Bok glass is half full

Tank Lanning

Last week, the Boks were the width of a rugby post away from beating England at Twickenham. This week, they were a layer of dubbin away from losing to the French in Paris.

Replacement flyhalf Elton Jantjies made a hash of the touch finder from a last-minute penalty awarded to the Boks. But with just two seconds on the clock, winger Damian Penaud brushed the touchline while fielding the kick.

Two seconds!! And on such unbelievably tight margins are international matches – and careers – decided!! Last week was doom and gloom; this week a bright new dawn for Rassie Erasmus’ Boks.

The fact that it included a myriad of controversial decisions from the four officials on duty is a story for another day.

Today it is about sifting through the match stats to see how the Boks managed to lose the possession and territory battle, carry less, kick less, and make more handling errors, yet sneak the W!

Handre Pollard’s 100% kicking performance certainly contributed.

Losing slightly fewer rucks and mauls than the French contributed, despite the loose trio looking very unbalanced and at time ineffective.

But if looking for a single stat that really differentiated the sides on the day, one needs to look no further than the dominant tackles. Sure, the Boks missed 19 tackles, but of the 153 made, 24 of them were dominant, with 3 of them contributing to the 6 turnovers won by the visitors.

The structure still looks a work in progress – Aphiwe Dyantyi disconnecting with the other 2 defenders up the left touchline early in the game speaks to that – but defence remains 80% attitude and a very good reflection of a team’s overall character.

If last week looked organised and efficient, this week was the complete opposite, at times even looking as if there was a lack in interest! Unlikely, and more a reflection of growing pains for a side still under construction.

That can be coached. Character can’t. The Bok beer glass remains half full!

A look at the match stats from Paris:

Match information:
Points: FRA 26-29 SA
Tries: FRA 2-2 SA
Penalty goals: FRA 3-5 SA
Goal kicking %: FRA 71% – 100% SA
Possession: FRA 55% – 45% SA
Territory: FRA 51% – 49% SA
Ball in play: 34 minutes

Attacking stats:
Ball Carries: FRA 117-85 SA
Metres run: FRA 590-485 SA
Metres per carry: FRA 5-5.7 SA
Line breaks: FRA 4-2 SA
Tackle breaks: FRA 3-1 SA
Passes: FRA 124-116 SA
Good Passes: FRA 103-99 SA
Offloads: FRA 10-5 SA
Rucks won: FRA 85-69 SA
Rucks lost: FRA 7-5 SA
Mauls won: FRA 4-5 SA
Mauls lost: FRA 1-0 SA
Turnovers conceded: FRA 12-16 SA

Defensive stats:
Tackles made: FRA 107-153 SA
Tackles missed: FRA 11-19 SA
Tackle success: FRA 91% – 90% SA
Tackle turnover: FRA 0-3 SA
Dominant tackles: FRA 2-24 SA
Turnovers won: FRA 4-6 SA

Kicking stats:
Kicks from hand: FRA 36-32 SA
Metres kicked: FRA 939-922 SA
Metres per kick: FRA 26-29 SA 

Error stats:
Handling errors: FRA 16-22 SA
Penalties conceded: FRA 5-6 SA
Free kicks conceded: FRA 0-0 SA

First phase stats:
Lineouts won: FRA 14-13 SA
Lineouts stolen: FRA 0-0 SA
Scrums won: FRA 4-4 SA
Scrums lost: FRA 0-0 SA
Own kickoff won: FRA 0-2 SA
Own kickoff lost: FRA 7-5 SA

- Tank Lanning

Let's chat

  • SweetAz

    Let’s remember that this is Rassie’s first year as a National coach vs Hansen and Jones who have coached Wales, Japan, Australia, England and New Zealand for the last 10 years or more. Either of them can choose whoever they want vs Rassie who has to try his damndest to find approximately 16 Non-white players irrespective of whether they are actually meritorious. You’ve got to feel for the guy, he has to drink that half-full glass of beer with one hand tied behind his back whilst headbutting all comers,-yet he has endeavoured to be open and friendly to all and sundry, admitted his mistakes (unlike some other unnamed coaches who were in constant denial) and explained his thinking.
    I like the guy, to me, he has the right mindset and attitude to inspire and motivate a team. Sure he will make mistakes, it would be a miracle if a head coach on his first job with a National team didn’t, but unlike some of his predecessors, he strikes me as someone who will learn from them.
    Now if only some arseholes would just stop trying to pull the rug out from under his feet.

    • Herman Schroder?

      And like Tank you remain delusional. Why did we have an inexperienced coach at the helm is what you should be asking not pouring out the bleeding heart for a guy who got the job on the transformation ticket and is now finding it very difficult to comply. He knew his one hand would be tied behind his back from the outset. Now he must be accountable like any self respecting head coach should be and quite frankly he is still failing short.

      In the Stats Attack article I responded to you with plenty of reasons for why he is overrated but you choose to ignore it so I won’t waste my time repeating it here. I assume your silence means you have no defense.

      By the way that a.hole you refer to doesn’t have to pull it the rug out from under him he does a pretty good job of doing it himself week in and week out. Cheers.

      • William Botha

        You mean the guy that outwitted the Kiwis? Or the one that actually volunteered to drink from the poisoned chalice? Or maybe the one that has re-instilled a sense of pride and confidence in the team very shortly after taking over the trainwreck that his predecessor left him? No, maybe it’s the guy who has a team that has been decimated by the exodus of over three hundred top-class players from the country? Hmm – woah – maybe you’re talking about the coach who led an unminted team to beat the Poms in the series at home? Ah – I have it, it’s the coach who (according to Steve Hansen) is one of the smartest rugby heads in the world.

        ‘Quite frankly’ – to use your words – you need to take those whiney-butt blinkers off and recognize the value Rassie is adding.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Congratulations you have joined the club of the deluded. Three hundred ‘top class’ overseas players ?. Kindly name them. Those who did get the nod have been inconsistent to say the least hence the inconsistent results. One week maybe earning their mega wages the next week ducking and diving their responsibilities. AC hardly used them and only lost four games last year and he was useless and was kicked out. Rassie with all the cards in his favour has lost SIX already to five countries and but for good old Nlge would have added a seventh country to the list this year. Yeah right.

          Two AB games, one where we hardly saw the ball and BB chocked for a change and the other we we had all the ball and choked. Yeah right some performance. The Poms both on tour here and at home were playing their second strings and we still could only draw it 2 – 2. Yeah right.

          William the problem you and the deluded have is that you praise mediocrity and consider it a miracle that we have now become competitive when compared to his predecessor who unbelievably still has a better record than he has when compared to 2017. Where pray is the improvement ? Last weeks game plan exactly the same as old AC’s and HM’s so nothing has changed in 12 tests for Rassie. Sorry to burst your bubble old chap we are still caught up in a seemingly everlasting dom krag world of make believe. Cheers..

  • gerhard van tonder gerhard van tonder

    We keep on creating opportunities. We don’t finish. Hopefully all the loose ends will get together sooner than later. At least we are getting to the point where we say we have again ‘a tactical identity’ pragmatic and not pretty but we have the personnel to come on and chase a game.

    Thought FLouw was good. RG gave us more grunt and was good in lineouts. Elton brought better flow in the backline. PSdT was phenomenal again (except for a drop ball on the attack.) Pollard goalkicking supreme.

    • Barry

      Agreed Gerhard, “Finishing” is the number one issue to address, followed by Centre pairing and loose forwards. Interesting to see how they address this and what selection changes are made. I hope we do not get more of the same!

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      I think it’s worth giving the EJ/HP 10/12 combo a go against the Scots …

      • Herman Schroder?

        An admission that Pollard is not up to scratch then ? Cheers.

        • Tim

          Both Pollard and Jantjies are good – and they both make frustrating mistakes. Jantjies seems to play better when Pollard is at center.

      • Barry

        I suspect that this is probably what Rassie will do, because he needs to balance numbers, but really they have given Andre Esterhuizen 10 minutes thus far. We have a very capable 12 in Esterhuizen, so why is it that we immediately try and play someone out of position again instead?

        • Herman Schroder?

          AE is unfortunately in the same mould as the other three dom krag specialists, Pollard, Kriel and Dullende and now you want to add another one to the mix ? At least he does the occasional offload but essentially not a classical distributing No. 12 with real rugby nous. That is what is sorely needed. Cheers.

          • Tim

            We need to move past dom krag, but keep the krag part. Slim krag – is there such a thing?

          • Barry

            Edterhuizen’s pass to run ratio exceeds 50%. If your going to counter with something then please grace us with a little bit of fact.
            You criticise suggestions but offer no alternative!

      • Chris Mouton

        The reason why it works is because Pollard actually passes the ball. De Allende and Kriel run into people and the ball goes dead. They just can’t pass. The stats speak for themselves.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Chris. The problem is all Pollard does is just pass the ball. His creativity which is what all world class flyhalves should possess is seriously lacking. Look at the top 8 or 9 top ranked sides and Pollard is the least creative flyhalf of the lot. Rassie only starting to realize it now after 12 tests ? Heck I told him that before the June tests to no avail. Cheers.

          • Barry

            I am pretty sure AP played to script and that Rassie is satisfied with his performance. We opted for a kicking game off 9, so most would understand that there were narrowed opportunities at 10!

      • Arch Rautenbach

        Tank. The EJ/HP 10/12 can work. But have you thought of the old HP/Jan Serfontein 10/12 combo. Serfontein was our best player under the Allister time. But has just been forgotten ever since.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Pollard, apart from the centres,is the problem. One dimensional, predictable and no natural creativity. A world class flyhalf must offer more. Cheers.

      • Matt

        I find myself honestly wondering if Elton coming on at Flyhalf is the change that sparks the line out, or if its the associated change to inside centre.

        If Pollard really was the “problem” on attack, surely we’d still see signs of the issue with him remaining on the park?

      • MRT

        This will be a great combo if they get to play together more. EJ showed in Wellington that he can do the business.

  • Brendon Shields

    Cold fact is that Allistair also beat France in France yet was not able to select foreign players. If memory serves me he also started more African players for that game. I find it amazing how everything Rassie does is labelled as innovative and progressive, while the actual 80 minutes on the field is mainly just the same old drek. I want the Boks to do well but find it odd how little critique they have to face.

    There is a statistic one can use to reveal how penetrative a team is, and similarly how porous on defense. Study the amount set pieces/turnover ball you win in the opposition half. These you call your ‘opportunities’, and then divide this number by the amount of line-breaks you manufacture.

    Do the same for the opposition to calculate how porous your defense is.

    In both these categories the Boks are no better than at any time under Allistair. We converted penalties, which is how we won the game. The maul at the end was super, but all our coaches scored with that move.

    Until such a time we can develop an attack that creates a lot of line-breaks we will always struggle to bury even mediocre opposition. I saw how Stormers attacked under Rassie, often scoring the least tries despite having a backline of Jean/Mossie/De Jong/Habana/Aplon. Munster did roughly the same.

    Until such a time that Rassie employs an attack guru we will not move forward much.

    • Herman Schroder?

      Brendon. You are absolutely spot on old chap. Rassie as i said before his first test is a dom krag clone of both HM and AC both of whom succeeded in ruining Bok rugby these past five years. Rassie with his stunted game plan is merely continuing that failed path.

      As I’ve said before useless AC only dropped four games in 2017 without overpaid mercenaries in tow. Why didn’t Rassie build on that ? Rassie with a blank cheque has lost 6 already and but for lady luck it could have been much more. Dom krag is so deeply embedded in the SA psyche that it may take another generation to change the mindset, we hope.

      Most of the media scribes are cast in the same mould and support the Boks no matter how poor and inconsistent they are. The Lions showed the way but nobody followed but their players remain the most heavily criticized on media platforms. The real problem is lack of rugby nous in the top echelon. Cheers.

      • Ulrich


        Swys is there to help the Boks on attack. Surely he is partly to blame then?

        International rugby is not SR.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Then why does Rassie pick new Springboks based on their form in the watered down CC competition ?. Swys is subject to Rassies dom krag game plan and the current midfield is not schooled ih real expansive rugby. We see it every week. Cheers.

    • Al

      Anyone who was at the Ireland game last year where the players looked lost demotivated and bereft of ideas will disagree with you.

      By no means perfect but at least there is desire and structure. Can’t help feeling that we are on the cusp of something good. Here’s hoping

    • Barry

      Couldn’t agree with you less!

      I can recall quite clearly the deep depths of despair that we reached in the AC era or was it rather error! Our rugby was in tatters this time last year. There was no direction, no planning and frankly no confidence in the Coach by either public or players.

      Erasmus had to pick things up with zero IP in place and negotiate a four year cycle into twelve months. I do not agree with everything he has done nor a number of selections he has made (wish he would run these past me first.Lol) but we do need to acknowledge what he has done in a short period of time!

      What your proposed Stats would not take into account are the missed opportunities. This is by far our biggest problem at the moment “Finishing”. How many opportunities did we butcher in the England game with our line out problems. Two to three tries went begging. Similarly, in the French game, we had two disallowed tries. Add those 14 points to the score board in both matches and we would have won at a doddlel!

      There are certainly back line selection issues, which are impacting our attack, but of greater importance would be to get the finishing right!

      • Herman Schroder?

        Barry, where have we improved since he took over ? AC as useless as he was in his last AB game lost 25-24 at Newlands without mercenaries. Kamikaze defending and overuse of box kicks as your go to game plan is not improvement it only keeps the score down so games end up close and giving a false sense of comfort. Without skillful finishing you can’t win tests never mind trophies, just ask the dom krag kings HM, AC and now Rassie. Cheers.

    • Wesley

      We gave AC two years. Lets give Rassie the same. To be honest, its been a drek since forever. Flashes of brilliance with struggles inbetween. 50plus beatings from NZ in the 90s and 2000s. 46-0 loss against Oz a year away from ’07 WC win. Carel struggling. Viljoen. Streauli. HM even copping some bad flak and losing to Japan the low point. Havent won a grand slam since 1960 with many chances thereafter. SA rugby not going to change. We just have to man up as supporters and accept that.

    • MRT

      I hear you, but perhaps he should be afforded same amount of time given to AC before judging him. Agreed it is up and down at the moment, too much chopping and changing in my opinion. The only big difference between the two coaches, at the moment, is the performance against the AB’s

    • John Comyn

      Who exactly are the mediocre opposition? They lost to England by 1 point at Twickenham, beat the AB’s in NZ and lost by 2 in SA. England lost to the AB’s by 1 point. Are you suggesting England and The AB’s are mediocre? They dug deep against France in a Stade cauldron and won. You would have to be blind if you think this side is on a par with AC’s squad. They are by no means perfect article as yet but the signs that this team are going to be special are, without a doubt, there. The fact is there are no easy games when it comes to the NH end of the year tour.

    • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

      Is Swys not meant to be that attack Guru, Brendon?

      But i really like your concept of looking at the opportunities and what teams do with said opportunities. The Boks are without doubt not making the most of their opportunities yet. Perhaps it’s the fact that we have a yet in that sentence that keeps me interested in what Rassie is trying to do.

      As said above, though. Boks VERY untidy on Sat, and VERY lucky

      • albert Hoffmann

        Yes Tank Swys is, but he has been given a bunch of uncreative donkeys from the stormers and bulls who cant score tries to save their lives, hence the reason why they are both SR bottom feeders. The boks are nothing more than a glorified stormers team,exactly the same crash and bash boring 1980’s rugby. Classic stormers rugby! Ask the sunwolves.

        • Whinger

          Seriously Albert, where are these creative racehorses of yours going to come from? Name s few, so we can pull them apart.

          There was no Stormers team in the 1980’s. Did you even watch rugby at the time? Did you miss John Villet, Carel du Plessis, Michael du Plessis, Wille du Plessis, Ray Mordt, Danie Gerber, Johan Heunis, Gysie Pienaar and Neil Burger. What about Jannie Breedt, Gert Smal, Uli Schmidt, Louis Moolman, Hennie Bekker (sr.), Rob Louw and Hempies du Toit. Or Liam Kirkham. Sorry, but there were not that many great Transvaal players in the eighties. but I thought the rugby was brilliant. I once missed a wedding (not my own), because the final was so close. Drawn in the end.

          We beat the best of New Zealand in 86. We almost won in New Zealand in 81. We beat the Lions in 1980. We ran rings around the English in 1984. 1980’s rugby was brilliant.

          Bring your racehorses. There is not one player in the Transvaal team, who is not in the Springbok team, who actually belongs there on merit. Name “The One” and prove me wrong. Just don’t be unhappy if I laugh out loud.

        • Herman Schroder?

          Give that man a truckload of Bells. Well done finally someone who doesn’t fall for the hype. Cheers.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Be fair to Swys. You give him a few dom krag specialists and he has to start by teaching them basic skills never mind intricate attacking strategies to create and finish off tries ? Not where they come from. Give him Jantjies, Mapoe, Vorster, recall Rohan Jv Rensburg and Francois Venter ( if possible ) and you’ll have a midfield that can think on it’s feet. Swys will work wonders with them assuming the forwards can win go forward ball, lol. Too many Lions hey but hell they can do no worse than the incumbents. Cheers.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Then why hasn’t our playing style improved these past twelve tests. ? Weren’t we supposed to ‘donder’ the French instead they were klapping us until Nigel Owens decided to intervene. Note his comforting arm around Faf’s shoulder much to the chagrin of the home crowd after FAF’s kamikaze ‘tackle’. I don’t see anyone commenting on that tackle which was potentially every bit as dangerous as Farrell’s. The days of us dominating physically are long gone with only the traditionalists hanging on to that long faded myth.

        This team technically has not improved over these 12 tests and as long as we base our game on defending and hoping we will remain in the doldrums. You do know of course that if Nige hadn’t engineered the winning try last Saturday the Boks would have sunk to seventh on the world rankings AGAIN. I leave you with that thought. Cheers.

    • SweetAz

      but but but,—-isn’t that guy from the Lions,—SWys something or other meant to be an attack guru?

      • albert Hoffmann

        but but but sweetaz dont be thick, does swys have the same skillful players that he has at the lions. NO. He has unimaginative and uncreative dinosuars from the bulls and stormers. U cant compare.

        • Whinger

          Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Sorry, had to make 20 characters. Name the skillful Lions players and then looh at their performances as Springboks. Butoh, they did not have the right coach. Now the coach does not have the right players. Bohoo.

      • Herman Schroder?

        Who dictates the game plan ??????????? DOM KRAG Rassie of course.. Swys proved he could do it with the Lions against NZ’s best .Rassie has proved nothing with dom krag. I rest my case. Suggest you tale the blinkers off old chap. Cheers.

        • Whinger

          If you rest your case, then please do. Turn of your computer as well, man. Please! You are soooo tedious. And negative. You exude unpleasant vibes dude. You are starting to affect my aura.

      • Tank Lanning Tank Lanning

        Jinx!!! Too funny SweetAz. Typing at the same time …

        • Herman Schroder?

          Showing quite an anti Lions bias here my good man. See my response to SweetAz above for a bit of perspective. Still waiting for a response to my various posts by the way. Cheers

          • Whinger

            You sir, are unfortunately the one eliciting the anti Lions bias. You are worse than Quintes van Rooyen in the eighties. His picks for the 1981 tour of New Zeeland contained 19 Northern Transvaal players, and they were not even Currie Cup champions at the time. He even wanted Northerns B-side players in the side. Stop your domkrag nonsense man, you are sooooo boring. And stop referring people to your other comments. This is not your forum. It is bad enough reading through one of your essays, but you manage up to five booklets per thread. And they are all the same! For the life of me, I can’t find one Lions player that would improve this team. No coaches either.

          • albert Hoffmann

            Tank is just like the rest of the SA media/ saru/ bok selectors, WP biased.

          • Chris Mouton

            So, now you are feeling entitled for an answer? Get off your high horse, Herman. The title of this article is speaking about the glass being half-full. Yours seem to be half-full of bile while the rest of us enjoy something better. You are such a negative human being. Over the years I haven’t seen you say anything positive about SA rugby, except the Lions. Hell man, have you ever heard of silver linings??

            In response to your bile, here are a few pointers. If you will take your anti-Rassie blinkers off you would’ve seen that the All Blacks also employ box kicks. It makes them look ordinary as well. The SH teams don’t play like the NH teams, but are trying to adapt. And Pollard not being an attacking flyhalf? Are you joking? He’s on good form right now. Jantjies did well on Saturday, except for the botched line-kick. You don’t see us harping on about that, do you? The fact of the matter is, we were damn lucky to get that lineout. If the French player didn’t step out and if the time was actually past it would’ve been game over. Instead, the Bok TEAM pulled through a remarkable win.

            Throw out the bile and get yourself a beer, old chap. Then you’ll see that life isn’t that bad…

  • Matt

    Um, wasn’t the actual coach of that Stormer’s team who couldn’t score tries ‘ol AC himself, with Rassie serving the role of Director of Rugby?

    • Matt

      But like you say, it’s the coach making the calls, and Rassie left citing differences with board and the coach. Stormers went backwards the longer AC stayed, not even remotely have a toe forward was ever made on the try scoring theme, and their rugby got more and more one-dimensional once Rassie left, not the other way around.

  • Dean

    Serfontein is a classy center compared to the current bunch. The one’s who are there are one dimensional. Frans Steyn offers the big boot which could have been useful on this tour. Serfontein does everything well. We also have major concerns at scrumhalf – van Zyl and Papier are not international class yet. I hope Rassie will pick a more balanced loose trio. PS makes it so much better in all departments.

    • Ulrich

      Serfontein is class, the only gripe is he really lacks pace, more so than others.

  • Al

    South Africa are always stronger when we have a playmaker at 12. le Roux in 95, Steyn in 2007. Who was 12 when Mallett was the coach?

    Would like to see EJ start at 10 and have Pollard outside him – think it could work.

    • Whinger

      Did not need a 12. He had Honiball. We should forget about utility backs and pick a specialist centre. The only one that I can think of that will improve the team, is Serfontein.

  • Dean

    This team needs a psychologist. They give every inch against the All Blacks for their 2 most difficult tests and then go to sleep against France. Why can’t they play consistently well over the course of a year. They look great in patches and ordinary in others. Sometimes it’s during the same game. It certainly can’t come down to a lack of experience or skill. The All Black tests are testament to their ability. Time for them to show the World why they should be feared. It’s getting a bit old now. Same old consistency problems for years now. The great Bok teams of old very rarely had an off day.

  • Jefferson

    Our centre combination is a dead end for me. When last (if ever) did we see a real flying line break by these guys (like a Rohan Janse van Rensburg). Also the Boks were very “lucky” to win in France. Now we have a very real possibility of losing to the Scots & Welsh (out of the international window). Considering the Scots have only lost 1 of their last 9 games at home?? My heart wants them to win but my head says we only have a 40% chance. Ireland vs AB’s will be the game to watch this weekend. Boks are not in this league and don’t look like getting there if you consider results and the last 3/4 coaches. There is no real willingness shown to get back to the real top shown by SA Rugby as politicians rule. Now Mark Alexander is on the World Rugby board WOW?!

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