A fresh approach is needed

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 15 Nov 2010 at 08:14
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Listening to the Bok coaching team talking about how they intend to abandon the kick-chase game-plan in favour of a more ball-in-hand approach reminds me a little of someone wanting to escape a bad relationship. It’s always a case of “yes – I’m definitely leaving! This can’t go on another day!” and yet somehow, nothing ever seems to change; a reason is always found to stay.

Let’s not beat around the bush here – the Boks were very fortunate indeed that the Grand Slam dream is still alive, because, apart from a 15-minute purple patch in the second half, they were utter crap against the Welsh. This is not meant to take anything away from the great resolve, character, guts, determination and any other number of similar words that the Boks showed in resisting the frantic Welsh attack in the closing ten minutes; rather, the point is that if the Boks had played smarter rugby for the opening hour, there would have been no need to put in that sort of Herculean effort in the final period.

The Springboks boast one the most formidable tight fives in world rugby and with good loose-forward options plentiful in the squad – so plentiful, in fact, that trying to ensure even a little bit of game time for all of them is proving difficult. Apart from having the men to ensure set-piece dominance against most, if not all comers, the Boks are blessed with any number of strong ball-carriers amongst the forwards; men who have shown the ability to create pressure on the opposition with ball in hand and to cross the advantage line, thus allowing the team to move forward while retaining possession. Any idiot will tell you that if you can do this enough times, protecting the ball in the process and getting the scrumhalf to move it on quickly, you very soon end up in the position where you are playing against a retreating defence. That’s where you want to be, of course, because that’s what creates the space for your inside backs to exploit.

Right now, we’re doing nothing of the sort – or at least, playing that sort of game seems to be the thing that we only do once we are so far behind we become desperate. Instead, we opt to squander every bit of hard-won possession by hoofing it straight down the throats of the opposing wingers, hoping that in some way our outside backs will put enough pressure on with the chase that an error or turnover will ensure. That may have worked in the days when we had the physical presence of JP Pietersen in the mix – or a the version of Bryan Habana that knew how to execute a tackle. Right now, all that it achieves is handing good ball straight to the opposition, while taking our strong pack completely out of the game. It really shouldn’t take a genius to figure this one out – in fact, you just need to go back and look at all of the tries the Welsh scored against us on Saturday and the evidence is pretty clear. Give away possession, give away points. Simple equation.

Unfortunately, geniuses seem be rather thin on the ground in the Bok coaching box these days.

The Boks have the players to play a ball-in-hand game. The tight five, packed with strong ball carriers and any combination you’d like to try out of the umpteen loose forwards on tour is ideally suited to building pressure through phases, using pick-and-go or a short-passing game. In Francois Hougaard and Pat Lambie we have a pair of halfbacks who understand the value of quick possession and accurate distribution, although there’s no reason why Ruan Pienaar and Morne Steyn couldn’t do the same, if allowed to by the coaching staff. They key here is picking backline players that are able to make things happen with ball in hand and again, with the likes of Jean de Villiers, Adi Jacobs, Gio Aplon and Lwazi Mvovo available, there is no shortage of pace, power and creativity. Kick-chase is essentially an admission of failure – it’s conceding that your backs are not able to make things happen based on their individual skills, but are rather dependant on using brute force to pressurise their opponents into committing errors. I feel our backs are better than that and a guy like Dick Muir – who is supposedly a great exponent of allowing players to make their own decisions on the field – needs to put his money where his mouth is.

The Boks are fortunate, to an extent, that they have a relatively easy game coming up against Scotland this weekend – one which may allow room for a little experimentation in terms of team selection and approach. The danger, though, is that they won’t have to play particularly good rugby to win at Murrayfield and they run the risk of seriously deluding themselves if they think a good win there (perhaps using the same old tired game plan) will translate into success against England the week afterwards.

Mark my words here: If the Boks don’t change their game, they will lose against England in a fortnight’s time.


  • I have to agree with you Rob.. We need to try something different, because in both games it wasn’t South Africa winning but rather the oppossition not being great or choking at the death.

  • Comment 1, posted at 15.11.10 08:25:11 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • Couldn’t agree with you more I keep stressing that we keep kicking the ball away with aimless kicks and this weekend ruan and morne was the main culpruts! I don’t know who to blame maybe its the coaching staff telling them to play like that or maybe its decisions they make in the heat of the moment that I don’t know but I do know it has to change!

  • Comment 2, posted at 15.11.10 08:31:11 by Ben Reply
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  • Grinding it out is WC rugby – I say don’t throw that away completely.

    But we defo have the players to play ball-in-hand rugby: not sure what is stopping us.

    Maybe starting Hougaard will do the trick. I would also start Lambie with Steyn on the bench as back-up.

  • Comment 3, posted at 15.11.10 08:32:07 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 1) : A new approach is needed ,i get the sense that pdv thinks implimenting a game plan means adding clever little moves and good looking attacks…We need structure ,plan a and a plan b! We need a defensive coach ,and an attacking one!

    On a positive guys like spies and juan smith are enjoying the form of their lives !

  • Comment 4, posted at 15.11.10 08:32:10 by baw Reply

  • @baw (Comment 4) : Spies… Really?

  • Comment 5, posted at 15.11.10 08:37:32 by SharksRTB Reply

  • @SharksRTB (Comment 5) :

    I wont say the form of his life.. But most certainly his best couple games of the year so far.

  • Comment 6, posted at 15.11.10 08:39:29 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @baw (Comment 4) : I would go with Spies being better, but not sure I would call his current showing the form of his life. He has been ineffective with ball in hand so far on this tour.

  • Comment 7, posted at 15.11.10 08:40:37 by robdylan Reply
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  • @SharksRTB (Comment 5) : yes! He has been awesome !Especially the last game,and i think it may have something to do with playing alongside juan!

  • Comment 8, posted at 15.11.10 08:41:19 by baw Reply

  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 6) : @robdylan (Comment 7) : he he… great minds, Rich 🙂

  • Comment 9, posted at 15.11.10 08:41:34 by robdylan Reply
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  • @baw (Comment 8) : what’s your take on deon stegman?

  • Comment 10, posted at 15.11.10 08:42:48 by Ben Reply
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  • @baw (Comment 8) :

    I just cannot agree with you.

    Spies had a great season in 2007 before he got injured and never made the World Cup. He hasn’t been himself since.

  • Comment 11, posted at 15.11.10 08:43:57 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 6) : Well spies to me ,beside in s14 derbys, has always been good, but when it came to springboks he has always been average. I cant remember a game as good as the one he played on saturday ,maybe that one game against england

  • Comment 12, posted at 15.11.10 08:44:37 by baw Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 9) :

    Yip.. hehe..

    Good weekend Rob?

  • Comment 13, posted at 15.11.10 08:44:46 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • I thought Spies was excellent on Saturday. Not as good as Alberts though – a few bog-men will remember his big presence today.

    Beast was superb – out-scrummed his much-vaunted opponent and then still was huge on the drive and in the tackle.

    Its amazing how difficult it is to put Tendai down – massive leg drive on that man!

  • Comment 14, posted at 15.11.10 08:46:14 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @baw (Comment 12) : that made no sense…
    Spies has only been good in a few games ,mostly s14 and derby games ! The one game that sticks out is the one game against england ,and a handfull of s14 games…

  • Comment 15, posted at 15.11.10 08:46:21 by baw Reply

  • What i find worrying is that when they realised that the Blue Bulls up and Under tactics was highly ineffective, why did they not change the game plan but wait to be told that it was ineffective!!

  • Comment 16, posted at 15.11.10 08:48:29 by dawj Reply

  • @Ben (Comment 10) :
    I read an article on Stegmann in the Sunday Times that said that in 2005, and prior to a serious hamstring injury, he did the 100m in 10.9.

    Maybe he was awesome then, but I must say that I have never seen him as international quality.

  • Comment 17, posted at 15.11.10 08:48:51 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 17) : yeah me neither would rather have had flouw or potgieter there if there was a real need for a “fetcher” but personally I’d play alberts.

  • Comment 18, posted at 15.11.10 08:52:26 by Ben Reply
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  • Sorry, disagree.

    The difference between a good showing, and what we saw on Saturday is simple – execution.

    We also tend to forget that apart from the tight 5, every single combination on this tour is untested at test level. That plays a massive part and the fact that we still get away with wins is amazing to be honest.

    I am concerned about the committment on defense from the Boks, and as mentioned execution and although I can offer the combinations excuse as above, one would expect these players who are all experienced (starting XV), to do better than what they currently are.

    In short, I am seriously concerned about the continuity aspect of this team and how guys stepping up perform below par 90% of the time. You don’t find this in the AB’s for instance (I hate using them as an example).

  • Comment 19, posted at 15.11.10 08:56:17 by Morné Reply
  • If we play Hougaard and Lambie as I suspect we will against Scotland, we will murder them.

  • Comment 20, posted at 15.11.10 08:57:31 by Morné Reply
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 13) : awesome thanks – how was yours?

  • Comment 21, posted at 15.11.10 09:03:26 by robdylan Reply
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  • I dont think its a matter of a change in tactics that is required.
    The kick and chase is effective,provided there is a chase, when you are in your own half. In test matches the defenses are tight and you cant afford to give away anything in your own half.
    However in the opposition half we need to retain ball in and hand and use the pods to create phases and suck in defenders. And this is where Morne Steyn has been bad. He is unable to realise when defenders have been sucked in and the ball needs to go wide. We sometimes take it up that extra time and allow the defenders to re-organise.
    So i dont think a complete overhaul is needed, just the players need to all be on the same page as to where on the field we are and what the oppositon defensive line looks like.

  • Comment 22, posted at 15.11.10 09:10:10 by SheldonK Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 22) :
    Tend to agree with you and Morne – poor execution was the biggest problem.

    The kick-chase is a great tactic in pressure matches especially (WC), but ball-in-hand has its place – I think Pienaar and Steyn missed some opportunities to send the ball wide when we had the advantage.

  • Comment 23, posted at 15.11.10 09:22:05 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • Learning how to win tight games, is something we can take out of these last 2 games. No other way to learn it than by doing it.

    Just trying to find some positives here!

  • Comment 24, posted at 15.11.10 09:50:50 by Sportbilly Reply

  • @Sportbilly (Comment 24) :

    Good point!

    We have held out to win, if only just, but a win is a win!

  • Comment 25, posted at 15.11.10 09:54:03 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 25) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 26, posted at 15.11.10 10:14:01 by Charlie Reply

  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 25) : plus – i think last time Boks won by 3 points – so we definately have improvement. 😆

  • Comment 27, posted at 15.11.10 10:40:14 by rekinek Reply
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  • bearing in mind last week comments we (boks including) did not appreciate Wales. I am afraid that the same thing is happening with Scotland now.

  • Comment 28, posted at 15.11.10 10:42:48 by rekinek Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 20) : Boks with Hougaard and Lambie not exactly the same thing as ABs with Cowan and Carter.

  • Comment 29, posted at 15.11.10 10:48:04 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 27) :

    1 point improvement every year.. So it will take us 20 years to completely dominate them.. hehe

  • Comment 30, posted at 15.11.10 10:48:12 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 30) : think WC 2111 :mrgreen:

  • Comment 31, posted at 15.11.10 10:53:50 by rekinek Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 30) : BTW every 6 months ..

  • Comment 32, posted at 15.11.10 10:54:16 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 32) :

    Oh yeah, true.. so only 10 years then..

  • Comment 33, posted at 15.11.10 10:59:19 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 20) :

    I like your way of thinking. Give that man a bells!

  • Comment 34, posted at 15.11.10 11:24:57 by Bump Reply

  • Good Arti Rob.

    Although Spies had probably the game of the season for the Boks on Sat he is still a long way to go before Im sold completely on his inclusion.

    Juan Smith for me is the Bok loose forward of the decade ..he plays every game as if its his last.A true servant to SA Rugby.

    I was ‘convinced ‘ that we would lose on Sat and struggled to see any shape in our play.
    In a generation where we HAVE the players to alter the approach to a much more ball in hand approach we still chose to kick possesion away ..

    In saying all this Im extremely proud of the guys pulling through in the end.But its obvious it was more Wales losing it than us winning.

  • Comment 35, posted at 15.11.10 12:37:07 by CSB Aplon's Biggest Fan ! Reply

  • @CSB Aplon’s Biggest Fan ! (Comment 35) :

    Dude, you have just gone up a notch in my book!! 😈

    Love the new moniker!! 😉

  • Comment 36, posted at 15.11.10 12:43:56 by wpw Reply
  • @rekinek (Comment 29) : True, our boys are much better 😉

  • Comment 37, posted at 15.11.10 12:52:14 by rhineshark Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 36) :

    Cheers Wes 😀

    He single handedly on 2 occasions not only stopped a Welsh attack but got a drive going to push them back.

    Now we just need to afford him the space to do he’s magic on attack 😎

  • Comment 38, posted at 15.11.10 12:56:54 by CSB Aplon's Biggest Fan ! Reply

  • Totally agree Spies is nt playing his best rugby.saturday he was good bt Alberts my number8 wen Schalk is bk

  • Comment 39, posted at 15.11.10 22:07:59 by skull Reply


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