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Exactly where they want to be

Written by Jonathan Burt (VinChainSaw)

Posted in :Original Content, RWC 2011, Springboks, Tri Nations on 22 Aug 2011 at 18:58
Tagged with : , , , , ,

For years Springbok rugby fans have lamented the poor planning and tactics which gives rise to the perceived thinking that the Springboks are continually behind the curve when it comes to planning and preparation for big games and tournaments when compared to our Australasian friends.

Let me now put it on record: I believe the Boks are exactly where they want to be in their preparations for the World Cup next month. I believe further that we are in as good a position as we could possibly be in.

Am I just donning rose-tinted glasses? I penned an article a couple of weeks ago where I expressed my confidence in both the Springbok side and in the preparations they are currently under-going in respect of the World Cup.

My view is unchanged.  In fact it has been even further strengthened.

Allow me a few minutes and perhaps you’ll understand how I perceive things.

Let me first repeat the central theme of my last article; the losses in the away leg of the TriNations mean absolutely nothing. We didn’t only send over a B team, we sent over a C team. They got hammered, it wasn’t pretty to watch, but in the greater scheme of things it meant not a dot.

I am in complete agreement with Peter de Villiers when he said we won the game against Australia everywhere but on the scoreboard. Bit of a loser thing to say but hear me out.

We played an Australian side that included almost half of the SuperRugby winning Reds side that had, in the last month or so, played the SuperRugby final, played a warm-up against the Bok C side and then had a humdinger against New Zealand, before flying over to play the Boks in Durban. Our guys, being the ones that played the home games in the TriNations, were getting some much-needed rest and spent the month leading up to the home games planning a World Cup campaign.

Who did we expect were going to more match-fit? The team that had played three massive games on the trot or the ones that had spent a month strategising, toning and working on plans and technique?

Further to that there were still some experiments to be tried and for many it was the first competitive game they’d played alongside some of their team mates for quite some time.

Yet we still only lost by 5 points. Five points.

Fast forward a week and the boys were able to topple the mighty kiwis. Still, there are concerns. The failure to really pressure the All Black line, the lack of line-breaks in the backs along with the reliance on Morne Steyn’s boot has been highlighted by every rugby scribe in the Anglo Saxon world. Our lot, along with the rabid fans, have been most vociferous.

I don’t see it like this at all. Maybe I was watching a different game; alternatively a lot of rugby scribes and fans are not looking at the bigger picture.

First off let’s banish the idea that Springbok rugby has ever been anywhere near as flashy as that of New Zealand or Australia. It’s simply not the way we play and it has never been the case. Bok rugby is, to a certain extent, about bullying the opposition. I prefer to see it as a relentless pressure that forces the opposition onto the back-foot and forces them to make mistakes which we capitalise on ruthlessly. Rugby is a game of backs AND forwards. Although it helps, it’s simply a fallacy to think that there is only one way to win a game.

This brings me nicely onto another criticism levelled at the Boks, this time more extensively by the foreign press. Their claim is they saw nothing to suggest that Boks had varied their game plan in any meaningful way from that employed in 2007. The suggestion is that this sort of rugby has been left in the dinosaur age and is no longer good enough to win the World Cup in the “new” age of fast-paced rugby.

I find this laughable. Rugby, at its very core, is a physical game involving collisions of big guys. No amount of flash will ever change that.

We’ve been told how the Boks have been working in Rustenberg and I suspect everybody and his dog therefore thought they would come out with some sort of new attacking game plan. I don’t think that’s what our boys were doing in Rustenberg. I rather think they were working very hard on their basics, especially in the forward set pieces. We dined handsomely on the all Blacks in the scrums on Saturday, whether it was with Bismarck or Smit in the number 2 jumper. We did well in the line-outs and we murdered them at the break-down. In my mind those are the non-negotiable building blocks of a World Cup campaign and the Boks had them well-covered.

Furthermore, if you can win a game by doing the basics well, why would you want to try the little tricks up your sleeve and allow the opposition the opportunity to study video footage and put plans in place to combat this? And do it against the best team in the world? Thats all the Boks did; they concentrated on the bland and executed it well to claim the win. There was no need for anything extraordinary because when you’re outclassing your opposition in the basics you’ve put yourself on the right side of the odds to win the game.

Finally, please don’t under-estimate the motivation this team has. For a very large portion of the side they will be moving to pastures green at the conclusion of this competition. For many more this will be the last bite they get of the World Cup apple. There is tremendous experience in this side and these guys are able to roll the dice; even if they don’t win the Cup they’ll still go down in the annuls of history as legends of the game. If they win it they’ll be even greater legends. That sort of situation breeds a nothing-to-lose mindset where there is no fear of failure. Contrast this with the current All Blacks side…

All in all I’m more than happy with where we are and, with the much-spoken influence of the senior Springboks, I’m sure they’re exactly where they want to be too.

We might not win the World Cup, it’s a lottery at the best of times, but these guys are going to give it one helluva crack.


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