Springbok’s forward approach smothering the game?

November 20, 2012 in International, Rugby, Springboks


20 more phases then Ruan will pass the ball to us….

Heyneke Meyer has done very little this year to confirm the belief the Springbok supporters had in him, when he was announced to take over from Peter de Villiers as Springbok coach.

The record shows that to date, the Springboks won 6 matches from the 11 tests to date, a success rate of 54.5%.  It seems quite average, in fact, poor, for someone who stated publicly that he believes in only one kind of Rugby: Winning Rugby.

The approach was clear from the first series against England. Bash the ball up with the forwards, kick for territory and bash it up once again until you win a penalty, or happen to bash it over the try-line.

Heyneke wanted us to believe that the kind of Rugby he has in mind and that the Springboks are playing is played all over the world and that it is just a matter of doing the right things at the right times, which will come with experience.

In Meyer’s defense, experience, or the lack thereof, has been a major issue for the Springboks this year due to the gaps left by John Smit, Gurthro Steenkamp, Bismarck du Plessis, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Pierre Spies, Heinrich Brossouw, Juan Smith, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie.  Some moved to greener pastures, others were injured.  Frans Steyn also got injured, another experienced player who sat out a part of the Rugby Championship. Others were simply just overlooked. Such as De Jongh, Aplon, Brussow, and Lambie for most of the Rugby Championship.

I did a previous post where I compared the massive decline in experience in the Bok camp to that of the New Zealand camp.  YEs, there is reason to believe experience has had a major impact on the Springboks performance this year. And perhaps, just perhaps, the expectations of the fans was by far higher than what was realistic…although those expectations were not given a sense of realism with Meyer making statements like that he only knows winning rugby…

Now, Meyer’s idea of winning Rugby seems to be centred around the very same approach we have seen the whole year fromt he Springboks. bash it up hard with the forwards, kick for territory….you know the sequence….everybody does, and yes, most notably all our opponents do….

And in the light of this approach, and the criticism of our Springbok flyhalves (let’s face it, all of them got flack for their performance, save for Goosen) I wondered just how much ball the Springbok flyhalves did have to work with.  It is something that bothered me on Saturday as I watched the Springbok test against Scotland.  I was excited to watch Lambie play and hopefully settle into the squad, but hardly saw him play.

The statistics confirmed this for me.

I also compared this to the game against Ireland, which shows the same trend.

I did the same for New Zealand against Scotland (it is after all the same opposition) and it shows something very different.

I then did the same for when the Springboks played and won against Australia at Loftus, and again, the statistics seem to indicate a totally different approach than what we saw against Ireland and Scotland.

One last time, I did the same analysis for when we lost against New Zealand in Dunedin, but missed so many opportunities, and it becomes quite apparent why it seems that our backline is impotent…

Yes, you guessed it.  The ball is hogged by the forwards.  This is Heyneke’s master plan, the plan that supposedly is played all accross the world, including New Zealand….well, no, its not. Even Australia who also is struggling with a lack of experience, is not playing a game where the forwards use the majority of the ball…















Firstly, if we look at Scotland and Ireland, the number of times the ball was handled by the scrumhalf as a percentage of available ball (ie, the ball was handled by the scrumhalf and not by a forward) is on par with what New Zealand did against Scotland, although against Scotland, Ruan handled only 73% vs New Zealand’s 79%.

One can see that Australia had a bit more difficulty in getting the ball to the scrummy when they played against England, but with almost double the posession South Africa had against both Ireland and Scotland, it seems acceptable.

The thing that almost nauseated me though was the amount of ball the flyhalf received.  In both the Ireland and Scotland games, Patrick Lambie received only 42% and 35% respectively of the available ball.  Compare this to the 76% received by Dan Carter and the 69% received by Kurtley Beale and the picture becomes quite clear as to why our backline seems impotent…they don’t get ANY ball.

It’s not kicking possession away which is the problem.  Although it seems high when we look at percentages, the major problem is the lack of ball received, and the ball is merely passed to the flyhalf when the decision is to kick the ball. 

How many times could the ball have gone down the backline instead of to a forward?  If the stats are anything to go by, the Springboks expect their forwards to be the playmakers, not the flyhalves.

Even in Dunedin, the ball went to Morne Steyn only 42% of the time.  In fact, he handled the ball 23 times, which is almost 23% of the available possession from fixed and broken play, and he is expected to be the play maker?

Goosen at Loftus got the ball the most of all the SA Flyhalves, and what happened in that game? We scored 4 tries and won handsomely! And his kicking ratio may only be 20%, but he kicked the ball 5 times vs Morne and Lambie’s average of 7 times. Hardly a difference that indicates a change in game plan.

No, the amount of ball the flyhalf gets shows you the intent of the game plan, and in all the South African games, the flyhalf gets the ball from the scrumhalf less than 50% of the time, while Australia and New Zealand does it at around the 70% mark.  A vast difference!

No. The problem is not the kicking game of the flyhalves, as much as it is the hogging of the ball game of the forwards.  Too many forwards hang around in the backline waiting for the ball.  If this is not the game plan, what are they doing there, instead of protecting the ball at the rucks?

Springbok supporters have been bitterly disappointed this year.  Yes, maybe the expectations were too high, but there is enough good reason to be disappointed even if those expectations were toned down to realistic levels.

And Heyneke is once again setting himself up for harsh criticism come this weekend.  Saying that this weekend will be the defining match of the season, he, and only him can be held responsible for how this season will be viewed. 

We drew the test against England in Port Elizabeth against an injury depleted England side.  The one we face this weekend will be fresh and up to the task, while the Springboks are the injury depleted side.  A loss is most certainly on the cards, and a loss will define this year’s season as a failure.

Heyneke only needs to do one thing to give us supporters a ray of hope going into next year. Let the flyhalf be the general. Let him dictate the game according to his abilities. The abilities he demonstrated, for which he’s been selected. Do that, and the Springboks will be a better side all together; the forwards can do their jobs, the backline can do theirs, and the supporters can watch and enjoy the Springboks play.


35 responses to Springbok’s forward approach smothering the game?

  1. OK – did some research found this:

    He served his apprenticeship under Meyer at the Bulls and it seems that he was merely brought in to be a yes-man to his controlling mentor.

    Ricardo Loubscher, a former Bok winger and fullback (4 tests), who was coached by Meyer at the Bulls as a player, was then lured into coaching in Pretoria and learned the trade under Meyer and Bulls coach Frans Ludeke for seven years.

    Loubscher has been a backline coach to the Bulls junior teams, and was also the Bulls backline coach for the Vodacom Cup team.
    He has also assisted Meyer in coaching the Tuks Varsity Cup team, splitting his role between Tuks and the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup side.

    A leoperd can never change its spots – our backline is brainwashed and mentored, sorry ordered shall I say, by this HM disciple into Bulls style “stampkar” mentality.

  2. I played rugby up to varsity level only, never ever did I play a game where the ball deadstopped at the 1st centre – if this happened there would have been hell to play from the 2nd centre and wings – even in the games we lost – here we have professionals with many years experience managing this feat – what the hell is going on – why has de Villiers become a “stampkar” – it is obvious our boks are under very strict orders – who the hell is this guy Ricardo Loubscher – what are his credentials – what is his philosophy about the running game ????

    • You don’t remember Ricardo Loubscher? Used to be a quick centre/swing. But I haven’t heard from him since the nineties until he suddenly appeared as Heyneke’s backline coach….

  3. Theo, my teenage son plays rugby for a club in CT that encourages running rugby….You cant just blame the school rugby system without proper evidence and research. Perhaps schools in your community / ethnic group favour this kind of “stamp-kar” rugby. In my community we DEFINITELY dont! Juan de Jongh is good enough evidence of my assertion…

  4. Agree 150% – our forwards have big egos – remember the days when the pony with the blonde hair went regularly into the backline to be on TV – on candid camera you might say – yes our forwards want to be backs – and now you see our backs acting like forwards – crashing the ball and going to ground – no passing, no side stepping, no speed running, no offloading – no creating space for the next guy to slice through – the players have lost the plot – HM has no trust or confidence in himself and the players as athletes with intelligence – so they fall back on the physical since they fear to use their brain – the slugger feels content to slug it out against the boxer. The liberty given to the forwards to dictate the game has destroyed our rugby. This is a very serious situation – the crap and useless style has become a template – it is so sad – with HM the springboks as rugby players are doomed to individual sluggers – no cohesion, no team spirit.

  5. Great post Uysh! As supporters we always seems to blame the backline but heck! they don’t get enough ball! I’m just wondering how much handling errors/turnovers we can avoid by giving the back more ball. I would love to know at which stats HM look when analysing a game…

    • He counts how many times we kick and how many times they kick, then post match he tells the media, “they kicked more than us”….

  6. Excellent analysis, “stamp-kar rugby!”, with this we will go nowhere! We have only won one third of our games against the AB’s in the last 10 years, shows there is something wrong with our rugby! Get Hawies Fourie, from Cheetahs to coach the backline, change the game plan away from the predictable “high kick and low chase”, ( when the balls are kicked too deep anyway!) and attack more! Our problem lies with our school system, where things must be changed, have more sessions with super coaches and start playing the same rugby, with more emphasis on one on one skills! Theo Pieterse

    • I agree that it starts at grass roots level. bigfish above has a point though. I am well aware that Tag Rugby is taking off pretty well in the Western Cape, as it is in Australia and NEw Zealand and playing it, I am convinced that if our kids are exposed to this from a young age, before they start playing full contact rugby, they will adopt the skills necessary to run into space and create play.

      They wanted to introduce it to the local schools, mostly tradiotional model C schools, and they laughed it off, calling it “Fag” Rugby.

      Meantime, kids in the Western Cape are learning the skills for the game we want to see, while our coaches are, from school level, teaching the kids to “hardloop oor hom!” with the physical dominance foremost in mind.

      We also saw this exact pattern in our U/20 Springbok side, and as great as Jan Serfontein was made out to be, he was little more than a “bash it up” centre and looking back to their game and the Springboks game, it was clear to see that coaches at the top level still feel that THAT is the way to play the game today.

  7. Again nice post.



    • That calling of gold and green will only be at set pieces as doing it during general play will be very disruptive, especially with quick ball. I remember doing the same in my days but it was only ever at set pieces.

    • That may be true and that may well be what they said, but I just don’t feel its that simple, and when Nick and Victor blabber it out to the whole world, doesn’t it give away the plan to the opposition then?

  8. Brilliant post as always!!!
    A lot of commentators Naas included has said the biggest problem of SA rugby is that we tend to run the show from 9 and not 10.

    Thing is this worked well when FdP was 9 because he was the play maker. But now Ruan is 9 and he is not a play maker.

    Forwards should get the ball from Lambie not Pienaar. This will help our players immensely.

  9. Groenie

    Nice troll……I laughed really hard at your little suggestion that Morne should be picked at 10 again.

    Sheriffff – He is pulling your leg so just laugh at him and enjoy his sarcasm

  10. Groenie

    Nice troll……I laughed really hard at your little suggestion that Morne should be picked at 10 again.

    Sheriffff – He is pulling your leg so just laugh at him and enjoy his sarcasm ;-)

  11. Good post!

    But our backline isn’t impotent it’s wearing a condom. :)

  12. Fantastic post

    To be fair to any FH that plays in the Bok Green and Gold regardless if it’s Lambie, Goosen, MS or Elton. When you are receiving that little ball to work with and you are made to kick it. That does not leave a lot of ball to be creative with now does it. That being said the Lambie bashers can put there forks down and take a breath. Dan Carter will suck under situations like this

  13. “When Patrick Lambie runs out onto Twickenham on Saturday it will be only the sixth consecutive game he has played in the No 10 since being moved back to flyhalf by the Sharks, but it is the position he should specialise in moving forward.” – SuperSport

  14. Great post as usual.
    Makes for interesting reading when combined with the fact that of 24 kicks made only 14 are considered to have been effective (Louis Koen).
    So when the flyhalf does get the ball (35% in Scotland game) 42% is wasted.

    • And the effectiveness< I believe is impacted by 2 things. The accuracy of the kick and the accuracy of the chasers.In fact, a good chase can make a bad kick good, while no chace makes every kick bad.

  15. lol laimby is such a great creator of space with reagrards to the backline that he actually passed the ball more that Morne steyn… oh no wait he didnt. but i guess we should blame HM for that , as its also HM fault that Laimby cant kick further than 10m for touch. its Probably also HM fault that Laimby played FB under PDV and not flyhalf which is his best position, or is it FB im not sure any more…

    • Well, the point is not to compare Lambie to Steyn. The point is to point out the problem with the game plan, which is consistent regardless of the flyhalve used. If you want to comapre Lambie and Steyn, you should look at the other games Morne played flyhalf as well, not only the Dunedin test as shown here. For example, in the game against Ireland, Lambie only had the ball 16 times and passed 11 times (69%) but in Dunedin Morne had the ball 23 times and passed 15 times (65%). So you aren’t comparing like for like when saying Morne passes more than Lambie.

      Strange though that Lambie kicked more after the Ireland game. Instructions from the coach I believe.

    • And whos fault is it that you mentally incapable of thinking outside of that little blue box? huh Groenie? what should we bring morne back? or should we just play the whole fucken Bulls team for thew boks and change the jersey color to Blue? huh? or wait I have a good Idea let’s play all our home games at loftus and make a little blue flag with a fat Bull as the Boks emblem? will that make you happy?

      • getting a bit under your skin there hey sherry, the sooner you realise Laimby blows, the more relaxed youll be. but hey i blame it on heyneke. im sure heyneke told Laimby to kick a senseless up and under just outside scotslands 22 aftel telling the players they should keep the ball in hand in the “green” zone… im also quite sure Laimby was under instruction from Heyneke him self, to make sure he kick for touch no further than 10m…. or will we blame Heyneke for that too…or who should get the blame Louis Koen as Laimby did nothing wrong by himself it was the terrible bulls coaching staff hey.

  16. So if Hougaard was played as S/H and plays his natural game it would make the F/H the general and our backline would show their real potential?TOP POST

    • One would think… or would the instructions stay the same. I beleive Hougaard lost his magic because he was forced to play a Fourie du Preez type game. Problem is Hougie isn’t du Preez. His strengths and weaknesses are different to Pienaar and du Preez. No matter what it will always come down to the instructions given for game play

  17. Top Post! really a top post! I wonder if the Springbok coaches know about the stats above

  18. Send the analysis to HM, I agree you have hit the nail on the head… or got the bull by the horns?