What to learn from the Lions?

Very interesting that the ‘pasella’ team from two years back are now suddenly starting to win matches. Two in a row against the two bettter performing franchises of the last two years. Yes it’s early season victories and the S15 is not won or lost in February but they are clearly a team with a lot more passion and desire to do well than before 2013.

Why did they need to get sacked from the tournament before they stepped-up, is the thing that bugs me? Not only do they look strong (gym trained) and hard but there is also a urgengency in their play. They are putting their bodies on the line for team and victory; something that was missing in previous years. John Mitchell said there was a culture of softness in the Lions camp when he started to work with them. Now suddenly that softness seems to have evaporated. There is a new culture of ‘in-your-face’ I’ll show you what I can do, in that camp now.

In contrast the Stormers dished up the same old ‘shyte’ of the last 3 to 5 years. Defence orientated game plan with no imagination and no ability to built tries. The lesson from the Lions seems to be; pluck them out of their comfort zone.

The recipe with the Lions was sack the coaching staff and dump them out of the competition. You might argue that they (the Stormers) haven’t walked away with the wooden spoon for 5 seasons in a row like the Lions and therefore do not deserve that harsh treatment, yet.

That might be true in terms of the log points but in terms of amount of tries scored in the last 5 seasons they came very close to last (I haven’t really checked the stats and they might have scored a bit more than I remember).

Irrespective of whether they ended up in the last 5 -in terms of tries scored- if I have, to be honest, real difficulty watching Stormers games lately (last 5 years). It’s dull rugby.  I don’t really like the Aussie and Wales style ‘flap flap’ rugby. So I am not suggesting they should play a run-at-all-cost game plan. All I want is evidence of constructive rugby where you can see the team are building tries and have some innovative starter moves at the right time.

Something need to be done with Stormers rugby and my vote is start by getting rid of the current stale and one dimentional thinking coaching staff. If that doesn’t help drop them a level for a year or two (out of the S15) until they prove that they want to play in the competition. While out of the S15 get rid of some of the senior players; bring some new blood in (like they did at the Lions) and give them a challenge to win back their S15 status. Personally, I believe that new coaches with new ideas will sovle the Stormers problem of predictability. Opponents have figured out how to play them and a new approach is needed to solve the problem as the current bunch seems unable to revamp themselves. Just look what a new coach with new ideas did to the sevens team.

Harsh sentiments maybe but what makes them better than the Lions? Why can the Lions be treated like that and the Stormers not? Ultimately it is not where they end-up on the log that matters, for me, it’s about the quality of the rugby that they are playing. I as a Western Province supporter since I can remember has been treating them like a brother in jail over the last 5 seasons.

I want my team back and are to be frank ‘gatvol’ for the type of rugby I’ve seen from this bunch since 2009.

My springbok team for the 2013 EOYT

Fullbacks

Gio Aplon – For his ability to spark something and the pace that he injects into the backline

Patrick Lambie – I’ll prefer Lambie on flyhalf but want Goossen back in the environment. Lambie showed again in the CC final that he is the best runner-up in the flyhalf berth and there is enough other cover for fullback in players like Willie le Roux and JP Pietersen if Lambie was to be selected to play in the No10 jumper.

Wings

Bryan Habana – For his experience and all round workrate

JP Pietersen – For his pace, defence and ability to manufacture tries

Willie le Roux – For his x-factor ability to constantly keep the defence guessing and his back-up as fullback

Bjorn Basson – Nobody else that put his hand up

Outside centres

Jacque Fourie – Defence in this position was a major weakness this year; Jacque will sort that

JJ Engelbrecht – He’ll do well as impact player either on the wing or as outside centre

Inside Centres

Jean de Villiers- He was inspirational this year and he is growing as a leader

Frans Steyn – For his defensive and distribution abilities and the fact that he has played in Europe/France for a couple of years

Note: Jan Serfontein might be added here because players like Frans Steyn, Gio Aplon ad Willie le Roux has utility qualities making it unnecessary to select a utility back. Serfontein is a youngster and personally I feel he was pulled into the Springbok environment to soon. However, I will not select someone like the Freestate’s Ebersohn (which I personally like a lot as player) into the team if he is not seen as longtime propect. Serfontein clearly has ability and just need to mature.

Flyhalves

Morné Steyn – Was the best in this position this year by far even though he is suspect on defence. That’s why I want Frans Steyn on his outside

Johan Goossen – I am not sure that he has played enough rugby this year to warrant a place above Lambie but I want him back in the environment.

Scrumhalves

Fourie du Preez – For obvious reasons still the best we have in this position

Ruan Pienaar – Because he knows the European conditions so well

Kobus Reinach – He lacks experience but has something that is non-negotiable on this level namely natural speed and a feel for opportunity

No8

Duane Vermeulen – Was the best in this position this year in SA

Flankers

Willem Alberts – He can cover No8 and the lock positions as well

Francois Louw – Our best performing flank at test level the last two seasons

Siya Kolisi – Have not played a bad game for the Springboks yet

Arno Botha – If he has recovered he should be considered otherwise Marcel Coetzee

Locks

Eben Etzebeth – Only class act we’ve got in this position at the moment

Pieter-Steph du Toit – showed in the CC-final he is ready for test rugby

Bakkies Botha – Bakkies on crutches is better than Jaundre Kruger or Flip van der Merwe

Note: Willem Alberts can cover on lock as well. So I’ve got only three locks in my team. The EOYT is normally seen as an opportunity to award CC performers and to develop talent so one of the wings like Basson or Habana might be given a rest (opening a spot in the squad) in favour of giving Juandre Kruger more development opportunity. Kruger however was so poor during the Ellispark test against the All Blacks that I think we need to look at some other options like moving Alberts to the lock position when the subs come on.

Props

Pat Cilliers- It’s time to move beyond Guthro Steenkamps and CJ van der Linde

Tendai Mtawarira – has shown that he can handle the pressure of international rugby

Lourens Adriaanse or Frans Malherbe – We are in serious need at tighthead and it might be time to give one of these guys a chance.

Coenie Oosthuizen – time to see if Coenie can make it as a tighthead

Note: Jannie du Plessis needs a break.

Hookers

Adrian Strauss – No remarks needed

Bismarck du Plessis – No remarks needed

Three things that cost us the game

The All Blacks are a super team and probably deserved winners. They took the boks on at Ellispark and kept their composure.

South African supporters, I believe, are generally speaking happy with the progress our team has shown this year. The Springboks had their opportunities and could have won the game. There were enough line-breaks but the final pass, support and decision making were lacking to round it off. One thinks of the two Willie le Roux opportunities, the Etzebeth and Kolisi breakaways and feel it was so close you could almost taste victory.  Continue reading

Replay the match

We just don’t get a fair contest in NZ. This has been going on since 1956. In 2010 we played both matches in NZ with 14 men due to dubious yellow cards.

Personally, I will not watch a Springbok/AB game played in NZ again. I’ll take my kids to the movies. What is the use of watching something if you know you are going to get screwed.

The game should be replayed. SARU has to give NZRU an ultimatum. We replay the game on neutral grounds or no more games between SA and the AB’s in New Zealand.

I don’t think any SA supporter will object. Why go and play in NZ if you know you are going to be forced into an unfair contest. Also no more yellow cards (except maybe for tip tackles) in AB/SA matches or we don’t play games against them anymore. For tip tackle yellows we want a serious look at it before a decision is being made and both captains -on the field- has to agree that it is a fair decision. If no agreement then a white card so that the incident can be reviewed afterwards.

The referee just has too much power and there is too much money invested in these games to allow one persons incompetence and emotions/views to spoil it as a spectacle. The technology is availble so referee mistakes of this magnitude is just not acceptable anymore. .

This match was the dissapointment of the year; it was a disgrace.

Show some respect Mister Hansen

South Africa was robbed if not from the outcome then from a fair contest. The AB scored 4 tries against 14 men and the Springboks one against 16 men (one more late in the match against 15 men -the referee was still on the field and New Zealand had one in the sin-bin). According to my maths that leaves me uneasy about the results to say the least.

Hansen got angry when asked during the press conference whether the yellow card ruined the contest. Shame on him.  Fact that he got angry says it all. There is an old Afrikaans truism that goes ‘As die muishond stink is die skoot raak’ and that certainly applies to Hansen in this case.  Continue reading

The respect is back

It is the uncertainty factor that produces the biggest satisfaction and enjoyment in sport. That uncertainty brought about by not being sure whether you’ll be able to be victorious or not. That’s why as athletes and human beings we seek and thrive on competition. We find it in challenging ourselves to complete a marathon or to play against individuals or teams with higher rankings. That’s why as nations we play test matches and why even in test matches we want to compete against the very best.

It is sort of boring to play against a team that you know you are going to win. The uncertainty factor is absent and therefore also the real joy in the victory.

I’ve been living in NZ now for 12 years and for only the second time in 12-years there is a real uncertainty in Kiwi land about a test match against South Africa. The last time was in 2010 after the 2009 Springbok victory in Hamilton. The uncertainness in 2010 was not because it was felt that SA played good rugby but because there was uncertainness about the All Black team’s ability to handle the box kick and Matfield in the line-out. Continue reading

Outstanding, bokkies

Willem AlbertsLast week I lamented about the lack of presence, urgency and innovation in the bok team when they played the Pumas in Mendoza. I concluded that on evidence of the lack of presence of the tight five and the slowness of the back row I can’t see them winning in Brisbane. 

The bokke corrected all those shortcomings this weekend in Brisbane. The result; the greatest ever victory in Australia and the first win in Brisbane in 41 years. 

Here is my list of things that really impressed me in this test match followed by a list of things I think they need to work on before they tackle the All Blacks at Edenpark.  Continue reading

1956 Springboks versus New Zealand Maori

25 August 1956 – Eden Park, Auckland

It was the Springboks best performance of the tour. A real confidence booster after the shock defeat against the University side but at the same time a game that had a negative impact in more than one way. It showed New Zealand the danger of allowing the Springboks space to play the Craven-linking pattern. Not that New Zealand was unaware of the Springbok style but it re-affirmed the necessity of keeping the Springboks on the back foot. On the Springbok management side this comprehensive victory left them with the belief that the Craven-linking pattern is the master-pattern; the way to beat the All Blacks. Howe’s sterling performance left the impression that he was the key to unlock the pattern and that earned him a place as flyhalf for the 4th test side.   Continue reading

’56 Springboks versus New Zealand Universities

22 August 1956 – Athletic Park, Wellington 

Springboks 15 / New Zealand Juniors 22 

Noticeably, conversation about the 1956 tour always detour to the match against the New Zealand Universities. Historically, it was the first time a New Zealand University team played against an international touring side but this match is synonymous with the 1956 tour for other reasons. The fact that the Universities team won is also not really the main reason why Kiwi’s still rate this match as the best match of the tour. It was the manner in which the Universities team won that delighted the New Zealand rugby fraternity. All the good football came from the home side. The backs demonstrated opportunism, sensible anticipation and application while the pack totally dominated proceedings. The game is nevertheless mostly remembered as the game of the great Ron Jardon ‘try-that-wasn’t’. A great howl went up in protest when Jardon was called back after a spectacular 65 meter run through almost the entire Springbok team (listen to Winston McCarthy highlights of the match here) and old-timers almost without exception still mention the Jardon try to this day whenever the 1956 tour are under discussion. Continue reading