September 20, 2012 in Uncategorized
I thought we would be able to beat a pretty weak Australia though, hoping that the Springboks have learned a few things from the Mendoza abortion. It actually seemed we did, although the game plan in the second half was not adequate to adapt to Australia who changed their game.
I was, nevertheless, still pissed off that the Springboks didn’t pull off the win. I thought they could have and should have, but they didn’t.
What irritated me most was Heyneke’s excuses. “Inexperience” and “character” were the key issues. Yet, I was under the firm impression that those inexperienced forwards were playing far above their requisite level, while it was the experienced forwards who weren’t carrying their weight. I said as much, that I thought that despite the number of caps the Aussies were ahead of us, man for man they were not necessarily so much a better team. And that in fact, we trumped them in the back-line experience.
So, as most others, I expected a slaughter by the hands of the All Blacks in Dunedin. Especially given Meyer’s propensity to stick to his game plan that’s been under fire since test 2.
I expected that All Blacks pack, who outnumbered the Bok pack by an average of 30 caps a player to totally demolish the Bok inexperienced pack at the rucks, especially with McCaw, who has 3 times the experience of our most experienced forward, Beast.
I expected the All Black backline to get front foot ball from almost every phase of the game and with their vast talent, they would find holes as big as iceberg’s in our defense and simply waltz through for try, upon try, upon try.
I mentioned on twitter before the game that the Boks should not be relying on their goal kicking to win this game, due to the alleged issue that the closed top at the new stadium, causes some difficulty in kicking, which was very evident from the World Cup. In the match between Argentina and England at this stadium, Johnny Wilkinson succeeded with only 2 kicks from 7, while his Argentine counterpart, Philipe Contepomi, succeeded with only 3 from 9 attempts.
So, my expectation was that we would miss a lot of goal kicks…and get hammered in open play.
I was right about the goal kicks, and even though Cruden managed to succeed with 4 from his 7 kicks, Morne struggled with the Adidas ball and the unfamiliar stadium and got only 1 from 5. Frans got zero from his two long range kicks, and Goosen got 1 from his 2 long range kicks.
What I was not expecting though was how our “inexperienced” pack would dominate the All Blacks. I was pleasantly impressed with Duane, Flip and Flouw and I thought we managed the impact of McCaw to a great extent.
Our first would be try, came from spoiling the All Black ball at the breakdown, but Jean de Villiers firstly spoiled it by not gathering the ball and then Kirchner spoiled it by not drawing the tackler and passing the ball behind Habana, a sure would be try.
We were also once again in with a shot for a try when Jean de Villiers passed the ball miles ahead of Hougaard; a third would be try, saw the ball being ripped from Habana’s hands and a fourth should have been a try was when Dean had a Greyling moment and couldn’t hold on the the ball and just plomp over the tryline. School boy stuff.
Now, we could go on and on about how the backs aren’t used to passing the ball, hence the silly errors at the backs, but come on. These guys are PRO Rugby players. No one needs to have to teach them to straighten the line, draw in defenders, and pass the ball infront of the runner so he runs into the ball. That is basic, schoolboy stuff.
Our only try came from sterling decision making by our scrumhalf, when he gathered the ball at a foiled line-out maul, popped it to the ever present Habana (who just about everyone wrote off in 2011), who went down to dot down a well deserved try.
Yes, Morne failed with his kicking. A mere 20% is terrible, but it is also not much worse than Johnny’s 29% and Contepomi’s 33%. I accepted, and expected, that goal kicking would be tough. Even Cruden didn’t have it all his way, missing 3 of his 7.
Before the match I stated that, I do expect us to lose, but I don’t mind losing if at least I see something positive from the Springboks.
In contrast to what most felt, after the match I felt a sense of optimism. I felt positive about where the Boks are heading, especially considering how our inexperienced pack dominated the game throughout.
I didn’t notice the flood of kicks from hand the rest seemingly noticed, and I will do an analysis of the kicks when I’m back home. But considering we dominated territory and possession, won 94% of our rucks (vs New Zealand’s 90%), I didn’t think we kicked that much…it was more a case of inaccurate execution of 1 or two kicks, like when Hougaard almost didn’t bother to go for the ball on one occasion. In fact, we kicked less than New Zealand, despite having more possession than they did.
I saw positive play from the Springboks for a change. I saw them pass the ball more and run with it more. I saw us using the driving maul to fantastic effect.
I saw us literally throw away the game, by making silly schoolboy, unforced errors. Stuff coaches don’t need to teach you…
Our lineouts need work though. It was better than against Australia, but losing 5 lineouts on our own throw is just not on. Our scrums; we need some work there too, but considering our entire front row combined having played the same number of tests as Tony Woodcock, one would expect some dominance from the New Zealand side (NZ front has combined 104 tests more than the Bok front row)
Maybe our decision making also needs work? I would have imagined with our mauls doing so well, and our kicks at goal not coming off, why did Jean not go for the corners a bit more? At least 1 of those 7 missed kicks could easily have been converted into a try had we gone for it.
But if we weren’t willing to risk it, why didn’t Jean ask Ruan to take a pop? He is also a very able kicker. Oh, how ironic would that not have been, given the circumstances under which Morne became a hero when he replaced Ruan at Loftus against the British and Irish Lions!
Almost as ironic as Meyer saying that “You need luck to win tests” and then get a huge load of bad luck in the match, by missing 7 kicks at goal, dropping the ball at least 3 times before the try line, and substituting a player who was on his game the night with a brain fart factory in Dean Greyling. Bad luck one doesn’t need…neither do we need luck to win tests. We need hard work, good preparation, and great minds. Yes, Meyer made a mistake with Dean. But all coaches have made mistakes, save for Kitch Christie of course…
The saying rings that: “Luck is when opportunity meets preparation.” We had the opportunities, maybe the players weren’t prepared for them. Gary Player also said, which means essentially the same thing: “The more I practice, the luckier I get”. Practice = Preparation. I was always taught, the way in which you practice, is the way you play. So, perhaps something to think about for the side. Something I am sure they know, being pro’s and all.
Now, I am not saying the guys aren’t preparing in the right manner. But I don’t think we performed so badly that the calls for Meyer and Steyn’s heads are entirely validated – yet.
Morne would perhaps want a break though. I would, if I was him, going on how insulting the South Africans have become towards this, once hero. I recall a very recent South African hero whom the South Africans also loved to insult. And now, John Smit’s absence is sorely felt with a leadership gap as great as the Grand Canyon in our forwards; and our lineouts not being nearly as accurate it used to be.
It would be a bitter sweet affair though if Meyer chooses to start with Goosen at Flyhalf when the Aussies come visit us at Loftus. I would be very happy for the young man to make his step up…but will simultaneously feel sorry for him as he steps into the shoes of the most hated man in SA rugby, aside from the coach, for the time will come when he will also be referred to as “the one hit wonder”; “big boots, no brain” or “arrogant prick” when he doth dare make a mistake.
Tank Lanning referred to his interview with Frans Steyn where he admitted that he got big headed, and that his trip to France helped him find himself. Goosen might well be on the same road as Steyn if he is not carefully managed, and we might well see another episode like we saw between Divvy and Steyn, with Goosen leaving for France when the pressure gets too much. Do we want that? Or could Morne be a sort of “shock absorber” for Goosen to shield him from the harsh realities of Rugby Stardom?
It will also be bitter sweet to me as I feel it is the right opportunity for Morne to redeem himself. I did say earlier that they should start Goosen at Loftus against Australia…and it won’t be a bad idea. But that was before the last test and, although I write at the severe risk of being castigated by the very same that’s been so vocal about Morne having to be dropped, I felt after the Dunedin test that we’ve crossed a milestone of what we wanted to achieve and that the Springboks really looked like the best team on the park. Starting with Morne on his favorite ground, with loyal Bulls fans around might just give him the necessary boost he requires to step up his game and find himself again, and if we are honest with ourselves, we’d rather have an on form Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen in the side, than an off form Steyn and an under pressure Goosen who ends up being the only choice at 10 for Heyneke, and then ends up like Morne being overplayed, who himself played all 41 of the Springboks last 42 tests, starting in 37 of them…
Maybe start Morne, and give Goosen 40 minutes? Maybe give an SA hero a fair chance to redeem himself, and show, as Goosen himself suggests, that the criticism he’s been copping has been mostly unfair, with the rest of the team just as responsible as he was for our losses this season.
A Springbok win against Australia at Loftus, with Goosen at the helm, will definitely vindicate many critics of Steyn, but would that really be fair with Steyn not playing in the game we are most likely to win in any event?
Either way, i do expect nothing less than a good victory for the Springboks when they host Australia at Loftus, a stadium where Australia have not won, ever, against a Springbok side.
Because what I’ve seen at Dunedin, was an All Black side, lucky to win, and a Springbok side, eager, and able to win, throwing their opportunities away, perhaps due to lack of confidence in themselves. Even with our inexperienced pack, we were dominant in that game. And if that is something we can build on, these Springboks will play the game we all want to see very soon. They will get there and we are not going to wait too long to see that happen.
Maybe we should all, (including me), sit back a little and just observe what Meyer does before calling up arms and marching to the SARU head office with burning effigies of Meyer. His attitude was poor initially, but he seems to be learning a bit himself as he goes along. He might be a little more hot-headed than previous coaches and learning might be an unwelcome acknowledgement of shortcomings for him, but there was this week just the slightest hint that he might be lowering his guard.
It was quite ironic when, since 2010, critics and fans alike, demanded that Peter de Villiers play more like the All Blacks, play expansively, get away from this “bash, kick, hope” strategy. But back in 2008, when Div was talking about playing expansive rugby; when he was laughed at for saying “why run into people when you can run around them”, it was perhaps the very same people who said he should stick to Springbok Rugby, stick to what makes us good, stick to the stalwarts, John Smit, Victor Matfield, Percy…and after all, changing your entire approach to the game, one season before the World Cup, is just suicidal. The Bok Camp, under leadership of John, Victor, Fourie, Schalk, Juan and Bryan, were all responsible for that game…the game they were comfortable with…the game that played to their strengths.
Maybe Meyer’s plan is not to stick with exactly that kind of Rugby, after all, that game was to those player’s strengths, and as we’ve seen, kicking isn’t really a strength with any of our scrumhalves. Two, maybe three changes in the way we play and the way we think will be welcome. Bringing in Lambie for an entire game might be a revelation; teaching the players to play more supportive and passing the ball into space, might be quite rewarding. And picking a fetcher, like we saw Flouw demonstrate with great aplomb in Dunedin, is maybe not such a bad thing.
Maybe we should stop panicking? It’s really not as bad as we are made to believe. Maybe baby steps are what is required for Heyneke…and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. And maybe we should be calling for Meyer to overall his approach, like we demanded from Div in 2008. Just maybe we will turn back in 2015, and ask : “Why didn’t we stick to our strengths…?”