Fans are wringing their hands at the thought of the Springboks being routed in Wellington on Saturday, the AOR team debates whether it’s reasonable to measure South Africa against the All Blacks.
Zelím Nel – Yes
I mean, the only reason it’s got anything to do with the All Blacks is because they’re double-parked in our spot on the World Rugby rankings.
After England, South Africa has the most registered players in the world (almost twice as many as France, ranked third on the list). And, unlike England, SA’s players aren’t soccer rejects settling for the RFU’s promise of ‘beers and lifelong mates’.
South Africa produces quality in quantity like no other rugby nation on the planet, which is why there are thousands of Saffas crunching rivals on the club and varsity fields of North America, Europe and Australasia. Just like you’d expect an immigrant from Russia to brush his teeth with Vodka, SA’s legion of emigrants has a reputation for playing rugby to a high standard.
This pedigree is not translating into Springbok success anymore because we’re playing with both hands tied behind our backs. The combination of a weakening currency, amateur-minded, inept administration and a government invested in using the sport to harvest votes would have completely wiped lesser rugby nations off the map.
The fact that South Africa can still beat the likes of England and Ireland – wealthier rugby programs that benefit from infinitely more professional coach and player development structures, and no political interference – bears testament to the resiliency and quality of our talent.
South Africa has won two World Cups and three Super Rugby titles in spite of these obstacles. Imagine what we’d do to the cheating Kiwis if the playing fields were level?
Rather than accept sliding standards and declining results, stakeholders should turn their attention to breaking the bonds that hold the Boks back.
Tank Lanning – No
“We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but we are looking at those one percenters,” said Warren Whiteley earlier this year. He was referring to Dave Rennie’s philosophy on high performance rugby that sees the highly-regarded coach happy to spend time on becoming just one percent better at a single facet of play, such are the margins at the apex of the sport.
But while Steve Hansen, coach of the world champion All Blacks, is focusing on the one percenters, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is explaining his decision to substitute hooker Bongi Mbonambi before half time, and why he chose to leave scrumhalf Embrose Papier on the bench, lest they become political footballs used to net him an own goal.
And while Kiwi scrum guru Mike Cron is working out ways to counter Steven Kitshoff, Bok forward coach Matt Proudfoot is at a press conference explaining why it’s not about getting a win against New Zealand this weekend, but about “developing a team that’s competitive at the World Cup and represents South Africa as a nation.”
A noble cause indeed, and one that will bear fruit in the future, but in an elite environment where a one percent improvement in a single facet of play can mean the difference between winning and losing, it is factually impossible to compete with the best if one is not wholly and solely searching for ways to win.
Throw in the macro economic factors that sees Erasmus touring the world begging clubs for the use of our Rand-avoiders, and an administrative infrastructure steeped in gravy-stained ties from the amateur era, and it’s easy to understand why the Boks can no longer compete with the singularly focused All Blacks.
A five-point loss to the Aussies in Brisbane? Yep, that’s about right … For now!
You’ve read what they think, where do you stand in the Big Debate?