Rugby365 columnist Steve Farrell analyses the ‘new’ game-plan that Springbok coach Peter de Villiers keeps talking about.
The Springboks got their tour off to the desired start against Wales, albeit in nerve-racking style, but it’s the type of game that they intend on playing that has me confused.
The 20-15 win was by no means spectacular. In fact, the Boks sat back in the second half and did most of the defending. A Jean de Villiers trademark intercept was the saving grace for the visitors in the end.
Bok coach Peter de Villiers has insisted that he wants his team to play attacking rugby, but what exactly constitutes attacking rugby? Is it running the ball willy-nilly from your own 22? Or is it a mixture of intelligent play and off-the-cuff flair? I’m not so sure De Villiers knows either.
The Boks’ game-plan on the weekend was the correct one. Ruan Pienaar kept his pack going forward with some good tactical kicking, and there was no suicidal stuff to speak of.
To win Test matches on a regular basis, a prudent approach is needed. Generally speaking, South African rugby players are fairly conservative, compared to the likes of the All Blacks. But this must not be seen as a disadvantage. Quite the opposite in fact. Yes, running the ball from behind your poles might be good to watch, but it won’t get you very far… just ask Earl Rose!
It seems to me that the senior players in the Bok squad want to continue with the Jake White legacy, and seem reluctant to change to a more attacking style of play. You can’t really blame them, can you?
They have a World Cup winners medal on their mantelpiece. Os du Randt has two.
Richie McCaw has never played in a World Cup Final. You do the maths. The Boks thrive on turnover ball and back their defence to win them games. There is nothing wrong with that as far as I’m concerned. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?
The Boks are blessed with some truly unbelievable rugby players. Players that can turn a match with a moment of brilliance in an instance. That is instinct, it cannot be coached into a player when he is 25, 26 years of age. Yes, they can improve, but forcing a player to do something that he isn’t comfortable with is not the solution. The Boks need to stick with what has worked for them over a number of years. Defensive systems are so good nowadays, you cannot afford to just run it without building a platform. You need to mix and match your play.
There is no doubt at all that South Africa has the necessary personnel to play attacking rugby, but it requires a paradigm shift more than anything else. In this country, players are crucified for having a bad game. One mistake and everyone is on their case. It’s no wonder they are scared to try something new in a Test match. If the public want to see running rugby, they must understand that players will make errors, it’s the nature of the sport. High risk equals high reward, but it can also lead to disaster.
Personally I prefer a measured approach. Winning a Test match is what matters most.
Yes, you need to score tries to win, but tries will come with a sound platform to work off and breaking down the opposition defence phase by phase. In the Tri-Nations the Boks seemed impatient and looked as if they wanted to score off first phase every time. That doesn’t happen often in modern day rugby. The Boks will lose more than they win against quality opposition if they fail to implement the necessary structures.
Peter de Villiers needs to be complimented on the selection of Ruan Pienaar at No.10. The former scrumhalf can kick off both feet – he showed us that in Cardiff, he can run, he can tackle, and he can pass. He has the potential to be a great flyhalf and boy, do the Boks need a great flyhalf! With Butch James seemingly nearing the end of his career, Pienaar has the opportunity to cement his place in the side – something he has failed to do over the last few years. He needs time though. Eighty minutes on Saturday was enough to show that he can make it at No.10, but it’s not going to happen overnight.
The good news is that Sharks coach John Plumtree has said that Pienaar with play flyhalf for the Currie Cup champions next year, which is a step in the right direction.
Looking ahead to the Scotland game, I can’t see them posing much of a problem for the Boks. They were very average against the All Blacks and I’d except the Boks to have an easier time of things than they did against Wales.
I risk sounding like a broken record, but I’d like to see Ryan Kankowski start on Saturday. Pierre Spies failed to impress once again and was hauled off after 50 minutes. Kankowski didn’t do much when on the park, but South Africa spent most of that time defending. He needs a good run at No.8 to prove his worth and I reckon Scotland would be the ideal platform for the Sharks No.8 to show what he can do.
Otherwise I’d keep the rest of the team as is. I was very impressed with JP Pietersen’s work-rate on Saturday. His defence was superb and he looked for work. He really has turned over a new leaf since being dropped for being ‘too fat’.
On the other hand, I’m concerned about Bryan Habana. He just doesn’t seem to be the player he was last year. Whether he’s lost a touch of pace remains to be seen, but he was anonymous on the weekend. he made one great turnover but was a non-entity on attack. South Africa desperately needs him back to his best. Lets hope it starts at Murrayfield – a place where he burst onto the international scene with two scorching tries.Tweet