SARU at centre of Bok inexperience

November 12, 2012 in International, Rugby, Rugby Championship, Springboks

The Springboks are still being haunted by SARU’s inability to create stability and consistency within the Springbok Management ranks.

This is what one can conclude when looking at the current lack of depth available in the Springbok squad as compared to arch rivals, New Zealand.

Lack of experience was the major excuse ringing in our ears like a broken record when Meyer’s troops failed to deliver during the Rugby Championship, and New Zealand who seemed to have lost lots of experience too in some key positions stormed to an undefeated victory of the Rugby Championship, winning all their matches.

SARU’s insistence on giving coaches a maximum term of 4 years is a major concern and inconsistency in Springbok performances can only be blamed on this apparent policy.

While the All Blacks stuck it out with Graham Henry since 2003/04 until he brought them World Cup glory 8 years later, and followed him up with his Assistant coach, Steve Hansen, SARU threw out Jake White after his 2007 World Cup win, replaced him with Peter de Villiers with more than “rugby reasons being considered” and then after De Villiers tenure of 4 years, Heyneke Meyer steps in as coach, again, a coach with his own ideas who refuses to consider the choices and structured of those who came before him.

Many blame De Villiers’ inability to identify talent, however this was proven untrue when it was clear that De Villiers had more players debut under his coaching than Jake White did. Also, some of those players’ names are now being shouted from the rooftops, questioning Meyer why he has not included them.

The problem is not so much the coaches who pick the players they want to fit in with the style the envisage for the Springboks. It is in SARU’s lack of vision and foresight, who stick with the 4 year approach and do not allow for consistency as to enable coaches to really make a difference by building enough depth to get to the level the All Blacks are right now.

I’ve done an analysis of the time the Springboks and the All Blacks spent on the field this year, and how many of the  players used this year have been together since the World Cup, the year at which, one could reasonable assume, both teams would have been at their peaks.

The 27 Springboks and All Blacks who were selected for the most of the Rugby Championship was chosen (no reason for the 27, just that there seemed to have been a core of 27 players used by both teams). The minutes played in Super Rugby was aggregated, as well as those players minutes played in the European season since February.

 

 

Springboks

01-Feb-12

Age at 1 Feb 2012 Super Rugby June Tests Rugby Championship Grand Total Wcup 2011
Dean Greyling

26.10

1,062.00

0

30

1,092.00

0

Beast Mtwarirra

26.52

720.00

218

450

1,388.00

149

Adriaan Strauss

26.22

1,176.00

51

448

1,675.00

0

Bismarck du Plessis

27.72

1,283.00

189

5

1,477.00

149

Pat Cilliers

24.93

1,014.00

0

62

1,076.00

0

Jannie du Plessis

29.25

1,100.00

214

391

1,705.00

320

Juandre Kruger

26.42

1,202.00

222

133

1,557.00

0

Andries Bekker

28.18

986.00

0

295

1,281.00

0

Flip vd Merwe

26.68

948.00

48

196

1,192.00

0

Eben Etzebeth

20.27

843.00

192

336

1,371.00

0

Marcell Coetzee

20.70

1,339.00

233

264

1,836.00

0

Willem Alberts

27.75

805.00

132

419

1,356.00

145

Francois Louw

26.65

-

0

263

263.00

90

Duane Vermeulen

25.60

640.00

0

320

960.00

0

Pierre Spies

26.67

1,339.00

240

0

1,579.00

338

Francois Hougaardt

23.84

1,269.00

186

452

1,907.00

161

Ruan Pienaar

27.92

827.00

77

361

1,265.00

29

Morne Steyn

27.58

1,291.00

240

291

1,822.00

381

Johan Goosen

19.53

396.00

0

138

138.00

0

Jean de Villiers

30.96

1,200.00

240

480

1,920.00

133

Frans Steyn

24.74

848.00

160

320

1,328.00

320

Jaco Taute

20.88

897.00

0

151

1,048.00

0

JP Petersen

25.58

1,302.00

240

0

1,542.00

320

Bryan Habana

28.66

1,253.00

217

448

1,918.00

218

Zane Kirchner

27.65

1,360.00

40

425

1,825.00

0

Patrick Lambie

21.31

960.00

85

55

1,100.00

320

Lwazi Mvovo

25.68

1,499.00

-

169

1,668.00

0

 

All Blacks

01-Feb-12

Age at 1 Feb 2012 Super Rugby June Tests Rugby Championship Grand Total Wcup 2011
Ben Franks

27.87

936.00

46

57

1,039.00

67

Owen Franks

24.13

895.00

198

423

1,516.00

507

Tony Woodcock

31.03

765.00

236

385

1,386.00

524

Keven Mealamu

32.89

525.00

37

265

827.00

277

Andrew Hore

33.41

826.00

184

215

1,225.00

276

Luke Romano

25.98

1,053.00

80

285

1,418.00

0

Brodie Retallick

20.69

1,335.00

139

260

1,734.00

0

Sam Whitelock

23.32

1,225.00

217

415

1,857.00

408

Kieran Read

26.28

920.00

120

480

1,520.00

291

Richie McCaw

31.11

654.00

240

458

1,352.00

392

Victor Vito

24.87

1,017.00

46

57

1,120.00

221

Liam Meesam

27.87

1,356.00

80

408

1,844.00

0

Adam Thomson

29.91

1,200.00

125

15

1,340.00

154

Aaron Smith

23.21

903.00

180

366

1,449.00

0

Piri Weepu

28.42

650.00

60

114

824.00

306

Dan Carter

29.93

993.00

160

294

1,447.00

153

Aaron Cruden

23.08

1,440.00

39

191

1,670.00

160

Beaduen Barret

20.70

1,228.00

40

40

1,308.00

0

Ma’a Nonu

29.72

1,039.00

0

438

1,477.00

467

Sonny Bill Williams

26.85

1,425.00

240

160

1,825.00

336

Conrad Smith

30.33

1,249.00

220

290

1,759.00

480

Hosea Gear

27.90

1,270.00

80

240

1,590.00

0

Cory Jane

29.00

890.00

0

480

1,370.00

335

Zac Guildford

22.99

1,305.00

132

0

1,437.00

80

Tamati Elisson

29.10

1,186.00

20

18

1,224.00

0

Israel Dagg

23.67

1,283.00

240

471

1,994.00

368

Julian Savea

21.50

1,021.00

137

240

1,398.00

0

 

Player Management

Now the first problem we need to look at is the way players were utilised. Player management was a key concern, and with the Bok coach not appointed until deep into the year, there was very little, if any, opportunity for the Springbok coach to talk to unions to plan the management of his envisaged Springbok players. In New Zealand, however, Hansen was the natural successor to Henry, and with a central contracting system, player management is made simple.

In terms of totals, it is easy to say the All Blacks played just as much Rugby as the Springboks this year. After all, they also played Super Rugby, they also played in the June tests and they also played in the Rugby Championship. In addition, the All Blacks had an additional test against Australia after the Rugby Championship was concluded. But up to the end of the June test season, the core Springbok side played an average of 1169 minutes of Rugby while the All Black core played 1180 minutes.  Is player management then really an issue?

Well, if we look deeper, we see that the All Blacks core side contained 10 players 25 years old and younger (at 1 February 2012) and 17 players older, with an average team age of 26.88.  The Springboks on the other hand at only 8 players 25 years old and younger, and 19 players older than 25 years, but an overall average age of 25.70.  The All Blacks had 5 players older than 30 years, and the Springboks only 1. Jean de Villiers.

One could theorise that the older the players, the less Rugby they should play to ensure optimal condition when they need to perform.  Interestingly, another deviation is apparent here.

Although the Springboks are on average younger than the All Blacks, it is the older players playing all the Rugby. If total playing minutes this year (up to the June tests), the Springboks who were older than 25 played 74% of the total minutes, while the All Blacks over 25 played 59% of the Rugby. Now even if one considers that the Springboks have 2 players less than the All Blacks younger than 25, this ratio is still very much skewed in favour of the All Blacks. If one calculates this in terms of minutes per player, the All Blacks youngsters played 54% of the time and the Springbok youngsters only 46% of the time, a difference which equates to almost 300 minutes per player, or 3 matches and 60 minutes.

In the June tests, the Springboks youngsters carried a bit more weight at 52% of the minutes per player played by someone under 25, while the All Blacks comparative number was 53%, so not much in it.

Springboks: Super Rugby and June   tests Mins played Minutes per player
Players under 25

8026

1,003.25

Players over 25

22361

1,176.89

June Tests only
Players under 25

856

107.00

Players over 25

1875

98.68

 

All Blacks: Super Rugby and June   tests Mins played Minutes per player
Players under 25

13020

1,302.00

Players over 25

18865

1,109.71

June Tests only

 

Players under 25

1368

136.80

Players over 25

2070

121.76

 

A slight difference is noted though that where 37% of the All Black side was 25 and younger, they played 40% of the total rugby, ie more than their relative weight in the side, while the Springboks equivalent of 30% of the side being 25 and younger, they played 31% of the time, so, they played just as much as their older team mates.

Another interesting stat to note is that key players like McCaw, Carter, Mealamu and Weepu, whether through injury or otherwise, played an average of 705 minutes of Super Rugby, while the average per All Black player is 1058 minutes.  On the Springboks side, the squad average is 1021 minutes, with key players (one would think at the time) in Morne Steyn, Jean de Villiers, JP Petersen, Bryan Habana, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis averaging 1283 minutes each. Almost double that of the All Black key players.

So, what we can conclude on Player Management is that the Springboks may have played with some players that are a bit more fatigued if one purely looks at the minutes played in the different Age Groupings and in terms of those players whom are key to the success of the national sides.

In Fact, Jean de Villiers at 30 years old is the oldest player in the Springbok side and played the most Rugby this year, while the most minutes in the All Black side was played by Dagg, at age 23…

Experience and continuity

Lack of experience is the major excuse given by Heyneke.  And although the statistic will show he has a point, he still chose to leave more experienced players on the side of the field and select youngsters who’s inexperienced weighed heavier than their talents could contribute.  Players like Juan de Jongh, Gio Aplon, Patrick Lambie (although selected played a total of 55 minutes during the Rugby Championship), Heinrich Brussow etc were overlooked and instead JJ Engelbrecht, Jacque Potgieter and Jaco Taute were selected.

The Springbok 27 played a total of 6902 minutes in the Rugby Championship vs the All Blacks 7065 minutes, which shows a little bit more consistency in the All Blacks side, whether due to injury or selection.  The relative use in the June test window was pretty much the same, however, it is staggering to see that 7 of the players used by Heyneke Meyer during the Rugby Championship, didn’t play in the June tests nor in the World Cup, while the All Blacks equivalent number was zero. In other words, none of the core All Black players made their debut during the Rugby Championship, while 7 Springboks either did, or hasn’t played for the Springboks since before the 2011 World Cup…

These 7 Springboks played 1165 total minutes in the Rugby Championship, or 17% of the total available minutes, a rather large number in terms of “inexperience” to contribute to your side. 72% of these minutes were played by Jaco Taute, Lwazi Mvovo, Duane Vermeulen and Johan Goosen.  All probably deserving players according to many, but do you really blood these players during the Rugby Championship?  I suppose there was little choice in picking Duane, however, you had De Jongh to play instead of Taute, you had Aplon and Basson to play ahead of Mvovo and you had Lambie to play ahead of Goosen. Despite some experience available though, Meyer picked inexperienced players, and blamed that factor for the losses.

But they key issue to me is the gap that was created by, in my opinion, SARU’s inability to create consistency.  Heyneke Meyer and his coaching staff, as is their right, will pick players based on their criteria, and will not necessarily consider youngsters earmarked for development by his predecessors.

All Blacks   overall minutes played

Age at 1 Feb 2012 Super Rugby June Tests Rugby Championship Grand Total Wcup 2011
Squad totals

28,589.00

3,296.00

7,065.00

38,950.00

5,802.00

Squad average

26.88

1,058.85

122.07

261.67

1,442.59

214.89

Fwd Average

27.64

1,012.64

133.73

279.36

1,425.73

186.18

Backs average

26.17

1,194.08

109.00

238.50

1,541.58

198.25

 

Springboks   overall minutes played

Age at 1 Feb 2012 Super Rugby June Tests Rugby Championship Grand Total Wcup
Squad totals

27,559.00

3,224.00

6,902.00

37,289.00

3,073.00

Squad average

25.70

1,020.70

119.41

255.63

1,381.07

113.81

Fwd Average

25.98

928.73

116.45

243.55

1,288.73

81.18

Backs average

25.36

1,091.83

123.75

274.17

1,456.75

156.83

 

 

Yes, the Springboks lost the services of John Smit, Victor Matfield, Fourie Du Preez, Bakkies Bother, Danie Rossouw and Jaque Fourie to name a few, but on the other hand, the All Blacks didn’t have the services of Ali Williams, Wyatt Crockett, Brad Thorne, Sonny Bill Williams, Richard Kahui or Andy Ellis, who all played a role in last year’s World Cup campaign.

Despite the losses of those players, the players used during the Rugby Championship played a total of 5802 minutes together during the Rugby World Cup,  82% of the time they played in the Rugby Championship. In stark contrast, the Springboks discarded their experience and the players used in the Springboks Rugby Championship campaign played only 3073 minutes of World Cup Rugby.

To put that in context, the Springboks RC team, on average, played just under one and a half World Cup matches.  While on the All Blacks side, that number equates to just over 2 and a half test matches per player.  On a per player basis, that difference may not seem so big, but it’s the “gelling” people speak of that is created with consistency.

Now we can blame Peter de Villiers for not playing the youngsters enough during the World Cup.  Or we can blame Heyneke for not picking the experienced players for the Rugby Championship.  The fact is, our team does lack experience, and injuries have played a part, but injuries are part of the game.  It’s the structures in place that give rise to our lack of depth, on coaches persistence with certain players that create lack of experience.

And now, while New Zealand may have rested some players for the Scotland match, they still maintained their core with McCaw, Carter, Weepu and the Franks brothers, and brough in some new faces, but also brought back some oomph on the bench in the forms of Ali Williams and Wyatt Crocket.  Less used players like Vito is getting more chance with Read being given a rest.

McCaw will go for a rest now during the Super Rugby season, like he did for most of the 2012 season, and will be conditioned and ready come the June test period again.  In South Africa, players like Duane, Jean, Lambie, Alberts, Beast, Jannie…in fact all of them, will play every match they can until they are injured.

Until SARU get their structures in place to benefit South African Rugby and not the pockets of individuals and political cadres, Springbok rugby will remain a few steps behind All Black Rugby, and maybe even worse.

 

 

21 responses to SARU at centre of Bok inexperience

  1. Nice post bud, really proves a point of player mismanagement

  2. Jolly good show old chap, this is a really impressive post! I simply had to come back after you posted this to tell you how I always found your posts interesting, intelligent and written in such fantastic fashion! The way you make the numbers come alive and make sense is a talent I can only dream I ever had. You obviously know your game! Good on you, old sport!

    • Well guess who decided to show his face? I thought you were afraid someone will pick up your IP address and see where you are really from. What has changed?

      • Uysh old chap, as I said, it is your amazing talent that made me come back. Can you do something like this on the England squad as well? It would be very much obliged and I will forever be in your debt.

  3. Great post mate

    • On the drink so early old chap? I would have thought that you would have sought help for you little problem by now.

      • Mmmmm, the real Kitchener? can it be? have you finished your little cry and came back ?

      • “You” little problem?

        Hmmmm……

        • Yes Sheriff old boy, I finished my sobbing, and decided that everyone can now see that I am, and always were, actually from Vereeniging. It’s not worth sitting on the sides, seeing all of you enjoying your time on this site, while I sit and drool at the prospect of interacting with you chaps.

          Maybe we can just pretend that I am still sitting in the UK, while all of you suspect I am from George instead? *Chuckles*

          Huggggzzzz….

          • Ok, enough with the act, Fake Kitchener. If you at least wrote anything remotely close to what the real Kitchener wrote, your act may have passed, but you were found out. Not because you are from Vereeniging, but because your writing is shit.

            Toodle Pip!

          • If you the real Kitch…tell me something about Gerald Davies?

          • hahahahahahaha!

          • Nothing says guilty better than the sound of silence

  4. Uysh, a very good and well thought out article. I actually think player management is the key to success!

    This is a area of HM which is bad, really really bad. I mean how do you pick a youngster , 19, to play in the rugby championship if he only played 40 minutes of a curie cup game in 6 months??

    The way he picks people straight after an injury should be stopped. He did the same with Coenie and he came back from a neck injury, not something small!

    HM is playing with our players’ health! Coenie and Goosen has a heck of a lot of time ahead of them and doesn’t need to be rushed into playing international rugby, if they were not injured and then picked its fine, but you (HM) have to use some common sense though!

  5. funny how Jean div, morne steyn, zane and houghaard all strugling with form played the most rugby

  6. A bit long but very interesting.

    13 of those 27 didn’t feature at the WC, while 4 of them were unknowns at the time, that means 9 guys changed from PDiv’s team to HM’s team. A big difference in terms of vision.

    • Ja, the 9 guys that were not at the World Cup though was part of the Bok setup before. Strauss, Bekker (injured), Flip (not needed), Kirchner (kak), Mvovo (not needed).

      The 4 guys Meyer settled on, Greyling (useless), Coetzee (new guy), Goosen (new), Duane (injured during most of 2011),

      What bothers me is the picking and dropping Meyer has been doing, which to me doesn’t indicate any vision at all. JJ, Dean, JacPot, Daniel, all players Meyer picked for the side as relative and brand new comers, but dropped almost as soon as he picked them.

      • Yeah a lot of guys are dropped very quickly, really makes you wonder what HM’s plan is. Vermaak on the other hand is never used and never dropped, so that goes against everything we thought we knew.

        PDiv had vision in that Lambie would be the future 15 and JDJ would be next in line at centre, but HM has started with Kirchner at 15 in every (I think) game this season and JDJ hasn’t been used. Also PDiv kept Brussouw in the team after eventually giving him his chance, whereas HM has never even picked him.

        SARU should think about changing the way coaches are picked to more like NZ with the assisstant taking over to ensure there isn’t a huge change in personnel every 4 years.

        • Yup, that would make more sense. And in that respect, I feel SARU should also appoint the entire management team and not leave it up to the coach to pick his buddies.

          Maybe we have too little technical expertise in SARU to make the right decisions in terms of the coaching panel?

    • Sorry that its a bit long, but it does cover the whole season and it took quite long to compile the stats.