Bok fans need good news

Mike Greenaway

Here is a sobering thought. After the Springboks’ showdown with the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday, Rassie Erasmus has just six more Tests before the Boks’ opening World Cup match against … the very same All Blacks.

It is just 53 weeks until these teams do battle in Yokohama on September 21 and the heat is on Erasmus to get the Springbok house in order. Steve Hansen, of course, has been fine-tuning since, well, the last World Cup and over the next one year and one week he has only to keep the dust off his finished product.

Since these old rivals did battle in the 2015 semi-final (which the All Blacks won 20-18) they have taken completely divergent paths back to next year’s World Cup rematch.

In short, Erasmus in June took the wheel of a ship listing heavily and remarkably righted it in the series against England, only for it to be floundering once more in the Rugby Championship after the coach took his eye off the swells before him and focused too heavily on the World Cup horizon.

And now, after two depressing losses, the refrain from the sweating Springbok staff this week has been “judge us on the World Cup”, an expedient phrase too often used by beleaguered Bok coaches to buy time.

It was infamously coined by Rudolf Straeuli in 2003 around the time of the Jan van Riebeeck Test against the All Blacks at Loftus Versfeld. And between that 16-52 rout and the World Cup in Australia, Bok Test caps rained down in this country like manna from heaven. The net was cast so far and wide, and so many one-cap wonders created, that Straeuli was spoilt for mediocre choice by the time the Boks had their rematch with the All Blacks in the World Cup quarter-final in Melbourne, and were effortlessly dispatched 29-9.

The difference between the Straeuli and Erasmus eras is that where the former was mostly polishing turds in terms of player quality, Rassie has enough gems for the Boks to shine at the World Cup — he just has to use them wisely.

Erasmus will know he has made mistakes in his seven-match tenure thus far, and he now needs to regroup and perhaps copy the road to the World Cup taken by another Springbok coach called in to do salvage work ahead of a World Cup, the supremely successful Kitch Christie.

He was asked to do an “ambulance job” when Ian McIntosh was fired by Louis Luyt for daring to lose a series in New Zealand  — the Boks in fact drew the third and final Test — and Christie had four remaining Tests in 1994 and one friendly in 1995 to implement his strategy.

Christie’s no-frills, no-risk approach to tactics won him no prizes for good fellowship but it did win the World Cup. From the outset he settled on a team, stuck with it, and built a winning culture.

Come to think of it, Jake White did much the same thing albeit over a much longer period. In his first Test match in 2004 he told his disbelieving players that they would win the World Cup in 2007. Four years later in the change room at the Stade de France, pretty much the same team was drinking from the Webb Ellis Cup.

And let’s be frank, there was nothing pretty about Jake White’s percentage rugby. But, again, it won the World Cup and no South African cared how it was done. That was a long time ago …

This country’s desperate need for good news is where Rassie has missed a trick. Sport so often has given respite to suffering South Africans but not of late. The poor Springbok, for example, has taken so many hits in recent years that it should have been euthanized.

And never mind the public, the players themselves are gatvol of humiliation. These are proud men who are sick of being the butt of cheap jokes.

Never mind 2019, Rassie needs to streamline his ambitions to reviving the ailing Springbok brand now, to begin revitalising pride in the green and gold by finding a way to win. Springbok history has shown how it can be done.

- Mike Greenaway

Let's chat

  • Herman Schroder?

    The only good news we need is that the quota system has been scrapped. Everything will fall into place naturally after that, most importantly finally getting a world class coach to help us get back on our feet. Cheers.

    • Georgie Best

      Are you applying for the job Herman? You seem to have all the answers and know more than Erasmus, so you should apply! The man can’t seem to do anything correctly in your opinion. Who should coach the Boks in your opinion?

      • Herman Schroder?

        I didn’t know you had to be coach to comment on these forums ?? I’m looking at all the available data and believe he has bitten off more than he can chew. Even after our win this morning I still believe he is on very thin ice. For a team to concede those stats means you did a lot wrong but for once the rub of the green went our way. I’m chuffed about the win make no mistake but the home game against them will give us a clearer picture of where we are really are, so until then I’ll reserve my judgement. Cheers.

        • Dean

          Jeez. You never satisfied. You tell everyone that the boks will catch a klap in NZ. Then we win. Now you’ll judge them on the return fixture. Come on man, I know like everyone else including yourself, there’s a lot wrong with SA Rugby, but when the boys put their hands up acknowledge it.

          • Dean

            Dean get a new name, there can only be one of us

          • Herman Schroder?

            I did. See my comments on the ‘Merry go Round’ article.

            By the way the whole world though we would be klapped including you I assume and according to the stats we should have been. Not being wise after the event are we ? Cheers.

    • Sharky

      It’s not just the quota system that needs fixing – the Boks need to be isolated from the country as a whole. Here the rugby fans crucify you if you lose a match and the non-rugby fans hate you and want you to humiliate yourself. So if you’re losing then everyone in the country hates you – your fans and detractors alike!

      Add to that the negative government attitude to the sport and the toxic national psyche and you have something that is akin to a dysfunctional home where daddy beats mommy and neither parent has time for the kids… or to fix that upstairs toilet that’s been overflowing for years. The lawn is waist-high, the dog is malnourished and chained to a tree and the family sedan is pocked with rust and missing a bumper.

      What the Boks need s social services to arrive and remove them from this unhealthy environment because we all know what the future holds for kids (and rugby players) who spend their formative years learning that they’re worthless.

      • John Comyn

        Yes AB De Villiers had a go at SA rugby supporters on Twitter. We also had COSATU having a go at Rassie this morning. He’s now a full blown racist because the team tomorrow is 34% black. We ask ourselves why youngsters get the hell out of here to play overseas!!!!! I know I could not take the abuse these youngsters are subjected to.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Exactly, I commented on that possibility before they came out with their usual ‘colour by numbers’ wailing. The Bok win this morning was even sweeter because it may have proved a point. Cheers.

        • Philippus Johannes Petrus Kleynhans

          COSATU you go manage the Boks. Show us you are better.If you can good. If you fail go back what you do best – MESH UP AS WHAT YOU ALREADY DONE AND PROVED A.H.!!!!!

      • SweetAz

        Rieko Ioane,-2 tries
        Perenara- 1
        Mckenzie- 1, maybe 2
        Crotty 1
        Ben Smith 1
        Read- 1
        Barrett – 2 (between the 3 brothers)
        Cody Taylor – 1 off a driving maul
        So anywhere between 7 and 10 tries with 70% converted, plus the odd penalty = Between 50 and 70 points

        I’m guessing Boks may get 1 from Marx and maybe 4 or 5 penalties as the AB’s are happy to give away penalties in the red zone. = approx 20 points.

        If the Boks lose by less than 30 it should be regarded as OK ‘ish for a team ranked 7th in the world. That’s purely based on what my brain and the form book tells me,—my heart is hoping I’m wrong

  • Redge

    Lets be realistic. The AB’s is the no 1 team in the world and we are no 7. You don’t win in NZ,fact. Now we expect the Boks to win,really? I will be very happy if we put up a good show and loose by less than 12. We were robbed in the 2011 WC and gave the AB’s a hell of a go in 2015 after losing to Japan. Everything is not lost yet

  • John Comyn

    I’m not sure Rassie has more to work with than Straeuli had. Maybe Rassie is not that far off. He needs a decent 8 who can provide some protection for the 9 and a settled loose trio. Maybe Jean-Luc Du Preez back at 7 and an out and out fetcher at 6. We have loads of options in the T5. Oh and Nienaber needs to work his magic. The best defense in the WC always wins it. Without fail!

  • Barry Smith

    It is true that you need to consider back up players and develop depth, but at this late stage in our WC cycle, it is more important to win! If you are on a winning run, the WC will look after its self!

    Erasmus also needs proper back up staff – an experienced forwards coach and same for the Backline. With this in place, we may stop getting weird selections come through!

  • humblepie

    Brendan Venter was asked how we should play and he gave 3 lengthy tips that came down to a continuation of conservative, one dimensional play. He framed it as the only strategy that will work against the AB’s. I suspect that this is the only advice he has ever given, regardless of which team play against which opponent. It is not easy to make a paradigm shift if this is how you grew up and was formed.
    The ex All Black, Mark Robinson was asked the same question and his response earlier today was:
    1. the Boks are too one dimensional on an offensive front
    2. the Boks prefer to crash rather than to off load
    3. their tuck & run style is easy to defend against
    4. they must shift the point of attack and be less predictable
    5. poor defense out wide
    6. if the Boks do decide to kick, it must be contested. Don’t kick for the sake of kicking
    This advice is the exact opposite of that of Venter. The lesson in this is be careful who you ask for advise.

    • Look Deeper

      Who should you ask for advice? A highly intelligent brain in rugby that created a dynasty at Saracens and was the last SA coach to win a Junior World Cup. Also worked wonders with Stormers defence when he was first starting out.


      A guy that played rugby in another era that has never coached in his life.

      • Speedster

        You obviously didn’t do any research, Robinson is coaching in the UK and team was promoted last season.

        • Look Deeper

          Apologies. There are two former All Blacks named Mark Robinson and I looked at the wrong one.

  • humblepie

    I am looking forward to some exciting Curry cup matches this weekend. Whilst all the distribution-challenged centers are currently in Wellington, there should be no reason why the ball will not reach the exciting Wingers on display in the Curry cup. Expect quite a few tries from these wingers.
    Think about it, it is only necessary to write off one team for now. Continue to enjoy the excitement and success of local teams that have adopted modern, fast paced rugby. I have little doubt that they will have to be the change agent in RSA rugby. Don’t expect the Boks to take leadership in this regard.

  • Piet Pompies

    In a match of Referees Roulette, which is ,sadly, what our Game has become , it all comes down to the Croupier.

  • Dickmc

    I had a look at who Strauli had in 2003 that were “was mostly polishing turds in terms of player quality”. They included John Smit, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Juan Smith, Danie Rossouw, Joost van der Westhuizen, Jacque Fourie and Schalk Burger. I think the current talent would be well pleased if they could achieve as much as they did. In fact if they do, we may well win another World Cup. I think in 2003 the problem was not player quality but lay elsewhere

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