2018 ends with questions, not answers

Zelím Nel

A series victory against England and a big-time win against the All Blacks in New Zealand belied South Africa’s 5-5 record as they embarked on a challenging four-week tour of Europe.

The Boks boarded the plane to Heathrow destined for a November campaign that was supposed to tick boxes important to SA’s 2019 Rugby World Cup chances, but they returned with more questions than answers.

As the tour wore on it became increasingly clear that the team was in win-now mode, with Rassie Erasmus selecting his strongest available lineup in every match.

Indeed, his predecessors – if they’d been tasked with reviving the Boks from two of the worst seasons in team history, less than two years from the next World Cup – would have done exactly the same thing. The difference is that none of them had the luxury of a six-year contract; they would have been coaching for their lives.

However, as was the case with the Bok coaches before him, Erasmus will be judged primarily on South Africa’s performance at the World Cup. In fact, nothing is more likely to stop him from reaching an unprecedented sixth year in the hot seat like a dismal showing in Japan. Failing to at least reach the semi-finals would erase all credit accumulated on his eBoks card, even including an unbeaten 2018.

And that’s why it was important for Erasmus to make the most of the latitude provided by his long-term contract by risking the November tour in pursuit of gaining clarity on the plan for global supremacy.

In the coach’s defence, Embrose Papier (134 minutes) and Ivan van Zyl (108) both got a run, and perhaps that was what Erasmus had in mind when he negotiated with Sale Sharks to release first-choice scrumhalf Faf de Klerk after the Test against France.

While De Klerk is at least one echelon below the quality of a Fourie du Preez, Joost van der Westhuizen and Ricky Januarie, the one question this tour did answer is that the Sale halfback is at least one tier above the current quality of Papier and Van Zyl. But that’s where the answers stopped and the questions started.

After spelling Willie le Roux for the final 15 minutes against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld, Damian Willemse was given a 77-minute audition for the role of ‘backup fullback’ in the tour-opener at Twickenham.

The raw but outrageously-talented Stormers playmaker wouldn’t have played another minute on the tour had Sbu Nkosi not been a late withdrawal in Cardiff, so the question remains: who starts at fullback if Le Roux suffers an injury, and have we verified that player’s Test credentials?

Another unanswered question relates to the composition of the back row. Openside flanker Siya Kolisi finished the tour without having won a single turnover.

Malcolm Marx led with three and the way he was swarmed by teammates every time he got over the ball to win a penalty underlines the value of those turnovers.

The question: with Kolisi at 6, and Duane Vermeulen on the blindside when Warren Whiteley is available, are the Boks able to mount a legitimate turnover threat at the tackle point? And where does that leave arguably SA’s most consistent performer, Pieter-Steph du Toit?

Erasmus persisted with Whiteley at No 8 for the first two Tests before the latter broke down with a calf injury, a selection that raises questions about how the Boks want to play.

Percentage tactics are the foundation of Erasmus’ rugby philosophy. Swys de Bruin’s attack is not compatible with the principles of percentage tactics, schematically or from a personnel perspective. So where Erasmus places a premium on gain-line ascendancy at No 8 (see: Vermeulen), Whiteley’s athleticism is a better fit for De Bruin’s wide plays.

Handre Pollard was the clear-cut starting flyhalf on the eve of the November campaign. Then he spent 76 minutes of the tour at inside centre, with Elton Jantjies at first receiver.

The reason that the attack sprang to life every time Jantjies jogged on was because De Bruin’s attack is custom-built for the Lions flyhalf. It requires a playmaker who favours passing, and who complements a quick release with consistent accuracy. Handre Pollard favours running, has a ponderous release and is all over the dart board. The Bulls pivot is, however, much better at handling the kicking and tackling duties at the vanguard of percentage tactics.

Is the 10 jersey up for grabs? Is the Lions attacking plug-in compatible with international rugby, where Jantjies has won 8 of 20 Test starts?

And then there was the kamikaze defensive system which bordered on comedy. It’s hard to believe that blind gambling is what renowned defence coach Jacques Nienaber had in mind when he installed the system, but that underlines questions about whether the Boks should be experimenting on defence given the lack of experience in the squad, and time remaining before the World Cup.

Despite the obvious insanity of blitzing an outside defender on a whim against a numerically-superior attack, there’s a hidden cost to the mop-up team when the callow wingers get it wrong. South Africa will arrive in Japan with one of the heaviest forward packs, and asking gain-line brutes to scramble to the trams every time the outside backs allow a jailbreak seems like an ill-fated endeavour.

A 320-minute tour spawned new questions that Erasmus and the Boks will have to answer in the 320 minutes that remain before South Africa’s World Cup opener against New Zealand in Yokohama. Here’s hoping.

- Zelim Nel

Let's chat

  • Barry

    A brave topic Zelim. Brace yourself for the onslaught!

  • Colin

    Very good points, all of them. They need to decide which game plan they want to play and then pick the right players for that.

  • Bill Ellis

    Handre would be better with a centre with more spacial awareness and distribution game outside him. Perhaps it’s time for Jan? De Allende is a beast in contact, but he loves running diagonally at his own wing and though he may have proficient technical passing skills, his option taking is often poor.

  • Wesley

    Although there are semi-controversial comments in some areas of the article, Zelim is spot-on here about the questions raised, especially the backrow and pivot combinations. How do we ascertain a way forward for Bok rugby, as our traditional strengths don’t cut it anymore but anything new doesn’t keep us as supporters sane during the matches either. There is so much a mush-mash of player types available, finding a seamless combination of skills and gameplan seems quite the task, with backups and preferred starters so much a different breed from each other. Perhaps one can look at where it began in SA, when Mitchell and Spencer introduced, and Ackerman and Swys further developing, a NZ style of attack which was successful for the Lions, picking players that fit that mold. No franchise would dare have chosen players like Jantjies and Whiteley because of their flair and athleticism, rather opting for, dare I channel Herman here, “domkrag” or “stampkar” rugby, kind of the traditional staple of SA rugby. But the problem was, these teams were getting left behind while the Lions flourished. Traditional powerhouses such as the Bulls were struggling, Stormers hanging on defense only under AC, and Sharks drifting inbetween. This totally threw a spanner in the works for Bok rugby and what direction it is to take. I would say the loose years between 2007-2010, when SA did the best on any international stage, we were lulled in a false sense of security and was when other teams were silently developing their bases. Now that they have got it right, we are now playing catch-up to the likes of Ireland and Wales. It has happened before after Mallet left, and took us 7-8 years to get back up on top and was pretty quick, only because the 2 bad coaches had only 2 years at the helm at a time and could quickly fix it. We had PDiv for an extra 2 where results were kind of faltering and things getting weird, Meyer for a full 4 and AC for another 2, both of the last two with their blinkers on not realizing the change coming. AC tried too quickly and failed horribly trying to emulate something or somebody other than the traditional, and even Meyer had an identity crisis at one point. We should not expect a dramatic uptick in results within a year, with many questions to be lingering is kind of a natural process at this point. I feel the same may happen to NZ, they have been lulled into a false sense, and feeling is that they are becoming undone in 2018. Bound to happen sometime, as all top teams usually fall after a long reign (Man U, Ferrari, Tiger Woods etc etc.) They are in more danger than we are.

    • Stanley

      There is actually an interview out (with CJ Stander and Arno Botha). Arno is moving to the same club as CJ for next season. CJ claims that the Bulls told him that he is too small for a number 8. WoW! There he is cutting it as a loosie (I think 8) with the world’s second best team …………. it would have been something else if he was just playing for Italy.
      This is the mentality I hate about our rugby

    • Herman Schroder?

      Good read Wesley mostly spot on. Rassie needs to decide one way or the other and not this confusing mix we now seem to employ. AC as you say had the same problem and the players suffered accordingly just like this year.

      I’m not sure if you watch the NZ panel show ‘The Breakdown ‘ but they indicated that Hansen was trying out a more conservative game plan this year in preparation for the WC and they too were caught between these two plans which may explain their slightly less successful season. Mind you 2 losses in 14 tests is not exactly a train wreck, Rassie would loved to have got even close to that, lol. Cheers.

      • Wesley

        It is a bit of a confusing mix at this stage, although i trust the coaching team we have now is one of more insight than what we had with AC as well as with Meyer. They were very closed minded in adapting, and shifts in gameplan were desperation-based instead of long term planning. We may get better, but a 2019 WC triumph is certainly a writeoff i say, too late now to adapt that quickly. I say forget it, do well and aim for making the semis, keep Rassie and co. and shoot for 2023. I dont mind the 6year contract, it gives security in escpecially our hostile SA environment. Like Gatland and Schmidt, coaching inconsistant teams with little resources at the doldrums in some stages in the 2000s, have had years to make their mark now baring fruit. Lets not get too bogged down in 1 season with a forward thinking coach. Desperation comes from bending to outside pressure. And in Hansens case, complacency from being at the top for too long.

        • Dean Bright

          Rassie was High Performance Manager at SA rugby during HM’s time. He was also an assistant and advisor to HM. There is not much difference in the way they play now and when they were playing then.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Wesley I take your point but I don’t think Rassie differs much from his predecessors. Smiling after losing test after test is complacency in my book and 2023 is far too long to give a coach, especially one untested at test rugby prior to his appointment. Mind you if he doesn’t buck up with his transformation targets the bullies will soon be climbing in and 2023 will only become a pipe dream. Cheers.

  • Barry

    Whilst most will certainly give Erasmus a pass mark at a greatly improved year, there are certainly areas that need urgent attention.

    Zelim, you have covered a number of these items and there has also been a fair amount of steam off load in earlier articles. I think the following points should be added to the list for attention:

    It was obvious from the forward stats for the Wales game that carries were way down and that our chaps were largely running on empty. This is not new, it happens every year, so why did we not take along players that could actively contribute in either the the final test of in earlier tests so that the load was shared and that we had fresh legs on the park?

    Tour selections – why take along 3 newbies from WP when there was no intention of playing them and leave out players like the Du Preez, Akker VDM, Leyds, Bosch, SP Marais and so on, who are mostly already caped and could have actively contributed?

    The Barbarians game was an ideal opportunity to draw in players on the fringes, so that we could have tested a little more depth, but instead we play the same guys that were bone tired the previous week!! Why not test a few more scrum halves, someone at 15 etc? The inclusion of some fringe players would have created good will and benefit for the greater good, instead the shut door sent a very different message!

    The centre pair has already been chatted about ad norseam, but the questions are why did it take five tests for the penny to drop and why have a specialist reserve 12 on tour and then not play him?

    There is a growing lobby brewing in neighbouring Provinces that Erasmus gives players from WP priority to the exclusion of worthy players from Durban and Johannesburg. It may be perceived or there may be some fact in it, but Erasmus need to be sensitive to this concern. A point that did not sit well with the Durban’ites was the way that the Currie Cup final inclusions were handled. The thought that the winning side should surely expect to get a few surprise inclusions, but instead the losers got included and some perceived dead certs from natal were left at home. Rightly or wrongly this did nothing to win friends in Durban and I am sure that was the case in Johannesburg as well!

    Lastly, why is Brits treated like royalty. He’s been on the books for about five months now, had a five week European holiday and has not played a stitch or rugby!!!! Akker VDM has been in outstanding form and is left at home. How come??

    • Zelim Nel Zelim Nel

      Great points in there Barry, please let me know if/when you get answers to the Schalk Brits mystery!

      • Barry

        Yeh, not holding my breath on an answer to that one. Just doesn’t sit well!

        • FD

          Your one-eyed nature coming out, Sharks won the final but WP were by far the best and most consistent team leading up to that point. I’d rather take players who do it consistently than a one off game. I don’t disagree that I think there is some bias (and I’m a WP fan) but you kill your own argument by showing your own prejudice

    • Herman Schroder?

      So much for the ‘meticulous planner’ lol. Cheers.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Apart from your ‘greatly improved’ Bok season comment the rest of your post is spot on. Just too many fault lines for Rassie to feel any comfort. Cheers.

    • albert Hoffmann

      Agree with most of what you are saying, especially about Johannesburg and durban fans, its an absolute joke that the bok team is made up of mostly stormers and bulls when they were both bottom feeders in SR. The 2 best teams in SA have hardly any representation in the bok team. I do disagree with your comment that Rassie deserves a pass mark. see stats below, AC actually has a better record. AC’s team even scores more tries per game and concedes less points, he also has a higher winning percentage.

      Total Tests

      Erasmus 2018: 14

      Coetzee 2017: 13

      Coetzee 2016: 12

      Total wins

      Erasmus 2018: 7

      Coetzee 2017: 7

      Coetzee 2016: 4

      Win percentage

      Erasmus 2018: 50%

      Coetzee 2017: 53.8%

      Coetzee 2016: 33.3%

      Total tries

      Erasmus 2018: 37

      Coetzee 2017: 39

      Coetzee 2016: 20

      Average tries per game

      Erasmus 2018: 2.64

      Coetzee 2017: 3

      Coetzee 2016: 1.6

      Points conceded

      Erasmus 2018: 330

      Coetzee 2017: 296

      Coetzee 2016: 329

      Average points conceded per game

      Erasmus 2018: 23.57

      Coetzee 2017: 22.7

      Coetzee 2016: 27.4

      Rugby Championship finish

      Erasmus 2018: 2nd

      Coetzee 2017: 3rd

      Coetzee 2016: 3rd

      End of year tour

      Erasmus 2018: 2/4

      Coetzee 2017: 2/4

      Coetzee 2016: 0/3

      Win percentage at home

      Erasmus 2018: 66.6%

      Coetzee 2017: 66.6%

      Coetzee 2016: 66.6%

      Win percentage away

      Erasmus 2018: 37.5%

      Coetzee 2017: 42.8%

      Coetzee 2016: 0%

      • Herman Schroder?

        Spot on and they never mentioned how many losses each had. AC 4 out of 13 matches in 2017, Rassie 7 out of 14. go figure. Cheers.

      • Chris Mouton

        You have to compare the first year’s results. There Rassie is ahead. Let’s see what happens next year.

        • Maxwell

          AC started from scratch and was a 99 appointment with minimum tools . AC’s second year showed an improvement (see all Categories). When Rassie was assigned and with all the best tools, He some how took the team 2 steps back. I believe AC would have done better in his 3rd year. And that’s a fact.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Why ? If AC only lost 4 matches last year, including a 25-24 loss to NZ, why didn’t Rassie build on that ? Everyone harps on the 57-0 thumping while blowing the Wellington win this year way out of proportion. We had 25 % of the ball in that match and BB choked. Gavin Rich said the result saved Rassie from total failure. A pity in retrospect.

          What did Rassie do this year ? He imported a bunch of mercenaries who overall were just as inconsistent as the local yokels. In retrospect they became part of the problem not the solution. The problem is coaching and game plan with suitable players to match. Solve that and you are halfway to recovery. Cheers.

          • Chris Mouton

            You ask me why? Coetzee was already part of a national coaching team when Jake White was the coach. He broke a lot of records. Unfortunately not the right kind of records. It’s Rassie’s first year of coaching and he brought along some of his own ideas. He inherited a complete shambles from Coetzee. You cannot expect a new coach to have success from the beginning with no continuity. I think considering the circumstances, his 50% ratio isn’t bad. Yet he didn’t break any records of the negative kind. You need a buy-in from all the players. His so-called mercenaries are important to the cause. Especially Duane, Willie and Faf. Kolbe isn’t looking bad at all, despite my doubts.

            I encourage you to look at the context and not just the results. That match in Loftus showed what the Springboks are capable of if they prepare well. Inexperience lost us that game. It could’ve very easily been won. Apart from Australia, none of the teams we played against this year were weak. We all agree that the loss in Australia never should’ve happened. The loss against England was due to bad lineouts. France, Scotland and Wales have improved immensely.

            In general I do agree with Zelim’s article. There are some valid points made. One thing we can all agree on is that this is not an easy time lying ahead. Rassie and his team still has a lot of work to do. I’m not happy that he chose so many stalwarts to play for the Barbarians. I would’ve used it as an opportunity to check the depth. Willemse at 15, Jantjies at 10 and Nel at 13. Schickerling and Brits in the forwards. Then choose players from other countries.

            Oh well, let’s see what the new year brings.

  • Herman Schroder?

    Give that man a Bells or even two. Hats off to you Mr Nel, you are now my favourite scribe. We are tired of columnists with obvious agendas wearing rose tinted glasses and sugar coating their summations in order to pander to the hierarchy and the lovers of mediocrity. Many of these appear regularly on this forum.

    A few points. You mention our series win against England but that must also be taken in context. Firstly they were seriously under strength and yet they still beat us in the third test at Newlands.. They beat us again at Twickers with many first choices still missing. An under prepared France win was also an absolute pox. We on the other hand were playing at full strength throughout the EOYT, by all accounts.

    You correctly point out our failed defensive pattern at critical moments ( wasn’t Nienaber supposed to be the best defence coach in the world ? ) and more importantly the poor attacking game under Rassie’s stunted outdated no risks rugby philosophy. A good percentage of the Bok players do in fact have the skills to play the expansive game but they are not brought into play due to the overall defence based game plan which frowns on risk taking off loads etc. The other teams who played last weekend, even the second tier ones, showed sublime attacking skills in their matches under the same pressure the Boks played under. There are no excuses but regrettably Rassie opted for the same ‘expansive challenged’ players week in and week out to bring home the bacon.

    As far as the Jantjies / Pollard conundrum is concerned here is my take. It’s amazing that when Jantjies cocked up he was attacked by all and sundry saying he lacked BMT.. People seem to forget he was a test rookie ( only 4 tests ) when AC got hold of him and like the other Springboks of that era suffered under his confused game plan.

    You correctly point out Pollards strong points and also his lack of creativity which is Jantjies bread and butter. Pollard also showed especially in these last few weeks that he also has BMT problems with his kicking. Note this factor not mentioned at all by the sugar coating guys.

    But like all before him Rassie’s game plan will dictate who plays where and who warms the bench. Some say it’s a good option for later in the game but I beg to differ. Why let the game be either lost or very tight by the 60th minute and expect Jantjies to change the match with running rugby and then have centres outside him not terribly conversant with the nuances of a real attacking game.

    Rassie is in no mans land at the moment. His strongest squad could easily have lost all four games and his game plan has been mostly unsuccessful. He is in fact in exactly the same position that AC was in heading into his second year. In fact AC only lost 4 matches in 2017 including a 25-24 loss to NZ. Rassie with seven losses and a few of them pretty lucky, not so great.

    There are two other aspects of Rassie’s tenure which you could also comment on if you wish. The first is the complications that will most certainly raise it’s ugly head next year ( especially in election year ) with Rassie’s preordained 50 / 50 contract transformation stipulations.

    The other aspect is Rassie’s over reliance on his overseas contingent this year with apparently even more promised for next year. In my opinion they have added very little consistent benefit to the cause and are not helping with their sporadic appearances, which after all is only at the behest of their employers. How does one build a unified team culture, which most other countries will enjoy at the WC, when Rassie has so many balls to juggle. Your comments would be appreciated.

    As I said before June, Rassie is going to paint himself into a corner trying to please everybody and six months later we are in the exact position you headed your article with ie there are more questions than answers. Good luck to him, he will be needing the patience of Job and the wisdom of Solomon to succeed at the WC and 4 tests to bring it all together. Rather him than me. Cheers.

    • albert Hoffmann

      100% agree with each and every single word. Well said, finally the truth.

    • Barry

      Fairly brief today Herman, are you off colour?

      • Herman Schroder?

        No not off colour but half way through was summoned to the bedroom by ‘she who must be obeyed’, lol. Cheers.

      • SweetAz

        The guy is a genius at repeating the exact same screed in ever lengthening columns, -now if only he would engage his brain. It’s like one of these boy racers revving at the lights, a lot of noise and smoke but never actually getting anywhere.
        I almost wish they would make all the Lions Boks and appoint Ackerman coach,—just to see the Crusaders klap them and keep him quiet for a while.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Shame SweetAz you really hate it when others agree with me. Go check out Brendan Venter’s column on News 24. Headline : Rassie’s season worse than AC’s 2017. Sound familiar ? Give it up old chap, it’s only the truth that is hurting you. Cheers.

  • Sharky

    It’s hillarious how Ricky Januarie is snuck in there with the likes of Fourie du Preez and Joost van der Westhuizen as examples of standout Bok scrummies. If Faf is “one echelon below” Fourie and Joost then Ricky is firmly alongside him.

    • albert Hoffmann

      haha agree completely Sharky, almost choked on my breakfast from laughter when i read that.

    • Zelim Nel Zelim Nel

      There was no sneaking Sharky – it’s my opinion that Ricky Januarie was a grossly under-rated player who would have played more than 50 Tests, and started the majority of them, had he not been roadblocked by the best specialist 9 SA has ever produced. He was certainly streets ahead of De Klerk if you’re measuring the two on qualities that win Test matches.

      • Blue_Peter

        Januarie: it’s a good point. To play second fiddle to Fourie du Preez is no mean feat! I also never saw Edwards play, but it seems that he was the better all round athlete, and game breaker, while FdP was a better tactician, and probably the best box kicker the game ever saw.

        • Zelim Nel Zelim Nel

          Thanks Pete, in my opinion players from the amateur era can’t be accurately compared with their pro counterparts. If Fourie had played rugby while working a full-time job, he may not have been a good player at all! And I’m not sure Edwards would have featured in a game where freestyling usually has negative consequences.

      • SweetAz

        Nobody could under-rate Ricky,—I mean who doesn’t want a grossly overweight little fatty for a scrumhalf

        If anything he should be OVER-rated,-the guy is in a different weight class,-perhaps he’s the reserve prop.

        • Zelim Nel Zelim Nel

          Thanks for that picture of a 35-year-old Ricky Januarie mate, I don’t know how Joe van Niekerk played flank for the Boks at his current weight of 80kgs.

          • SweetAz

            He’s always been “chubby” —and now I’m being kind.

          • Johan

            :D :D :D :D :D

            “Apply cold water to burned area”

    • boyo

      Ha ha I can only imagine Zelim was checking to see we read before posting.

  • boyo

    I have some questions.

    I schalk britz seriously going to the WC?

    As a non playing reserve would you take Bosch or Gio Aplon on tour?

    • SweetAz

      Os Du Randt, Bobby Skinstadt, Percy Montgomery, Butch James—–all at the same stage of their careers as Brits when they went to a RWC——all RWC winners.

    • Chris Mouton

      Let’s see what happens in Super Rugby next year. I think there’ll be a few barnstorming performances from fringe players determined to displace the incumbents. I think Akker, Bosch, the Du Preez brothers and a few others definitely have some points to prove.

      • SweetAz

        And I’m sure if they are better than the incumbents they will be chosen, I just think everybody is far too impatient considering the trajectory was heading out of the top ten and we are now at 5 and easily could have been at 3 had one or two things gone our way. Reading these comments the hysteria from certain people is like watching an old time lynching or witch-burning,—and about the same level of intelligence is evidenced.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Ho hum, ever the snide poster. IF ( your favourite fall back word ) we had lost to France ( thank you Nige ) and BB didn’t choke we’d be ranked seventh today. Now how good was Rassie really ? Wake up and smell the roses old chap, your boy sucks. Cheers.

  • Dean Bright

    Should we be a bit more patient? It has only been 1 year. It took the likes of Mitchell, Spencer, Ackermann and Swys 2-3 years before they reaped the rewards of their efforts. I agree though that if you want to play traditional 10 man Bok rugby or go the Lions style route then you must embrace one or the other fully. There is no in between. Swys has done wonderful work with the Lions team but it barely shines through at the Boks. That’s because we are still kicking only off 9 and not allowing our 10 to make most of the decisions. The centers stand too deep and are used as battering rams. It’s very boring to watch. This November tour we barely got to see Dyantyi, Nkosi and Willie on the attack. How can you not embrace such talent and want them in the game more. Those are our game breakers.

    • SweetAz

      Be a bit more patient, -you don’t climb in a Ferrari and drive it flat out until you have a full understanding of its capability, you try various tyres in different conditions to see what works and what doesn’t. The best drivers build up to an excellence they can maintain over a long period of time, not the flash in the pan kind of stuff like a Lions team who got kicked out of Super rugby, has 2 seasons of not quite success and are now hailed as the new Messiahs of Bok rugby.

      Slowly slowly catchee monkey,—-there are a lot of monkey’s on these forums.

      • Herman Schroder?

        You’re only fooling yourself SweetAz and you’re embarrassing yourself with your anti Lions rhetoric. Check the record books. Lions tops, Springboks suck. Cheers.

      • Dean

        It’s pretty unfair to write off the Lions’ achievements like that. 3 Super Rugby finals in a row with academy players and mostly homegrown talent is pretty impressive. No other franchise apart from the Crusaders and Hurricanes has been that consistent the past 3 seasons. On a combined log in Super Rugby based on consistency they would be in the top 3 everytime. Go have a look at their wiki page and see all the records the current bunch have broken on a domestic and Super Rugby level. They’ve now had players and coaches poached by overseas clubs owing to how good they are. Also, a Lions player nominated for player of the year award and Dyantyi winning the breakthrough player of the year award. When last can we say any South African has had that happen.

        • SweetAz

          Dean with that reasoning I could say we almost beat the AB’s at Loftus, we almost beat the English at Twickenham, we should have beat the Welsh if Marx and Dyanti defended properly,—-BUT we didn’t and now everyone and their dog claims Rassie is a kak coach,—Well what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. The Lions have won nothing, nada, fokkol,—-ergo they are kak and their coaches are kak.

          • Herman Schroder?

            SweetAz, Read the other comments on this site old man. You sound like you’re frothing at the mouth because you are incapable of convincing others on this site that your drivel has any foundation. Retire gracefully to avoid further loss of face. Cheers.

    • Babman

      Dean Bright, your comment is spot on…..i would definately go with the Swys game style at the back, play Pollard inside Jantjes and play Esterhuizen on his outside. Faf is our first choice at nine with Papier as back-up. The problem with Rassies plan to put the ball up from nine should just go away, it’s boring and trying to play percentages has not worked for us….cheers

  • SweetAz

    It scares me that someone as stupid as this gets to postulate his crap in a forum such as this,—are you married to Hermans daughter? While you raise one or two good points you miss the bus so far on others it’s almost funny if it weren’t so sad.

    Firstly, please understand why Rassie has a 6-year contract,–https://keo.co.za/understanding-rassies-contract/

    Once you have read that and taken cognizance of the implications of what they are trying to achieve vis a vis continuity/structure/cohesion and wrapped your head around the fact that Rassie is not meant to be a coach for 6 years, allied to the previous AC trainwreck of 57-0 and a loss to Italy perhaps you will cut the guy some slack.

    I am as ready as the next guy to slate a coach but lets be fair about it and have a bit context and actual research,–like how many of those players you want in the team are actually unavailable to injury/overseas club commitments or just unwilling to commit to Bok rugby as they may like Stander/Strauss/Nel etc be keeping their options open to playing for another country. AND REMEMBER YOU CANT CHOOSE A SQUAD OF 60 players. Almost all the players the Lions brigade are kerming about have been invited to camps at various stages and been seen by the coaches, seen their pro’s and cons, compared them head to head in sprints, deadlifts etc etc,—have any of YOU seen this? There are many intangibles regarding man management but it is beyond dispute that this is the most motivated Springbok team in a long time,-how do you put a price on that?

    Find me one other Test Nation that has beaten NZ in NZ in the last 10 years.

    Do yourself a favour and go read Oom Rugby’s columns, gain an education and some understanding about test rugby

    Then find me 16/17 players of colour of International standard and I will suck whatever appendage you point at me

    • Herman Schroder?

      SweetAz I’ve told you before leave my family out of your troubled posts, you clearly have no class. The selective choice of facts to prop up your pathetic argument puts you firmly in the most deluded of Bok fan’s category.

      In Wellington BB chocked. Big deal. What I did see however was that after 14 tests I saw a Springbok team shuffling off the park in Wales with heads bowed and not many of them scoring more than 4 out of 10 for their abysmal performances. NO improvement in skill levels, vision and the ability to execute properly. Way to go to prepare for the WC.

      As usual you end up with a crude reference again which merely underlines your lack of class. Cheers.

  • William Botha

    What I really don’t understand is what the hell is ‘Skulk’ doing in the team? Wouldn’t it have been more productive to bring in the true #3 hooker, if only to feel the atmosphere and learn the drills? And if he is the true #3 – why isn’t he getting ANY game time?

    But then there is this blatant, almost disingenuous, omission of the fact that two of the lost games hung on a knife-edge – a far cry from 57-0 to the Kiwis and the loss to Italy; the Six Nations Bottom-feeder.

    Any experiment provides further questions to be answered. And all of a coaches objectives cannot be measured by stats, numbers and skills – the prime factor I believe Rassie was working on was rehabilitating the Boks’ confidence, so nearly obliterated under AC’s thankfully short tenure. And he’s done that. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      Well done, –someone who understands the mountain Rassie has to climb. The only reason I can think of regarding Schalk is that he doesn’t need the game time, the man has ample experience,–rather give Marx and Mnbonambi more minutes because let’s face it, both of them are pretty inexperienced. Marx, in particular, has not convinced me on this tour’s showing that he even deserves to be in the top 5 hookers in the world nevermind nr 1. And I’m talking about his core role of throwing in the lineout. That said I would have included Akker VDM but I believe he has just undergone an operation, so perhaps Rassie has known about this and is just more informed about the health and conditioning of the players than most of the couch-pundits.

      • Barry

        Sweet you’re starting to sound like you’re related to Erasmus! He has made huge strides, but he has also made some major cock ups! The objective of commentary at the close of the year is to recap on both the good and the bad, because unless we make honest assessments of the state of play, we have no way of plotting a way forward!

        Read the article in SA rugby Mag – Akker VDM only decided to have a minor procedure for an old injury after it became clear that he was not going to Europe and was not on standby! Brits is a “Boetie ” selection nothing else!

        • SweetAz

          Only trying to provide balance, – I’m not related to any of these coaches or even in SA, but Rassie is highly regarded here in NZ,—As was Meyer. De Villiers and AC were regarded as jokes. I agree there are issues but perspective and context are needed. This is Rassie’s first year coaching a National team that no other International Coach would even touch with a bargpole,–that shows just how toxic the setup is.

          This fixation on the Lions just grinds my gears because they were the best of a really really poor bunch. It’s like being the only normal person in the mongoloid class and then expecting the rest of the world to put you on a pedestal. Here in NZ we regarded them as a joke team only making progress because they were in such a weak conference.

          I suggest you spend a bit of time on YOUTUBE and watch a Brits highlights reel, the guy is a phenom with excellent attitude and energy and an asset to any team, the Brits have been laughing at us for years for not picking him. We all know Ralepele and Mbonambi are going to the RWC, -that leaves only one other hooker position,—which is probably Marx. In the meantime, the 3 of them can learn a thing or 10 from Brits. He’s playing for the Baabaas this weekend, take the time to watch that match and if he is shit I will be the first to agree with you.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Well I watched the BaaBaa’s game and had the laugh of my life. Rassie’s dom krag Boks trying to play expansive rugby, what a joke. They were actually an insult to the BB jersey which one commentator actually inferred during the match.

            Pollard was terribly exposed ( as I’ve always maintained ) and the rest weren’t much better. You can’t use the old excuse of not playing together to explain their disjointed performance it was practically Rassie’s failed Bok team on show. All he did show the world was just how inept they are and how they totally lack basic skills. Argentina had skills aplenty to show the crowd thank goodness.

            Must have really pee’d you off when the Lions MAESTRO turned the game around and finally won it for the BB’s with that drop goal hey ?? Cheers.

  • Maxwell

    AC started from scratch and was a 99 appointment with minimum tools . AC’s second year showed an improvement (see all Categories). When Rassie was assigned and with all the best tools, He some how took the team 2 steps back. I believe AC would have done better in his 3rd year. And that’s a fact.

    • SweetAz

      I dont believe so, the players were not playing for him, he never had the dressing room. It was apparent in interviews and body language. Rassie is an inspirational coach, the players WANT to play for him it shines through in every interview even from guys like Dyanti and Siya. You have to compare apples with apples, you cant take 2 years and just compare them, you have to take a myriad of other factors into consideration. Like for example the actual opposition, which part of their season’s cycles were they in, which players were available to them etc etc etc. 57-0 and losing to Italy trumps ALL those other statistics.
      Its all about context, if you take the nature of the losses and compare them its like night and day. If you saw the players in Albany as I did and compare them to now you wouldn’t even be making this comment.

      • Herman Schroder?

        SweetAz, You do realize you now seem to be the only one batting for Rassie ? The rest of us have seen through old Smiley. One step forward two steps back. He is not a rookie coach by any stretch of the imagination and he is after all the ”meticulous planner”, what’s that all about ? Admit it some people just have limitations, Rassie’s is coaching expansive rugby. Cheers.

      • Maxwell

        You dont want to believe so. AC was doing his job.The players wasnt and still isnt professional enough to do their job first which is playing rugby. The coach and players first need to meet each other halfway and then working as a team will become much easier. You talk about 57-0 lost in NZ but nothing about Ireland series win. What you saw in Albany were players hurting because the lost. Really. Seriously. Really seriously. Seriously Really ??? LOL. AC with limited support and amateur assistants and a young inexperience team did well and Rassie with unlimited support and “worldclass” assistants and a 2 year experience team did average.
        Thats why Im making this comment.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Well said Maxwell. Yes some people very selective with their ridicule but the bald facts are Rassie did not pass his first year and the stats bear that out. AC also beat France 3-0 last year and only lost 25-24 to NZ at Newlands. Ignore olD SweetAz he has an agenda. Cheers..

  • Barry

    The slow patient and balanced approach has huge merit in normal circumstances, but we don’t face normal circumstances here. We have had but a handful of tests to get our act together and that window of opportunity is now closed!

    Yes we will all be watching Province and a few Bulls guests take on Argentina, but at the back of our minds will be the thought of what “might have been”

    • SweetAz

      Just a bit more context around the Province/Bulls/Sharks setup would be nice,-if people take the time to look at the coaching setups they had there over the last few years with the John Smith/Gary Gold/AC/Rob Du Preez/some idiot at the Bulls and Vlokkie—-is it really any wonder those 3 franchises have struggled? Compare that to Ackers who served an apprenticeship under Mitchell and its quite a difference.

      • Barry

        Not that sure what your point is and how this relates to the selections for the Barbarians game?
        For the record John Smit was never a coach! Oh and the idiot at the Bulls was Mitchell!

        • SweetAz

          My point is simply that the setup at ALL the South African Franchises were pathetic and underperforming, not a decent coach among the lot of them. So for people to slag the Bulls/Stormers/Sharks as being pathetic compared to the Lions they neglect to consider the setup those players were playing under. There is nothing wrong with the players at any of those franchises, they are ALL capable of being great players with the right coaching and in the right environment. We have seen this time and time again in NZ where players from the Blues move to the Crusaders and suddenly they are world beaters. My comment regarding John Smit was not in respect to his coaching ability but more his contribution (or lack thereof) to the total setup. Nollis Marais was the Bulls coach in the period I’m referring to,—Mitchell only came this year.

          • Herman Schroder?

            Yet you judge the Lions players playing under AC in 2016/17 ?? You say ALL the SA sides were pathetic ?? The Lions reached three SR finals, No NZ side achieved that these past three years.

            Where I agree is that the other three Franchises had coaches that coached dom krag rubbish but unfortunately the players took that mindset into the Bok team culminating in that embarrassing Wales test and yesterday against the BAA BAA’s, not a creative Bok in sight until Jantjies arrived. !4 tests no improvement that’s Rassie’s legacy so far. Cheers.

  • Albert

    The biggest problem facing SA rugby is getting an internationally experienced coach. Too many of our recent coaches have been learning on the job. Were I Rassie, I would be clammering for Gatland to be the next coach, with Ackermann, Swys and Deon Davids as his assistants. That way we can build some continuity in coaching and I certainly believe Gatland can sort out our problems.

    Moving on to team selections, I had always been a Jantjies detractor, but I have been very impressed with the Jantjies/Pollard 10/12 combination. This is similar to the Ford/Farrell combo at England that has worked so well. There are no perfect 10’s in the world, which is why I think its important that 10/12 combo compliment each other. We have seen how our attack suddenly sparks to life with Jantjies/Pollard as a dual playmaker combo. Add the likes of Am or Mapoe at 13 and I believe we have the makings of a world class back line. in the last 10/20 minutes bring on a bruiser at 12 – Rohan JVR, Serfontein, Esterhuizen – to fullfil the role of getting gainline dominance when defenses are tired. Imagine being tired and having a 110kg centre barrelling into you. Yeah, I wouldn’t be happy with that. Our back three pick themselves at the moment with Kolbe a world class back three specialist to come on when things open up a bit. And I would still get Willemse and Bosch involved.

    Now, I know there are some domestic fans who won’t be happy with the make up of this backline, but don’t forget we have the 50% government directive which must be met. So here goes, with subs:

    9. Faf
    10 Jantjies
    11 – Dyantyi
    12 – Pollard
    13 – Am
    14 – Nkosi
    15 – Le Roux

    20 – Papier
    21 – Esterhuizen/RJVR/Serfontein
    22 – Kolbe
    23 – Willemse/Bosch

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