Man Test!

Written by Jonathan Burt (VinChainSaw)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 21 Nov 2012 at 15:23
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , ,

Those were the words used by ex-England number 8, James Haskell, when he explained to Tom Wood what it was like to play a test match against South Africa.

The English, themselves historically favouring a tough upfront war of attrition, are under no illusions as to what awaits them at Twickenham on Saturday.

With the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth and Willem Alberts to contend with, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that the English believe they need to front up to have any chance against the Boks.

It is, however, my immense hope that the Boks manage to mix a bit of creativity in along with their abrasiveness, but my prediction is for a game of attrition. Brutal and hard, the traditional Bull Bok way.

My man to watch this week will be Francois Louw and the break-down will be the area that the Boks end up winning this game. England, for all their great counter-rucking, haven’t quite managed to get their timing at the rucks quite right of late and, with Louw and Strauss playing the breakdown like the proverbial fiddle, I think it’ll be a long day at the office for the English scavengers.

On a related note, and this is a story I shared in the comments section of another article, I suspect I know what is squeezing the creative life out of some of our younger players and, believe it or not, I’m not convinced the problem lies with the coach, but rather the problem may just lie with the media and with you, me and everybody that passionately supports the gods in green ‘n gold.

Now I’m not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination, in fact I actively detest the game and don’t believe I’ve ever sat through 90 minutes of the boredom offered up by the the purveyors of the roundball game. Nope, couldn’t even get through the world cup final (notice the lower case for world cup?), but please bear with me as I relate the details of a conversation I had with a mate over the weekend.

The question raised and discussed with my mate, who incidentally is as big a football fan as a rugby fan, is why players like Lampard, Gerrard, Rooney etc can perform week in, week out whilst playing against the very best players in the world in both English Premiership and Champions League, yet when they pull on an England strip they seem to fall to pieces.

The answer, and it’s one I wasn’t expecting (as I don’t follow the game) was that it is simply down to the immense pressure from fans, and more so, from the media. These players are simply too scared to try anything creative for fear that if it doesn’t come off they’ll be lambasted by the media and ridiculed by the fans. It’s like they’re scared to make even the slightest mistake as they’ll then be singled out as the one that cost England the game.

Collectively this leads to a bland and boring form of the game as creative players impose a stifled approach on themselves, simply so they don’t become the fall guy.

Now Morne Steyn aside, as he’s been kicking away possession since before he could walk, could it be that some of the players in the Bok set-up suffer a similar affliction? I’m specifically referring to the younger players in the group who would undoubtedly feel this pressure, not only from us as fans, but also from the older players in the group.

Somebody like Lambie, for example, would have seen an endless list of players make their debut as Bok flyhalf and then get sent into the Springbok wilderness. The one player seemingly who managed to escape the cull was none other than Morne Steyn, a bit ironic, no?

Think I’m joking or over-reacting? What is the one article that every single South African rugby news or blog site has up the day after a Springbok game, Sharksworld included? Yup, you guessed it sports fans, a list of player ratings. An arbitrary, completely subjective, score out of ten compiled by an oft biased, more oft uneducated, armchair pundit. A scoring system which then seems to de debated ad nauseum in the comments section thereunder.

This is helped even less by having coaches who continually seem to have their heads on the chopping block and must seemingly win every game or they’re gone. I don’t like Meyer, but I’m starting to appreciate his problem. It’s no coincidence that Peter de Villiers before him, Jake White before that, etc etc etc, all had the same problem.

A collective problem seems to exist between fans, the coaching staff and the players.

Granted, every now and then a player comes through who doesn’t seem afflicted by this dreaded disease and simply gets on with playing the way they play and don’t get bothered by the negativity. Think Bob Skinstad, Francois Pienaar, James Small, to name but a few.

I applaud these guys but they are few and far between. It appears to me that we’re so determined to win against Australia and New Zealand that we don’t want to try anything original, whilst against our northern hemisphere brethren these seem to be non-negotiable wins and again we revert to type.

Where’s the middle road? Where’s the room to experiment with different strategies and selections?

A better solution for us as Springbok fans must be to just relax a bit, let the players and coach play without fear of getting the sack and simply get on with it.

We are our own worst enemies. We need to get over this “you’re only as good as your last game” mentality or we’ll be joining England on that list of teams that promise greatness but never seem to quite deliver.


  • I’ll take a wager that English football club fans are much less forgiving than English national football team fans.

    There are varied opinions on why the English football team sucks. My personal opinon is too many Prima donnas spoil the broth.

  • Comment 1, posted at 21.11.12 15:37:19 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • I partially agree with the article but then the NZ fans are just as demanding. Watching RE:Union (a NZ rugby show) after their draw(read loss) against the Aussies and it was like the world just ended.

    I don’t really have time now but it’s an interesting debate.

  • Comment 2, posted at 21.11.12 15:47:02 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 2) : Interesting example, I watched a documentary on a flight just before last year’s World Cup kicked off about how the national New Zealand psych was affected by their team’s exits in World Cups past. They are definitely a very demanding public.

  • Comment 3, posted at 21.11.12 15:51:09 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Bokke, my apologies for putting pressure on you, but you must NEVER lose against England. EVER. I would support anyone playing against England, including a composite team made up of Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Bon Jovi & the cast of Twilight.

  • Comment 4, posted at 21.11.12 16:06:58 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song
  • I couldnt agree more than the NZ public is probably more demanding than the SA public, but then they are getting it right and playing an attractive brand of rugby!

    There are certain things you can live with if you’ve got the winning formula. If a player makes a mistake for the ABs, and they still win, then they get let off the hook. When you dont have that luxury of a 20 point margin, it all tends to fall apart.

  • Comment 5, posted at 21.11.12 16:23:46 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • @Culling Song (Comment 4) :

    Lol, Im as guilty as the next guy… wins over England are non-negotiable!

  • Comment 6, posted at 21.11.12 16:24:32 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • The pressure of expectation, from fans and coaches alike, is something that goes with the territory where professional sportsmen and women are concerned. They either deal with it and excel in spite of it, or crumble. As a nation, South African fans are no more or less demanding than ardent fans the world over. Ultimately it boils down to the individual player and his or her ability to cope with pressure and just do what he or she does to the best of their ability.
    Players who don’t have a natural ability to ignore pressure can learn to cope with it if they have good coaches and support teams who understand the value of psychological management. In a team sport like rugby, the confidence and experience of older, respected players is invaluable in helping younger, greener players to settle and accept the pressure that being at the pinnacle of a sporting code brings with it. Getting to the top of your game is often not as big a challenge as staying at the top of it, especially when the game’s hierarchy changes and you suddently find yourself having to prove your abilities all over again. It’s how you deal with these situations that marks you as both a player AND a person. The players who accept that they have to start from scratch and do so quietly and without fuss, letting their game speak for them, playing as part of a team and not as an individual seeking glory, ignoring the slings and arrows that fans and media are so fond of throwing, are the ones who ultimately remain at the top of their game and go on to become all-time greats. As the saying goes, cometh the hour, cometh the man.
    The situation the Springboks find themselves in at the moment is not actually all that bad. They have thus far lost three matches this season, fewer than the squad who won the Tri Nations under Pieter de Villiers, and are trying to adapt to a new coach who has his own particular way of doing things.
    When I interviewed Heyneke Meyer at the start of this season he told me that he is not interested in pretty, champagne rugby, he is interested in winning and will use the style of rugby required to secure each victory, whether that be crash ball or running rugby. What we, as a nation of supporters, need to do is accept that he is the coach, accept that we are not and are never going to be the coach and let him do what he has been employed to do, whether we agree with it or not. The results he achieves will ultimately speak louder than any newspaper headline or fan blog site. And believe me when I say that no matter what the issues the media gets its knickers in a twist over, winning is all that matters to the powers that be, whether by one point or 100. 😎

  • Comment 7, posted at 21.11.12 16:25:35 by Shaz Reply
  • That should read Peter de Villiers, of course. It’s been a looonnng day.

  • Comment 8, posted at 21.11.12 16:37:11 by Shaz Reply
  • Beat England by any means necessary, and we’ll all be able to go into this overly long off season (obviously not long enough for the players, Sharksworld admins and my wife) with a sense of achievement.

    Lose to England this weekend, and a lot of pressure will be heaped on the Blitzbokke, who will be our final hope of a superficial rugby fix before we enter that dreaded rugby drought. 😈

  • Comment 9, posted at 21.11.12 16:47:04 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • you guys are a scream. Everyone gets all up in arms about the kak rugby the Boks are playing, yet at the same time, nobody can entertain the thought of losing to England under any circumstances. You perpetuate this kak, you really do.

  • Comment 10, posted at 21.11.12 16:59:13 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 10) : What’s the use of trying something new now? That ship has sailed and will only be making it’s appearance next year July again.

    Consolidate the year with one last victory, and we’ll fight again another day. 😉

  • Comment 11, posted at 21.11.12 17:03:06 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 10) : @FireTheLooser (Comment 11) :

    Yup, too late now. We’re all in and hoping for some good turn cards.

  • Comment 12, posted at 21.11.12 17:34:54 by VinChainSaw Reply
  • Shaz
    We only lost 3 tests this year but you conveniently failed to mention the two very disappointing draws against England and Argentina.

    Let’s compare this year to 2009 shall we?

    In ‘O9 we beat the B+I Lions 2-1, beat New Zealand THREE times, beat Australia TWICE, thrashed England.

    This year we lost to NZ twice, lost to Aus once and beat them once and drew against England and Argentina.

    The year 2009 was much more successful despite losing 1 more test that year.

  • Comment 13, posted at 21.11.12 21:50:01 by wpw Reply
  • Shaz, we thrashed England in 08, not 09. In 2009 we lost to Ireland and France in Europe after losing to the Lions and Australia earlier that year. A total of 4 losses and 8 wins.

    This year we play a total of 12 matches as well, of which we lost 3, drew 2 and only won 6 with 1 still remaining

  • Comment 14, posted at 21.11.12 23:34:53 by TRF_Ezequiel Reply

  • Great read Vin ….. I’m really looking forward to seeing the Bok pack ‘man-up’ this weekend – should be the match of the weekend!

    I have been very impressed with Etzebeth this year!

  • Comment 15, posted at 22.11.12 10:36:28 by Hertford Highlander Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition WinnerCompetition Winner Author
    Hertford Highlander
  • Squash them bokke! We have a pack that is performing very well, despite having less than 200 caps between them.

  • Comment 16, posted at 22.11.12 13:42:49 by King Shark Reply
    King Shark

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