I, for one, am entertained

June 24, 2013 in General, Rugby, Springboks

I thought that at some point, like Russel Crowe in Gladiator, Adriaan Strauss would stand with his hands raised to the sky and shout at the crowd: “Are you not entertained!” Certainly, those ancient gladiators would have stood in awe at the sheer ferocity of his play. He led from the front, but was not alone. Francois Louw showed that he is now the undisputed first choice in his position. Willem Alberts came back from injury and played a good game. Mostly, it was the attitude of the forwards that impressed me. Even Spies, often criticized, pulled out all the stops and reminded us that he can do more than stand in the backline. The tight five also played well. Eben and Flip seemed to work well together and I thought Beast had a good game.

The better breakdown improved Ruan’s play while Morne was a great running and passing fly-half. It’s too bad that his kicking failed him. In general, the backline looked really dangerous. JJ is growing into his position and I doubt that de Jongh will replace him now. I am also liking Willie Le Roux more and more. He made a few mistakes, but balanced them out with brilliance. If there is one thing you can say about him, it’s that he is never average. Hopefully, with experience his errors will disappear and we will be left with a truly world class fullback. Habana reached his 50th try and showed that at least for a while the young guns breathing down his neck will have to wait. I am saving my comments on our tough as nails, solid as a rock, cool as a cucumber Captain for a later post.

A lot can be said about the Samoans as well. I have seldom seen a side so intent on maintaining possession. Their ball handling was spectacular, although James So’oialo did take it a bit too far. The big bruising players just kept running and running at the Bok defense, offloading with ease and occasionally finding a gap. It is a sign of a significantly improved defensive effort from the Boks that the Samoans were not allowed back into the game. If we had slipped or lost concentration, even for 10 minutes, I think the Samoans could have been right back in it. Instead, the Boks held their composure, while the Samoans lost theirs and devolved into a side without discipline.

I do, however, have a bone to pick with the referee. He was too good. Fair and consistent, he policed the breakdown strictly and even handed out a yellow for repeated infringement. This test series was supposed to give our young team experience. In that sense, last week was much better. The last thing that our team needs, is to get used to this kind of officiating. I don’t expect to see it again any time soon.

This brings me to another slight reservation. We ended up playing with an extra man for 20 minutes during which we scored 4 tries. Last week against Scotland, we also came back into the game when we were a man up. I worry that we will come to rely on these windfalls. Of course this is not a criticism, since it isn’t our fault that our opponents are ill disciplined, just an observation.

In general, it seems that Heyneke Meyer does indeed listen to the public. Last year we demanded more entertaining rugby, and boy did the Boks deliver.

18 responses to I, for one, am entertained

  1. I must say I was entertained! I have been calling for Flip for weeks and at last we have a proper tight lock(strangely playing with a 5 and jumping at 4 when he should have Etzebeth in that role)

    The problem is while we all love Eben he doesn’t like the dirty work enough to be a great 4 in the mold of Bakkies but he can become a great at 5.

    Alberts hit the Samoans hard and they are not used to being driven back and then with flouw and Flip our breakdown was far better.

    Ruan had a great game yet we will still have some who criticize him and Morne.

    I agree with your statement about the referee. He was actually favorable to SA!!! That kind of think is not likely to happen with our “Jappie” loving NZ and OZ refs and I wouldn’t be surprised if we are heavily penalized in the rugby Championship.

    The only changes we need before then(if Available) are JP for Basson, A tighthead on the bench and Vermeulen for Spies

    • I agree with you. I think Vermeulen is probably first choice, as long as he can remain fit. He seems to be injured a lot though.
      JP also used to be my first choice, but Basson is pretty good and getting better. He is an excellent finisher, tackler and ball chaser. If JP doesn’t come back in the Championship, i think he might find it tough to get his spot back at the end of the year.

      There will never be another Bakkies. But i think we are seeing the first Eben. Like front rowers, locks play their best rugby after the age of 25, so give him some time. In terms of which one should be 4 or 5, i will bow to the wisdom of the coaching staff who can see the guys in training and talk to them about what they want.

  2. Great game by everyone concerned. I will have to watch the game again because at half time I asked my son if Spies was playing :)
    I had only seen him once in the entire half. I was pleased when Alberts went to 8. I prefer him there.

    • Haha. Yeah, I almost felt the same. But then I looked at some of the replays closely and I saw him getting stuck in and making an impact at the rucks. Especially on defense.

  3. My biggest concern with JJ is still his defensive read. He’ll probably only be fully capable at 13 in about 2-3 years.

    Willem Alberts proved every pundit wrong and was a MONSTER.

    Our forwards dominated, and my biggest concern is that the All Blacks will match us up front, but that they boast a superior kicking game in their back 3. Willie will need to learn to kick the ball to the touchline, and to find space. He also needs to fix his positional play at 15. Morne was covering a lot of the 15 play on the weekend, and the All Blacks will exploit that.

    • the AB AND OZ are going to give us a much stiffer test. They are not in the same league as Scots and Samoa. The games will have to be a lot tighter. ABs will hammer us if it gets too loose

      • True, but it goes both ways. The All Black often beat weak teams by large scores and then have tight games against us. But we have a dangerous backline now. I think the tournament will come down to the breakdown. Also remember that Oz lost to Samoa last year. The gap is not that big.

      • At this stage I’m more concerned about our games against the AB than Oz. The Lions tour will have its toll on them, and I don’t expect them to be able to sustain the physicality.

        The All Blacks are focussing on their kicking game, and at this moment, their kicking game is far superior to ours.

        The way they kicked in their 2nd test was an ugly warning, and if we decide to stick Willie in there, I’m genuinely concerned that we won’t get out of our half. Perhaps not even far past our 22. Its a pity Willie doesn’t play 15 for the Cheetahs, because it would have helped his positional play tremendously. But Daniller brings the security of his positional play, so unless he is injured I don’t see it happening.

        • I agree. If Willie doesn’t play fullback for the Cheetahs, he may eventually find himself being a permanent impact player. But I’m not too worried, he seems like a great athlete with a real feel for the game. It may be a baptism of fire, but hopefully he learns quick. And we always have the rocksteady Zane to start if needed.

          • HM has already stated that he sees Willie as impact player off the bench roll. I think HM will resort to Steyn, Kirshner kick n chase. Especially for the away games

  4. I’m sorry, but there is no way Basson is even nearly as good as JP Pieterson. Basson simply had to catch a ball and fall over the line, similarly to Kirchner last year and all of a sudden they are great players. JP Pieterson has so much more to offer than Basson for a while to come still. It will be hard for anyone to replace JP Pieterson come NZ and AUS should he not be there for some reason or a season …

    Agree about Vermeulen though, his game has vastly improved and to have loosies like Vermeulen, Alberts, Flouw, Kolisi, Lappies, Marcel and Arno, the Boks are truly blessed. Spies needs to up his game or he might find himself playing 2nd and/or rd fiddle to Vermeulen, Alberts and actually Arno as well …

    • if Spies goes overseas he probably won’t play Bok again

    • Of course JP is currently a better player. He has several years of international experience and a well rounded skill set. But I wouldn’t underestimate Basson. He didn’t become one of the leading try scorers in the country just by “falling over the line”. Besides, the number one job that a wing has on attack, is to catch the ball at pace and finish the move. I would guess that more than half of Bryan Habana’s tries follow that pattern. Basson has other skills too. He chases up and unders well which adds an attacking option to the team when the backline is under pressure. And of course, he has blistering pace. He is by no means a complete player yet, but with exposure and time I don’t see why he can’t become one.

  5. He is going to be fine. He used to play wing until he arrived at the Bulls last year. Give him time, as you say, he is improving each game and already he is more solid on one-one one defense than a few other guys I can think of who are permanent fixtures in the team……

  6. Basson did more than what people give him credit for. With Basson and Habana we have two people chasing Morne’s hanging kick off and the minute someone catches it from the opposition they will be smashed. if you watch that game again, watch how Basson and Flip were the first two when kick offs take place. Basson did exceptionally well. its no secret that the All Blacks and the Aussies will test us but this team – i believe – can take on anyone!

  7. OJ said on June 27, 2013

    The Boks certainly played very entertaining rugby. It reminded of the Boks under Mallet, and of SA vs England in the RWC 2007 when we won 36-0.

    The reason why we battled to play fluent rugby against Italy and Scotland was that the pack contained 3 players that’s too soft for international rugby – Spies, Kruger and Marcel Coetzee. They tend to disappear in tests. With Flip and Alberts back in the mix, we only had one (Spies), and that was only for 40 minutes.

    There is no way that the AB or Oz can field a pack that can dominate the current Bok pack, especially when Vermeulen recovers from injury. I would love to see Arno Botha at 8. It’s a pity he is injured now.
    The following pack would be my first choice & (second choice):
    8. Vermeulen (Arno Botha)
    7. Alberts (Kolisi)
    6. Louw (Brussow)
    5. Etzebeth (PS du Toit)
    4. Bakkies (Elstadt)
    3. JdP (Nykane)
    2. Bismarck (Strauss)
    1. Beast (Coenie)

    With regards to our backline, Pienaar played one of his better tests, and on the front foot Steyn can play with the best. It’s his ability under pressure that is a worry. Luckily Spies isn’t available, so the first channel on defence is less of a worry. Spies/Steyn would have been a serious risk. Hopefully Goosen will recover sooner rather than later.

    JJ will become one of the greats in future, be it at 11, 13 or 14. I would be tempted to select Serfontein next to De Villiers for the next year before De Villiers retires and Serfontein moves to 12. In that case I would move Habana to 11, and select JJ at 14. Willie le Roux brings spark to this backline like no other.

    My backline would be:
    15. Le Roux (Joe Pietersen/Riaan Viljoen)
    14. JJ (Gio Aplon)
    13. Serfontein (Juan de Jongh)
    12. JdV (Serfontein)
    11. Habana (Basson)
    10. Steyn (Lambie)
    9. Pienaar (Van Zyl)

    ** Players expected to be injured before the Castle Champs not considered.

    The injured players that will come into the mix next year are:
    15. Frans Steyn
    14. JPP
    10. Johan Goosen
    9. Vermaak
    7/8. Schalk Burger

    In 2014 I would like to see the following 23:
    15. Willie le Roux (16. Frans Steyn)
    14. JPP
    13. JJ
    12. JdV (17. Serfontein)
    11. Habana
    10. Goosen
    9. Vermaak (18. Pienaar)
    8. Vermeulen
    7. Alberts (19. Burger)
    6. Louw
    5. Etzebeth
    4. Bakkies (20. Elstadt)
    3. JdP (21. Nyakane)
    2. Bismarck (22. Strauss)
    1. Beast (23. Coenie)

    On Standby:
    Arno Botha
    PS Du Toit
    Juan de Jongh
    Handre Pollard

  8. What I’ve seen from the AB’s against France doesn’t concern me at all

Add Comment Register

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>