Our resident brain-on-a-stick Morne pointed out a little while ago that Peter de Villiers may be erring by not stamping his own authority on the Boks. I maintain that the recent disastrous tour is a pretty compelling indication that the majority of senior Springbok players are wallowing in a sea of complacency caused by virtually guaranteed selection.
If we look at the Bok team today, there has been remarkably little attrition, with virtually the entire side unchanged from the combination that won the World Cup under Jake White in 2007. While de Villiers has, in hindsight, probably done well to retain the core of this squad, together with the comfortable conservative gameplan in which they are all so well versed, the 2009 season surely has to be a watershed one, after which a new approach must be tried with a view to 2011. A new approach and, dare I say, a whole new bunch of players too?
Watching the Irish test with my mate Agent Orange, the consensus we came to was that the Bok simply didn’t want to win it as badly as the Irish did. The same appalling laissez-faire attitude was evident against the Italians and the French as well, with the former fortunately not quite good enough to manage to win. The French had no such issue. I wonder whether the cosy “old boys club” or “closed shop” mentality of the current Bok squad hasn’t led directly to this situation, where the senior players have no real incentive to raise their game, since they know they can’t be dropped.
Here’s a question. When last was a senior Springbok dropped? I mean one of the 40-test veterans that were the backbone of Jake’s side? Guys have missed out on tests through injury and a number have been cast aside because they’ve decided to move overseas. I cannot, over the course of two seasons, remember a single one of these guys actually being dropped as a result of poor form.
This leads to two problems, of course – and complacency on the part of the veterans is probably not the worst of them. Far more serious is the sense of futility that will gradually creep into the minds of the next tier, leading them either to seek foreign paydays themselves, or to simply give up and become complacent themselves. Guys like Danie Rossouw, Wynand Olivier and Ryan Kankowski seem to fall very much into the latter bucket too – far from pushing the incumbents hard, they seem content to cash their cheques and pick up whatever scraps of gametime they are afforded. A far cry from the sheer passion shown by outsiders like Hein Brussow or Jean Deysel, when finally afforded an opportunity to play.
So what do we do? Right now, the whole thing is a mess, with a core of complacent, dare I say lazy, players who we can’t drop for fear of losing even more games. We have a bunch of “second stringers” who are, if anything, worse than the incumbents and then we have “the rest” – and when it comes to the latter group, we seem to have no real idea where anyone stands in any sort of pecking order, as was evident from the selection of the Bok midweek team. My somewhat radical solution here is to, quite simply, DROP EVERYONE and make every single player play for national colours in the 2010 Super 14. Every fit man who pulls on the jersey in that competition is eligible and at the end of it, we pick our first Bok team of the year on current form alone.
If the Smits, Matfields, Bothas, du Preezs and Steyns are really that good, then they’ll be there anyway, not so? But perhaps, just perhaps, the process of needing to actually play for their positions might just focus their minds a little more on how truly prviliged they are to wear such a distinguished jersey. They’ll certainly do it with more pride as well.
Just a thought…Tweet