So, in the latest in a long line of South African coaches that just seemingly cannot get it right with the fans or the media, we now have one Peter de Villiers who claims he wants to play magical French-style attacking rugby.
Now first and foremost, “attacking rugby” is not a strategy nor is it a playing style. It’s one of those terms that won’t be out of place in a the rugby equivalent of “manager speak”. It means nothing, nada, fokol.
Every rugby player wants to play attacking rugby. That’s the point. That’s how you win, by scoring points.
In the light of the above we now move onto Peter de Villiers and his latest team selection. Please tell me, oh moustachioed one, how the inclusion of Danie Roussouw and Bolla Conradie fit this new “attacking rugby”?
Surely if you wanted to play this mystical style then you’d have included probably the two most attacking players in SA rugby currently, if not in the world?
Yip, that’s right sports fans, I’m referring to Mssrs. Steyn and Kankowski.
Be that as it may, we could spend all day ripping this side into unimaginably small pieces given the time and required attention to detail. Rather than follow in the footsteps of such marvellous scribes such as Mssrs. Rich and Keohane, I’d rather concentrate on the more important problem I see – no plan. Fokol plan nie ou. No combinations, not even a recognised kicker on the field although he has mysteriously included 3 on the bench.
The part that makes my head go slightly foggy is that I’m unable to make sense of such a large volume of the selections and fail to see how a team as changed as this one could possibly fire first time.
I can’t help shaking the feeling that Piet Snor, as he has affectionately been dubbed, has tried too much too soon.
With 5 starters from the side that was the best in the world 8 short months ago to the fact that he has not kept one combination and you start to think that de Villiers could take a leaf out of the Warren Gatland coaching manual.
When he took over the Welsh coaching duties, instead of starting from fresh with a totally new side (which they certainly needed after their World Cup nightmare), Gatland played 13 players from the Ospreys, in effect the only Welsh club that was firing at the time.
The important thing here was continuity, continuity, continuity. And it worked. Wales went on to win the Grand Slam and Six Nations and Gatland has started building and moulding his side for the future.
What Gatland did was get a win or two under his belt first using players that knew each other and then started tinkering with the side.
Now I ask you with tears in my eyes why Piet Snor didn’t go down the same route, if at least partially.
Why not start with the majority of a tried and tested team, essentially the same team that won the most coveted trophy in World Rugby and propelled South Africa to the number one rating in test rugby, an accolade not to be taken lightly considering New Zealand’s domination of the rankings since the turn of the century.
Nope, not our Peter de Villiers. He sees himself as an inventor and has set about trying to invent a round thing to be used in the transport industry.
Now I’m not saying it’s a poor side, not by a long shot. It’s actually quite a strong side but with the depth available in SA at the moment that is surely not saying much. You could pretty much field two or three such sides and have the same comment about all of them – yip they’re good but they’re definitely not the best or even a balanced side.
It’s unbalanced in that none of the combinations have played together before. It’s unbalanced in that we no longer have a pure fetcher in the side as Luke Watson has been carrying the ball much more this season and is playing very much mroe like a number 8 than as an opensider. And then we have the lack of kicker which will either mean forced changes if necessary or it’ll mena removing one of the backs to make way for a kicker at a possibly inopportune time unless the Boks can magically start speaking and acting French before Saturday and can survive on tries alone.
It just boggles the mind that after this much preparation time, that this is what Peter has come up with. A very unbalanced side that took very little cognisance of Super14 form, something stressed by de Villiers when he got the job. In the lead-up to the team selection announcement it was almost as if Piet was taking pleasure out of the fact that he’d have some bolters in his side. That’s probably not the wisest thing to do in South Africa…
On the subject of picking the Bok side on Super!4 form, what happened to the ranking system that was promised us? Or did you realise how much work that entailed Piet and decided you’d rather just wing it every time you had the opportunity to express your opinion to the media?
And that brings us swiftly onto what I call “The Piet Snor contradiction section”. I do fear, similar to his predecessor, that this might well turn into a weekly column where we assess his statements against his delivery. And then lambaste and laugh at him.
Now let me make this clear, after Jake White I really couldn’t care what a coach says in public if he delivers on the field.
If he wants to speculate on the origins of the haka or wants to get the players dancing in gumboots or collecting litter next to the highway it really is not of concern to me.
However, a few howlers just couldn’t escape my eagle eye and deserve special mention simply because they are too blatant to ignore.
One such howler is Piet’s notion that somehow he is building for the future and will be giving a few younger players game time. Fair enough I said at the time even if I didn’t believe it.
Then explain to me, dear Piet, the exclusion of the two brightest young stars in SA for Saturdays game Piet. Explain the exclusion of Kankowski and Steyn. Furthermore explain the inclusion of Percy above Steyn and two other players who aren’t getting any younger, Mssrs. Jacobs and Conradie.
I just don’t get it.
I don’t get the new “style”, I don’t get the team selection and above all I don’t get de Villiers’ appetite for risk, which he must have in abundance if he’s willing to chance losing to Wales in South Africa for the first time ever and losing his first game as coach. Surely he knows the Afrikaans press, and all the other media for that matter, are going to crucify him if this side doesn’t perform in their first game? Surely he realises the weight of expectation that there is with us being the champions fo the world? Surely he knows we face NZ and OZ a couple times this year and need to get prepared for that?
Surely he has seen how every man and his dog laid into Jake White week in and week out when they didn’t agree with him?
As world champions I expect more focus and attention from the coaching staff. I expect standards to be maintained and I expect the powers-that-be to keep up the intensity. I don’t expect a coach to drop 66% of the side to make way for less talented and less experienced players. If you want to experiment then do it when the under-strength Italians are here. Fill your whole team with guys for the future if you have to. But don’t go and give the Six Nations champions a sniff of their first victory on our hallowed turf.
Oh, and just one more thing Piet… did you watch last year’s world cup? Where do you see this supposed extra 40% of performance coming from? Or is this just a practice run to take Eddie Jones’ mantle as the clown coach of world rugby who’ll give anybody a silly soundbite?
Even more puzzling is how the Boks are going to get the extra 40% when most of them are no longer even being selected.
Piet, SA Rugby can be a lonely place when you try and go it alone. One loss and your head’ll be on the block. For your future career I hope the Welsh run the Boks very, very close and bring you down to earth. The alternative is a snotting when you come up against a truly world-class side with these half-baked ideas of yours. Then you’ll be out of a job faster than you can say “world champions to world chumps”.
I have no doubt we’ll win on Saturday. But that’s down to the quality of players we have, the depth of players and that little thing called home ground advantage.
New Zealand won’t be so forgiving.
I wish Piet all the best and for his sake and my sanity I hope this is somehow part of the Springbok Master plan to dominate the world. Forever. And ever. Amen.Tweet