What are we building towards?

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 20 Oct 2009 at 10:42

It is not often that I listen to Freestaters but this one made quite an interesting point.

The statement he made raised one question for me; “What are we building towards?”

The Boks enjoyed a brilliant 2009 season, one that will go down as one of the best ever in Springbok history, through that many players that were part of this season, and the build-up to it which started in 2004, will in future be remembered as legends of Springbok rugby.

Unfortunately in rugby, as in life, things evolve and change, and if you do not adapt and change with the times, you are often left behind.

Rugby worldwide basically runs on a 4-years cycle, from World Cup to World Cup. Whether we like it or not this is the reality. After most World Cup campaigns the World Champions at the time went through a transition period following their success as most players either retired or moved on and signed lucrative contracts with clubs.

South Africa was lucky in the sense that we were in another cycle, that of the British and Irish Lions which we only see every 12 years, and for most players, something that only comes around once in a career. That meant that South Africa and Peter de Villiers were able to hang onto most of the guys that won the World Cup in 2007 by dangling the golden carrot of winning a series against the Lions in 2009.

As it worked out, the Boks not only achieved that but also managed to record wins in New Zealand twice in two years (something that eluded most Springbok players in the past) and also won the Tri-Nations, South Africa’s third only time they achieved this.

Now as we close out 2009 with a European tour coming up, the only thing left for players is one thing no other team in the world has achieved, retaining the World Cup which comes around again in 2011.

The question on most people’s minds however is whether the heroes of 2007, and 2009 will be around in 2011 to achieve this?

Some of our stalwarts in Victor, John and others would be in their 30’s, with their bodies taking a battering for a good part of 6 years on the international circuit and by the time the next World Cup comes around, it would be 8 years – a tough ask in anyone’s books.

So what are we building towards? Retaining the World Cup in 2011?

If so, are we going about it in the right way?

Will John, Victor, Bakkies, Juan, Jean, Habana and some other guys’ bodies hold out till 2011? Can we be assured they will be conditioned well enough to compete against the world’s best just under 2 years out from now given the battering their bodies have taken, and are still to take leading up to the event?

And how are they going to survive mentally for another 2 years for a bunch of guys that has basically achieved everything the world of rugby had to offer?

The recent semi-finals of the Currie Cup clearly indicated that most of our top Boks, following one hell of a year in 2009, seem jaded, faded or just plain tired, both physically and mentally. Even in the press conference following the Blue Bulls memorable semi-final victory at Newlands Victor Matfield looked like a ghost whose mind was everywhere except in that press conference.

Now if a guy like him seemed mentally tired to even fulfil his duties as player and captain to keep focus in a media conference, how difficult will it be for him to maintain focus and the desire required to hold out until 2011 given the crazy schedules these guys are exposed to every season?

If the focus of the Bok management now shifts to the World Cup in 2011 which by all accounts it probably will, it might just be time for Peter de Villiers and his team to start making the tough calls.

Do we risk sticking to the guys that has done so much for Bok rugby in the last 6 years but run the risk of complete player burn-out in 2011, or do we gamble and introduce young blood two years out from the event to ensure we have a core base of players with enough experience, and hunger and desire to go and compete against the world’s best, and succeed?

Questions have continually been raised on the performance of guys like John Smit and his move to tighthead prop. Recent performances in the Currie Cup semi also did his reputation no good – and although it needs to be judged in perspective and the fact that John has had one hell of a season behind him, people will always only look at how he performs on the park.

Same goes for Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha who for the first time this year, looked like mere mortals against a very young and very inexperienced Western Province side.

Last weekend might just have served as a warning of the risk Peter will take if he does decide to stick with these guys.

Rugby unfortunately forces you to make the tough calls if you want to stay ahead of the pack. Rugby is not won on sentiment. Sentiment saw the Boks get klapped 19-0 at Newlands last year thanks to the sentiment surrounding Monty’s 100th cap, and sentiment for Bakkies Botha saw the Boks get klapped in the 3rd test against the Lions at Ellis Park.

So do we make the tough calls and tell John, our most successful Bok captain in history thanks for everything you have done, but it is time to step aside now?

Honestly, I do not know, which is why I am glad I am not the one who has to think about, and make these decisions.


  • Sjoe – a lot to think about

    I ditto that…glad I dont have to come up with the answers and decisions..

  • Comment 1, posted at 20.10.09 11:07:31 by GI Ice (Now its WAR!) Reply
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  • there is still some time.
    when you look at 2007 : jp, frans steyn, pierre spies and pienaar only made their bok debut in 2006, which is only a year before.
    wikus was find of 2007. i think butch was recalled to a squad in 2006 after a long absence.

    I must be honest having so many older players for 2011 it smells of England 2007. they came close though.

  • Comment 2, posted at 20.10.09 11:12:36 by rekinek (retreat -ing) Reply
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  • @rekinek (retreat -ing) (Comment 2) :

    We sure do not have a lack of talent in the younger guys…they just need to do it in time and at the right point..difficult task nonetheless..

  • Comment 3, posted at 20.10.09 11:21:48 by GI Ice (Now its WAR!) Reply
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  • I think the senior players like Smittie and Vic and Bakkies need to be there if we are to be succesful in the Kiwis backyard, so a little management might be in order, ie There is no need for Vic and Bakkies to tour end of year etc – lets take the next generation + one or two and to hell with results this is about snaffling the RWC in our rivals backyard

  • Comment 4, posted at 20.10.09 11:35:02 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 4) :

    But that’s not PDivvie’s vision..its about taking the best (and I suppose wins on his CV)..

  • Comment 5, posted at 20.10.09 11:39:45 by GI Ice (Now its WAR!) Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 4) :

    Would it help if they are just there in a “mental coaching” position for the younger guys?

  • Comment 6, posted at 20.10.09 11:40:51 by GI Ice (Now its WAR!) Reply
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  • @GI Ice (Now its WAR!) (Comment 5) : i have a conspiracy theory – maybe Divvy wants the senior players to get tired and start playing badly so that he could drop them and play running rugby 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Comment 7, posted at 20.10.09 11:44:42 by rekinek (retreat -ing) Reply
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  • @rekinek (retreat -ing) (Comment 7) :

    HA!! Now that you say that… :mrgreen:

    Just now we start a horrible rumour ….or could there be some truth in that?? 😈 😆

  • Comment 8, posted at 20.10.09 12:11:08 by GI Ice (Now its WAR!) Reply
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  • Great article Morne and yes some real thought provokers, I wonder if Div is doing the right thing by taking all these guys on tour and even though they have included a couple of games and will be blooding a lot of potential replacements into the Springbok way of life, would he not have been better off giving the likes of Smit, Matfield, Botha and Fourie a rest. Then there is the other question, do they want a rest Smit is fast approaching the magical 100 and that may just be his last goal to achieve, even though he says 2011 is a goal, Both he and Matfield have done the overseas thing, so not sure that is of interest to them, but a final pension booster might be on the cards. I see a very good potential bok front row building in the freestate and “the beast” will be around, locks nothing that compare with the greats of the moment, loosies not a problem, scrummie also a couple of potentials. Flyhalf, if you are happy with the current game plan no problem but the world would have worked us out by 2011, Centers okay but nothing startling, Wings couple of goodies around, really like that young freestater Lionel Mapoe.. Fullbacks will Frans Steyn be back??

  • Comment 9, posted at 20.10.09 12:50:17 by Whindy Reply
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  • @Worcestershire Sauce (Comment 4) : @GI Ice (Now its WAR!) (Comment 5) :
    Both are correct, but Id like to think that the carrot for PDivvy would be the World Cup and that he would realise that to still have Smit, Botha and Matfield and a few others on top form for that would be enough reason to be willing to possibly go with a loss or two on the year end tour.
    No one will crucify PDivvy if he takes a young squad without his very senior players on this tour.

  • Comment 10, posted at 20.10.09 13:01:05 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 10) : what do you mean? You think the bunch that had the burning crosses all ready for him during the Lions tour have suddenly gone away?

    We saw with Jake White how quickly the knives can come out. I’d love for Div to take a completely second string team over, but he’ll lose his job if he does.

  • Comment 11, posted at 20.10.09 13:17:04 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 11) :
    After the Lions tour and tri nations they just dont have a leg to stand on.
    Im sure PDivvy will have SARU’s backing if he clearly lets them know he has plans to rest his world beaters and at the same time blood our future stars on what should only be seen as a development tour in anycase, and especially in a year when there was a Lions tour.

    I can foresee more flak from him taking a tired, jaded and experienced Bok team across and just scraping out ugly wins because of fatigue.

  • Comment 12, posted at 20.10.09 13:54:01 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 12) :

    or worse…ugly losses!! 😯

  • Comment 13, posted at 20.10.09 13:59:14 by GI Ice (Now its WAR!) Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 10) : the Overseas teams might get a bit edgy not that they really have a foot to stand on because they have been doing it to us for a while!!

  • Comment 14, posted at 20.10.09 14:12:44 by Whindy Reply
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  • @Whindy (Comment 14) :
    Thats right and also why I mentioned the “especially in a year when there was a Lions tour” bit.
    They show scant regard for us, NZ and Aus at their year end tours, so I woulldnt feel too bad about sending a slightly weaker team over.

  • Comment 15, posted at 20.10.09 14:34:03 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 15) : And the semi’s sure showed that some of the guys need some rest!! It was almost as stupid as when Jake took the boks on tour after winning the world cup, but I reckon he knew the writing was on the wall and did not care anymore.

  • Comment 16, posted at 20.10.09 14:42:23 by Whindy Reply
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