Prior to readmission, South African rugby could clearly lay claim to being the best in the world. We had the best record of all international teams, having beaten every other international team more than they had defeated us. We were the only country to have achieved this over the All Blacks.
Over the last 17 years however, our wonderful record has become very average and we are no longer feared as we once were.
Where have we gone wrong?
Where to begin?? There are so many factors to consider.
*Firstly it starts with our administration.*
Nothing is done for the greater good of the game. We really need to change the structure of our administration. Get rugby people, who want to develop, promote and work for the good of the game. At the moment, it is all a political game. Provincial presidents control the game, and work for the good of their unions and not the country.
The fact that a great man like Morne Du Plessis could not handle the politics and resigned from the board of SA rugby was a tragedy. We need great manne like Morne. He’s extremely wise, a fantastic role model, and loves the game. More men like Morne would be a great start, as opposed to the provincial presidents who only want what is best for themselves. The fact they are willing to put their individual agendas and unions ahead of the greater good of the country has to stop.
It has to be Springboks first, Super 14 second, Provincial third. And national coaches should be able to work with and have a greater say over the provincial coaches.
I’d like to see a system like New Zealand where the players are centrally contracted, rather than in SA where they are contracted by the individual unions. Whilst I can’t see this issue changing, it would be a step in the right direction and make rugby decisions much easier.
*Implement a decent coaching structure.*
We need a national director of coaching. We need it desperately! We have some great men who could do it. Jake White, Heyneke Meyer, Nick Mallet. It’s a tragedy none of them are currently working to better SA rugby. I believe we have some of the best natural talent in the world, where we suffer is the quality of our coaches. They need a coaching structure to work with. Too often we have a coach who has one good season, one good tournament and we believe he should get higher honours. There needs to be a system and natural order of progression – Schools/Varsity/Vodacom cup, Currie cup, Super 14, National teams, Springboks. And time!
One season does not make a man. Prove you are worthy. As much as I respect Heyneke Meyer and all he has achieved, one Super 14 title does not mean he has achieved everything. Do it again. Build on it. Create a dynasty. Like Robbie Deans did at the Crusaders. Like the Bulls did during the 80’s, Transvaal in the mid 90’s etc etc
Paul Treu is a great example of a man who has stuck to his vision, has fantastic integrity, is loved by his players and has started to reap exceptional rewards, especially given the structures he has to work within. He has worked with his squad for some time but shown that injuries, non-availability and changing personnel don’t have to be excuses for performances. He has created a winning environment and culture to the point where it now doesn’t matter who is in the squad, the opposition know it is going to take some doing to beat South Africa. An important factor in his success is that players know where they stand, what they have to do to get into his squad, and have stadards to maintain and aspire to.
Conversely after 1 good season Rassie Erasmus was touted as a future Springbok coach. Well the last 2 seasons have shown he is far far away from it. This is valuable for him, I believe he’ll be learning immensely. But then show me 3-4 consistent years at super 14 level and then go on to higher honours. Meyer went through this in the early 2000’s. Frans Ludeke is showing he has learnt from the past and may grow into a decent coach.
Ultimately these coaches need training and guidance, this is where the director of rugby comes in. I’m sure Rassie, and Naka and Loffie Eloff could use some guidance as they struggle from one loss to another.
*Show some confidence and develop a playing style we believe can consistently win us games.* I would like to emphatically say, 10 man rugby is dead. Over. Gone.
It may win some Currie cup games when the opposition has its own brainless Boers who try to prove their manhood to the world and beat each other into submission. But it won’t consistently hold up in the international arena.
We have players with great skill. We simply need to back them and allow them to express themselves. I know many Springboks, coaches and critics say that South Africans love structure and need to play with structure. Structure is fine, but robots aren’t! Too often I feel we don’t read the situation well (eg an overlap in our own half), and need to read what is happening on the field better. Pieter De Villiers message of “playing the situation” springs to mind here. And like De Villiers I also believe we have to change. And until we do and get used to it, it will always be difficult.
We’ve proved over time we can play expansively. Mallet’s Boks in 1998/99 scored heaps of great tries. Straueli’s Bok in 2002 scored the most tries in the tri-nations, Jake White’s Boks in 2004 had no problem scoring tries, and Peter De Villiers Boks at times last year looked unstoppable. It shows we know how to achieve running rugby. We don’t have to play like the Aussies or Kiwis or anyone else. We can use our own strengths and play a South African way, but simply use all 15 of our players. It gives us more strings to our bow!
*Mindset is another important factor.*
Whether we like it or not, we will play almost half our games outside South Africa. At the moment tours are a nightmare. We should simply stop making excuses. We have to tour. Deal with it. Embrace the challenge so we can feel the exhilaration of victory. We target games and a certain number of points. Aim to win every game and get every point available on tour. When opposition teams come to South Africa, they don’t think of losing. They aim to win every game no matter how daunting.
It is obvious that most of our teams can’t wait to get back to places like Loftus, Kings Park etc where they want to play. Whilst that is understandable, The measure of a great team is being able to win anywhere. Every game is played on the same size field. You just have to adapt to conditions. It’s all in the mind. Too often we don’t believe we can win in New Zealand. We give the Kiwis way too much respect. They are beatable.
*Develop consistency. It’s one of the biggest problems in our rugby.*
We have a great performance and then we suck. In the world cup we demolished England 33-0 and played fantastic rugby. Then for the remainder of the tournament we got defensive and simply did enough to win. We need to be more confident in our ability and play to it each week.
The Sharks had 2 great wins on tour this year. And then played some of the worst rugby i’ve seen against the rubble Reds.
The Bulls were great on tour against the Horrorcanes and played with awesome intensity, then the next 2 weeks they looked like a team of amateurs; making basic errors, giving away penalties and appearing lethargic. As professional players I sometimes wonder how you can train for a week and then get things to wrong! The Lions had the beating of the Chiefs and threw it away. Then the next week they look like a bunch of pansies against the Blues. Then they were awesome against the Reds. And then disgraceful against the Farce. Where is the consistency?
How often do we see one of our teams score – building up pressure and pressure until we get the try. And then at the restart we knock the ball on or kick it out on the full allowing the opposition to capitalise and score. How often do we see one of our teams playing at home, race out to a 20 point lead, and we think the game is won. And then next thing we let in a couple of soft tries and struggle to win the game, actually often we lose. eg Sharks v Crusaders last week. It proves we have the skill, we lack application, patience and the mindset to produce consistent performances, and put teams away when we have the chance to.
The Stormers prove this. Year after year. They have great players. Yet they can’t make it work. I believe it’s mostly a coaching problem.
It doesn’t help when the coach makes Grant his flyhalf and after 2 games discards him for De Waal. Suddenly the whole blueprint for the season’s success is changed. 2 Further weeks later he drops De Waal and brings back Grant. Later he brings back De Waal again. No wonder the players have no confidence in the game plan. Compare this to the Bulls (SA’s most successful team) who play Steyn 100% of the time at flyhalf. And in positions where there are 2 decent players, they know they are being rotated eg Chilliboy and Derrick Kuun. That is much better handling of the players.
*Believe in coloured and black players and give them opportunities. And smaller white players too.*
We use to have an advantage in the amateur era because many of our players possessed great bulk and strength developed from years in the veld and on farms. (It’s why NZ had an advantage too). Opposition teams feared our big forward packs. We intimidated them.
However with professionalism and greater gym work, other countries are able to train as much as our players do and use methods that make them more competitive. They’ve caught up and in many cases overtaken us. We now encounter packs that outweigh ours. If we stick to our subdue and dominate theory we are finding that we often come off second best. It’s embarrassing to see the Stormers scrum disintegrate, or the Bulls scrum struggle to hold their own. It’s time we use some brain with our brawn.
We need to utilise the skillful players we have. Give everyone an opportunity. Whether we like it or not, bit strong Afrikaans guys still get more opportunities than coloureds, blacks or small white guys. The fact we could make Boks out of big, lumbering backs like De Wet Barry, Braam Van Straaten, Trevor Halstead, Gus Theron etc is shocking. None of these players are able to run and pass and create space for our outside backs.
Meanwhile we chase away some of our best players like Brent Russell. The guy was a magician. He had pace, a great step, and speed to burn. Rather than what he does not possess, look at what he does bring to the table. A Van Straaten or Barry may be solid defensively but they didn’t allow us to score many tries. However a Russell may let in 3 but score 6. At the end of the day we have to score more than the opposition!
Bryan Habana could be our country’s greatest centre. We’ll never know because we won’t test him there (even though he started his provincial rugby there!). One bad game (and I thought he did nothing wrong in his one test as centre against Ireland), and it’s labelled never to play him there again. But meanwhile any other centre, or lock or flyhalf can have a bad game and we don’t write them off. Be fair. Apply the same rules to every player.
I heard some of the biggest load of crock last week when I heard Rassie say the Hilton Lobberts was one of his best players against the Horrorcanes. He then proceeds to bench him for the next game saying he’ll need him off the bench. With the season gone, the focus should be building for the future. Instead he puts AJ Venter into the starting lineup. A player he has been reluctant to use for most of the season. What’s the deal with that?? I hate to ask, but is it because he is black that Lobberts isn’t given a chance? It does seem to happen to many of our black and coloured guys who aren’t wingers eg Hanyani Shimange, Tim Dlulane, Solly Tybilika, Lawrence Sephaka etc
*We need to use our talent out wide more.*
I said 4 years ago that Nokwe should be a Bok. He’s the fastest winger we have with the best step. Yet nobody knows about him because he’s never given a chance. He had to move from Boland to the Cheaters because he couldn’t make the Stormers? Give me a break. Wylie Human and Naquelevuki are better instead? Please!
If we could get our players to use their brains more and become more accountable we wouldn’t see some of the crap that our teams constantly dish up. For a start NZ and Aussie wingers get the ball in space and score tries. How often do we see Habana and Nokwe one on one in space? The fact that they have been able to score as many tries as they have is remarkable.
When Nokwe scored four against Australia last year he was put into space. It helped him having Adi Jacobs as his centre. Jacobs created space and Nokwe’s blistering pace did the rest. It’s a simple formula! I don’t understand why we try to complicate it.
What I usually see is our teams consistently just shovelling the ball sideways. The Sharks, Lions and Stormers are the greatest culprits here. Going from one side of the field to the other does not constitute expansive rugby. Nor does it give opportunities to the wingers. And unfortunately it leads to our teams consistently either going out into touch, or putting through some sort of hallelujah kick praying for a miracle. We simply give the ball back to the opposition.
What we need are players to run straight, hard, at pace and into gaps. Then allow Nokwe, Habana, Jacobs to show us their fancy sidesteps. One of the best players I’ve seen at doing this was New Zealand’s Christian Cullen.
I saw Montgomery training in 1998, and in my opinion he had more pace and acceleration than Cullen. But we never saw him confident enough to express himself other than the 1998 tour to Europe. Cullen however backed himself every time, and whilst he ran the ball quite often, he still kicked and varied his play nicely meaning you were never sure what he was going to do. The secret to Cullen’s success (even though his positional play was nowhere near as good as Monty’s) was his ability to always run straight, aim for the gap, use a step and get over the advantage line. By not taking a totally direct route into the opposition he gained the valuable few seconds to ensure his support always made it to him to retain possession if he was tackled.
Compare this to Jantjies who will kick the ball 9 times out of 10, and simply run straight into the opposition when he does run it. It often leads to turnover ball when he runs, so his option is to go back to kicking it.
I’ve seen many of our fullbacks (and wings and centres) with skills the equal of the world’s best, that have not delivered consistently on the world stage. Tinus Delport, Andre Snyman, Danie Van Schalkwyk, Russell Bennett, Robbie Fleck, James Small, Stefan Terblanche to name a few. Much of that comes down to the players around them and the coaching they have received.
Schoolboy rugby, Craven week and other tournaments, show we have the ability to play direct, running rugby. What happens between there and provincial/international rugby is coaching, and fear of failure. Too often we play not to lose, rather than playing to win. The coaches play it safe, rather than backing their ability to dominate. One could see it quite evidently with the Boks under Jake White, especially at the World Cup. Try to dominate upfront first, and once dominance and a lead has been established, then throw the ball around a bit more. As we’ve found out often, if forward dominance doesn’t happen, or we go behind, we revert to conservative rugby that doesn’t get us any points. It turns into a vicious cycle.
New Zealand especially never have that problem. They always believe they will win, and always believe they have the skills to outscore the opposition. Whilst their approach at times causes them trouble and we don’t want to replicate that, but we do need their belief to back our players and our ability.
*Back our players and the skills they possess.* Many overseas coaches have criticised the lack of basic skills of our players, eg handling skills, being able to pass in both directions etc.
I believe much of this comes from the style of rugby we adopt, and we essentially cause our players to go backwards. The best example of this for me is JP Pietersen.
When JP came on the scene he delighted crowds with his try scoring ability. He didn’t know any different so he did what came naturally – ran and chip-kicked, and simply aimed to score tries. As he became a regular member of the Sharks, he has been coached to play for safety, doesn’t get any ball in hand opportunities with any space, and subsequently his basic skills have become very average at times. Culminating with a dramatic loss of form last year. If I was coach i’d simply let him express himself with ball in hand. My advice would be, just go out and score tries!
I liken it to telling someone like Virender Sehwag or Adam Gilchrist to play defensively and wait till they are dominating before playing any shots. (we have a similar problem with our cricketers too!)
How do you dominate with a defensive mindset? Would they be as successful trying to curb their natural instincts and natural game? I think we all know what the outcome would be.
*Make sure our conditioning is up to scratch.* All I hear is how much fitter and faster we are compared to before. How our speed tests are better than they’ve ever been.
Watching our teams over the years I can state that I don’t care what the tests say, it still isn’t good enough. We should aim to be the fittest, strongest team at all times. When teams come to the highveld, we should have a 15 point advantage and be able to run them off the field.
Australasian teams still believe that they can run South Africans off the park by playing with width. Largely they are correct. How often do we see the ball taken through 6 or 7 phases and then we just open up a massive gap or don’t even lay a hand on someone. Or if the game starts to get quite open we can’t compete. We then start making basic errors, dropping passes etc
*In summary.* There are a few different areas I have identified that I believe we need massive work on. It starts with getting the right structure.
A director of coaching is needed! ASAP. Then we need some decent coaches that can follow a vision and not succumb to pressure. If we go in with the right mindset, we can embrace the challenges we face.
We can then play direct, hard running rugby and utilise our strengths to perform with more consistent results. I believe in SA rugby players. I love our teams, players, culture and history. But I can’t stand the fact we under perform. We have the talent to be the dominant team and country in world rugby and forge a record like we did in our glory days. We just need to be proactive, rather than reactive. Attacking rather than defensive. And believe it rather than hope for it. Go South Africa!
- Towering Toronto Wolfpack set to grow rugby league in Europe’s cities
- Former England rugby captain: 'I feel we are in the shadows of the men'
- How the ‘rugby rape trial’ divided Ireland
- Ishant Sharma to undergo fitness test on Saturday; Hardik Pandya eyes SA ODIs
- SA bank on Port Elizabeth's slowness to put the brakes on Australia
- Gregor Townsend says Finn Russell remains out of his current plans ahead of Italy vs Scotland
The Problem With SA Rugby - My Blueprint For Success have 3548 words, post on ezinearticles.com at May 28, 2009. This is cached page on Talk Vietnam. If you want remove this page, please contact us.