Some thoughts on the weekends test matches

Nick Mallet during his tenure as Springbok coach made himself very unpopular by saying that he is not too concerned about criticism from South African rugby fans because in his opinion they don’t know much about the game anyway.

Coincidently, he now seems to be as critical as the SA rugby fans about the rugby dished-up by his prodigy’s Springbok team.

Where Mallet was hostile and pompous towards the media Heynecke seems to be more open and willing to show the public that their opinions count.   

Annoyingly, the more HM explains and asks for patience the more fickle, unhappy and unrealistic SA rugby supporters seem to become.

Is this despondency due to an unrealistic expectation that the Springboks should rampant over everyone else, I’ve been wondering lately?

There have been moments during the matches against Ireland and Scotland when I thought the team was playing well. I could see signs of the Wallabies of 1993 in the Springboks play in the first 15 minutes against Scotland. We just needed a bit more patience and speed onto the ball but the basic game plan was sound and will work if better executed. Leading up to the first penalty Lambie cross kicked to Pietersen who caught the ball but was stopped by his direct opponent. The problem here was the timing of the move. It would have worked better if the opponents were first pulled in by some midfield runs. Also, the support was late. With quicker support Pietersen could have deflected the ball to an incoming runner. In fact if the kick went to a lock standing wide (after some phase play) he could have deflected the ball towards Pietersen coming in with speed.

From this followed a line-out. The play off that line-out reminded me of the try scored by Jason Little during the second test of the 1993 Springbok tour. In similar fashion as the 1993 Ozzies Alberts created depth ball by running with speed onto the ball thrown to the back of the line-out. The boks then took the recycled ball down the backline with Juan de Jongh attempting to cut to the inside of De Villiers who drifted slightly laterally to pull the defenders wide. The move didn’t produce the same spectacular results than was the case in 1993 with Jason Little (see here – 3rd video clip).

Multiple reasons can be given why the Springboks could not pull it off with the same efficiency than the 1993 Ozzies: firstly, being not patient enough; secondly, the backline being to flat; thirdly, not enough speed onto the ball.

They took the ball too soon to the backline (after only one charge in the person of Alberts) during that particular move. You need to create a bit more depth and the boks required at least two more runners coming from depth to disorganise the defence sufficiently.

More patience was also needed; get first things right namely fast recycled ground ball before you take it wide. Because they took the ball too soon to the backline the defenders were still in the backlines faces and the swivel done between the Aussie 10 and 12 was not possible. That double round by No10 is crucial to open the gap in the outside channel as it pulls the opposition 12 inwards and make the opposition 13 hesitate. The end result was that both Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh did not hit the ball at full tilt. De Jongh actually had to stop to change direction.

I can see what HM is trying to do and I believe he is on the right track. The players need a bit more time together. It might help if HM get some video clips of the 1993 Wallabies and show them what he wants. A good backline coach might also help. The lineout is our strength and we need to create play of the back of the line-out. If we get this right we’ll be hard to stop.

Tell you what there was also nothing wrong with the two mauling moves from the line-out; both leading to tries (only one awarded due to sneaky tactics by the Scots during the first one).

Disappointingly, things deteriorated in the second half.  Replacement of key players being a big part of it but also the tendency of the team to go into defensive mode. It is, I believe, fear of making a mistake that has the players stop playing once they are ahead (see my post on over-coaching).

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