Run-at-all-costs has been tried before

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :In the news, Springboks on 21 Aug 2008 at 09:22
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Peter de Villiers’s ambition of the Springboks winning Test matches by scoring tries rather than by penalty goals is admirable, and I hope he gets it right.

Mike Greenaway reports for IOL.

In the post-isolation era, a number of Springbok coaches have tried to reinvent the Boks into an all-singing, all-dancing troupe of entertainers, only to find that romanticism comes second to pragmatism.

Carel du Plessis lost a series to the Lions because of a pie-in-the-sky game plan that the players did not believe in.

After a heavy defeat by New Zealand in 1997, Sean Fitzpatrick said: “I don’t understand why the Boks don’t play to their strengths. There is a typically Springbok style that we hate contending with.”

Towards the end of his reign, Nick Mallett fell in love with the Brumbies’ irresistible pattern.

Few who were there in Sydney in 2000 will forget the Bok forwards endlessly recycling the ball a la the Brumbies, yet making little ground because they did not have the backs to perform the angled attacks of the Australians. The Test was lost by 20 points.

When the Boks came home, they reverted to type and beat the All Blacks at Ellis Park and, a week later, were unlucky to lose by a point to the Wallabies in Durban.

Harry Viljoen was another who was enamoured with the Aussies. He appointed their former backline coach, Tim Lane, and in his first Test he told the team to refrain from kicking in an attempt to change the mindset of the players.

By Viljoen’s final Test of consequence, England at Twickenham in November 2001, he had picked one of the most uninspiring backlines, including the axis of Louis Koen and Braam van Straaten, as he desperately sought a win based on practicality. The Boks lost heavily and Viljoen resigned in despair after the closing tour match in Houston.

Jake White is the one coach who has never had any grandiose ideas about how the Springboks should play and at the Rugby World Cup, they were a model of low-risk rugby. It is worth noting that White’s chief adviser in France was the former Brumbies general, Eddie Jones, who saw no cause to interfere with what worked best for the Springbok mindset.

But many who watched how the World Cup was won felt that the Boks were underutilising the unusually skillful players at their disposal and could kick on in 2008 with a more enterprising style of play.

Peter de Villiers and Dick Muir were among them.

Yet the Boks have lost three out of four Tri-Nations games and scored just three tries.

Interestingly, the Tri-Nations leaders, the All Blacks, have kicked much more than the other two teams. The Springboks have kicked the least and are last.

Last week, against the All Blacks, the Boks had more line breaks against their old rivals for many a day, yet the patient Kiwis spent much of the game watching frantic Bok attacks self-destruct before their eyes.

What cost the Boks was their poor decision-making and handling once the initial break had been made. The bottom line is that they lost 19-0.

Again, I wish De Villiers luck with his style of play and if the Boks get it right, it they will be a pleasure to watch.

But in Test match rugby, there is a tradition of glamorous game plans eventually devolving into what has worked for 100 years – you play in the opposition half, you keep risks to a minimum, and you maintain pressure on the opposition until they yield points. Then you start again.


  • A much better thread than it first appear to be. Mindset!!!

    What irks me is that we always have to follow!! If we can change our mindsets we will find that it is possible to LEAD sometimes. A set and stick with it pattern at all cost are bound to fail at some point. Whereas I cannot see any pattern in rugby as earthshattering new. Since I played the game ( eons ago 😀 ) it has involved kicking, running, angled running, forward powerplay and so forth. It is the ability to find the weakness in your opponents type of play and adjusting accordingly that would make it seem that you have invented a new style of play.

    Am I making sense? Observe, adjust, THINK, commit, keep disspline…

  • Comment 1, posted at 21.08.08 09:50:38 by Silver Fox Reply
    Silver Fox
  • Mike G is a very good journalist

  • Comment 2, posted at 21.08.08 10:09:30 by robdylan Reply
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  • I have just watched the first 30 minutes from Saturdays game and so far it seems that our players were there own worst enemies, particularly in the first 10 minutes.

    I can see the changes PDV is trying to bring in and it seems the players are trying so hard to make it work that they are making mistakes with the basics.

    They need somebody on the field just to calm them down, because once they start getting it right it will make for very entertaining rugby.

  • Comment 3, posted at 21.08.08 10:20:19 by Ollie Reply

  • @Ollie (Comment 3) : I’ve also had some interesting insights. The Kiwi guys I play rugby with reckon they were shitting themselves at half time…

  • Comment 4, posted at 21.08.08 10:29:28 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 4) : Only because Carter missed a couple of kicks by that stage….

  • Comment 5, posted at 21.08.08 10:31:37 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • @Silver Fox (Comment 5) : yeah, but we had far more scoring opporutnities in the half than they did…

  • Comment 6, posted at 21.08.08 10:42:49 by robdylan Reply
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  • The doomsdayers I think are going a bit overboard. I look forward to the Aus test, especially if it is dry, as it has all the makings for a good spectator game…. if the Boks hold onto the ball that is.

  • Comment 7, posted at 21.08.08 11:04:30 by Ollie Reply

  • @Ollie (Comment 7) : we won’t be as woeful again, I’m sure

  • Comment 8, posted at 21.08.08 11:26:50 by robdylan Reply
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  • When will JS return as captain?

  • Comment 9, posted at 21.08.08 12:40:18 by Kal-El Reply

  • @Kal-El (Comment 9) : end of year tour

  • Comment 10, posted at 21.08.08 13:08:28 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 8) : I am okay with a loss ( though it always hurt ) as long as you can see that everyone are really trying their utmost.

  • Comment 11, posted at 21.08.08 16:52:29 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox

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