The funny thing about Saturday’s loss to the Aussies? The most overwhelming feeling I had was neither one of disappointment, nor of outrage; it was one of deja vu.
South Africa has only won the Tr-Nations twice since its inception, once in 1998 under Nick Mallet and again in 2004 under Jake White. The World Cup win notwithstanding, even White delivered some incredibly mediocre results over the course of his four years in charge, none more so than the 49-0 whitewash we suffered in Perth in 2006. The thing we need to bear in mind here is that no South African coach can claim to have enjoyed regular and on-going success in this competition and that even the ones we hold up as great, the Malletts and Whites, failed more often then they succeeded in the Tri-Nations. It is New Zealand’s competition and only a fool would say otherwise, given the fact that they have won it 9 years out of 12.
The Boks were atrocious on Saturday, of that there is no doubt, but it really gets my back up when I hear the kind of dumb vitriol that is all over the airwaves at the moment: “Worst performance ever”, “Boks in crisis”, “The coach is out of his depth”. The Boks ARE kak now, but they are by no means worse than they have been on any number of occasions in the recent past and have bounced back on every occasion.
Andre Markgraaff lost a series at home to New Zealand in 1996 – the first time that had ever happened to the Boks. The team weren’t behind him, that much was clear, as they all expected him to be an exact clone of their beloved Kitch Christie. Markgraaf persevered and delivered a Bok team that played some truly superb rugby on the end-of-year tour, including two wins over a strong French team. Carel du Plessis got stuffed by every man and his dog in the 97 Tri-Nations, until the team finally caught on. Anyone remember us putting 60 points past the Aussies in the Boks best all-round display against Antipodean opposition in a decade? Of course, we mustn’t forget either that Jake White’s 49-0 nadir came not quite 18 months before the famous victory in Paris last October.
The point here is that there IS no point in clamouring for de Villiers’ head at this stage. Being Bok coach is generally considered the most difficult job in world rugby and let’s face it, they all struggle at first. The typical South African player seems to have a very strong mentality of inertia – call it resistance to change, if you will. Given the time and support that he needs (and the buy-in of his senior players) de Villiers will turn the Boks around. If anything, history must surely have taught us that lesson.
I for one am really looking forward to seeing the Boks playing with the speed and skill that de Villiers envisions, play we last saw on the cusp of the du Plessis-Mallett era. I’ll take that any day over the boring Bulls one-trick-ponyism we would now be seeing had Heyneke Meyer been elected coach. I mean, honestly, when did Robbie Deans ever struggle to counter the oh-so-predictable “Game Plan” that was Meyer’s stock in trade?Tweet