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A different league?


Written by Pierre McLeod (pierre_mackie)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks, The Rugby Championship on 11 Sep 2012 at 08:07
Tagged with : , , , ,

As we had to sit through another below par performance by South Africa, let me share a few thoughts and observations regarding Heyneke Meyer and the way the Springboks are currently playing.

Looking at the Springbok team we have quick outside backs with the likes of Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo and Francois Hougaard. Add to this a solid midfield with Jean de Villiers and Frans Steyn and a good kicking flyhalf in Morne Steyn.

We’ve always fielded solid forwards including the likes of Beast Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Marcell Coetzee and Willem Alberts and then there are also playermakers on the bench like Ruan Pienaar and Patrick Lambie.

My biggest problem with Heyneke Meyer and the Springboks is not the coach or the players. I think Meyer is a good coach. He has surely shown it in all the Currie Cup and Super Rugby titles he has won. I do however think his approach to the game is wrong – his continuous selection of Morne Steyn and Zane Kirchner is leaving everyone asking questions of his ability to coach at international level.

His record so far is two wins and a draw against England, a win and a draw against Argentina and a defeat against Australia.

The question on everybody’s lips is: Why isn’t Lambie getting a start at flyhalf or even fullback?

The way things are going at the moment is Steyn is kicking away possession and we all know you can’t win games without the ball. The question is why? Is it Steyn taking control of the game? Is it Steyn’s way of attack? Or is it Meyer telling him give the ball some air and let’s see where it goes from there?

If you have been watching any of the Springbok games the go-to tactic seems to be hoisting the ball into air and hoping the wings will chase. It’s not territorial kicking because the ball is not being placed behind the opposition wings – it’s just kicking it up in the air.

Our only attacking option from Kirchner is putting it up in the air and letting the wings chase. We know Kirchner has some real wheels on him and he can attack with ball in hand but it seems like the only option he takes when receiving the ball is to kick it as high as possible. Again, why? Is it Meyer telling him whatever you do, make sure you kick it down their throat?

On Saturday we saw Lambie and Goosen getting a run but unfortunately ten minutes against a determined Australian defense was never going to be enough time to change anything on the score board. The backs did however get some quality front-foot ball for a change and with Lambie joining the line from the back you could finally see glimpses of a threatening South African backline.

We know with Lambie at either flyhalf or fullback we will have some attacking options. A flyhalf should read the game, he should dictate where his team should play, whether across the advantage line, in the opponents half and also where his team wants to attack, whether in the midfield or by creating opportunities for his wings.

The last game against Argentina we saw quick ball coming out the rucks, forwards taking it up in the mid field, creating space left or right, but again the ball just went straight up in the air, even though we had the better backline players.

Your fullback should know where the opposition flyhalf will play and should never be out of position and when he gets the ball he should know where to attack by running it up or kicking into the corners behind the opposition.

Your flyhalf is known as your “general”, he is the player calling the shots and he is the player deciding where to attack from and where to take the game to. Unfortunately we’re not seeing Steyn doing any of that at the moment.

Probably one of the best decisions from a flyhalf during the Super Rugby compitition was when The Sharks played The Stormers in their semi-final clash. Freddy Michalak was camping behind the ruck for a drop goal when he noticed two Stormers forwards in the backline and also that he had JP Pietersen next to him. As we all waited for the drop-goal, Freddy saw the opportunity and ran towards the forwards creating space for JP to run into the gap. We all know what happened after that.

The difference between the Springboks and New Zealand is that New Zealand play to win the game. The Springboks play not to lose the game.

Naas Botha suggested after the game against Australia that the new players should be given a chance but they should also be allowed to play their natural game. Don’t force natural attacking players like Lambie and Goosen into becoming kicking clones.

The way the Springboks are playing at the moment is not according to a kicking game plan but rather reveals a team that does not know what to do with ball in hand. Do you blame the players or is that a call straight from the coach? If it is the coach what is he trying to accomplish? Or is international rugby just in a different league and not what Meyer is accustomed to?

One thing is for sure, Springbok rugby is not very exciting to watch at the moment.



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