There’s been a lot of talk (maybe too much talk) about Peter de Villiers’ magical new game-plan for the Boks. One thing is abundantly clear to me; if you don’t lay the right platform, you’re not going to succeed at anything.
Now, this is not exactly rocket science. It’s something that seems to have occurred to most of us over the last few weeks, but I thought I’d try and put some structure around the thoughts that I had. I’ve chatted to my good pal MorneN about this and I saw KSA post a comment just this morning indicating that he’s thinking along the same lines.
The Boks’ problem right now is that the tight five is not doing the necessary groundwork.
Without the tight five laying the platform, all 8 forwards are effectively taken out of the game, leaving the backs to try and play a high-risk, run-at-all-costs game against a full complement of 15 defenders. It’s as simple as that. Get the right tight five in place, get them playing a tight game and doing their basic job FIRST and the transformation in the Boks’ play will be amazing to behold.
Looking at the guys we picked on Saturday. Every single member of the pack is a ball-player. The balance is completely wrong. De Villiers has made the fatal mistake of believing he needs to pick talented players who can make stuff happen with ball in hand in every single position. This, unfortunately, is completely wrong, because the first, second and third priorities of a tight five player should be to secure the ball. Once they have that under control, they can be fancy with ball in hand if the situation allows it.
Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira are both the sort of players that are useful in either situation. Beast’s game at the moment is far too lose and one can only assume he is following the example set by the rest of the tight forwards in this regard. Bismarck is an absolute dervish at the breakdown point, but needs to work on his lineouts, currently a glaring weakness in his game. CJ van der Linde has always been far too loose a player to be a really good tighthead. His discipline problems continue, though, leaving de Villiers needing to scratch his head for a last-minute replacement. Mujati isn’t currently good enough at scrum-time, which means that any other discussions are moot. You can’t pick a prop who can’t scrum, finish and klaar.
To me, though, the biggest problem is in the second row. You need a pair of locks hitting every breakdown in order to ensure quality ball. A big, fast guy hitting the ruck at pace does wonders in terms of shifting momentum your way and the Boks right now are carrying two second-rowers who are shirking in the tight. Victor Matfield and Andries Bekker, I’m told, are in the side primarily for their lineout skills and as ball-playing options. But we aren’t winning any lineout ball and we have enough ballplayers in the backline, thus we don’t need them.
If anything, one can afford to carry one “looser” tight forward in the pack, with perhaps one or two others on the bench. With this philosophy in mind, I would be very tempted to suggest the following combination for the Boks, in order to maximise the chances of the all-attack strategy succeeding.
1. Heinke van der Merwe
2. John Smit
3. Jannie du Plessis
4. Danie Rossouw
5. Johann Muller
16. Bismarck du Plessis
17. Beast Mtawarira
18. Victor Matfield
Jannie is only in at 3 because BJ Botha is (presumably) not available. De Villiers should take that combination on the end of year tour and let them concentrate on winning him the ball he needs to make his loose forwards and backs look really, really good.Tweet