disagree with you on this. The boks simplified their game plan. They played to the corners and started to maul of the back of the line out. They stared to hit the game line with more speed and more aggression and by doing so they took the game away from the Irish. It was in my opinion our tentativeness when we took the ball up that allowed Ireland to dominate in the first half.

    • Heynecke is rebuilding with a bunch of youngsters. He needs to put basic structures in place before he can start to play expansive rugby.

      He is developing the team into a unit that can play the expansive game; the team kicks a lot less and they take the ball a lot more through the hands than in previous years.

      In no sport (no matter how good you are) can you play high risk sport right of the bat. You need to put the basics in place first. Also in no contest does athletes (no matter how experience he/she are) start the contest with high risk shots/moves. They start the contest conservatively making sure they develop a feel for the ball, game rhythm and environmental conditions before moving on to the fancy stuff. Our problem against Ireland was we were so tentative/careful that we just couldn’t get those basics (on which we wanted to do the fancy stuff) in place in the first half. In the end we went back to more simple /familiar stuff namely playing to the corners and off the line outs.

      • No one knows what Heyneke is doing. One moment he says he plays to win every game and that he isn’t there to build the side, he is there to pick only the best players. Next moment he is building the squad towards the 2015 world cup. Seems he changes his tune as the situation suits him.

        • I think Heinecke has a tough job. He obviously wants to win every match but clearly has to keep the next RWC in the back of his mind.

          I also think Heinecke is feeling the pressure and is reacting on critisism. Now he get criticized for listening to the feedback he gets. If he doesn’t he’s called arrogent and a dictator.

          Injuries to certain players and a desire to reward players that play’s in SA also played a role in some of his decisions.

          You don’t develop a team that plays like the All Blacks over night especially if you work with players coming from franchises that don’t really play like that. It took Greame Henry 8 years and a lot of mistakes in the first 5 years to get the current AB team where they are today. It took Heinecke a couple of seasons to develop the bulls into a S14 winning side.

          Yes I don’t always agree with his team selections but I truelly think he is bassically approaching the process in a sensible way. Cautious development of invovative play. He is moving towards expansive play by getting firts things right namely by developing solid set piece and rucking foundations/structures.

  10. i think you are answering your own questions on this. And slowly but surely you starting to make more sense. I still think you need to remove your blatantly evident anti-PDV mindset out of your thinking as you clearly over compensating for a mediocre coach by justifying the unjustifiable in his defense. Once you get this right i think your articles will go from good to great criticism.

    i still disagree with your assessment of conservative tentative play in the first half. The coach simply got it horribly wrong and he had no option but to resort back to ultimate basics and our historic strengths (which is the tactics he should have started the match out with and not the other way around) thereby allowing the players to gain confidence to modify/expand the game plan in the second

    • Sorry but you are not making sense anymore.

      In your first remark you said: “Total lack of a creative gameplan/formula from Heineke. They simply went into default first phase bash mode, because then at least he looks like he knows what he (heineke) is doing. Even Streauli was more creative than this out dated petender. The problem with Heineke is that he cannot adapt to come within a compromise to player selection.”

      And then you contradict yourself in the last remark by saying: “The coach simply got it horribly wrong and he had no option but to resort back to ultimate basics and our historic strengths (which is the tactics he should have started the match out with and not the other way around) thereby allowing the players to gain confidence to modify/expand the game plan in the second.”

      What do you want? Should Heinecke play expansive rugby or stay with the traditional strengths? He can’t do both. You want both based on your remarks here.

    • You wrote: “…you clearly over compensating for a mediocre coach by justifying the unjustifiable in his defense.”

      Who else would you like to see coaching the Springboks? I am not justifying anything in his defence. I am putting myself in his position thinking how I would have approached the situation. Why don’t you write us a blog and tell us how you would go along in developing the Springboks into a team that play a style of rugby that only one team in the world are able to play.

    • You wrote: “i think you are answering your own questions on this.”

      My whole post was an answer to my initial question. What is wrong with our beloved Springboks I asked and answered by stating I think they are over coached. Reading between the lines you’ll see that I feel that attention to detail (which Heinecke is doing) is the right thing but that the team would benefit from Heinecke stepping back a bit to prevent the current paralysis by analysis.

      Over analysing everything put the team in paralysis by the time they go onto the field. There is a time to analyse and a time to just front up and play within yourself; to accept where you are at the moment and to play within that ability. Trying to be what you are not are not going to work and you are not going to become what you are not by analysing yourself into paralysis.

    • So by the way. I haven’t said anything about PdV in this post or in my answers. Not sure how you came to the conclusion that what I wrote here has got anything to do with PdV. I was critical of PdV while he coached Springboks. A number of my latest posts (including this one) was criticism directed at Heinecke Meyer.

  11. Sorry, not a contradiction, i was referring to the game plan he is clearly trying play but failing horribly at it. Im sure it will take a few tries before he even comes close to perfecting it, at the moment, i just don’t think the players even understand what Meyer wants and thus not executing anything near close to watchable ruby.

    And no, to me, attractive rugby does not automatically mean expansive rugby. You think like a typical traditional bok supporter sorry to say, creativity also doesn’t mean expansive. You can be creative with forward play, which, personally is the way i think the boks should play. Not 1 single creative setpiece from strong positions (whether through forwards or backs), this is not the players fault or being overcoached as you say, this is predictable uncreative “UNDERcoaching” from Meyer himself.

    Boks should stick to forward play, but for GOD sake, do it with some style/brain involved, something Meyer at this point lacks….

    While you didnt make mention of PDV, its clear from previous posts you were over critical and most times unjust towards your assesment of him, and in total contrast, it appears that you brown nosing (sorry to say) a coach that appears more hopeless and lack luster in the coaching department than PDV ever was…

    So all things considered (in this regard), compare your previous criticism of PDV to that of Meyer during the same time frame in their respective coaching careers and you will realise that I’m in fact not the one being a hippocrit here.

    Let me state this clearly that Im NOT A PDV fan, but if you were to call yourself a true supporter of the game and really aim to give fair criticism in order to move SA rugby forward as a nation, then call a spade a spade and you will have the respect of most. Personally I think you articles are good, but i rate it 80/20 because of your underlying biasedness…. or is biasedness even the correct word in this case, … you tell me


    • You wrote: “And no, to me, attractive rugby does not automatically mean expansive rugby. You think like a typical traditional bok supporter sorry to say, creativity also doesn’t mean expansive.”

      I wrote at least two posts in which I made that exact statement (that creative play does not mean expansive play). This is what I wrote in one of my previous posts:

      “It seems to me that he (Heynecke Meyer) is trying to coach the players to keep the ball alive when entering contact (as compared to stereotype going to ground and recycle or stereo type smashing it up). He is not talking about an ‘expansive game’ but about reading the situation, making the right decisions and about speeding the game-up when the situation allows it. Once you succeed in keeping the ball in the air you can speed it up especially if you succeed in getting the defenders on the back foot and on the retreat. Speeding the game up in such situations allow you to keep ascendency and maintain forward momentum. When you start to speed the game up you need players that can play flat on the advantage line and who can put your runners into space with good timed passes.”

      Read also my post on Dean Greyling (like a Rhino on a china shop) and look specifically at the last 3 or 4 paragraphs of that post.

      Sorry I don’t think like a typical bok supporter. I think like a person who have played two sports at high level and who are involved in coaching with regard to both those sports. I think like a person who understands the history of SA rugby and who as a coach and ex-player understand how hard it is to change a culture.

      Players need time to practice stuff and for things to gel. It just does not happen overnight. I’ll repond on your other remark that I am not critical enough of Heynecke soon but in essence Heynecke is starting from scratch while PdV had the most experienced Springboks side ever; two totally different scenario’s.

    • Regarding me being less critical towards Meyer than was the case with PdV.

      I am still very annoyed that SA rugby messed-up an opportunity to take advantage of Jake White’s heritage. The appointment of PdV was a mistake in my opinion. However, as I have stated in one of my previous posts I don’t think PdV should carry all the blame. I believe he would have liked to play a more expansive type of game. He stated as much when he was appointed and the boks started off like that (running with the ball) in his first matches against Wales. He was over ruled or manipulated/bullied by the senior players. It is also debatable whether Meyer in those circumsatnces would have been able to change the Boks playing style. He find it difficult now and would probaly -like the senior players at that time- persisted with the familiar bulls style of kick and charge.

      So even though I was very critical of PdV my criticism was directed at SA rugby’s and the senior players inablity to wake-up and change style. I should also add before I go on that the general believe in NZ is that SA should stick with their strengths and that current attempts to change how we play would be detrimental to Springbok rugby. I think it is a honest opinion and not an attempt to smooth talk us into sticking with what is not working so that they could benefit from it.

      I am as annoyed as the next person with the ‘boring’ rugby the Springboks are playing at the moment. I wrote a few very critical pieces about the Springbok performances against Argentina and Australia. I’ve also been very critical about Meyers team selections.

      Recently I’ve put in an serious attempt to try and understand what Meyer is doing. Watching the test matches against NZ, Ozzie and the Pumas repeatedly and reading numerous articles that report on interviews rugby writers had with him (see for instance my post on Heads-up rugby) provided me with some food for thought.

      I did see some positives during that process and have since made a conscious decision to be less negative and more focussed on trying to understand what is happening. Meyer is trying to play a more complex game plan (than was the case with most of his predecessors) and that takes longer to gell. Players need more time and exposure to execute a complex game plan than is the case with kick and chase (one of the reasons I think why the Sharks had a slow start this season). Once the gelling does happen the teams that play complex game plans generally start to play with more flair and variation and are harder to read and to beat. The current Springbok team is definetely kicking less and there are more variations from set piece. A lot of these attempts to create forward momentum from set piece does not come off due to players being very tentative in execution hence my theory that there might be (notice the question mark in the title of this post) over coaching. Note also the over coaching happens in the last day before the game sort of paralysis in analysis.

      The fact that they are so slow in setting moves up (like taking the ball into contact from lineout, scrum or maul) show that they are trying new moves. They are as a consequence predictable and also a lot more effective once they fall back on old patterns and moves – like what happened in the second half against Ireland. It is easy to say they should have started like that but then how do you move forward if you don’t go into the game with a mindset of trying your new stuff.

      I am giving Meyer the benefit of the doubt due to my conclusions after my procces of careful reading news releases and watching video material the last few months. If that makes me a hypocrit in your eyes so be it. I am not prepared to be negative about Meyer just because I was critical during PdV tenure (as you seems to feel I should). So by the way I started off writing mostly contructive criticism about PDV at the start of his tenure.

      For the time being I’ll be as objective about Meyer as I can be until I am convinced that he is unable to make the cross-over from bulls rugby to the modern game. I am far from a happy camper with Meyer at the moment but believe it is too early to write Meyer off as being incompetent. I am seeing some things that gave me hope and that left me with the impression that he is attempting to adjust; that the team are trying to play heads-up rugby. Remember Meyers first year at the bulls was a total disaster. His second year was better and they won the S14 in his 3rd or 4th year. I have hope that things will improve year by year with Meyer as coach. At least he is starting to pick the right players to a certain extent. He has three things in his favour that I really like namely passion, being analytical and being firm (the players knows whose the boss and that is crucial in that environment). How he use the last factor will be crucial to his longterm success. Greame Henry was successful because everyone knew who was boss but he was also ‘gentle’ in the way he communicated (with players and press) and thorough and fair in his decision making.

  12. Which is why player selection is so NB. Hougie @ 9 could be exciting with his unpredictability. Another thing that we don’t do well is run into space. We tend to run at the opposition. JP is exciting to watch because he has these bursts of pace into space. Ludick also exploits space well when running from the 22. Our sevens rugga is really good at set piece play and the 15 side should really look at increasing options off set-piece.

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