So the question on everyone’s lips at the moment, I guess, is bound to be “have the Boks turned the corner?”, after a gutsy win against England that was as impressive as it was convincing. The “fire Peter de Villiers” brigade got exactly what they didn’t want this weekend, with a tour return of 3 from 4 seemingly enough to guarantee the Bok coach his tenure until the 2011 World Cup.
SARU President Regan Hoskins seemed to confirm as much after the England victory, suggesting that despite the typical “post tour review” session, no drastic activities (read firing the coaching staff) are on the table. To be honest, if they didn’t see fit to get rid of de Villiers after a Tri-Nations campaign that returned only a single win from six starts, it’s highly unlikely that winning three on the road – with a weakened team to boot – would provide the necessary ammunition.
“That’s not the point,” we all scream in unison… “The Boks lost to SCOTLAND, for goodness sake! And played the most uninspiring brand of crap rugby we’ve seen since Straeuli!” Those please, it would appear, are falling on deaf ears and the Bok camp are claiming the morale-boosting win against England as an important marker ahead of the World Cup.
I, for one, don’t buy it. Sure, the Boks forwards were superb against England and I’ll take my hat off to Os du Randt and Gary Gold for finally extracting a complete performance out of a pack that, on paper at least, surely must be the best in the world, even with Deon Stegmann along for the ride. Questions MUST be asked, though, about the inconsistency, not only on this tour, but all year too. That is by-the-by, though, for even the most one-eyed of Bok supporters will need to admit that the back line, once again, dished up the sort of fare that would have any halfway-decent school first team coach tearing his hair out in frustration. For a team boasting close on 70% possession to be completely unable to fashion any sort of scoring opportunity is frankly inexcusable and those who will use this performance as justification for feeling Bok rugby has “turned some sort of corner” are deluding themselves.
Don’t get me wrong – the Boks won and won well, but the opposition hardly pitched for the game and apart from a superb performance from the pack, there really wasn’t a huge amount to write home about. The Boks – particularly amongst the backs – do not look as though they’re actually being coached to DO anything, which is broadly in line with Dick Muir’s historical approach and while this shortcoming was not enough to prevent a victory against a horribly under-par England side, we are certainly not going to win too many games against the All Blacks or the Wallabies with our backs playing the way they did on Saturday.
Therein lies the catch 22. It is too late to expect anyone to meaningfully fix this situation and even if de Villiers were to be given the old heave-ho, there are no obvious candidates lined up to replace him – willing to take on the job with all its well-known provisos, gotchas and pitfalls. SARU’s proposed response, which (if rumour is to be believed) is to introduce yet more failed coaches into the mix, adding an “advisory committee” of former Bok mentors, none of whom has been any more successful than de Villiers himself when asked to coach at the highest level, is clearly the most wrong strategy they could possibly adopt. In a team that is crying out for clear leadership and direction from a single person – one prepared to dictate the style of play and live or die by that decision – adding yet more voices to the clamour cannot achieve anything other than more confusion.Tweet