Which came first – the chicken or the egg? What to order on the plane – beef or chicken? How to coach the national side – pick players that can play the style you want to play, or play the style that best suits the players available to you?
Just some of the questions Peter de Villiers has had to answer in his life, with most answers recently having to focus on the way his side is playing. Or rather not playing!
JJ Harmse writes on News 24 that De Villiers is between a rock and a hard place at the moment. He inherited a star-studded side that entered the World Cup final as the most capped Springbok side of all time. The starting fifteen had no less than 668 caps between them.
Injuries, retirements and personal selection meant De Villiers’s first selection, against Wales, took to the field with only 318 caps between them! No matter how you look at it, that is one hell of a difference.
True, that stats looked a bit better once Percy Montgomery and Victor Matfield were brought into the starting line-up, but the fact remains that it would never be the same side that took the field in Paris on that memorable day.
So what were De Villiers options? He picked a few form players from Super 14, a significant number of players of colour, and most of the available stalwarts from the World Cup team.
Nothing wrong there. He should have picked more fetchers, with the likes of Cobus Grobbelaar and Heinrich Brüssow inexplicably left out, but overall his side seemed to have the right mix.
They started well too, although the rollover of the Welsh in Bloemfontein was a huge letdown. The visitors did much better in Pretoria a week later, but ran into a red-hot Jean de Villiers.
Italy was a washout, but the inability of the Springboks to play constructive rugby in wet conditions was there for all to see.
The Tri-Nations provided the final analysis. Although the Boks held their cool and – to quote the national coach – “Lady Luck certainly did not ignore us in Dunedin” – we lacked the final touches in Wellington, Perth and then again in Cape Town and Durban.
The lack of finishing proved a killer, the inability to dominate the collisions cost us the Tri-Nations.
How much of that is the fault of the coach and his staff and how much is to be blamed on the players?
Public is right
Popular opinion seems to blame De Villiers and he is now really in the hot seat. De Villiers has always maintained that he has the stomach for this type of pressure, but he will now be judged.
The fact of the matter is that the public is right to demand answers from De Villiers.
Harvard Business School (HBS) recently published a study on Black and Decker, the tool company. They were losing customers to a cheaper and better product from the Far East and asked HBS to help with some market research. They found that Black and Decker had a big decision to make – keep delivering what they offered at the time, or shift their focus to produce what the public wanted. And if they could not give the public what they wanted, they would have to suffer the consequence and lose market share.
It is pretty much the same with De Villiers. He can change the way he wants to play and commit more players to rucks and collision points. Or he can change the squad he has picked by bringing in whoever he believes will help the team finish off the scoring opportunities, be it Earl Rose at flyhalf or Luke Watson at eight.
The fact of the matter is that he needs to win Test matches. The reaction of the crowd in Durban was a true reflection of how they were feeling. And they were right – after all, they were the ones paying the R425+ for the Test match ticket. Not to mention the replica jerseys, plane tickets and hotel accommodation.
How De Villiers will return to winning ways will be up to him. My team will never play, just as my preferred choice of coach did not make the final cut. But that is not what matters. All that matters is for the Springboks to return to the winning trail. That is what the public expect and that is what they deserve.
A good win on Saturday, no, just a win on Saturday, will again lift the spirits of the South African rugby supporter. Rugby is an emotional business and the Springbok has a proud, proud tradition when it comes to winning test matches.
Losing again on Saturday will cost De Villiers huge market share amongst the rugby shareholders. But then, I am sure he would not need Harvard Business School for that analysis. The Jo’burg locals will make that apparent in no uncertain terms.Tweet