Nothing that cannot be fixed

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 7 Sep 2010 at 10:52
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How does a team that came of such a high in 2009 hit such a low in 2010, more importantly, can it be fixed?

To answer the second question, yes it can be, the problem is when we look to answer the first question, have we correctly identified the problems?

Parallels and comparisons have been drawn in just about every conceivable form to find answers for where Springbok rugby finds itself. Individual analysis of games and players can also highlight what is perceivably, or possibly the source of the problems the Springbok team currently experience.

I have myself ventured into the statistics arena of debates in recent weeks, discussed player selections and game plans and tactics and various other elements which all possibly contributes to the current state of affairs.

But just this weekend following the last test between the Springboks and Wallabies and specifically studying the defensive structures of the Springboks I was reminded of what Peter de Villiers said on the overseas leg of the Tri-Nations where after he studied one of the losses to the All Blacks on video, he could not pin-point where it all went wrong or identify the problem…

Of course that statement has given the media enough ammunition to crucify the Springbok coach but on Sunday, when I watched the game again I realised this is probably the most honest assessment Peter de Villiers gave of the Springboks in his three years in charge and his most accurate.

What occurred to me is Peter, and his management are not so much wrong with their statements like there is little wrong with the defensive structures, because the problem is not the structures.

A couple of months ago I challenged Dr. Ross Tucker to provide us with some insights into the psyche of the Springbok team and management and two things he mentioned, or warned us against, has become evident in the last part of this year and the Tri-Nations and to my mind, the biggest contributor to the fall from grace the Springboks have experienced.

The first issue he touched on was sport cycles, or cycles in sport, and the difficulty for any team or individual to achieve sustained success in professional sports.

Much has been said in recent years on the point and purpose of players like John, Victor, Schalk, Juan and the likes on the reasons they still stick it out, where most believe they have achieved all they needed to and possible needed to step down after the British and Irish Lions series in 2009. The players told you they had one more goal to achieve, and that was to avenge the defeat at the hands of the Lions 10 years ago and for the opportunity to play in such a series, an honour not afforded to every rugby player.

They were motivated, focussed and hungry for success, and they achieved it. Because they are that damn good.

Following that series talk shifted from the Lions series, to be the first team to successfully defend the Rugby World Cup for the first time in history in New Zealand in 2011. And they have the ability to do this, because again, they are that damn good.

But then of course there is the small matter of 2010, the year in-between these two goals which is honestly more of a hindrance than a blessing…

Remember we are talking of players here that has won every single medal that can be won in professional rugby, that has beaten every team in every country they played in, hanging on for that one last opportunity to go down in history as legends of the game of union, the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

How do you manage these guys through a period like 2010, where they will sub-consciously enter into preservation mode rather than defend a title they have won twice already against teams they play 6 times every year?

It is easy to say rest them but you simply cannot send them on a 4 month holiday as tests are there to be won regardless and game time management is also important for players even during times of conditioning or mental rehabilitation. It is a very fine balance.

But it should have been done, and it was not.

The second problem we have comes down to exactly what happens within this team. Mentally teams learn very little from success, and it is quite easy to fall behind the guys chasing you and you are easily caught up in the mentality that you simply have to do what worked for you before.

The reality in rugby union however dictates that you have to continually evolve and adapt, the Springboks did not.


Well Peter de Villiers’ management style has been discussed many times. Empowering the players or elements within the team is one thing, doing it at the expense of losing all your own power however is quite another, and this is a trap De Villiers has fallen into.

Rugby success or failure is made up of the sum of parts, each part playing a vital role in the sustainability of a team’s success, but having parts of this system (players) drive this system is not a very bright idea.

It seems that Peter de Villiers biggest strength when he started off as a coach of the Springboks, has become his biggest enemy because it was not managed properly.

Jake White realised this just in time to fix his failings in 2006, not the way he managed his players or coached them, but that the system needed forces from outside, sometimes not even directly related to rugby and tactics and game plans, to drive the system to ensure honest, critical and constructive analysis is done on the team and its individuals, including management to ensure you sustain good performances and success.

For parts in just about all the tests in this year’s Tri-Nations apart from the opening test in Auckland, the Springboks played some inspired rugby, only for it all to fall apart or for them to conspire against themselves.

The question is not therefore whether we can play the type of rugby to beat the best in the world, the question is why this cannot be done more often and for longer periods.

Peter de Villiers does not have very far to look to find the problem with his team, but I doubt whether he is looking in the right place. There are individuals out there that will compliment the Springbok setup, one of which is the likes of a guy that predicted all this months ago already…


  • Very good read Morne!! 😎

    What do you suggest Div should do now?? Should he get ‘advisors’ in like he tried doing with WP’s defense coach??

    Or do you think he should make way for someone like Jake (spit)

  • Comment 1, posted at 07.09.10 11:15:59 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 1) :

    Firing PDV now will be the most stupid thing since appointing Harry Viljoen in Springbok rugby history.

    You only bring in someone else or new if you believe he can add more value to the system, I don’t think Jake can add anything Peter cannot do himself.

    Hopefully PDV reflects on all this and make those tough calls, and takes some power back he let slip. He needs to take charge now and these losses might just be the tonic to provide this – it was for Jake afterall getting the likes of old Eddie in…

  • Comment 2, posted at 07.09.10 11:19:49 by Morné Reply
  • I just made this comment on twitter, but if we could get Jake and Eddie involved in the current set up, it would be really great. There is no doubt that Jake can contribute hugely and we all know what Eddie brings, but the big question will be whether the 3 biggest ego’s in rugby can work together.

  • Comment 3, posted at 07.09.10 11:30:41 by molly Reply
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  • @molly (Comment 3) :

    I heard a very unconfirmed rumor this might actually happen…

  • Comment 4, posted at 07.09.10 11:40:40 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 4) : flip, that would be fantastic.

  • Comment 5, posted at 07.09.10 11:44:19 by molly Reply
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  • Morne, the All Blacks seem to stay consistent in their success for far longer periods than the Boks do (bar World Cups). In regards to the first issue you raised about cycles – can New Zealand’s consistency be attributed to the fact that they’ve had one coach at the helm for so long? Or is it perhaps because they have more to play for than us (a World Cup trophy)?

  • Comment 6, posted at 07.09.10 12:26:58 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 6) :

    I am glad you raised it because it is a very good, and valid point.

    The one fundamental difference between us and the All Blacks is that they are in a position to control, rest, and rehabilitate their core players – i.e. manage their players.

    Before the last two tests some of our core players played close to, or over 2000 minutes of rugby in the last year or so. If they played every second, of every test match in that period, they would have played 900 minutes of that time with the Boks. That is the only time PDV can ‘manage’ his core players all while still needing to win every test, or as someone said a bare minimum of an acceptable amount around the 75% mark.

    If you study trends and cycles in sport you will come across something called periodized training. Quite simply because the body and mind cannot cope with sustained periods of high intensity training and this is the ‘freshness’ I often refer to, not just physically, but mentally too.

    This does not happen in Bok rugby, it is very much part of managing players in NZ, they are streets ahead in this department and I put their sustained success down to much of this.

    Add to this their more cavalier approach to the game, like the NZ coaches swopping roles last year when they were under the kosh, and you get an idea that they are not scared to experiment. Whether the role swopping worked or not is not in question, it is the innovation applied which makes the difference.

  • Comment 7, posted at 07.09.10 12:37:47 by Morné Reply
  • Well, I do hope your rumour comes true, Morne.

    WES, I do not see u take anyone on on this thread like u did me on the other one where this was my suggestion??!

  • Comment 8, posted at 07.09.10 12:51:57 by Ice Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 8) :

    Thats because I’m only halfway through reading this damn thread!! 😈

    Just kidding, I will catch molly on gtalk later.

    As for Morne, I agree with everything he said. I am yet to read comment #7 though!! Lunch is more NB so I’ll catch you later!! 😕

  • Comment 9, posted at 07.09.10 12:54:46 by wpw Reply
  • @Ice (Comment 8) : Sometimes he’s quite stubborn. I think PdV brings out the worst in people, whether you’re defending him or attacking him.

  • Comment 10, posted at 07.09.10 13:00:39 by molly Reply
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  • Managing the Springboks is not the same as managing the ABs. When you are a bok coach the media are always out to prove what a fool you are. When you are a kiwi, they are always out to get your autograph.

    It’s a different experience coaching the boks. It’s a different experience captaining them. Politics is 110% the reason for this. No one ever interviews McCaw with the intent to find out why there were so many islanders on the field. Or why the coach picked player with heritage A over player with heritage B. Because that’s not important to them. It’s only important in South Africa. And because it is, when the Bokke travel, everyone wants to ask, “Why this” “Why that” and so on. Because the rest of the world do not follow the same moronic guidelines that exist in Saffa land.

    When you are the All Black coach, it’s only ever about rugby. What’s your strategy going to be today? How do you rate so and so. How do you feel about this law etc etc. But when you’re the bok coach, people are more interested in why you picked a player for 500 minutes of rugby and only used him for say, ten… It’s not about rugby. It’s about WHY that particular player is picked ahead of another. It’s about politics.

    Want to change that? Bring in Coetzee, not Jake White. Does Coetzee deserve the job. Sure he does. More so than others? That will always be a debate, as it was between Henry and Deans. That’s a rugby argument. Not a political bun fight.

  • Comment 11, posted at 07.09.10 13:09:05 by rugbypedia Reply

  • @rugbypedia (Comment 11) : I agree that the Bok coaching job is possibly the most difficult in the world but PdV doesn’t exactly make it easier for himself with his stupid statements

  • Comment 12, posted at 07.09.10 13:19:46 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @rugbypedia (Comment 11) :

    Talking about coaches good enough or to take over, I am having that discussion elsewhere and I can count the ‘good’ coaches in my opinion in South Africa on one hand…

  • Comment 13, posted at 07.09.10 13:22:21 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 13) : Lets have it then? 😈

  • Comment 14, posted at 07.09.10 13:25:15 by Original Pierre In Mourning Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Morné (Comment 13) :

    Who are they Morne??


  • Comment 15, posted at 07.09.10 13:25:33 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 15) : Plum??

  • Comment 16, posted at 07.09.10 13:27:56 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 13) : who are they?

  • Comment 17, posted at 07.09.10 13:28:18 by molly Reply
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  • damnit, I need to refresh more often.

  • Comment 18, posted at 07.09.10 13:29:19 by molly Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 16) : Mallet?

  • Comment 19, posted at 07.09.10 13:32:42 by MysticShark Reply
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  • @Original Pierre In Mourning (Comment 14) : @wpw (Comment 15) :

    Perhaps coach was the wrong word, how about rugby brains because I am actually talking about the physical aspect of actual coaching skills and techniques.

    There are some great ‘managers’ out there but when it comes to rugby brains I rate the following guys in no particular order.

    John Dobson
    Pieter Rossouw
    Ingo Machts
    John McFarland

  • Comment 20, posted at 07.09.10 13:34:22 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 20) : Pieter Rossouw has impressed me with what he’s done at the bulls, don’t know too much about the others. Dobson was the Ikey’s coach? or maties?

  • Comment 21, posted at 07.09.10 13:50:17 by molly Reply
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  • @molly (Comment 21) :

    McFarland – Bulls
    Ingo, Grey college Bloem

  • Comment 22, posted at 07.09.10 14:00:31 by Morné Reply
  • @molly (Comment 21) : Isnt Dobson a laaitie still?Bring his pops in ekse 🙂

  • Comment 23, posted at 07.09.10 14:12:22 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 20) :

    I am HIGHLY offended that ‘The Legend’ Fleckie is not on your list!! :mrgreen: 😆

  • Comment 24, posted at 07.09.10 14:17:11 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 24) : Damn straight

  • Comment 25, posted at 07.09.10 14:18:55 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 24) : @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 25) :

    Bwahhaha, Fleckie…


  • Comment 26, posted at 07.09.10 14:19:42 by Morné Reply
  • @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 23) : haha, isn’t Paul the laaitjie? You’ve confuzzed me.

  • Comment 27, posted at 07.09.10 14:20:59 by molly Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 24) : Fleckie 😯 Then you might as well bring in Eddie Andrews as well. 😆

  • Comment 28, posted at 07.09.10 14:22:22 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @molly (Comment 27) : Paul is the pops man, im sure of it

  • Comment 29, posted at 07.09.10 14:24:36 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
  • @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 29) : haha, John is the coach according to Morne and:
    You should fact check first 😉

  • Comment 30, posted at 07.09.10 14:28:09 by molly Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 28) :

    Fleckie has a poster of Deon Kayser on his bedroom wall!! 😆 😈

  • Comment 31, posted at 07.09.10 14:28:29 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 31) : I’ll never forget that…..thats what happens when you’re windgat

  • Comment 32, posted at 07.09.10 14:30:18 by Pokkel Reply
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  • BRAVO!

    Great article.

    On a podcast a few weeks ago I was mouthing off about change management and focus – this is in line with what I meant.

    The principles are the same in business (my experience), sport, war, etc. Two of the key principles are this
    Change is easier when things fail, because we learn more from failure and are less reluctant to change due to necessity.

    Its very difficult for anyone to continue operating at a high level for a sustained period. For the average guy, we do this 5-10% of the time. Athletes and musicians do it far more, and what usually sets the very best apart is not natural talent, but that sustainability.

    The Boks are in the right place to change what’s not working, and really focus in 2011, which is why I feel we will do well.

  • Comment 33, posted at 07.09.10 15:47:28 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Morné (Comment 13) :
    @Pokkel (Comment 12) :

    Yes P Divvy has not made it easy on himself. I wasn’t making excuses for the man. He has made his own bed.

    On who the coaches are? Yeah, Meyer isn’t coaching. That the other tonsil is, Frans Ludeke. First he coached the Lions to nothing if my memory serves me correctly. Then he was gifted a S14 winning team, and without Matfield, he got them to 10th on the S14 table in 2008. Matfield came back and they won. Who coaches who at the Bulls then?

    What are our options? Dicky made his name on Plum. Now Dicky has been shown up. How a man can do what he did to the Lions and still have a job is astounding. And now he is director of rugby? Ha ha ha ha! And ass-istant Bokke coach!? Bwahahahahaha.

    So who do we really have? Well. Coetzee. And I admire the way he handles himself in the press.

    Jake? – Not sure he has the tact or personality to be given the job again. Look how he has handled this entire situation. Nothing short of appalling.

    Dawie Theron seems to be doing a good job at Griquas, given he doesn’t really posses a full team of stars.

    If we’re going to make a change, I’d say we have just one real choice. Coetzee. He is the only man for the job right now.

    But if we don’t, and we keep Divvy in place, then I’d put Jake in immediately as a tactical advisor – and I’d limit his power. But this will never happen, he’s shot himself in the foot with the way he’s come out guns blazing.

  • Comment 34, posted at 07.09.10 17:22:42 by rugbypedia Reply

  • Agree: Jake is a good coach in some ways, but he hasn’t done his reputation any good with his latest stunt.

  • Comment 35, posted at 07.09.10 17:38:40 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 35) : the most important thing is his relation with players and what he does in the training sessions.

    even with his latest comments he is still way behind Pdivvy in tarnishing his reputation by stupid comments.

  • Comment 36, posted at 07.09.10 18:44:54 by rekinek (back to rugby) Reply
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  • I am not for Jake’s return. I think it is fair that Pdivvy gets a fair chance to coach boks for 4 years but the latest rumours and also results worry me. and this overplaying certain senior players is my biggest worry and lack of plan/team B (not that there was one in 2007).

    Sometimes it is best just to cut your losses and go with new coach.

  • Comment 37, posted at 07.09.10 18:47:28 by rekinek (back to rugby) Reply
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  • forget jake white get rid of this middle man just bring in eddie jones as caretaker coach why do u need jake white .Jake white was in the same position as PDV in 2006 until he brought in eddie jones ,I supported PDV but I don,t know what his thinking anymore

  • Comment 38, posted at 07.09.10 19:14:54 by zvision10 Reply

  • @zvision10 (Comment 38) : 😆

  • Comment 39, posted at 07.09.10 21:30:30 by rekinek (back to rugby) Reply
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  • Jake can say how much he wants the job and how he can be ‘Mr fix-it’, but the reality is he will have nothing to do with SA Rugby ever again. All he is doing is making a kak situation worse. If he really cares about the Bok cause he, as a past Springbok coach, should know that the media is not the place to make these comments.

  • Comment 40, posted at 08.09.10 07:48:58 by blueski palooski Reply

    blueski palooski
  • @blueski palooski (Comment 40) : yeah, it’s a very disappointing situation.

  • Comment 41, posted at 08.09.10 07:58:24 by war1 Reply

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